Carbon dating at
At the same time, the British Museum was invited to help in the certification of the samples provided and in the statistical analysis of the results. The age of the shroud is obtained as AD 1260-1390, with at least 95% confidence. The three containers containing the shroud (to be referred to as sample 1) and two control samples (samples 2 and 3) were then handed to representatives of each of the three laboratories together with a sample of the third control (sample 4), which was in the form of threads.
The procedures for taking the samples and treating the results were discussed by representatives of the three chosen laboratories at a meeting at the British Museum in January 1988 and their recommendations = standard deviation) errors, of the Shroud of Turin and control samples, as supplied by the three laboratories (A, Arizona; O, Oxford; Z, Zurich) (See also Table 2.) The shroud is sample 1, and the three controls are samples 2-4. The sampling of the shroud took place in the Sacristy at Turin Cathedral on the morning of 21 April 1988. All these operations, except for the wrapping of the samples in foil and their placing in containers, were fully documented by video film and photography.
The Zurich group first split each ultrasonically cleaned sample in half, with the treatment of the second set of samples being deferred until the radiocarbon measurements on the first set had been completed.
The first set of samples was further subdivided into three portions.
To confirm the feasibility of dating the shroud by these methods an intercomparison, involving four AMS and two small gas-counter radiocarbon laboratories and the dating of three known-age textile samples, was coordinated by the British Museum in 1983. The strip came from a single site on the main body of the shroud away from any patches or charred areas.
The results of this intercomparison are reported and discussed by Burleigh . Three samples, each ~50 mg in weight, were prepared from this strip.
Even for the first investigation, there was a possibility of using radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the linen from which the shroud was woven.
The size of the sample then required, however, was ~500cm, which would clearly have resulted in an unacceptable amount of damage, and it was not until the development in the 1970s of small gas-counters and accelerator-mass-spectrometry techniques (AMS), requiring samples of only a few square centimetres, that radiocarbon dating of the shroud became a real possibility. The shroud was separated from the backing cloth along its bottom left-hand edge and a strip (~10 mm x 70 mm) was cut from just above the place where a sample was previously removed in 1973 for examination.
After these initial cleaning procedures, each laboratory split the samples for further treatment.Following this intercomparison, a meeting was held in Turin in September-October 1986 at which seven radiocarbon laboratories (five AMS and two small gas-counter) recommended a protocol for dating the shroud. The samples were then taken to the adjacent Sala Capitolare where they were wrapped in aluminium foil and subsequently sealed inside numbered stainless-steel containers by the Archbishop of Turin and Dr Tite.In October 1987, the offers from three AMS laboratories (Arizona, Oxford and Zurich) were selected by the Archbishop of Turin, Pontifical Custodian of the shroud, acting on instructions from the Holy See, owner of the shroud. Samples weighing 50 mg from two of the three controls were similarly packaged.All laboratories examined the textile samples microscopically to identify and remove any foreign material.The Oxford group cleaned the samples using a vacuum pipette, followed by cleaning in petroleum ether (40° C for 1 h) to remove lipids and candlewax, for example.