The Associated Press
By TRACI ANGEL
ST. LOUIS (AP) -August 5, 1999: The Shroud of Turin is much older than some scientists believe, according to researchers who used pollen and plant images to conclude it dates from Jerusalem before the eighth century. The study gives a boost to those who believe the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus and contradicts a 1988 examination by scientists who said the shroud was made between 1260 and 1390. The earlier study also indicated the shroud came from Europe rather than the Holy Land. ``We have identified by images and by pollen grains species on the shroud restricted to the vicinity of Jerusalem,'' botany professor Avinoam Danin of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said Monday during the International Botanical Congress here. ``The sayings that the shroud is from European origin can't hold.''
The Shroud of Turin is a linen about 13 feet long and 3 feet wide that has been kept in the city of Turin, Italy, since 1578. The shroud bears the image of a man with wounds similar to those suffered by Jesus. ``It is something that many Catholics and other Christians hold very dear,'' said Steve Mamanella, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. ``Perhaps this helps solidify that particular belief.'' The shroud also contains pollen grains and faint images of plants. Analysis of the floral images, and a separate analysis of the pollen grains by botanist Uri Baruch identified a combination of plant species that could be found only in March and April in the region of Jerusalem, Danin said. Danin identified a high density of pollen of the tumbleweed Gundelia tournefortii. The analysis also found the bean caper. The two species coexist in a limited area, Danin said. ``This combination of flowers can be found in only one region of the world,'' he said. ``The evidence clearly points to a floral grouping from the area surrounding Jerusalem.'' An image of the Gundelia tournefortii can be seen near the image of the man's shoulder. Some experts have suggested that the plant was used for the ``crown of thorns.'' Two pollen grains of the species were also found on the Sudarium of Oviedo, believed to be the burial face cloth of Jesus.
Danin, who has done extensive study on plants in Jerusalem, said the pollen grains are native to the Gaza Strip.
Since the Sudarium of Oviedo has resided in the Cathedral of Oviedo in Spain since the eighth century, Danin said that the matchup of pollen grains pushes the shroud's date to a similar age. Both cloths also carry type AB blood stains in similar patterns, Danin said. ``The pollen association and the similarities in the blood stains in the two cloths provide clear evidence that the shroud originated before the eighth century,'' Danin said. The location of the Sudarium of Oviedo has been documented since the first century. If it is found that the two cloths are linked, then the shroud could be even older, Danin said. The 1988 study used carbon dating tests. Danin noted that the earlier study looked at only a single sample, while he used the entire piece of fabric.
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