Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Shroud Report - The McCrone Factor

Shroud University

Walter McCrone, a microanalyst and long time detractor of the Shroud continues to make headlines and documentary appearances with his iconoclastic views. In a nutshell, he claims that the Shroud is a painted forgery because in his analysis of several particle samples following the 1978 scientific investigation, he found traces of iron oxide particles which he claims were used with a thin binder solution to paint the image onto the cloth. He calls the iron oxide "jeweler's rouge" and that it was common in medieval times.

Now for the rest of the story. What McCrone fails to acknowledge is as follows:

The iron oxide present on the Shroud is also present in non-image areas as well and is extremely pure and uncontaminated. The particles appear only under the microscope and not to the naked eye. The particle density is only two microns per square centimeter and could not possibly constitute the Shroud image. Where do the particles come from? Apparently when flax is retted, it is soaked in stagnant ponds for a week or longer to make the stalk of the plant pliable enough to convert to thread and ultimately to linen. In the retting process, an ion of iron (Fe) is attached to the flax from iron in the water. This is a simple and logical explanation and consistent with the purity of the iron oxide found on the Shroud. Iron oxide used by artists in the middle ages for jeweler's rouge, as McCrone claims, is much coarser and also contaminated with other elements. Spectrographic and radiographic tests do not support his claims. Nor is there any evidence of a paint binder.

McCrone also claims to have found a high concentration of mercury that he says was used to make vermilion paint and accounts for the apparent bloodstains. This despite the evidence of qualified blood chemists Dr. John Heller and Dr. Alan Adler who demonstrated through chemical analysis the presence of blood and various blood components using thirteen different tests. So where does the mercury come from? The historical archives show that over the centuries, numerous paintings of Jesus were accorded special sanctity by Roman Catholic authorities when placed on the Shroud itself…face to face. As a result, loose paint particles from the paintings would become detached and get distributed onto the Shroud. Why were the paintings touched to the Shroud? Put it this way, a Babe Ruth baseball card is highly valuable, but one signed by the Babe is probably worth a fortune. In the same way, a painted copy that has touched Christ's Shroud and with authenticating documents, would also be immensely more valuable. These simple explanations may be sufficient to account for the minute traces of mercury and iron oxide found on the Shroud.

The following is an excerpt from an article submitted to Biblical Archaeological Review (March/April 1999, pg. 17-18) by Giles Carter, an Archaeological Chemist and a member of the STURP project of 1978:

"McCrone found the presence of mercury (from the pigment vermilion) by [XRF] X-ray fluorescence. XRF happens to be my specialty, and I wrote to McCrone years ago pointing out a misinterpretation of the mercury lines. There is far less mercury present than McCrone believes. Mercury is probably present due to artists touching their paintings with the shroud."

"McCrone believes that the image of the body is primarily iron oxide in a collagen tempera medium. Adler and others have shown that at least 90 percent of the iron present on the shroud is bonded to cellulose and is not present as colored iron oxide. Further, Adler has explained the coloration of the body image as due to dehydrative oxidation of cellulose. If even very low concentrations of iron are present in water that is used to ret linen (soaking to decompose the nonfibrous materials), linen will react chemically with this iron, and the iron will be bound to the cellulose. Other scientists and I have found that iron catalyzes the dehydrative oxidation of cellulose, producing a coloration similar to that found on the shroud. Certain highly colored threads, and in particular one outstanding dark thread, run vertically in the shroud and are colored much darker than surrounding threads. The obvious explanation is that these threads probably contain relatively high concentrations of iron (this could be tested may) compared with their neighbors, and iron caused these threads to darken more when the image was formed. Certainly these dark threads were not painted by an artist. Also the body image penetrates only a minute distance into the linen [no more than one to two microfibrils]. It seems impossible that a painter could reproduce this, particularly because the image is fuzzy and vague and can only be recognized from a distance of several feet."

"One of McCrone's shroud paintings was tested by a chemist in my presence, and several tests proved this painting to be unlike the Shroud of Turin, thus debunking the debunker."

The following are excerpts from C. Bernard Ruffin's book, The Shroud of Turin, (1999) and highlights what Dr. Alan Adler and Dr. John Heller found versus what McCrone says he found:

In a 1993 interview Adler recounted, "We pointed out that, yes, we saw what [McCrone] claimed he saw. We saw iron oxide, we saw one piece of vermilion, we saw protein. We also saw red particles that weren't iron oxide.... The red we saw was blood, and it was in the blood tape samples from Turin- the only places we saw iron oxide was in the water stain areas and the blood scorch areas. And our explanation is, when you bum blood you get iron oxide -- it contains iron." Page 97

After completing over a thousand chemical tests, Adler and Heller published "A Chemical Investigation of the Shroud" in the Journal of the Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences in September, 1981. The Society invited them, along with John Jackson, the physicist, and Robert Bucklin, the medical examiner, to debate McCrone in Hamilton, Ontario. McCrone, however, failed to show up, and sent an assistant, who simply quoted his mentor's papers." Page 99

