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Given that the cloth was publicly displayed for centuries, it's not surprising that so many people touched it, Farey added.
"Apart from ruling out the United States of America as the source for the shroud, it leaves just about everything else open," Farey said.
The plant DNA came from all over the world, the researchers reported Oct. European spruce trees; Mediterranean clovers, ryegrasses and plantains; North American black locust trees; and rare East Asian pear and plum trees all left their mark on the cloth.
The team also sequenced the human mitochondrial DNA (DNA passed from mother to child) found in dust from the shroud.
In that environment, the conditions that led to the deposition of pollen — rain and wind, for instance — are known.
In contrast, there are so many unknowns when it comes to describing how dust settled onto the shroud."It is very bold and completely wrong to use the same interpretational approach on the presence of DNA — or just a few pollen grains, for that matter — on a shroud that has been man-handled for decades," Enevold said.
Still, the strongest genetic signals seemed to come from areas in and around the Middle East and the Caucasus — not far from where Jesus was buried, and consistent with the early folklore surrounding the object.[The 10 Most Controversial Miracles]"One of the most abundant human mitochondrial haplotypes, among those discovered on the shroud, is still very rare in western Europe, and it is typical of the Druze community, an ethnic group that has some origin in Egypt and that lives mainly in restricted areas between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine," Barcaccia told Live Science in an email.