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The shroud of turin was widely dismissed as a medieval forgery after radiocarbon tests in 1988 dated it to the 13th or 14th century. Now a growing body of evidence is calling for reassessment of the shroud, which is kept in Turin, Italy.

The latest item comes from the London-based Journal of Optics, published by the Institute of Physics. Two scientists from the University of Padua, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, report in the journal's April edition the discovery of a heretofore-undetected reverse image on the shroud. They say the smaller, fainter image on the back of the cloth depicts just the face and hands. And it's a superficial image, adhering only to the outermost fibers, just like the image on the front. "It is extremely difficult to make a fake with these features," Fanti writes.

The fact that their study was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is significant and "a step in the right direction", says Barrie Schwortz, editor of Shroud.com. This is one of the most comprehensive of the many websites devoted to the phenomenon.

Schwortz, who is Jewish, was a shroud skeptic until he served as a photographer for the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). The five-day project was the most intensive investigation in the history of the image. Besides providing the first public viewing of the media age, the project reinforced the shroud's cachet as a truly unique religious icon.

But then, 10 years later, came the much-heralded carbon-14 tests, confirmed by three laboratories, dating the cloth to the Middle Ages. "It was like dropping an h-bomb, and seeing how long it takes life to come back," says Gary Habermas, chair of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, who has coauthored ...

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December 2004

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