Ray Rogers is a retired chemist, a Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a long-time believer that the shroud is an actual burial cloth of a crucified man which dates from the first century CE. He accepts a well known theory -- believed by many who reject the Carbon-14 dating of the shroud in 1988 -- that the small sample of the shroud which was submitted for testing was not actually a piece of the original shroud. It was either:
It is difficult to conceive how scientists, who were given the task of removing a representative sample from the shroud for testing, could have removed cloth from a patched section. But that is the belief of many, of not most, of the members of the STURP team -- a group of American scientists who started to study the shroud in 1978. It would have been an act of extreme carelessness and lack of attention to detail. Describing the C-14 sample collection, scientist P.E. Damon indicated that textile experts took care to select a site from which to take the sample that was some distance from patches and seams. 4 Presumably, the experts' eye sight was not sufficiently degraded that they were all legally blind.
Rogers believes that the Carbon-14 results measured by three laboratories in 1988 are thus closer to the date when the shroud was repaired than to the date when it was originally woven from fibres of the flax plant.
In the past, various methods of estimating the age of the shroud were considered:
Rogers developed a new method of dating linen based on its vanillin (a.k.a. 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) content. Lignin is a chemical compound present in the flax. Vanillin is a breakdown product of the lignin. As linen ages, the vanillin content declines and eventually becomes undetectable. Thus, by measuring the amount of vanillin remaining on the cloth, one might be able to estimate the age of the cloth.
Rogers believes that vanillin is detectable in the sample taken for radiocarbon testing. Thus, he concluded that it must date from medieval times. He believes that vanillin is also present in the "Holland cloth" used to patch the shroud. But he could not detect it in material taken from the rest of the shroud. He concludes that the sample submitted to Carbon-14 testing:
That is, the flax which made up the shroud was harvested between about 1000 BCE and 700 CE. He concludes that the shroud could have been the burial sheet of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) who was executed about 30 CE ± 3 years by the Roman Army.
There also exists a method called pyrolysis mass spectrometry which Rogers had used recently for other testing of the Shroud of Turin. 5 It has been shown to generate extremely precise quantitative measurements of carbohydrates, such as vanillin. Unfortunately, he allegedly chose to use a qualitative analysis method: He stained a sample of the shroud in his home laboratory using phloroglucinol–hydrochloric-acid reagent. If a significant amount of vanillin is present, the reagent changes its color. In spite of the lack of accuracy of the measurement, he concluded that the shroud could date to the lifetime of Yeshua of Nazareth. He published a report in the journal Thermochimica Acta a chemistry peer reviewed journal, on 2005-JAN-20. 6
Skeptical responses to Rogers dating method:
Carbon 14 is the classical method of measuring the age of carbon-bearing materials. It is based on sound science -- the precise rate at which Carbon 14 decays to Carbon 16. But before it could be used to date real materials, it had to be calibrated by using the technique on samples whose ages were independently known. Rogers has not performed this type of calibration on vanillin analysis. This would seem to make his measurements of no value.
Some specific criticisms of Roger's work:
This topic continues in the next essay.
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