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Re: orion: Castor oil impact on C14 tests
Asia Lerner's post with analysis of outliers is well-reasoned
and clear to me. The question might be turned around though: if one
gets a single 14C scrolls date that looks like an outlier, is there a
good reason to accept it?
This does not have an easy answer. As noted in previous posts,
I deeply suspect the traditional notion of an extended scribal period
of activity represented in the Qumran texts up to 68 CE is
flawed. I see no canon yet, what to me are overwhelming signs of
contemporaneity in composition in the "yachad" texts, numerous
historical allusions and internal references that appear to be
early/mid 1st BCE, not one historical allusion or reference that can
be dated post mid-1st BCE, and no convincing positive evidence
for 1st CE text compositions or copies in the Qumran corpus.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the existence of real
1st CE text activity among the Qumran texts could be demonstrated.
One way would be for a convincing internal reference argument but no
one has come forth with one. Therefore only external means are
possible. Cross says certain types of formal scripts among the
Qumran texts are Herodian period, and named them, accordingly,
"Herodian", but I have read his 1961 article at least six times and
cannot find a sound basis for his putting those scripts that late.
That palaeographic dating was not stronger than what would be
called reasonable intuition, as distinguished from evidence constituting
a basis for knowledge. Furthermore, it leads to highly improbable
implications, such as the notion that a scribe, writing in "herodian"
script, filled in two missing lines of Isaiah that the original scribe,
writing in "hasmonean" script, had inadvertantly omitted--after
over 100 years of use of 1QIsa(a) before anyone noticed!
But to turn to 14C, you are right that there is a real dilemma. Even
if most texts get 14C dates in the 1st BCE, as seems to be the
pattern at present, a 1st CE date such as 4QpPs(a), or a 2nd CE date
such as the first sample from 4QS(d), presents a problem in
interpretation. If one "knows" of a fixed latest date for the texts,
whether this is an hypothesized mid-1st BCE or an hypothesized
68 CE (or 135 CE, or whatever), this gives one interpretation of the
outlying 14C date. But there could, hypothetically, be a situation of
a large cluster of text production and then smaller numbers of texts
produced later that also end up in the same caves. Everyone knows
Milik and Laperrousez have a deposit of the Copper Scroll in Cave 3
c. 100 CE or later--and in principle how can one exclude non-copper
scrolls being intrusively deposited later in the same way?
I have come up with one method--see what you think of this. If the
occasional scrolls 14C date that is "later" than most is really an outlier, it
ought to be nonrepeateable, and disappear into the aggregate on a
second or third measurement. But if the "later" date is really a true
later date, its later date ought to hold up under repeated measurements.
This sounds simple, but there is an additional factor: if you have a
contamination situation you need to get something from the same text
that isn't contaminated--try a sample from a different area of the
text to begin with--so that you don't risk measuring the same
contamination twice (as may have happened with Zurich's 4QTQahat
date, measured twice with both measurements agreeing in being
But with 4QpPs(a) there is a way to get a real answer. The scribe
who wrote 4QpPs(a) also wrote 4QpIsa(a) and 4QpHos(a). In the
upcoming battery I have recommended to Fred, who is coordinating
the arrangements, that we have samples from all three of these texts
measured. If all three agree with the 1st CE 14C date for 4QpPs(a),
then there is some real information that this is not an outlier situation
but a true 1st CE date. And that would be the first evidence of such
yet in Qumran scrolls study history.
On the other hand, let us suppose these three pesharim texts,
whose dates of skins we expect to be contemporary because it
is the same scribe, give 14C dates in agreement with the 14C date for
pHab, in the 1st BCE. Then we would have a good reason to argue
that the first 4QpPs(a) date, the 1st CE date, was, indeed, an outlier.
This is consistent with A. Lerner's analysis so far as I can tell, and
again thank you for the lucidity and clarity of the analysis.