Abstract

April has been called the “month of flowers” in the environs of Jerusalem — the annual “latter rains” of March and April irrigate barley and wheat prior to harvest, dry desert winds melt the snow, and the desert becomes abundant with flowers. The vegetation of Jerusalem and surrounding areas is especially adapted to often harsh, xeric environmental conditions, as annuals, or succulent, small-leaved perennials with thick roots for storing water. Many species are thorn-bearing for protection against herbivores. Plants of the Holy Land provide a source for reflection during Lent for Christians, from the palms of Palm Sunday to the crown-of-thorns and the cross of Good Friday to the flowers of Easter. While studying the Shroud of Turin, a relic believed by many to be the burial linen of Jesus of Nazareth, Dr. & Mrs. Alan & Mary Whanger (Duke University, Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin) discovered images of flowers and thorns. Prof. Avinoam Danin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) confirmed their findings and identified additional plants, which have a common blooming time between March–April, and have boundaries of distribution which overlap in the area between Jerusalem and Hebron. The Harvard Botany Libraries and the Harvard University Herbaria provide many historical and scientific collections from this area for reference and study.

 

Phoenix dactylifera L. (date palm)

Photos courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

In the desert, mature palms indicate the presence of water from springs.

“On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him...” (John 12:12-13)

 

 

Anastatica hierochuntica L. (resurrection plant, rose of Jericho)

Photos courtesy of Avinoam Danin.

The genus epithet is derived from the Greek word “ANASTASIS,” which means resurrection.

Anastatica hierochuntica is an example of a lignified (woody), winter annual. The dead plant is rooted to the ground for many years. After a rain shower, the curved lignified stems quickly respond by straightening within half an hour (the plant appears to be “resurrected” but remains dead) and the fruit valves are softened, releasing a few viable seeds at a time when raindrops hit the valves.

 

 

The Month of Flowers

The annual “latter rains” of March and April irrigate wheat and barley crops prior to harvest. Dry desert winds melt the snow, and the desert becomes abundant with flowers; thus, April has been called the “month of flowers.”

The flowers of the Holy Land have been the subject of numerous floras, drawings, watercolors, photographs, pressed flower collections as books and herbarium specimens.

 

 “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song…” (Isaiah 35: 1–2)

 

“…Learn from the way the lilies of the field grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.” (Matthew 6:28–29)

 

Anemone coronaria L. (crown anemone)

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

Hebrew name "KALANIT," related to Hebrew word for a bride "KALA," referring to its beauty.

 

Capparis aegyptia Lam. (Egyptian caper)

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

 

Cistus creticus L. (rock rose)

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

 

Chrysanthemum coronarium L. (crown daisy)

(= Glebionis coronarium (L.) C. Jeffrey)

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

 

Hippocrepis unisiliquosa L.

H. S. Daoud s.n. (GH)

 

Ridolfia segetum (L.) Moris (corn parsley)

F. Meyers 58 (GH)

 

Rhamnus lycioides L.

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

 

Ziziphus spina-christi (L.) Desf.

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Flora of Israel Online.

Genus epithet probably derived from the Hebrew name, “SHEYZAF MATSUY;” and the species epithet refers to Christ’s “crown of thorns.”

 

The Shroud of Turin is believed by many to be the linen burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth (see John 19:38–42, 20:1–9). While studying life-size photographs of the Shroud, Dr. & Mrs. Alan & Mary Whanger (Duke University, Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin) discovered faint images of flowers, thorns (Gundelia tournefortii), and Pistacia fruit (mastic), which they tentatively identified by comparison with illustrations in the Flora Palaestina (Zohary, M. and N. Feinbrun. 1966–1986) using their polarized image overlay technique. While comparing the Shroud with the Pantocrator Icon (550 AD) from St. Catherine’s Monastery and a Justinian II coin (692–695 AD) both of which show outlines of flowers, they found 170 and 145 points of congruence (PC), respectively, indicating that the artists used the Shroud as a model (45–60 PC are used to determine same source in courts of law).

 

 

Prof. Avinoam Danin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) confirmed many of the Whangers’ findings (on photographs from 1898, 1931, 1978 and on the Shroud itself in 2000) and he identified additional plants, which have a common blooming time of March–April. The distribution of such a gathering of plants (esp. Gundelia tournefortii L., Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss., Cistus creticus L., and Capparis aegyptia Lam.) indicates that the only place where people could have put fresh flowers of this assemblage onto the Shroud is the area between Jerusalem and Hebron.

 

Alan & Mary Whanger and Avinoam Danin published their Flora of the Shroud of Turin in 1999 (Missouri Botanical Garden Press; “...Here is an interesting botanical tour-de-force transcending history, photography, palynology, systematics, and religion.” – Rudolf Schmid, UC, Taxon 49(1) 137. 2000). With Avinoam’s recent 2010 publication of the color-illustrated Botany of the Shroud – The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin, this exhibit highlights botanical connections for Lent and Easter.

