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orion C14 accuracy?

Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 20:49:52 GMT
From: "Robert Johnson" <rwjohns3@eos.ncsu.edu>
To: orion@panda.mscc.huji.ac.il
Subject: C14 accuracy?

Please excuse my limited knowledge on the subject, but I would like
to inquire whether my understanding of radiocarbon dating is correct.

As far as Im aware from my undergrad chemistry courses, Radiocarbon
dating for an ~2000 year old piece of organic matter is only accurate
to within 50 to 75 years.  Furthermore, the dating method merely
determines when the leather itself was tanned, ie when the cow was
killed.  Is there evidence that suggests that the leather (or cloth or
parchment) was necessarily used immediately after its manufacture?

It seems to me then, considering the relative proximity of some of the
Qumran occupancy dates in question, that C14 dating could not be used
as very substantial evidence for many theories, and the best methods
are those of internal dating, especially considering that the most
accurate methods could be more than 50 years off.  How many times is a
sample of the material taken and destroyed for a measurement?

I would appreciate any answers or references, and please email me personally
if my questions are too elementary for this forum.

Thank you,

Robert Johnson