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New test dates Shroud of Turin to Jesus' era

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

VATICAN CITY — New scientific tests on the Shroud of Turin, which was shown on Italian television on Saturday and made available in a new app, dates the cloth to ancient times, casting doubt on claims by skeptics that it is a medieval forgery. It was the first time in four decades that the shroud, which is kept in a climate-controlled case, was displayed.

The Vatican has never claimed that the 14-foot linen cloth — that appears to bear the negative image of a Christ-like figure — was used to cover Jesus when he was taken from the cross 2,000 years ago.

Pope Francis, reflecting that careful Vatican policy, in an introduction to the TV program called the cloth an “icon” — not a relic.

Many experts have stood by a 1988 carbon-14 dating of scraps of the cloth carried out by labs in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona that dated it from AD 1260 to 1390.

The new test, by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy, used the same fibers from the 1988 tests but disputes the findings. The new examination dates the shroud to between 300 BC and AD 400, which would put it in the era of Christ.

It determined that the earlier results may have been skewed by contamination from fibers used to repair the cloth when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages, a British newspaper reported. The cloth has been kept in the cathedral since 1578.

The tests also supported earlier results claiming to have found traces of dust and pollen on the shroud that could only have come from the Holy Land.

The latest findings are contained in a new Italian-language book — “Il Mistero Della Sindone” (“The Mystery of the Shroud”) by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.

Fanti, a Catholic, used infrared light and spectroscopy — the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths — in his test. He said the results are the outcome of 15 years of research.

The app, sanctioned by the Catholic church and called “Shroud 2.0,” allows anyone to use a smartphone or tablet to explore the shroud in detail.

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