An Oxford radiocarbon testing lab is to make new tests on the Shroud of Turin to determine whether contamination could have skewed earlier tests which indicated a creation date of the 13th or 14th century.
Catholic News Agency reports University of Colorado physics professor John Jackson has persuaded an Oxford laboratory to revisit the question of the age of the Shroud of Turin, the reputed burial shroud of Jesus Christ.
Professor Jackson argues carbon monoxide contaminating the shroud could have distorted its radiocarbon dating results by more than 1,000 years.
In 1988 and 1989 scientists at three laboratories drew on the results of radiocarbon dating to conclude that the shroud was a medieval forgery. They dated its creation to between 1260 and 1390 AD.
The Denver Post reports Professor Jackson's hypothesises that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years.
Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson’s hypothesis.
Ramsey said other forensic and historical evidence indicates the shroud is much older than radiocarbon dating results initially indicated.
"Science still has much to tell us about the shroud," said Jackson, a devout Catholic who heads the Colorado Springs based Shroud of Turin Centre.
"If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn't depend on that outcome," he told the Denver Post.
Jackson must prove a viable pathway for carbon monoxide contamination. He is working with Oxford to test linen samples subjected to various conditions the shroud has experienced, including outdoor exhibitions and exposure to extreme heat during a fire in 1532.
In 1978, Jackson led a research team given unprecedented access to the shroud. The team determined that the shroud was not painted, dyed or stained.
Oxford lab to revisit carbon dating of Shroud of Turin (Catholic News Agency, 23/5/08)
Shroud of Turin (Wikipedia)