NEW YORK – An archaeological discovery that appears to place the origin of the Shroud of Turin in first century A.D. conflicts with three independent scientifically conducted radiocarbon 14 tests that estimated a date range of A.D. 1260-1390.
The shroud is believed by many scholars to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
Philip E. Dayvault, a former FBI special agent and physical-science technician who has been studying the Shroud of Turin since 1973, ventured to Turkey on an Indiana Jones-like expedition in 2002. While there, he discovered a small mosaic in a faraway museum maintained by Muslim curators that appears to provide physical corroboration for the existence of the Shroud back in the first century
The mosaic, known as the “ISA Tile,” substantiates the salient points of the synthesized 1,700 year-old “Legend of King Abgar V.” The legend allegedly chronicles how the Shroud of Turin went from Jerusalem to Turkey before arriving in Turin, Italy, where the Catholic Church preserves it in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
The archeological find in Turkey
In an interview with WND, Dayvault recalled it was May 21, 2002, when he found the ISA Tile mosaic “in the innermost sanctum of the archaeological museum in faraway Şanliurfa, Turkey.”
“I was there because I was researching ancient oil lamps, and they had some 75 prepared and ready for me to study,” he explained. “Via hand-signals and translations, I asked the director a second time for permission to conduct a ‘look-see’ in the innermost sanctum, and he finally gave me permission to go in there and look around.”
Dayvault described the inner chamber of the museum storeroom as a small area, some 20 by 30 feet in size, that was accessed only through a series of locked gates and doors.
“In there, the most priceless artifacts were maintained by the museum,” he said. “I used my flashlight to get a better view, because there was only one overhead lamp in the middle of the room, and there in the corner, on the second shelf, I found the ISA Tile, the mosaic that immediately caught my attention.”
Needless to say, Dayvault was ecstatic with his new discovery. He was on a quest for ancient oil lamps bearing the face of the man of the shroud; but, instead of finding oil lamps, he was led to a small mosaic depicting the “face of God.”
“I stopped dead in my tracks and said, ‘Whoa! What do we have here?’
“The Muslim curator with us, realizing I had spotted this, exclaimed, ‘Isa, Isa,’ which I knew meant ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ My translator-guide, Hafiz, equally excited as the curator, began exclaiming, ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ I excitedly responded, ‘I know, I know,’ because I had immediately recognized the face on the mosaic as the same face as the crucified man in the Shroud of Turin.”
The museum had apparently kept the ISA Tile from public view for decades. But upon finding it, the curator explained to Dayvault’s translator that the mosaic was actually the Muslim director’s “most prized possession” of all artifacts in the museum.
“The museum is in eastern Turkey, a very Muslim orthodox part of the country,” Dayvault pointed out. “The museum inventory records officially described the mosaic tile simply as depicting ‘a bearded man,’ without any suggestion the bearded man was Jesus Christ.”
In his recently published book, “The Keramion: Lost and Found: A Journey to the Face of God,” he describes the discovery and discusses the importance of the find.
Dayvault further writes, “I called the small mosaic tile the ‘ISA Tile’ because of the animated reaction from the museum curator regarding my discovery.”
As soon as he saw it, Dayvault cautiously picked up the mosaic and walked over to the photography table, where he glanced at his watch and realized he had only five minutes left before the museum closed for lunch, during which time all visitors had to leave.
“Lunchtime never lasted so long,” Dayvault wrote. “Every second ticked by slowly. I was ecstatic with the new discovery, but I had to restrain my excitement. I did not want to draw too much attention to the mosaic tile. We had been told by the curator right before leaving for lunch that not only was I the first American ever to visit the museum depots, but I was the very first foreigner as well.”
After lunch, Dayvault returned and took photographs of the ISA Tile from different angles and views.
“The ISA Tile looked heavy, like concrete, but it was surprisingly as light as a feather when picked up,” Dayvault continued writing. “The overall size of the tile was approximately 9x12x4 inches. The beveled substrate base of the tile was most likely tufa, or a volcanic ash and limestone mixture, extremely light and durable in nature.”
Dayvault had four minutes to photograph the tile when the museum director returned from a meeting. While Dayvault had official state permission to photograph objects with faces similar to ones on his oil lamps back home and the expressed permission of the director, he did not particularly want to be photographing the director’s most prized possession in his absence.