Harry Gove wrote about his experiences with McCrone in his book, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?" (1996) Here are a few excerpts that talk about the Shroud and the Vinland Map for which McCrone owes much of his fame:

"I sometimes think that McCrone dreamed of becoming history's greatest iconoclast. Having, in his view, demolished the authenticity of the Vinland Map he saw the chance to do the same to the Turin Shroud! When a series of tests were carried out on the shroud in the fall of 1978, McCrone determined that there were traces of iron oxide powder on the shroud image." Page 19

"McCrone Associates were later commissioned by Yale to investigate the map's authenticity. McCrone found that some of the white ink on the map contained the pigment anatase. Anatase (titanium oxide) was not used as a white pigment before 1917. Well aware of the publicity value, he released information to the press that the map was a fake. The news was greeted with relief and joy in Italy and in the Italian-American community but officials at Yale were not amused. More recently, doubts have been raised concerning McCrone's conclusions and there is increasing evidence that the Vinland Map predates Columbus' discovery of America." Page 19

"…McCrone who contacted the press with the news that the Vinland Map was a fake allegedly without first getting permission from his client, Yale University…" Page 22

"On 10 May [1979] an article appeared in the New York Times concerning the Vinland Map. A friend of mine at the University of California at Davis, Tom Cahill, Director of the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at that institution, had employed the cyclotron in his laboratory to analyze the trace element composition of the map using a nondestructive technique called PIXE (particle induced X-ray emission). He concluded that the ink on the map contained only extremely small traces of titanium, amounts that were quite consistent with it being a genuine medieval document. In 1974, Walter McCrone had concluded that the white ink on the map had been made from the pigment anatase (titanium oxide). Such white pigment was invented in 1917 and to Walter this proved the map a fraud. McCrone hotly contested Cahill's findings and fired off an angry letter to him stating, in effect, that war was declared. In an interview the New York Times conducted with him, McCrone also branded as fraudulent the Shroud of Turin. He was clearly trying to re-burnish his image as the world's leading iconoclast. As far as the Vinland Map is concerned, I would put my money on Cahill and PIXE… The problem McCrone has is that his scientific techniques are unsophisticated…" Page 190

One must wonder how much of what McCrone says is for self-promotion versus objective science. McCrone always feels that his microanalysis is the only form of research that matters and discounts the value of anyone else's. However, for science to arrive at a credible hypothesis, it must be in harmony with evidence from other fields. McCrone seems to ignore the demands of epistemology.

To his credit, he has made superb use of the media to get maximum exposure for The McCrone Institute. It is curious, however, that none of his scientific articles on the Shroud were ever submitted to a peer reviewed journal but were self-published in his own magazine, The Microscopist. This appears to be yet another self-promoting tactic that insulates him and his research from peer criticism.

One researcher who prefers to remain anonymous stated his opinion that "McCrone has sacrificed empiricism on the altar of his own ego."

The following is additional information on the Vinland Map as published in the British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter (June/July 1996):

The Vinland Map first surfaced from somewhat obscure origins in 1957 when a rare book dealer acquired it in Geneva and sold it to the wealthy American arts patron Paul Mellon, who gave it to Yale University. Its sensational feature was that as part of a larger map of the known world it showed to Greenland's west, and in roughly the location of present-day Newfoundland, a large jagged- looking island named 'Vinland' that seemed to confirm the Vikings' then still semi-legendary discovery of America. Eight years of scholarly research led to the conclusion that the map had originally belonged to an undeniably genuine fifteenth century manuscript, the Tartar Relation.

There seemed to be matching wormholes to prove the map had belonged to the Tartar manuscript, and subsequent archaeological discoveries at L'Anse aux Meadows near Newfoundland's northernmost point confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt that Vikings had indeed reached America, and established a temporary settlement there around 1000 AD.

Then in 1972 Dr. Walter McCrone was invited to make a microanalytical study of the Vinland Map and its ink. He found that whoever drew it first used a yellow ink, then carefully added a black ink line on top of this. The yellow ink McCrone found to contain anatase, a crystalline form of titanium dioxide only developed in 1920. He therefore concluded the map to be a forgery, and as a result it became widely discredited.

According to Dr. Thomas Cahill, the physicist in charge of the project, the Vinland Map's ink contains only trace elements of titanium, readily consistent with a genuine mediaeval document. For instance, comparative analysis of the ink of an unquestionably genuine Gutenberg Bible revealed slightly greater quantities of titanium than on the Vinland Map. As remarked by Dr. Cahill, "There is nothing about the chemistry or morphology of the Vinland Map that in any way makes it stand out from any of the parchments of that period that we have analyzed."

The question remains: if it has taken twenty-two years for the Vinland Map to be reinstated from having been scientifically 'proved' a fake, how long will it take for the Shroud?

Original Article -