Dinegar, who heads the STURP C-14 group which claimed to have made a detailed study of the application of C-14 to the Shroud, stated that "sample preparation procedures can insure no error in date due to foreign contamination accreted over the centuries" (1982:6; emphasis added).All of the above statements quoted from the literature reveal an unwarranted trust in radiocarbon measurement to produce an exact calendar date for any good sample submitted.In this paper I shall examine the issue of the reliability of C-14 testing to produce an "absolute date" on the linen sheet known as the Holy Shroud of Turin and believed by some to be the gravecloth of Christ.I have previously (Meacham 1983) treated the question of the Shroud's authenticity at length and shall confine my remarks here to the applicability and ultimate reliability of radiocarbon as an "authenticity test" of the relic.In recent discussions on the possible authenticity of the Turin Shroud (Sox 1981: Meacham 1983: Jumper et al 1984), the question of the value of C-14 dating persistently recurs.Virtually all researchers agree that the test should be performed; sufficiently small samples can now be measured so that the appearance of the relic is not altered.Even among social and physical scientists, there are numerous misconceptions about the radiocarbon method of dating; among journalists and the general public there are of course many more.But among specialists who frequently make use of the test, it is not considered as a method which produces an "absolute date" for every sample that can be measured.
No responsible field archaeologist would trust a single date, or a series of dates on a single feature, to settle a major historical issue, establish a site or cultural chronology, etc.
Certainly most archaeologists would have rejected the use of samples subjected to a long separation from the object to be dated and held under unknown conditions of storage and handling.
Further, Mc Crone (190) made his contribution by proposing to rely on "the person authenticating the Shroud samples as the same ones studied by Raes." (The original sample was apparently not even taken from the Shroud in the presence of Raes.) An art historian would certainly not have been satisfied that such a procedure could establish conclusively that the pieces were indeed from that sample removed from the Shroud in 1973, and that it had not been tampered with in the intervening years.
Although the more recent STURP proposal has not yet been published, there is reason (discussed below) to suspect that it likewise has not been researched to the degree warranted by the object to be dated, and that significant input from a range of scholars is lacking.
Because the next round of scientific testing of the Shroud may well be the last of this century, it is imperative that such details as the amount and number of samples and especially the sampling sites be very carefully considered.