Shroud of Turin palynological evidence

James Mahaffy (
Mon, 09 Aug 1999 21:51:27 -0500


Since I now read ASA list via archives, I just read Jack Haas' post on
the Shroud of Turin (and most of the responses) . As Jack mentions
I was at the Botanical conference (as was Stanley Rice) and as a
palynologists would like to have heard more about it there but I missed

The announcement came as a poster and not a talk, which were mainly
invited speakers organized around topics. Just because it was a poster
does not mean the work is flawed - but it means that it got less
prominence since there were 2598 posters. I did wander through the
posters a couple of times but missed number 1014 which was the one on
the Shroud. I met Stan there but he had taken down his poster.

I do have the abstract of the poster and with the AP release posted by
Moorad, along with a rather informative (non peer reviewed web page from
Nov/Dec 1997 by one of the authors (Avinoam Danin) at url: From these sources I think I can
offer some educated judgments on the announcement. The first is that
the work seems (from what Danin says) to have been done by a very
reputable palynologists so there is probably little question about the
proper identification. It also appears that there was some care taken
to prevent contamination from the time of collection of pollen from the
Shroud (not saying anything about historical contamination - but that
might show up in Italian plants).

Given that, I would say they have made a decent case for the pollen on
the shroud originating from the Middle East. In their abstract they
cite pollen from a an endemic shrub found only in that area. I am
assuming that it is really possible to tell this species of shrub from
other non endemic species. I do know pollen is sometimes difficult to
identify to the specific level but I have no reason to doubt their
identification other than to say angiosperm pollen is not always readily
identified below the generic level. They also make a good case for the
time of the year (March to April), based on when some of the plants
normally produce pollen. I must say the case seems stronger in the AP
release than in Danin web page of two years ago where he based the time
of the year seems to be based in part on an imprint of a flower on the

They do NOT cite evidence that convinces me that it also shows an old
date of at least the 8th century time. I was looking for statements
about certain pollen types were not found in the area after a certain
time (presence or absence is one of the ways pollen is used for
biostratigraphy and it is often used for that). Rather according to the
AP release based on Danin talking to the reporters it appears that the
older age is based on comparison to another cloth (?burial face cloth of
Jesus) know to have been in Spain since the 8th century. In addition to
pollen they cite the similar blood stains (of same blood type) on that
cloth (AP release and not in abstract), trying to make the case that the
similar pollen and blood stains tie the burial cloths to the same early
forgery or else actual burial cloth of Christ. I would be more convinced
if they did DNA work and showed the blood to be the same on both. Maybe
that is valid but I do not see the type of evidence that would do more
than suggest that it might be of that time. Which is not to say that it
is not there, but just that I don't see it in what I have read.

I think Danin in his web page shows a bit to much evidence of wanting to
have the shroud to be Christ's and is a bit to accepting of images
evidence which I judge not as strong as his pollen data. If it were
just him (a botanists) doing the palynology I would be skeptical, but
his case is definitely strengthened by having Baruch look at the pollen.

But again the pollen and spores I look at are 300 million years + old
and of quite a different flora. I have not read anything by Baruch and
we would likely not usually go to the same meetings.

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