Laboratory tests of pieces from the Shroud of Turin have dated it within a span of 200 years, a scientist told a newspaper, hinting that reports in London that the revered relic's origin was medieval were correct.

Chemist Robert Dinegar refused to say directly whether tests showed the cloth was as old as the first century, and thus possibly the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, or dated from the Middle Ages, which would make it a fake.The 14-foot-long shroud kept in Italy's Turin cathedral has long been the object of devotion because it bears the image of a bloodied, bearded man, suggestive of Jesus' crucifixion.

In an interview published today by the Los Angeles Times, Dinegar said he was told the date of the shroud by an authoritative source but said he could not disclose it.

Dinegar, an Episcopal priest and chemistry professor at the University of New Mexico's Los Alamos campus, has taken part in past research on the shroud but was not involved in the more recent radiocarbon tests.

The radiocarbon tests on tiny pieces of the shroud were conducted by separate teams of researchers at Oxford University, the Federal Polytechnic in Zurich and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Dinegar said all three laboratories obtained about the same date, within a 200-year range, which had been the predetermined limit for a valid finding.