A new DNA study by a team of Italian researchers has revealed intriguing details about the mysterious Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

For the report published in the journal Scientific Reports, on Oct. 5, plant genetics and genomics professor Gianni Barcaccia, from the University of Padova in Italy, and colleagues sequenced the genes of pollen and dust particles present on the much celebrated shroud allowing them to identify the type of plants and geographic origins of people that came into contact with the cloth.

The findings revealed that the linen was contaminated with DNA from plants that can be found from different parts of the world including horsetail, clovers, ryegrass and chicory.

The researchers likewise detected plant genes with origins from Asia, Middle East, or the Americas albeit they suggested that these plants may have been introduced after the medieval period.  The analysis of human DNA likewise suggests that people of different ethnic and geographic origins got their hands on the shroud.

"DNA extracted from dust particles that were vacuumed from the Turin Shroud shows sequence profiles that identify numerous plant species and correspond to several distinct human mtDNA haplogroups," the researchers wrote in their study.

DNA evidence suggests that the linen may have possibly been made in India but extensively traveled the world passing by Jerusalem, Turkey and France before eventually landing in Turin, Italy.

"One alternative and intriguing possibility is that the linen cloth was weaved in India, as supported perhaps by the original name of TS - Sindon - which appears to derive from Sindia or Sindien, a fabric coming from India," the researchers added.

Many believe that the linen is the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth with the cloth bearing the double image of a man who appeared to have gone through the same physical trauma experienced by the Christian's Messiah during crucifixion.

Whether or not the image belongs to the historic Jesus Christ though has been the subject of controversy and speculations for a long time.

The Catholic Church does not take official position on the authenticity of the shroud although it urges the faithful to venerate it as a symbol of the suffering of Christ. In 1998, Pope John Paul said that the Church entrusts the task of investigating the shroud to scientists.

Photo: Anja Disseldorp | Flickr

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