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Re: yahad scribes, C-14 (fwd)

David W. Suter
Saint Martin's College
Lacey, WA 98503

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 07:14:28 GMT +100
From: Greg Doudna <GD@teol.ku.dk>
To: orion@pluto.mscc.huji.ac.il
Subject: Re: yahad scribes, C-14

Stephen Goranson:
    "I guess greg D. implies I have not responded to
    the number of scribal hands.  I have done so,
    but he may not count my response as responsive.
    Yes, there are many hands, but that number does
    nothing to deny Essene writing at Qumran . . ."
We are talking past each other.  Try to understand the 
point.  The point is the miniscule number of confirmed 
overlaps of scribes producing multiple texts, which is 
not what one would expect from scribes in one location 
producing texts for internal consumption.  You have not 
responded to this point.

    "The probability that at least one Qumran ms
    dates to the first century CE, based on AMS,
    I would guess, conservatively, at over 99%."
I doubt there is a single serious radiocarbon professional
in the world who would not consider this a gross
exaggeration.  Try maybe 50% as a more realistic
first century CE probability number based on present
radiocarbon evidence considered alone and in isolation.
Of 19 Qumran texts so far tested, about 5 are 1st century CE 
candidates on radiocarbon grounds.  Of those, two (4Q266 
DamDocA; 4Q521 MessApoc), if indeed 1st CE, mean 
palaeographic estimates of over a century earlier in each 
of these cases are wildly inaccurate, meaning the cost of 
uncritical acceptance of those dates is the virtual 
overthrow of the Cross palaeographic system.  Another, 
1QH at Zurich, straddles both centuries, meaning 
the true date could be at the early or the late end of the 
range--it just cannot be known on the Zurich information 
alone.  That leaves two Tucson dates, 4Q171 (pPsA) and 4Q258 
CommRuleD.  4Q258 first tested 2nd-3rd century CE, and
only upon retest of a second sample did it produce 
1st CE.  Some modern contamination was evidently 
incompletely removed in the cleaning of the first sample, 
and if this was the case the first time, caution is 
advised in uncritically assuming the second result on
4Q258 was free from the same problem.  The assumed 
certainty of a 1st CE date for any Qumran text on 
radiocarbon grounds is considerably reduced when 
examining the individual cases.  And we must always 
remember that (one sigma) radiocarbon ranges, in the 
best of circumstances with a perfect lab and a perfectly 
cleaned sample, hold a one-third probability that the 
true date is going to be off one end or the other end 
of that range--with no way to know at which end of that 
range the true date is more likely to fall, or exceed.
It is also a fallacy to think that the middle of the
range is the most probable--that is not how these
radiocarbon date ranges work.  

Your 99% figure would be about right for the 1st
century _BCE_--but of course that is no surprise to
anyone.  I would be more persuaded on 1st CE texts
if I saw more high-quality 2nd CE radiocarbon dates.

    ". . . no really thorough study of ancient
    inkwells exists.  Someone please encourage 
    a graduate student toward this . . ."
Yes, and thanks again for your own reports; also the 
bibliographic references in your post.    

Greg Doudna