“The mosaic had literally been secreted in the innermost sanctum of the depots for decades, and I am sure the director did not want yet to relinquish his cherished prize for the world to see,” Dayvault wrote. “However, time was short, and I had to act. Sometimes, it is better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission. In this particular case, I am glad I did.”
According to the legend of King Abgar V, shortly after the Ascension of Jesus Christ, in about A.D. 30, Judas Thaddeus, one of Christ’s 12 disciples (or Thaddaeus, one of the seventy-two disciples), allegedly carried to King Abgar V in Edessa – an ancient city in upper Mesopotamia that is now modern-day Şanliurfa, Turkey – a cloth that bore the face of Jesus Christ. It was known then as the “Image of Edessa,” which many today associate with the current Shroud of Turin.
The legend relates that King Abgar V, afflicted with an incurable illness speculated to be gout or possibly leprosy, supposedly had heard of the miracles being performed by Jesus. So he wrote to Jesus and asked him to come to Edessa to cure him. The historian Eusebius records that while Jesus was unable to come to Edessa, he was impressed that Abgar believed without seeing him, while many who had witnessed Jesus did not believe in him.
Upon seeing the cloth, King Abgar V was healed. In response, he converted to Christianity and Edessa became one of the first Christian communities outside Jerusalem.
The legend continues that King Abgar displayed the cloth and had a tile bearing the facial image of Jesus Christ placed over a Western Gate of the “City” (Citadel), as a memorial directing visitors to Edessa to pay homage to the image of Jesus Christ.
In A.D. 57, the second son of King Abgar V, named Ma’nu VI, assumed the throne and reverted to paganism, at which time the cloth bearing the image of Jesus, the Keramion tile and an oil lamp were concealed in a tunnel niche of the Western Gate of the Citadel. They remained hidden there for some 468 years before being discovered by workmen rebuilding the walls in AD 525 after a devastating flood.
Resemblance to artistic depictions of Jesus
Dayvault wrote that “almost immediately after the Shroud’s rediscovery in A.D. 525, Christian art flourished around the world, as fast as couriers and artists could travel, with many of the depictions bearing a resemblance to the Keramion face.”
He further contends that while the ISA Tile (Keramion) was displayed over the Western Gate of the Citadel in Edessa during its “public years,” from approximately A.D. 30 to 57, it was readily available for artists to copy, paint and possibly even trace into copybooks. These copybooks were then used to transport the image likeness to other locations throughout the empire, where it was replicated in frescoes, mosaics and other works of art in cathedrals and catacombs.
“I believe the ISA Tile, likely created in the time of King Abgar V as a representation of the image regarded today as the Shroud of Turin, served as the prototypic model for numerous ancient depictions of Jesus Christ that have survived today … and bearing the traditional image we recognize as the face of Jesus Christ,” Dayvault wrote.
As evidence, Dayvault identified a long list of unique features known to Shroud scholars as “the Vignon markings.” Many are observed when comparing the image of the bearded man on the ISA Tile to the image of the crucified man in the Shroud and to various artistic portraits of Jesus.
One such portrait is the famous image of “Christ Pantocrator,” a painting made with hot wax and pigment on a wooden panel reportedly commissioned by Emperor Justinian and gifted to St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, dating back to around A.D. 527. Several other christological depictions dating to circa A.D. first and second centuries have also been forensically examined and determined to have derived from the ISA Tile.
Examining the ruins of the Western Gate of the Citadel from the ancient city of Edessa that are still standing in Şanliufa, Turkey, Dayvault believes he has found the hiding place inside the tunnel of the Western Gate of the Citadel. There, blocks were removed and a portion was chiseled out of the limestone or marble wall to accommodate and hide the Shroud of Turin, the Keramion and an oil lamp from the time when Ma’nu VI came to power. This was to prevent their certain destruction.
He also identified several physical features still there, including two prominent marble pillars with Corinthian capitals that appear in paintings such as one dating from 1678 currently in the State Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve of the Moscow Kremlin Museums. It depicts the discovery of the burial cloth of Christ, traditionally known as the “Mandylion” from its hiding place in the city walls of Edessa.