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A new finding has caused even skeptics to take a second look at the famous Shroud of Turin. The discovery, by Swedish textile expert Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, is that stitching on the shroud could have been created only during the lifetime Jesus or just previous, excluding the possibility of a later forgery, according to the London Daily Mirror. “There have been attempts to date the shroud from looking at the age of the material, but the style of sewing is the biggest clue,” asserts Dr. Flury-Lemberg. “It belongs firmly to a style seen in the first century AD or before.”

Dr. Flury-Lemberg told United Press International that she discovered “identical forms of weaving and high-quality sewing on textiles found at Masada, the ancient fortress in southeastern Israel. They hailed from the year 73 AD.” The stitching joins other recent findings that the Shroud has particles of actual blood, pollen from the Holy Land, and the vague imprints of plants that come only from Israel and specifically the Jerusalem-Jericho corridor.

Some believe that Dr. Flury-Lemberg’s findings, which have been in academic circulation for several years, are the most significant since 1988 — when scientists controversially carbon-dated the 14-foot-long cloth to the 13th or 14th centuries, more than 1,000 years after Jesus died. But as the London report points out, experts now say the team — which grabbed international headlines when it denounced the Shroud as a medieval forgery — “unwittingly used cloth that had been added during a 16th-century restoration and it could have been contaminated from handling.” Indeed, spoonfuls of soot that may have skewed the carbon tests were recently taken from between the Shroud and a piece of cloth used as backing during a recent refurbishment.

Mark Guscin of the British Society for the Turin Shroud is quoted as saying that “the discovery of the stitching along with doubt about the carbon-dating all add to the mountain of evidence suggesting this was probably the shroud Jesus was buried in. Scientists have been happy to dismiss it as a fake, but they have never been able to answer the central question of how the image of that Man got on to the cloth.”

“I was a cynic before I saw it,” adds Barrie Schwortz, who in 1978 took part in the first scientific examination of the shroud. “But I am now convinced this is the cloth that wrapped Jesus of Nazareth after he was crucified.”

As the Mirror points out: “The history of the cloth — which bears the ghostly image of a bearded man — is steeped in mystery. The first documented reference was in 1357, when it was displayed in a church in Lirey, France. The cloth astonished Christians as it showed a man wearing a crown of thorns and bearing wounds on his front, back and right-hand side. Before it arrived in France, it is thought the shroud was known as the Edessa burial sheet, given to King Abgar V by one of Jesus’ disciples,” perhaps St. Jude.

For the next 1,200 years it was kept hidden in that city, brought out only for religious festivals. In 944 it is thought to have turned up in Constantinople, Turkey, before being stolen by the French knight Geoffrey de Charny during the Fourth Crusades. “It soon became Europe’s most-revered religious artifact, although it was scorched in a fire in 1532,” notes the newspaper — the event that may have led to skew carbon dating. “In 1578 it was moved to Turin in northern Italy and was frequently paraded through the streets to huge crowds.”

It was only in 1898, however, that the Shroud was photographed — and when it was, greater details were revealed in what to the naked eye look only like a vague outlines. The reason is that the Shroud is in negative, and it was only when a camera’s negative showed its true nature that the scientific world took note. A negative of a negative shows an object or person in the positive — as it or he really is.

There have long been supernatural events associated with the Shroud. An atheistic fireman who saved the Shroud from another fire in the 1990s said a mysterious force took him over — allowing him to get the object out of a burning church — and there are even reports that the Shroud has healing qualities. Such was the case with King Abgar, and more recently British philanthropist Leonard Cheshire took a disabled girl to see it in 1955. After being given permission to touch it, ten-year-old Josephine Woollam made a full recovery.

It was in 1978 that scientists were allowed to examine the Shroud for the first time, notes the report. “We did absolutely every test there was to try to find out how that image had got there,” says Barrie Schwortz, the project’s photographer. “We used X-rays, ultra-violet light, spectral imaging and photographed every inch of it in the most minute detail, but we still couldn’t come up with any answers.”

Marc Guscin, author of Burial Cloths Of Christ, believes the most compelling evidence for the shroud’s authenticity comes from a small, blood-soaked cloth kept in a cathedral in Oviedo, northern Spain. The Sudarium is believed to have been used to cover Jesus’ head after he died and, unlike the shroud, its history has been traced back to the first century. It contains blood from the rare AB group found on the shroud. Mark says: “Laboratory tests have shown that these two cloths were used on the same body.”

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