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Although the more recent STURP proposal has not yet been published, there is reason (discussed below) to suspect that it likewise has not been researched to the degree warranted by the object to be dated, and that significant input from a range of scholars is lacking.Because the next round of scientific testing of the Shroud may well be the last of this century, it is imperative that such details as the amount and number of samples and especially the sampling sites be very carefully considered.Possibilities of contamination should be exhaustively investigated, and pretreatment should be devised accordingly.
Virtually all researchers agree that the test should be performed; sufficiently small samples can now be measured so that the appearance of the relic is not altered.
Several C-14 dating proposals are now under consideration by the Archbishop of Turin.
In contrast to these positive developments, however, there appears to be an unhealthy consensus approaching the level of dogma among both scientific and lay commentators, that C-14 dating will "settle the issue once and for all time."This attitude sharply contradicts the general perspective of field archaeologists and geologists, who view possible contamination as a very serious problem in interpreting the results of radiocarbon measurement.
As I shall endeavor to demonstrate below, the radiocarbon measurement of the Shroud is a complex issue, and the inclusion of all relevant expertise is highly important.
In May, 1985, I submitted such a proposal to Cardinal Ballestrero, Archbishop of Turin and official custodian of the relic, in the hope that the ecclesiastical authorities would consider appointing a scientific panel to plan and implement a C14 testing program.
The first proposal to date the Shroud was submitted in 1979 by Gove and Harbottle (published in Sox 191-167).It was, in my opinion, seriously flawed by the lack of consultation with archaeologists and experts from other fields.In this paper I shall examine the issue of the reliability of C-14 testing to produce an "absolute date" on the linen sheet known as the Holy Shroud of Turin and believed by some to be the gravecloth of Christ.I have previously (Meacham 1983) treated the question of the Shroud's authenticity at length and shall confine my remarks here to the applicability and ultimate reliability of radiocarbon as an "authenticity test" of the relic.Reviewing recent Shroud literature of all persuasions, I find little awareness of the limitations of the C-14 method, an urge to "date first and ask questions later," and a general disregard for the close collaboration between field and laboratory personnel which is the ideal in archaeometric projects.Regarding the Shroud, consultations should take place among archeologists, historians, conservationists, cellulose chemists and of course radiocarbon scientists in order to formulate a specific C-14 sampling and dating procedure.