It’s early in the morning, but this article has already completely spoiled my day: “Burial cloth found in Jerusalem cave casts doubt on authenticity of Turin Shroud“.
No, it does not cast doubt, because we know that the Turin Shroud is a medieval forgery. So why does this archaeologist answer questions about it? There are quite a lot of people who understand the basic principle of radiocarbon dating. Many people have had chemistry classes at high school, and even more people understand the gaussian curve that explains why it is so bloody unlikely that an object dated to 1325±35 can actually be from the first century.
The article illustrates a mistake many academicians make when they are asked to explain something to the press: underestimating that there are many people who are pretty well-educated. When talking to the press, academicians consistently ignore that in developed countries, up to 50% of the population at some time in their lives enter higher education.
My favorite example is an ancient historian from Cambridge who explained something about Constantine‘s conversion on TV, causing my girlfriend to say that she already knew this from her history classes long time ago. If this was the level of Cambridge historians, she added, she could only despise them. It was a bit exaggerated, but when you see a historian, a classicist, or an archaeologist on TV, it is hard not to start writing satire.
Now there are of course also people who do not understand radiocarbon dating. I do not think they will read the article that spoiled my day, but if they do, they will be left with the impression that the authenticity of the Turin Shroud is still contested. I am aware that our archaeologist intended to achieve the opposite, but he would have been more successful if he had said something like “that is not an issue anymore and it is a waste of time to discuss it – especially because I have something more interesting to tell”.
Because that is what is really sad about this article: our archaeologist has discovered something truly interesting. So you must read the story, after all, and try to ignore the crap. Good luck.