Right, that’s the introductions over. Let’s now get down to business.
We’ll begin by taking a look at a site I have already mentioned in less than glowing terms. The reason for my deep misgivings as to its transparency and sincerity should shortly become clear.
It begins with this:
“A reader writes: “I keep reading about banding but I don’t understand what caused it and why it is significant.“
Why would anyone bother to ask so pedestrian a question? Why the anonymity? Is it a planted question, one that allows the site godfathers to set up a red herring operation, because that is what you are about to see – a complete red herring.
“Linen in the first century, in the Middle East, was hank bleached. It was an imprecise method resulting in some yarn being whiter and some slightly darker or off-white. This resulted in variegated patterns in linen cloth as different hanks of yarn were fed into the loom. See contrast-enhanced photograph of variegated patterns.
Some of the bands of different shades of white (now perhaps more yellowed and browned with age) are narrow and some are quite wide.
The variegation, or banding as it is sometimes called, produces a visual background noise pattern that alters the way we see things on the Shroud.
(Here one is at a disadvantage, not having seen the Shroud with one’s own eyes. One is especially vulnerable to the suggestion that what one sees in the published images has been altered by “banding” in the fabric. Maybe, but don’t take anyone’s word for it: check out the BBC’s close-up photograph of the Shroud, with its faint, oh so faint image, but with that banding discernible but hardly disfiguring). You’ll see an enlarged version of this:
“The face of the man of the shroud is gaunt. That is a common observation. The nose is narrow, eye sockets exceedingly deep, the hair seems to fall straight. At least that is how is seems. Look carefully and you will see that the gaunt appearance is the result of dark vertical bands on each side of the face on the outer part of the cheeks. There are faint, less perceptible bands on each side of the nose and a horizontal band across the eyes, as well.”
Yes, the face is indeed gaunt, the nose is narrow, and the hair seems to fall straight (far too straight, as others have remarked in questioning whether the image is indeed that of a real person lying supine). But do you the reader “see” that the gauntness is the result of dark vertical bands on the outer part of the cheeks? I see the entire image of the face as being dark (in the negative on the left) except for certain sunken features, with that sudden sharp cut-off both left and right. Why should the sharp demarcation be attributed to banding when it is so symmetrical, left and right? Why should it be attributed to banding when the dark area ceases at the hairline? Why should it be attributed to banding when there is an imprint of a crease that passes transversely across the dark area, showing that the dark area is/was perfectly capable of accepting an image, albeit of a chance ruck in the material?
Why are we being asked to buy into the idea that the sudden bilateral and symmetrical cut-off of facial image is the result of banding due to weaving when it looks for all the world like a failure of the imprinting process to operate around the sides? Is that not the likely explanation – that the imaging is poor in capturing “3D-ness”, as is abundantly, some might say painfully apparent in the fact that the Shroud comprises two entirely separate images, one front and one back – WITH NO SIDES. Is the cut-off mask-like appearance of the face not simply a manifestation on a smaller scale of the essential ‘flatness’ of the Shroud image which to put it in simple irreverent terms is akin to a pair of cardboard cutouts?
So why are we being soft-soaped into accepting that the cut-off face is just a result of irregularities in the colour of the linen? Since when have irregularities produced such remarkable bilateral symmetry about the long axis?
“Fourier transform filters can be used to mathematically find these bands and minimize their effect. Notice how filtering seems to change the shape of the face and nose and makes the eyes look more normal. The hair is less forward. It doesn’t actually change the shape of the face; it merely minimizes the background noise and allows details to emerge.”
Yes, the shape of the face is changed. It now looks less gaunt, i.e. wider. But that’s because there is now infilling between cut-off and the vertical length of hair on both sides. But the infilling imparts no new information WHATSOEVER. It is simply pixellated noise, and as will seen later, there is a better method* of exploring that gap, one that does not involve fancy mathematics which simply detect and remove banding.
“It is very unlikely that the linen cloth used for the Shroud was produced in medieval Europe. Such cloth was field bleached after weaving. Medieval European linen was not hank-bleached. Instead, the woven cloth was soaked in hot lye solution, washed, soaked in sour milk and washed again. Other ingredients, like cattle urine were sometimes used, as well. Following this treatment the cloth was spread out in fields in the sun. This process eliminated variegation.To my way of thinking banding provides strong evidence that the cloth is not medieval.”
All very interesting, but these are generalisations. No hard, unequivocal evidence is presented to say how the Shroud fabric was processed. In any case, one might ask whether top-quality linen, free of “variegation” would have been used for a burial Shroud that few would see, regardless of era, especially one used to hastily wrap an unwashed blood-stained cadaver. Far from providing “strong evidence” the banding provides ZERO evidence as regards the fabric’s age. The fabric’s age can and has been established by C-14-dating. It is absurd to use the kind of anecdotal evidence above as if it were the only evidence available, as if the C-14 data, no matter how strongly contested, has never existed. This is not science. It is story-telling.
“It also provides a strong argument against opaque imaging methods. That would certainly be some paints, the metals produced from photosensitive salts. I don’t know about scorching. I rather suspect that it would not prohibit very light scorching.”
Opaque imaging methods? Paint? Photosensitive salts? Why are these being discussed at this late stage, given that the weight of evidence is that the Shroud image is intrinsic to the fabric itself (even if, as Raymond Rogers tendentiously suggested, a residue of starch or natural soap was acquired in linen manufacture) as distinct from something painted on to represent the image of a crucified man?
Scorching? Now we are talking… But I am not using my critique of all the special pleading we see above as a vehicle for my own pet theory, at least not yet.. That can come later. The purpose of my dissecting this post, paragraph by paragraph, is to show the way that observation and subjective interpretation have been finely interwoven, leaving the reader with nothing except the poster’s take-away message – namely that the Shroud is much older than the C14 data indicate, and that any peculiarities in the image are explainable in terms of shortcomings in 1st century AD quality control at the linen flax extraction/bleaching/weaving stage .
What we see here is a prime example of the “clutching at straws” that we see throughout the entire Shroud literature. I repeat – this is not science. It is make-believe, but dressed up in pseudo-scientific terms to give it an entirely undeserved air of authority. Didn’t you just love that resort to Fourier transforms, as if they added anything useful?
“The most significant aspect of banding is realizing that the man whose image appears on the shroud may not have looked like we think he does”
Yes, but that’s assuming it was a real man who was imaged on the Shroud. In the absence of a proper explanation for the cut-off mask-like image, one is entitled to ask if that was the case Ah, but that’s the question one is not supposed to ask. Cue deliberate and calculated red herring – like the issue of “banding”, strictly the preserve of wise old heads “in the know” …
* In fact, Barrie Schwortz, whilst not my favourite blog commentator, but by all accounts a highly professional photographer (he was part of the original STURP investigation team) has achieved some imaging of those two peripheral zones without resort to fast Fourier transforms. He simply adjusted the RGB luminance of the images to reveal some weak imaging that was vaguely visible anyway (with the eye of faith) and which is reassuringly a continuation of the existing image – and thus credible. In other words, the sides of the face did not totally escape imaging, but were only weakly imaged. That could be seen as providing a clue to the imaging mechanism – about which i shall have some more to say later.