London, August 25 : A physicist has suggested that the carbon dating tests carried out on the controversial shroud of Turin in 1988, were skewed by 1,300 years because of high levels of carbon monoxide, thus raising hopes for the authenticity of the fabric.
The shroud of Turin is believed to be the winding-sheet in which the body of Jesus was wrapped for burial and bearing his imprint.
But, carbon dating tests carried out in 1988 indicated that the shroud had been made between 1260 and 1390, with the Catholic Church also admitting at the time that the cloth could not be authentic.
Now, according to a report in the Times, John Jackson, a physicist at Colorado University and a prominent expert on the relic, has argued that the tests were skewed by 1,300 years because of high levels of carbon monoxide.
He said that many other elements of the shroud, including details of the image, indicate that it is much more ancient.
"It's the radiocarbon date that, to our minds, is like a square peg in a round hole. It's not fitting properly and the question is 'Why?'," Jackson told an interviewer.
Oxford has agreed to work with Jackson to reassess the age of the shroud.
He will now try to demonstrate through experiments in his laboratory that the results were flawed, in the hope that this could prompt new tests on the relic itself.
According to Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit that tested the shroud in 1988, "There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed."
But, Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, spokesman for the commission that manages the shroud at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin, said that any new tests would have to wait until after it is put on public display in 2010.
"The decision is a matter for its owners, that is the Holy See, and the Vatican has said nothing must be touched," he said.