|Shroud of Turin.|
During a 1999 conference of the prestigious Missouri Botanical Society in St Louis, Missouri, Avinoam Danin, a botany professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a leading authority on the flora of Israel, along with Uri Baruch, a pollen specialist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, reported that the combination of pollen spores lodged in the Shroud’s surface, as well as floral images mysteriously “imprinted” on the face of the cloth, could only have come from plants growing in a restricted area around Jerusalem. How floral images came to be on the cloth is as big a mystery as are the body images.
Pollen identification is a common method used in criminal forensics to determine where an object has been geographically. Max Frei, a Zurich criminologist, had previously identified a total of 58 different pollens on the Shroud. These pollens are native to areas around 1) the Dead Sea and the Negev, 2) the Anatolian Steppe of central and western Turkey, 3) the immediate environs of Constantinople, and 4) Western Europe. Danin and Baruch confirmed much of Frei’s work. They also confirmed some previous floral image identifications by Oswald Sheuermann, a German physicist, and Alan Whanger, a professor at Duke University.
Cautionary Note: Some of the pollen identification has been challenged because of inaccurate chain of evidence record keeping. And image identification of the flowers is highly subjective. We must keep in mind that image identification is made from photographs of the Shroud. The cloth has stains, dirt, bloodstains and wrinkles that introduces visual anomalies. Photographic film, due to grain limitations, may not perfectly capture subtle details. Enhancement of contrast and brightness of the photographs, which is necessary, also may distort the picture.
Even so, the evidence is compelling and warrants important consideration when weighed with other evidence.
The most important plants that Danin and Baruch identified and reported on are:
Chrysanthemum coronarium: This is one of the most prominent plant images on the Shroud. This image is clearly visible. It is not a very strong geographical indicator in that it is a widespread Mediterranean species. It is, however, a good temporal indicator since it blooms between March and May. This suggests that the image was formed at that time of year.
Zygophyllum dunosum: This is the second most prominent floral image on the Shroud. The phonologic stage of bloom, as seen on the Shroud, indicates that it was cut or picked sometime between December and April. This plant grows only in the Sinai, a small area of Jordan adjacent to Israel, Jerusalem, and an area of Israel south of Jerusalem.
Gundelia tournefortii: In addition to faint imagery, there are also a very significant number of pollen spores for this species on the Shroud. Such large quantities of pollen grains, of this otherwise insect-pollinated plant, can only be explained by physical contact with the Shroud. Gundelia blooms in Israel between March and May. This plant also grows throughout Turkey, Syria, northern Iran, northern Iraq, and in northern Israel. The southernmost edge of its growing region is Jerusalem.
Cistus creticus: Numerous pollen grains tend to confirm a fuzzy image of this plant on the Shroud’s surface. This is considered a very high geographic indicator since it only grows in Israel along the Mediterranean coast areas and the higher elevations east of the coast, but only as far in that direction as the old city of Jerusalem.
Capparis aegyptia: This plant grows only in Israel, Jordan, and the Sinai. According to Danin and Buruch, “Flowering buds of this species begin to open about midday, opening gradually until fully opened about sunset. Flowers of this species, seen as images on the Shroud, correspond to opening buds at three to four o’clock in the afternoon.”
The last four plants on the Shroud are significant because, as Danin and Baruch report, “[the assemblage] occurs in only one rather small spot on earth, this being the Judean mountains and the Judean Desert of Israel, in the vicinity of Jerusalem.”