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Shroud of Turin: the image of the extreme pain suffered for our redemption, Part 2ª

We have divided the main body of this article into two parts so as not to make the blog entry too long and to make it easier to read. Next week we will finish the publication of this very interesting article.

2. The Man of the Shroud: Man of Sorrows

Throughout history, countless authors have written about the offerings that "the Man of the Shroud" must have experienced during his capture, interrogation, prosecution, torture, and execution of his sentence to die on the cross: tortures to which, in the reference to Jesus Christ, the severe anxiety and deep fear experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane, along with the resulting hematidrosis and dehydration, served as a painful prelude.

Most of the information is consistent with the known objective scientific data provided by a variety of sources, yet it sometimes has inaccuracies (especially if the writings are from a long time ago and the available information was not up-to-date, as it is nowadays), and even, allow the expression, digressions, especially when mention is made of the state of mind of the condemned man at each of the stages of his torture and death. On this specific issue, we cannot be absolutely sure of anything in particular. All are conjectures, more or less pious.

From a scientific point of view, we can only talk about the objectifiable physical injuries and their consequences. Concerning such organic injuries, there are two archaeological objects that provide us with information, the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, and the current state of scientific knowledge concerning these archaeological objects, in summary form, can be specified as follows.

Both cloths wrapped the corpse of the same person, although not simultaneously. The Shroud of Oviedo was meticulously placed over the head, face, neck and upper chest when the condemned man was still upright and already a corpse on the cross; there it remained kept during the descent and transfer of the body to the tomb, where it was carefully removed, and finally the body was buried wrapped in the Shroud of Turin, while the Shroud of Oviedo was placed "rolled up in a separate place," although it is presumed to be close to the body, again according to the customs and habits of the Jewish ethnic group. The Shroud of Turin shows an anthropomorphic image with an anterior and posterior view of a human body, for which we do not yet have an acceptable scientific explanation of how it could have been produced, and of which no other similar example is known, either in other archaeological objects or in any modern textile material. In addition to this "shroud image," stains of blood and other bodily fluids are also evident.

Regarding the body, it can be stated that it was an adult, middle-aged male with an athletic body constitution, with long hair, a full beard and mustache, (although signs are observed that the beard and mustache, as a result of the torture to which he was subjected, were "halved," since significant portions of capillary stems are missing in both locations, and bloodstains appear on the skin bed, i.e., precisely what a forensic physician would expect to find under such circumstances).

Even if no objective physical defect is evidenced regarding the body, if signs are observed that he underwent extremely violent and refined torture, it is not the result of lynching by an uncontrolled mob, but the consequence of the application of a predetermined protocol: physical mistreatment during his capture, transfer and interrogation, scourging in the Roman manner, 'crowning with thorns (a creative gesture, outside the usual protocol of action with a prisoner, in the context of Roman law and Jewish customs), crucifixion in the Roman manner, and finally a "coup de grace," with a penetrating injury to the chest when the subject was already a corpse. That is to say, all the injuries occurred when the person was still alive, with the exception of the injury to the right side of the chest, the "coup de grace," which occurred when the person was already dead.

A number of interesting conclusions emerge from the criminological study of the bloodstains, and the one that turns out to be the most transcendental is the fact that, as a consequence of all the manipulations the body suffered, it returned to bleeding on several occasions.

This circumstance should not be surprising, despite the widely held false view that bodies do not bleed. This is not true; bodies bleed spontaneously from their own natural wounds and openings as a result of the so-called "cadaveric circulation," which is a false blood circulation, in that it does not occur as a result of the heartbeat, which is absent after death, but is the effect of the impulse that putrefaction gases produce on cadaveric blood within the cardio-circulatory system.

If the body is moved or manipulated, moreover, the blood flow increases in the same way as already stated, and all this as a consequence of the action of the force of gravity and following the physical laws governing fluid dynamics, since after all blood, whether of a living person or of a corpse, if it is not coagulated will always behave as a fluid.

As can be noted by looking at the Shroud and the Sudarium, there is an estimated long list of physical damage scattered throughout the condemned man's anatomy, but any attempt at systematization will be complicated and difficult to interpret. For this reason, it has been chosen to describe the injuries and their consequences, starting from the head and continuing downward ... as far as possible, since sometimes, in order to facilitate understanding by the amiable reader, exceptions will be made to this rule.

Starting from the scalp, a multitude of bleeding lesions are noted that caused scoring of serpentine morphology not only on the hair, but also on the facial area.

These injuries, from the point of view of Forensic Medicine, are compatible with the hypothesis that they would have occurred at about the same time using a "helmet" of thorns: not in the shape of a crown, as artists usually depict, but rather with the appearance of a helmet. Such thorns are assumed by botanical science to belong to a plant such as ziziphus spina christi or ziziphus paliuris christi, both of the Raminaceae family, or even to acacia nilotica.

It is difficult to know exactly how many wounds were produced by this cause; it is likely that some of them are not found in the Shroud and Sudarium, or that perhaps a trail of blood resulted from the confluence of bleeding from two or more wounds or even that the same wound, depending on the position of the head at different times, caused two or more rivulets of blood with the same origin.

