A new analysis of DNA from the Shroud of Turin reveals that people from all over the world have touched the venerated garment.
The oldest DNA snippets (which tend to be shorter because DNA breaks down over time) are found in many places on the shroud, and come from genetic lineages typically found only in India, Barcaccia said.
That finding suggests that the shroud was manufactured in India before somehow making its way to Europe, as Indians had little contact with Europeans at the time of its origin.
"In my opinion, it is hard to believe that in the past centuries, in a historical interval spanning the medieval period, different subjects — such as priests, monks or nuns, as well [as] devotees and other subjects of Indian ancestry — have had the possibility to come in contact with the shroud in France and/or Turin," Barcaccia said.
Though the Catholic Church has never taken an official stance on the object's authenticity, tens of thousands flock to Turin, Italy, every year to get a glimpse of the object, believing that it wrapped the bruised and bleeding body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. 1204, the cloth was smuggled to safety in Athens, Greece, where it stayed until A. Centuries later, in the 1980s, radiocarbon dating, which measures the rate at which different isotopes of the carbon atoms decay, suggested the shroud was made between A. What's more, the Gospel of Matthew notes that "the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open" after Jesus was crucified.
[Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus] According to legend, the shroud was secretly carried from Judea in A. 30 or 33, and was housed in Edessa, Turkey, and Constantinople (the name for Istanbul before the Ottomans took over) for centuries. So geologists have argued that an earthquake at Jesus' death could have released a burst of neutrons.
The neutron burst not only would have thrown off the radiocarbon dating but also would have led to the darkened imprint on the shroud. In the current study, Barcaccia and his colleagues analyzed dust that they vacuumed from the shroud that contained traces of both plant and human DNA.The plant DNA came from all over the world, the researchers reported Oct. European spruce trees; Mediterranean clovers, ryegrasses and plantains; North American black locust trees; and rare East Asian pear and plum trees all left their mark on the cloth.The team also sequenced the human mitochondrial DNA (DNA passed from mother to child) found in dust from the shroud.The genetic lineage, or haplotype, of the DNA snippets suggested that people ranging from North African Berbers to East Africans to inhabitants of China touched the garment.Still, the strongest genetic signals seemed to come from areas in and around the Middle East and the Caucasus — not far from where Jesus was buried, and consistent with the early folklore surrounding the object.[The 10 Most Controversial Miracles] "One of the most abundant human mitochondrial haplotypes, among those discovered on the shroud, is still very rare in western Europe, and it is typical of the Druze community, an ethnic group that has some origin in Egypt and that lives mainly in restricted areas between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine," Barcaccia told Live Science in an email.