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orion-list Radiocarbon

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> Concerning the radiocarbon on 4QpPsA, I have no assumption 
> that its 1st century CE radiocarbon dating will be robust and
> corroborated, any more than any other farthest-out dating in
> one direction in any other battery of twelve datings.  In _any_
> radiocarbon battery the data at the edges should be viewed
> suspiciously.  This perception of the 4QpPsA date is not 
> derivative from a theory of no 1st CE Qumran texts, but rather 
> from the different reasoning that all of the other radiocarbon 
> dates on Qumran texts (including the pHab copy) are earlier 
> than 4QpPsA.
> Although I don't have figures to quote, a study of major 
> archaeological contexts with known dates and batteries 
> of radiocarbon datings would likely show in almost every
> case one or more individual radiocarbon dates from that 
> context _later_ than the true dating of that context.  This is 
> so very frequent that it is simply expected.  Typically in a 
> battery with ten items eight will come up in agreement and 
> establish the age, and two will be inexplicably significantly 
> out in one or the other direction--and no one will know why.  
> Actual reasons can range from anything from 
> archaeologist/lab error in identification to sample
> contamination, but in most cases there simply never is
> any explanation.  It just disagrees with massive other
> evidence, and therefore is rejected.  Similarly the 4QQahat
> radiocarbon date is rejected by most Qumran scholars: it 
> is significantly earlier than all other Qumran texts, and 
> earlier than Qumran scholars' expectatations; so it is not
> regarded by most as accurate.  The principle is a sound
> one: in any battery of lab data, data points at one end or
> the other of distributions _must_ be regarded skeptically.
> In the Tucson battery in which 4QpPs(a) received its 1st 
> century CE radiocarbon dating, 4QS(d) received a 2nd-3rd
> century CE radiocarbon dating.  There was nothing in the
> radiocarbon date itself, viewed in isolation, which would
> indicate this as suspicious.  The only reasons it was
> regarded with suspicion are because (a) it was later than 
> all other Qumran literary text C14 datings, and (b) it 
> did not agree with existing theories on the Scrolls.  It was 
> retested, and the suspicions were justified.  The second 
> sample gave a dating in agreement with the other Qumran 
> texts.  There are now two reported C14 dates for 4QS(d), 
> and both cannot be correct.  There is no reason to reject
> the 2nd century CE dating other than that it is outside
> the pattern of other Qumran text radiocarbon datings, as
> well as outside of expectations on other grounds.
> All of this is background on why I do consider the 4QpPsA
> radiocarbon date a frankly suspicious radiocarbon
> date, for the same reasons that the original dating of
> 4QS(d) correctly was earlier considered suspicious.
> In any case, in no sense do I "know" that it is "probable" 
> that the 4QpPsA date is more correct than the first
> dating of 4QS(d) or the Zurich datings of 4QQahat.
> Finally, on the matter of regional calibration.  SG has said
> on this list that I was "hoping" for a "massive recalibration" 
> in order to "explain away" existing information.  While that
> may be his perception in his mental universe, let it be
> clear: first, I don't hope for anything except answers to 
> questions.  Second, it is not an issue of a recalibration,
> to be precise.  There is a calibration, which is for trees in
> Europe and North America.  There is no calibration, yet,
> for the Middle East.  It is not me, but mainstream current
> radiocarbon science which says there could be up to
> 20 years offset either way on all radiocarbon dates in
> the Middle East from the Seattle-Belfast calibration curve.
> That is simply published as a disclaimer in the scientific
> publication of that calibration curve.  The issue is not
> hoping for a "recalibration" but wondering what the exact
> calibration in the Middle East IS.  All of the reported
> radiocarbon dates for Scrolls texts simply now must 
> be read with this specific uncertainty as a variable, even
> when we continue to use the Seattle-Belfast calibrated
> dates by convention.  Hopefully, the time will come 
> when that uncertainty can be removed.  But it is wholly 
> inappropriate to assume no regional offset until proven 
> otherwise.  It is appropriate to assume lack of knowledge 
> on this point until there is knowledge.  
> In fact, the existence of a regional offset, possibly
> significant (i.e. up to the 20 years estimated possible),
> might already be suggested by existing Scrolls data.
> I refer to the five dates on the Bar Kochba texts.  
> The distribution of dates was Zurich had two one way
> from the Seattle-Belfast curve, the Seattle-Belfast
> curve was in the middle, and all three of Tucson's dates
> were in the _other_ direction.  Making sense of those
> Bar Kochba dates is very difficult.  There is no reason 
> in principle to privilege the Seattle-Belfast curve as
> being more accurate for the Middle East than either
> the Zurich lab or the Tucson lab when dating Middle
> East items.
> Finally, I regret that I will not have time to read or 
> respond to further posts from Stephen Goranson,
> because of the level of misunderstanding and the tone
> of the posts.  I will operate on the assumption that
> what I don't know he writes won't hurt me, and that
> any occasional legitimate question or issue he raises,
> someone else will ask it or bring it to my attention
> (and I will of course gladly respond).
> Sincerely,
> Greg Doudna
For private reply, e-mail to Greg Doudna <gd@teol.ku.dk>
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