Even for the first investigation, there was a possibility of using radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the linen from which the shroud was woven.
The size of the sample then required, however, was ~500cm, which would clearly have resulted in an unacceptable amount of damage, and it was not until the development in the 1970s of small gas-counters and accelerator-mass-spectrometry techniques (AMS), requiring samples of only a few square centimetres, that radiocarbon dating of the shroud became a real possibility. The shroud was separated from the backing cloth along its bottom left-hand edge and a strip (~10 mm x 70 mm) was cut from just above the place where a sample was previously removed in 1973 for examination.
Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.
The Shroud of Turin , which many people believe was used to wrap Christ's body, bears detailed front and back images of a man who appears to have suffered whipping and crucifixion.In Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), for example, the number of radiocarbon atoms in a stream of atoms coming from the sample is counted.Thus there are statistical counting uncertainties proportional to the square root of the number of atoms counted."Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.