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orion-list Creation Date of Documents/ C-14

Tom Simms cited someone anonymously as follows:

 "For damn certain, a site isn't usually destroyed
 _prior_ to the creation date of documents contained
 therein.  :)"

I may already have made this observation in another context, but perhaps
it's worth repeating. In the case of material purportedly from Cave 4, 
a certain amount of that material was purchased from the Bedouin. Some
unknown quantity of Cave 4 document fragments were *then found by
excavation of another layer of material in the cave. To some extent, the
purchased fragments and the excavated fragments were matched up as coming
from the same document. This is noted, as I recall, in Allegro's first
book, THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS (1956), which contains a wealth of
archaeological information in English. Topics on which he has fairly first
hand information include the discovery of Cave 4, and the caves at Wadi

Far later, Ada Yardeni has discovered that some of the purported Cave 4
material--mostly papyri regarding business--actually could be matched to
papyri from Nahal Hever. This is documented in DJD XXVII, _Aramaic, Hebrew
and Greek documentary texts from Nahal Hever and other sites : with an
appendix containing alleged Qumran texts_ Hannah M. Cotton and Ada
Yardeni. Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press,

I have not read any accounts/publications of Qumran Cave 4 texts that
include documentation that establishes that the manuscript was actually in
the secure pristine section that was excavated by Father de Vaux. I guess
that the information does exist somewhere, or some of it does exist
somewhere, and could be retrieved.

The problem exists to a lesser degree in some of the other caves.

Without this authentication that a manuscript is from Cave 4, Carbon 14
dating could yield *anomalous* or apparently erroneous dates for Qumran
Cave 4 manuscripts that place them in the 2d century, when the dates are
actually correct assessments of manuscripts that weren't inscribed until
120 or 130 CE. 

It might also be true that the TAhat manuscript, which also gives
anomalous C14 determinations--except that they are earlier than the range
of variability of most of the Qumran MSS--has a provenance that is other
than Qumran. That is, if it is a purchase from the Bedouin, it may have
come from another site--or another cave. 

This does put us into a circle, though. The Carbon 14 data allows us to
date manuscripts apparently from Qumran. The manuscripts dated within a
consistent range of variability are the set of MSS from Qumran; outside
the range, the MSS are (probably) not from Qumran. That turns the Carbon
14 test into an exclusion/inclusion criterion, a determination of the 
"Qumranness" of the date of a document. 

In other words, if you're completely committed to Carbon 14 dating, you
don't want to consider my reasoning regarding the possibility of
alternative sources. 

To circle back to Tom's anonymous source, in the case of Qumran, a
document might indeed be dated after its (supposed) site, Qumran, had been

Sigrid Peterson  UPenn  petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu

For private reply, e-mail to petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (Sigrid Peterson)
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