Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jrsocmedLink to Publisher's site
J R Soc Med. 2006 August; 99(8): 386–387.
PMCID: PMC1533505

Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion

I write as one who for many years has taken in the Shroud of Turin; and who has visited Turin twice to see this piece of linen bearing on its surface the imprints of a man whose body has been subjected to torture by flagellation, wounding of the head and piercing of the hands and feet. I would comment on the paper by Maslen and Mitchell (April 2006 JRSM1) entitled ‘Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion’. The authors contend that there is fair evidence that the shroud of Turin is a forgery.

Before the forgery theory gains acceptance a few facts are worthy of consideration.

The history of the shroud is well documented from the middle of the 14th century, the greatest artist at that time being Giotto who was unable to produce such a detailed and accurate depiction of the human body as is shown on the Shroud. The image of the body is anatomically flawless, its features being particularly well revealed when its light values are reversed as in a photographic negative.

No one has been able to reproduce the image as seen on the shroud which, unlike a painting or photograph, contains three-dimensional information and is made without a single brush stroke

In respect of carbon dating, a peer review scientific paper by Raymond Rogers, retired fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was published on 20 January 2005.2,3 The author writes: ‘As unlikely as it seems, the samples used to test the age of the shroud of Turin in 1988 was taken from a rewoven area of the Shroud. Pyrolysis-Mass spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon date was not valid for determining the true age of the shroud’.


Competing interests None declared.


1. Maslen MW, Mitchell PD. Medical theories on the cause of crucifixion. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 185-8 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Rogers RN. Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the Shroud of Turin. Thermochim Acta 2005;425: 189-94
3. Rogers RN. Shroud Newsletter 2005; Issue No. 61: 22

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press