The sharp objects that produced these wounds, in each case, did not merely pierce the skin cleanly and superficially, but created extensive lacerations of both the skin and soft tissues, thus reaching the bones that form the cranial vault.

When the sharp objects came crashing into the bone, they sometimes, given the kinetic energy they had, slid across it, detaching the scalp from the bony structure supporting it. This not only caused intense pain: it is well known that this area, as well as the face and hands, is very sensitive to touch and pain; moreover, being very well irrigated by innumerable blood vessels, even a small lesion in these localizations bleeds far more than any other spot on the skin surface. When the scalp detached from the skull, in fact, "reservoirs" were formed that accumulated blood between the skin and the skull, and from these reservoirs the blood partly came out later, even when the person was already a corpse, from the same wound orifices once the "crown of thorns" was removed.

These injuries, as mentioned, caused acute pain (and the closer the origin of the pain is to the brain, the more intensely it is felt), until they then caused copious bleeding, which, together with those presented by the other injuries and those that will be mentioned, contributed to weakening the body of the condemned person, and thus diminishing his ability to resist.

It is quite unlikely that the objects that caused these injuries could have passed through the bones of the cranial vault of a healthy adult person, but they could have penetrated between the joints of these bones, called "cranial sutures." Indeed, in a middle-aged person, such sutures are not completely closed, but have a jagged appearance and a "marching" morphology, and the bones that make up these joints are connected by elastic but soft connective tissue. As a person ages, said cranial sutures close up, and by the time he reaches old age his cranial vault will be completely closed, without the presence of said sutures, and there will be a unique structure known as a "calvaria," with the appearance of a dome. However, the Man of the Shroud, given his age, had not yet reached that situation, so the joints between the bones of the cranial vault were not yet completely fused, so they were potentially permeable to penetration between them by one or more thorns. Some of the stinging injuries, therefore, could have penetrated through these cracks. This possibility, however, cannot be affirmed or denied, since there is no evidence in the Shroud and Sudarium either of its presence or absence.

Although some of these injuries penetrated inside the skull, it is not obligatory that they affected the brain. If they did not penetrate far enough, they would have caused only vascular injuries to the meninges, which may not have had time to generate any symptoms, since death may have already occurred earlier for other reasons.

If one of these sharp objects had been long and strong enough, in case it had penetrated one or both external auditory canals, it could have reached the cranial cavity, with the same consequences as if it had done so through the joints of the skull bones. In this case, however, it would also have caused even more profuse bleeding, deafness, and perhaps a vertigo syndrome that would have increased the Shroud Man's suffering. All this, along with the perception of an annoying buzzing noise, a feeling of nausea and perhaps vomiting, even without needing to reach the cranial cavity, but only by piercing one of the eardrums.

These sharp objects also could easily have injured the eyes, either superficially (causing simple corneal erosions but extremely painful conjunctival wounds) or more deeply (penetrating the eyeball or even the periocular structures). In any case, these would be tremendously painful injuries. No information is available on this circumstance as the eyes are closed, although the turgid appearance of the eyelids is incompatible with one or both eyes having been perforated and having lost some of their liquid contents. This possibility, at any rate, cannot be ruled out completely.

The facial area has numerous lesions produced by so many different causes that its description is complex: for this reason, it will be described according to its anatomical location and following an order, beginning with the upper part of the face and ending in the lower part. Such a quantity of injuries gives us information about a possible capture of the Man of the Shroud practiced with extreme violence, or perhaps an interrogation in which, of course, the protocols of the Geneva Convention were not followed, or perhaps both. Today, in a civilized country, this situation would in any case be totally unacceptable.

The hair appears completely smeared with dried blood, which would be expected in such a profusion of bleeding wounds on the scalp, an area very rich in blood vessels, which therefore bleeds very profusely in case it is injured.

A blood trail appears in the forehead area, drawing attention: its shape is of three inverted, or epsilon, and has traditionally been attributed to the crown of thorns, although other traumas cannot be ruled out as the cause of such wounds. Nearby, on the other side of the midline of the forehead, in fact, a large bruised region appears that exudes a trickle of blood, although it appears smaller in size. In any case, it is a jagged wound, and it is more than likely that the crown of thorns is the cause.

In the experiments carried out by Sánchez Hermosilla using a human skull covered with plasticine, in fact, almost all of the thorns resulted in impressions with irregular, but more or less straight edges: however, in this area, due to the proximity of the bony structures that give the shape to the eyebrows, the thorns underwent deviations in their trajectories, producing impressions very similar to the blood rivulet described. The eyebrows, after all, are designed to produce this effect, drawing possible aggression away from the eyes that occurs in their vicinity.

Both eyes are inflamed, especially the right eye, which presumably was closed completely due to a large hematoma occupying the upper and lower eyelids. These lesions appear to correlate with others located in the nasal region and eyebrows. Both eyebrows are inflamed, particularly the left one and, of course, are also smeared with dried blood.

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