 

Exacting Comparison Analysis: Polarized Image Overlay Technique

Photo courtesy of Mary & Alan Whanger, The Shroud of Turin – An Adventure of Discovery

 

Flowers on Justinian II coin (692–695 AD)

Photo courtesy of Mary & Alan Whanger, The Shroud of TurinAn Adventure of Discovery.

Distribution of geographical indicator plants on the Shroud

Figure courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

 

Locations and identities of a few plant images on the Shroud

Composite photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin.

 

Locations of several flower images

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

 

Plant images: Chrysanthemum coronarium to the right and fruit of Pistacia lentiscus to the left.

A drawing from the Flora Palaestina besides each aids in identification. Photo by Giuseppe Enrie (1931); composite photo courtesy of Alan Whanger.

 

Image with 3D enhancement showing many Pistacia fruit.

A pseudo-3D photo of the Shroud (the negative photo is almost superimposed on the positive photo), displaying many dots that are interpreted as Pistacia fruit.

 

Locations of Pistacia fruit as marked by Prof. Danin

Photos courtesy of Alan & Mary Whanger.

 

A Pistacia (butum) tray among the spices in the Old Jerusalem market.

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

The shop owner told Avinoam that he harvests the fruit every year near Hebron in late autumn and sells them throughout the year.

 

Pistacia lentiscus L. (mastic fruit)

Photos courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

“They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.” (John 19:40)

 

 

Thorns and Spines: Fleury’s (1870) drawing of Rhamnus lycioides and Ziziphus spina-christi thorn relics in European churches; and a model of crown “helmet” of thorns.

Figures courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

“And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head…” (John 19:2)

 

Gundelia tournefortii L. (GALGAL)

Figures courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

 

Rhamnus lycioides L. (Palestine buckthorn)

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

 

 

Coronal electrostatic discharge

Photos courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

Alan Whanger has hypothesized that the image formation of the flowers and thorns could have resulted from coronal electrostatic or electron emission discharge (as tested by O. Scheuermann (1983) using a van der Graaf generator) in which electricity is discharged from rough surfaces, margins, and high points (such as thorns) in the form of streamers or corona. Photocopies of herbarium specimens provide a similar reference since xerography uses a coronal charge to form an electrostatic copy.

 

Chrysanthemum coronarium L.

electrostatic copy of F. P. Shepard s.n. (Jun. 1888, GH)

using Xerox 5000 series copier (1997)

 

Echinops viscosus DC.

electrostatic copy of F. P. Shepard s.n. (Aug. 1888, GH)

using Xerox 5000 series copier (1997)

 

Gundelia tournefortii L.

electrostatic copy of Huet Du Pavillon 384 (21 Aug. 1854, GH)

using Xerox 5000 series copier (1997)

 

The Holographic 3D image and More Flowers

Photo courtesy of Avinoam Danin, Botany of the Shroud.

Dr. Petrus Soons produced a holographic 3D image from photographs of the Shroud and found seemingly blocked, “empty” spaces, in which, Avinoam Danin hypothesized that dozens of tiny inflorescences of Anthemis bornmuelleri Stoj. & Acht. (in photo) or Matricaria recutita L. were placed.

 

Related findings by other researchers

Shroud of Turin Research Project – STURP 1978:

·        No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils.

·        Computer image enhancement and analysis by a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, 3-D information encoded in it.

·        Microchemical evaluation has indicated no evidence of any spices, oils, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body.

·        The image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself.

Geology: Embedded dust particles taken from the Shroud’s surface were identified as travertine aragonite limestone corresponding to that of ancient Jerusalem tombs (Levi-Setti and Kolbeck 1982).

 

Biochemistry: A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss (vanillin is a breakdown product of linen) indicates that the Shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old (Rogers 2002).

 

Chemistry: The sample taken for radiocarbon testing did not have the same chemical composition as the rest of the cloth (Arnoldi & Rogers 2003);

Textiles: The radiocarbon sample was determined to be from a 16th century rewoven, patched area (Benford & Marino 2002).

 

Textiles: The 3/1 twill herringbone weave of linen corresponds to fabrics from Masada, dating to the 1st century, and also the Sudarium of Oviedo, which has been in Spain since the mid-8th century (Flury-Lemberg 2008).

 

Acknowledgment

Photos and figures courtesy of Prof. Avinoam Danin and Dr. & Mrs. Alan & Mary Whanger.

 

For more information:

Danin, A. 2003–. Flora of Israel Online [http://flora.huji.ac.il]. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Schwortz, B. 1996–. Shroud of Turin Web. [http://www.shroud.com].

Soons, P. 2010. Shroud of Turin in 3D – The Holographic Experience. [http://shroud3d.com].

Whanger, A. D. & M. Whanger. Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin, Durham, NC [http://www.shroudcouncil.org].

 

New Book: Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin by Avinoam Danin

Available from:

Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin

P.O. Box 3190

Durham, North Carolina 27715-3190 USA

 

Photos from Exhibit, Harvard University Botany Libraries, March–April 2011

 

 

 

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