By Hilary White

NOVARA, Italy, February 5, 2008 ( – The techniques used in 1988 by three separate teams of scientists to date the Shroud of Turin to the middle ages, may have been inconclusive, a radiocarbon dating expert at Oxford University has told the BBC.

According to the Church official in charge of the Shroud, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, director of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator, whose specialty is the use of radiocarbon dating in archaeological research, told the BBC that radiocarbon dating techniques have developed since 1988, and that the Shroud’s long history of travel, exposure to the elements and handling could have skewed the results.

The BBC interview, that has yet to be broadcast, was discussed by Mgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Diocesan Commission for the Shroud of Turin, at a conference in Novara Italy. Mgr. Ghiberti speculated that the Shroud’s long history, including travels from Palestine to Europe, damage by fire in the 16th century, and much handling over the centuries could have influenced the outcome of the tests.

In 1988, three groups of scientists made an attempt to use radiocarbon dating techniques to determine the age of the Shroud, concluding that the linen cloth could only date to the middle ages and not to the first century near east. According to the 1988 studies, the Shroud, venerated for centuries by Catholics as the burial cloth of Christ, could only have been a hoax or the product of some unknown natural process. The highly publicized study was published in 1988 in the scientific journal Nature.

That conclusion, however, has not halted the debate over the origin of the Shroud, although Church officials have declined to allow the fragile cloth to be so closely examined since then. In 2005 a second analysis indicated that the cloth sample used by the 1988 teams had been taken from a part of the Shroud that was not part of the original cloth.

The interview with Dr. Ramsey will be broadcast by the BBC on Easter Saturday.