Carbon dating the dead sea scrolls

01-Mar-2017 09:52

Drori could not force the International Team to open access to the unpublished Scrolls, he could at least employ the recently developed methods of AMS carbon testing to the Scrolls, which had early on been dated by older carbon testing techniques that consumed too much Scroll material to be applied in any general fashion.

The new AMS C14 techniques did not consume so much material and therefore, could be used test the claims of paleographic analysis that were at the time being cited regarding the chronology of the Scrolls by members of the International Team as gospel.

In the first place, radiocarbon dating is only able to give approximate dates and its results, therefore, are given in units of mean and standard deviations -- known as sigmas -- that represent the statistical range in which the mean date may fall.

The first sigma is the time span that radiocarbon dating theory posits would contain the actual date 68% of the time; the second sigma is a wider time span that would theoretically include the date 98% of the time.

carbon dating the dead sea scrolls-6

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Where the first sigma is concerned, the time span can range to over a hundred years.

Surprisingly, even though a majority of Qumran specialists worldwide have now been relying uncritically upon the interpretation of these results, no retractions or press releases have come forth from the group that issued the original reports based on this erroneous model.

2) The methods used in interpreting the meaning of the AMS carbon testing were also inaccurate from a purely statistical point-of-view.

The C14 tests that were done were conducted in two separate runs, one in 1989-91 by laboratories in Oxford and Zurich and a second in 1994 at the University of Arizona ( though general gossip has it that some earlier, seemingly inconclusive tests, were undertaken at the Weismann Institute of Science in Israel ).

Not incuriously, these were the same laboratories that had previously been selected for the C 14 testing of the Holy Shroud of Turin.Not only did he not state from where the idea to do such testing had originally come, but he put forth no statistical or historical methodology for determining which Scrolls should be tested and by whom.Thus, while John Strugnell, then chief editor of the Scrolls Project, and Israeli scholars Magen Broshi, then Head of the Shrine of the Book, and ultimately Emmanuel Tov, who succeeded Strugnell, were among those named to oversee or be included in the process, no opposition scholar was included or mentioned -- not even in an advisory capacity, though they were the ones who had originally called for the tests and presumably felt the most need for them.Introduction The first request for the application of up-to-date AMS carbon dating on Qumran documents was made by Professors Robert Eisenman of California State University Long Beach and Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield, England in a letter to Amir Drori, then Head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, on May 2, 1989.