I know, I have already mused about the Shroud of Turin (it’s four posts down) BUT there is more, always more to write about. This time it’s about how the image was made. The research found that there were no dyes or paints. Instead there was just a faint burning on the top layers of the cloth. It was as if a divine radiation was emitted from a body leaving an image in a miraculous manner. (Eye role from the dark elves.) But how could it have been created. NAA wants to know.
Over the years there have been many proposed methodologies as to how this could be done and a few have produced somewhat similar results (e.g. the acids of decay interacting with the bases of a cloth washed in an ancient plant based soap may be a possibility.) None however have been as interesting as those proposed by Nicholas Flamel (wait … wrong story) … er Nicholas Allen. He says that if the radiocarbon dating is correct and this was a forgery created in the 12th or 13th century, then it may have been possible that the shroud was created by some ancient use of photography. Whoa batman … that means that the invention of photography was actually 500 years before its credited invention in roughly 1820 by Thomas Wedgewood or perhaps Nicephore Niepce (pick your pioneer).
Here is the Smithsonian video on Dr. Allen’s speculations.
The camera obsura (Latin for “darkened vaulted chamber or room”) is a fascinating invention (see image at top) and was first described (sort of) by Plato in his dialogues on the nature of reality. He saw reflected images of the outside world while in a cave and (completely without the aid of dangerous chemicals) was able to describe an alternative reality. It was a sort of Carlos Castaneda meets Edwin H. Land moment.
Flash forward to China circa 1080 A.D. in the Song Dynasty (See The Dream Pool Essays) and then even later to the middle ages and the concept of being able to project an image on a surface was well known. A large box with a slit in it, plus a light source (say the sun) and viola, presto digitation, you have an image. Pretty cool huh. Except that’s not quite photography. To make the image somewhat focused, you need a lens. But wait … they had those … eyeglasses were being made in Italy … just hanging out waiting to be put in a “camera obsura.”
We are getting close. Just need a cloth (check) and some silver nitrate solution (check) and you have all the necessary ingredients for an image. Yes, even the silver nitrate was known at that time. Did all of this happen and did someone hang a body upside down for several days to make a shroud sized image … unlikely says the Wizard of NAA. But is it possible. That is the beauty of new and amazing. It is possible.
Wow, photography could go back to the middle ages. The dark elves are excited. Except it probably didn’t happen. Click HERE for the skeptics view on whether ancient photography could explain the Shroud of Turin.
The wizard of NAA loves the possibility of ancient photography. There just doesn’t seem to be much evidence for it. But could a man of genius put all this together and create one of the most amazing artworks in history? If he did, that would make the shroud almost as big a story as if it were actually from the year 33 A.D. I wrote a story called Rodek’s Promise about one such man … a Neanderthal who used air flow in a cave and carved bones set about an ancient wheel to preserve the sounds of his own language. When it comes to genius, anything is possible. Just ask LDV (who is sometimes credited with creating the Shroud of Turin … I know … I know).
Complete NAA Speculation: NAA has always been fascinated by the improbable. Could just the right amalgamation of events occur in just the right way so as to make the “impossible” happen? One imagined impossible event is a cave deep in the recesses of time, with a wall dripping with a randomly created silver solution, waiting for some ancient, soon to be extinct creature to walk by just as the small hole lets in the flash from a bolt of lightning. The cave is sealed by the forces of nature and waits patiently to be discovered in some distant future. Impossible you say. Perhaps … but given a few billion years worth of “try’s, even the impossible is almost certain to have happened at least once. After all, the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) only wins in the long run, pockets of random order can always be found … just not often. But it is those pockets that form the back alleys of the magical world of new and amazing.