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Re: orion-list Radiocarbon

On Sat, 14 Aug 1999 14:23:38 +0200,  writes:

   [... snip ... noted ...]

> 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.

   Greg, I tried making this case earlier on the list to
   no avail until the question of evidence contamination
> 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.

   In the earlier discussion noted, we learned that the
   modern text examiners often brushed the fragments with
   modern oil to highlight the writing.  No consistent
   record of who did this exists other than that it DID
   occur.  IOW, we have no consistent record of the type
   of handling of the fragments.

   There is a further explanation not discussed the first
   time around.  Some fragments may have been shielded
   from the ambient contamination of the centuries.  No
   review that I know of has addressed this issue for it
   can easily account for the width of the distibution
   curve of results.

> All of this is background on why I do consider the 4QpPsA

   [... snip ... noted ...]

> 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.

   The variability noted above would convince most re-
   searchers to set aside these dates in assessing the
   overall dating of the Scrolls' deposit anciently.

   When two different labs contadict each other on 3 SD
   items, don't use the results.

   [... snip ... noted ...]

> Sincerely,
> Greg Doudna

   Now, if there were OTHER contaminations such as pollen
   from plants that ceased to exist locally at a precise,
   and clear date, we would have another dating standard
   besides textual references.  So far as I know, we

Tom Simms

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