The Rape of the Turin Shroud

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9781411657694: The Rape of the Turin Shroud

This book describes the two major fiascos to have afflicted the Turin Shroud in recent years: the C-14 dating of 1988 and the so-called "restoration" of 2002.

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From the Author:

The book begins with the Shroud at the pinnacle of its prestige in the early 1980s, when millions of people, including a respectable number of academics and scientists, considered it quite possibly the actual burial cloth of Christ with a mysterious imprint of His body. This perception changed almost overnight with the announcement in 1988 that Carbon-14 dating had produced an age of around 1260-1390 A.D. for the cloth. The relic was wrongly condemned, however, since the dating was poorly planned, marred by petty rivalries, and scientifically flawed.

The final stage in the desecration was a travesty carried out by aggressive "restorers" in 2002. Valuable scientific data was irretrievably destroyed, opportunities for research squandered, materials taken from the cloth without stringent controls, and repairs dating from 1534 that constituted part of the Shroud's visual heritage were removed. This so-called "restoration" was conducted totally in secret, engineered by a small clique around the archbishop of Turin. It has been roundly condemned by most Shroud researchers as a conservation and scientific disaster. The relic and its study have been altered forever.

These things should not have happened. The reasons behind them are complicated, and I have tried to reconstruct the sequence of events and its causes, based on my own knowledge and notes, plus the accounts of others.

About the Author:

Brief CV: William Meacham is an archaeologist specializing in South China. He has written or edited 7 books on archaeology (including Archaeology in Hong Kong published by Heinemann in 1981) and two books on English teaching; attended 18 international conferences; published 51 articles (15 in peer-reviewed international journals) on various aspects of South China archaeology. His other research interests are the origins of the Austronesians, genealogy, and the Shroud of Turin. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Meacham was educated at Tulane University in New Orleans, the Sorbonne in Paris and the Gregorian University of Rome. He has lived in Hong Kong since 1970, holding positions at the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture. Since 1980 he has been a Research Fellow at the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong. He has directed more than 30 archaeological excavations on government or private contract. The largest of these was the 16-month survey and excavation of Chek Lap Kok island, site of Hong Kong's new airport.

Motivation for book: I became interested in the Shroud in 1981, spurred by an article in Archaeology magazine. This led me to a long study over several months, reading about the Shroud and corresponding with the scholars I could contact, and ultimately publishing a major article on the subject in 1983 in the prestigious journal Current Anthropology. This article received a one-line comment (also published in the journal) from the doyen of Shroud studies in the US, Fr. Peter Rinaldi of the Holy Shroud Guild: "I find Meacham's paper complete, lucid, cogent, one of the finest presentations I have ever read on the subject." The article constitutes chapter 1 of the book.

Having such a lengthy research article published in a prominent academic journal won me recognition amongst Shroud scholars and the Turin church authorities. The culmination for me was in 1986, when I was invited by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences to attend a conference it was organizing as a consultation on carbon-dating the Shroud. From there, sadly, it was all downhill. It soon became clear that the project to date the Shroud was bogged down in minor disputes, and marked by incompetent planning.

Ironically, maddeningly, the same sorts of mistakes were made again in the 2002 "restoration," for many of the same reasons, by a new set of advisers appointed by a new archbishop. I met Cardinal Poletto and his inner circle in 2000, shortly after he was installed as archbishop of Turin. We had several exchanges of correspondence after that, and it became very clear that my first, positive impression of him could not have been more wrong.

I believe that my knowledge of the key players and my involvement in these major fiascos engulfing the Shroud over the last 16 years give me a unique vantage point to relate and interpret what happened, on the personal, managerial and scientific level. No one else has been involved in both developments up close.

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