Analysis of UV photographs of the Shroud of Turin


The Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth bearing the negative image of a crucified man on it. Many believe that this cloth is Christ’s burial shroud consequently, attracting much research from both historians and scientists. As a result, it has become one of the most studied relics in all of history. To date, the specific time in history when the Shroud was used is still a contentious issue as various research groups have placed it in different time periods. For instance, one study radiocarbon dated the Shroud to have originated between 1260-1390, while a more recent study using more advanced techniques dated the shroud to between 200 BC and 372AD – the time of Jesus Christ. Even though there are valid statistical questions about the radiocarbon dating results, the very large discrepancy between the medieval radiocarbon dates and the first century appears very likely to be due to some other cause than contamination hence calling for further studies.

Indeed, the fact that recent studies have placed the Shroud in Christ’s time is vital. In as much as this is important, certainty of the same would highly be welcome. On this account, Professor Thomas McAvoy from the Institute for Systems Research at University of Maryland carefully analyzed recently published UV photographs of the Shroud. He specifically focused on analyzing 22 of the UV photos that Miller took in 1978. This exciting work is currently published in the research journal, Applied Optics.

In brief, Professor Thomas McAvoy discussed the non-uniform illumination problem with the photos and proposed a a method to overcome it. Next, he analyzed the first 16 UV photos, and he subjected the photos to preliminary treatment where they were resized, the center of illumination located and one outlier image detected. Overall, he cast the UV photos into the CIE L * a * b color space to get pixel intensity.

The author reported that the Shroud exhibited very unique UV fluorescence intensity properties, where it fluoresced more on its right side than its left side. In addition, where comparisons could be made, the Shroud was seen to fluoresce more on its dorsal side than its frontal side, and fluorescence was stronger near the center of the image on the Shroud than near the head or feet. Moreover, fluorescence was stronger near the center of the image on the Shroud than near the image of the head or feet. The center of the image on the Shroud also fluoresced more than the sides of the Shroud near it.

In summary, the study by Professor Thomas McAvoy carefully re-examined recently published UV images of the Shroud of Turin and presented a unique approach to overcome the uneven illumination problem with the images. Generally, it was shown that the Shroud of Turin exhibited very unique UV fluorescence properties. Following such realization, the author posed a very important question, ‘What could account for the unique UV fluorescence intensity properties of the Shroud?’ that ought to be addressed. In a statement to Advances in Engineering, Professor Thomas McAvoy further highlighted that the best approach to follow up on his study would be to carry out additional in-depth research so as to determine what produced these unique properties. A follow up paper on the effect of neutron radiation on the UV fluorescence properties of linen was submitted by Professor McAvoy in February, 2020 to Applied Optics.

Analysis of UV photographs of the Shroud of Turin - Advances in Engineering

About the author

Tom Mc Avoy was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1940 and he received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1961. He received a Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University in 1964. He taught chemical engineering for 40 years, first at the University of Massachusetts (1964-1980) and then at the University of Maryland (1980-2004).

Tom is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland. He holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the Institute for Systems Research, and the Bioengineering Department. He splits his time between Maryland in the winter and Massachusetts in the summer. Tom became interested in the Shroud of Turin in 2014 and he began working on his analysis of uv Shroud photos in the Fall of 2018. In addition to his paper in Applied Optics he presented a paper on his uv research at the 2019 Shroud conference held in Ancaster Canada from August 14 to 17, 2019. That paper will appear in the conference proceedings. He is also working on a third paper on uv fluorescence that will be submitted to Applied Optics in the Spring of 2020.


Thomas McAvoy. Analysis of UV photographs of the Shroud of Turin. Volume 58, No. 25 / 2019 / Applied Optics

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