In the clip above, Dr Christopher Bronk Ramsey, the current head of the Oxford Radio Carbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) summarises his view on the current situation. His tone is in marked contrast to the dismissal given to the Shroud by his predecessor, Prof. Edward Hall. (See opposite). While not in any way casting doubt on the accuracy of the 1988 test he is open to the idea that some kind of explanation for an aberrant result might, one day, be found. He has been very willing to examine new scientific evidence that might come forward and indeed did so in my 2008 film (Material Evidence). The interview above comes from that film and recorded soon after he had reviewed the new archaeological evidence that seems to push the date back beyond the margin claimed for the C14. He is also very aware that, so far, no one has successfully come up with an explanation for how it may have been created. He has made his own comments here.
The prospect of dating the Shroud was made feasible by the work of Prof. Harry Gove. Before his breakthrough, an area the size of a large pocket handkerchief would need to be destroyed to obtain sufficient carbon for the test. Gove's method reduced that amount to a postage stamp size. Testing the Shroud would be a great prize to the lab that carried out the work in what remains a very competitive field.
Once the Vatican had accepted the idea in principle the preparations began. In an initial collegiate spirit of goodwill all the relevant and major players made their recommendations and a detailed protocol for the test was agreed that would be most likely to ensure that it would be definitive. Harry Gove, as the developer of the technique that had made the whole thing possible had thought his own selection for the task was assured and perhaps failed to observe the niceties required for such discussions. The American STuRP team who had been included in the preliminaries also managed to fall out of favour at this last hurdle. But, tragically, in all the politics and bad will that eventually surfaced, the all-important protocol was abandoned.
The moment had finally come. The Shroud was brought out from its casket and readied to have a small part of it selected for the test. It would be a crucial, and, as it turned out, fateful decision.
Those words, "immaculate care", for some, now ring rather hollow. There were certainly practical reasons for cutting a piece adjacent to an area already cut away but given the nature of the test, this particular spot was probably the worst that might have been chosen.
Countless times over the centuries (even millennia if the C14 is wrong) the Shroud has been held up for display and, until only a few decades ago, this was always by grasping the corners. The potential for contamination here is infinitely greater than anywhere else on the cloth. The associated wear and tear may also have made it necessary to carry out repairs.
The original agreed protocol for the test stipulated a minimum of seven sample sites spread over the shroud to produce a definitive test. One of the most highly regarded Shroud scientists had this to say:
Only a single sample was taken from a rewoven edge in a waterstained area a few inches away from one of the burn marks incurred in the...1532 fire...and near where a large section of cloth is missing...No historic record exists accounting for this missing material and how or when this damage occured. The nature and/or extant of the repairs undertaken here are also unknown. Therefore the possibility exists that this selvage edge might be linen not original to the Shroud.
Dr. Alan D Adler.
Here is the footage of the cutting of the sample as edited by the BBC in 1988.
"Should give a clear answer" That last piece of superfluous editorialising is interesting. As part of the narration (beautifully delivered as usual by Andrew Sachs) it would have been written after the first test from Zurich was known yet it uses the future conditional tense as if its author is still unaware of the result. Mmmmm. As a filmmaker I am naturally hyper sensitive to such things. The consultant to the film was David Sox who while this film was being made was already writing the damning book "The Unmasked Shroud". We now know, like most commentators on this subject, myself included, he has a position on the subject he would like others to share. This makes it all the more difficult to weigh things up totally independently. Always bear this in mind. Then, of course, there are the sins of omission which this next clip will provide an example of.
Michael Tite does not mention a very significant fact. He was charged with the responsibility of supplying control samples so that the testing could conform with the agreed protocols which stipulated that - as with all such critical tests - it should be performed blind. That is, the participating laboratories, as shown in the clip, would be given three separate containers each with a coded but, to them, unidentified sample. So embedded was this protocol that the procedure to do this went ahead even though it had already become entirely fatuous. This reason for this is very interesting and relevant. Michael Tite, despite his influence as director of the British Museum, and months of trawling his contacts in museums around the world, could not find a mediaeval example of linen in a herringbone weave. In any herring bone weave, let alone the specific 3 to1 Shroud weave. In the Middle Ages such cloth was simply not used. Wool was the preferred material. Whereas, 2000 years ago, in the Middle East it was very common and produced on a factory scale! In all fairness, this fact should have been recorded. The consequence was that as no similar-looking control sample could be found it was impossible for the labs not to be able to recognise the distinctive Shroud cloth when they opened the sealed containers. The blind test, though ritually observed, was meaningless.
Given the fact that the protocols they had insisted on had been effectively abandoned the C14 labs should, in all conscience, have declined or at least made their reservations clear. However, the prize was too great and scientific scruples were set aside. The expression on Professor Hall's face as he receives his sample is telling. The clip goes onto show the process in detail as performed by the Zurich facility. The protocols had also stipulated that the tests would be done concurrently by the three labs and that there would be no communication between them until all tests were complete and the "unidentified" sample results submitted via Michael Tite to the Church for the official announcement. None of these were adhered to. It became a free-for-all with a leak to the London Evening Standard (see above) announcing the result to the world.
On behalf of the BBC and at the invitation of Turin I was in negotiation with Prof. Luigi Gonella to make the official film of the whole process. When a rather shaken Gonella informed me that the protocols were to be abandoned I withdrew and informed the BBC that the definitive test with a controlled and supervised coordination of the results could not be guaranteed and therefore the programme I wanted to make was no longer on offer. Rev. David Sox at this point stepped in and facilitated the film "Shreds of Evidence" , produced and directed by Neil Cameron. This relied heavily on footage from my own The Silent Witness. The clips from Shreds of Evidence above are used, with thanks, under the principles of Fair Use. Without Sox's intervention we would probably not have such a comprehensive record of what actually happend.