First, they created a photo-fit picture from the facial image in the Turin Shroud.

London - Radiation from an earthquake at the time of Jesus Christ’s death may have created the mysterious image on the Turin Shroud, scientists claim.

For centuries scientists and historians have debated the authenticity of the Shroud said to be the burial cloth of Christ because of its ghostly image of a bearded man with wounds in the same place as a crucifixion victim.

Now a team of Italian scientists have put forward the latest theory to explain the image which many Christians believe to be a miraculous depiction of Jesus.

The experts suggest that a powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake 2 000 years ago in 33AD would have been strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock.

These may have imprinted the ghostly X-ray-like image of a man onto the 14ft cloth through a chemical reaction, they said.

The year is also significant because it is the time of Christ’s death and, according to Luke’s Gospel, the city of Jerusalem where he was crucified suffered a huge earthquake as he died on the cross.

What is more, said Professor Alberto Carpinteri who led the team, the neutron particles released in the earthquake also would have increased the levels of carbon in the cloth.

These may have confused the results of modern carbon dating tests which suggested the shroud was only 728 years old and therefore an elaborate hoax.

The famous investigation by Oxford University in 1988 dated the Shroud as being from the Middle Ages, around the 13th century.

But according to Professor Carpinteri, a false date reading could have come about in the test due to the increased level of carbon-14 isotopes in the cloth – released as a result of an earthquake.

He told the journal Meccanica: “It is possible neutron emissions by earthquake could have induced the image formation on the shroud’s linen fibres, through thermal neutron capture, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating.”

It is not the first time scientists have suggested neutron radiation created the image on the Turin Shroud. But no realistic explanation had been offered for the radiation’s source. Professor Carpinteri’s team were not allowed access to the shroud and conducted only external research. The Vatican, the ultimate custodian of the cloth, has only released fragments once for the Oxford University tests.

Their study was based on the professor’s controversial theory of “piezo nuclear” reactions – the release of nuclear fission from rocks in an earthquake. His theories are widely disputed by other scientists.

Mark Antonacci, a leading expert on the shroud, is currently petitioning Pope Francis to release a new fragment for fresh testing.

The shroud was brought to France in the 14th century by a crusader. It was eventually given to the Turin Archbishop in 1578 and has been kept in the Cathedral ever since.

The Catholic Church does not claim the shroud is authentic but says it should be a powerful reminder of Christ’s passion. It is due to go on display again next year.

The most recent investigation, by an Italian university, last year concluded it was a hoax. - Daily Mail