THE HOLY SHROUD
In a recent conference held in Valencia, on the Holy Shroud, the work of one Marzia Boi, a university researcher at the University of the Balearic Islands stood out in particular. Boi is an expert in Palynology, which is the science that studies pollen.
As history lovers may already know, the fabric of the Holy Shroud is covered in pollen and Boi’s report clearly highlights that the pollen is proof that the shroud, which is kept in Turin, was a winding-sheet and was used according to rituals common in the Middle East over a thousand years ago. We have therefore taken the liberty of drawing the following conclusion (which we would like to point out was never made by the researcher herself): this discovery is strong proof against the theory of the shroud being a medieval fake. It seems somewhat incredible (and it would be a true scientific miracle) that a medieval forger would have known what ointments and oils were used in Jewish funeral rites in I century AD and that this same forger would have put together aromas and ointments in the knowledge that a few centuries later tools that had not yet been invented might reveal his work.
Marzia Boi wrote in her report in Valencia: “ The pollen traces on the Holy Shroud which have so far been linked to the geographic origin of the relic reveal what oils and ointments were put both on the body and on the sheet. These discoveries have an ethno-cultural meaning linked to ancient funeral practices. These non-perishable particles capture the image of a 2000-year-old funeral rite and thanks to them it was possible to discover what plants were used in the preparation of the body that was kept in the sheet. The oils allowed the pollens, as fortuitous ingredients, to be absorbed and hidden in the shroud’s fabric like invisible evidence of an extraordinary historical event.” According to Jewish custom the dead bodies and the winding sheets were treated with oils and perfumed ointments following a meticulous ritual.
Boi’s research analyses published work concerning the pollen residues on the Holy Shroud. Max Frei, the great Swiss expert on the subject, left a wealth of documentation. The analysis, carried out with more advanced tools than those available over thirty years ago, has made it possible for Boi to rectify some mistakes in pollen-identifications. Among these, an particularly important discovery was made: “I can see that what was believed to be Anemone pollen, actually comes from Pistacia. I identify pollen from Ridolfia Segetum as coming from a plant called Helichrysum which is part of the Asteraceae family.”
She also made another discovery. The pollen which had originally been identified as Gundelia Tourneforti (tumbleweed) pollen, is actually not. Gundelia Tourneforti is one of the 23,000 species in the world belonging to the Asteraceae family and it grows in the mountain-deserts across Asia Minor. In 1999 two great Jewish experts, Danin e Baruch, in their book “Flora of the Shroud”, confirmed that the pollen on the shroud came mainly from the Gundelia species and suggested that the Crown of Thorns might have been made with the leaves of this plant.
Marzia Boi disagrees. Her examination with the electron microscope yielded a different result: the main pollen residue comes neither from Ridolfia, nor Gundelia, but from Helichrysum (29.1%). Cistaceae pollen (8.2%), Apiaceae pollen (4.2%) and Pistacia pollen (0.6%) are also present on the shroud in smaller quantities. “All the plants mentioned here are entomophilous, that is, their pollen is carried by insects rather than air. This shows that there must have been direct contact with either the plants or the materials used for the funeral. The list of pollens reveals traces of the most common plants used in ancient funerals. The pollens identified clarify that the holy shroud was rubbed with oils and ointments, just as the body contained within it did.” There used to be a balm made from Pistacia leaves, fruits and bark that was also used as an ointment. However, a high quality oil was once produced from the Helichrysum and this oil was used to protect both body and shroud.
“The use of this oil in ancient funeral rites is documented in various countries, from Arabia to Greece.”