Scott Ladd, of York Middle School, Maine, USA, asks :-

What if any arguments were provoked because of the use of radiocarbon dating?

Tom Higham, a radiochemist at Waikato University's Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, and who receives many questions via the web page, responded.

One of the most controversial examples of the use of radiocarbon dating was the analysis of the Turin Shroud, the supposed burial cloth of Jesus. The shroud itself appears to show an imprint of a person who was crucified and is an object of some veneration because of its supposed association with Christ. Its history dates back at least as far as the mid 14th century AD.

The first photograph of the shroud showed the man as a negative image, a kind of three dimensional picture. This, along with other discoveries, such as the recent supposed presence of plant pollen from Israel on the cloth, have suggested the shroud might be a genuine relic.

In the 1980s, the Archbishop of Turin gave permission to a group of scientists to date small linen pieces taken from the shroud. Radiocarbon laboratories at Tucson (US), Oxford (England) and Zurich (Switzerland) dated the samples, along with 3 control samples of varying ages. The results were very consistent and showed the shroud dated between 1260-1390 AD. This fits closely with its first appearance in the historical record and suggests strongly that it is a medieval artefact, rather than the genuine burial shroud it was claimed to be.