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Re: orion-list Radiocarbon
> > There are indeed, of the nineteen Qumran texts which have
> > been radiocarbon dated, five which gave AMS measurements
> > whose two-sigma ranges are completely later than 63 BCE,
> > even at their earliest end, according to the most current
> > Seattle-Belfast calibration.
> That leaves fourteen samples dated earlier. If a First C CE date
> for the deposit is hypothesized, that argument is dead on its
> face. Howover, any argument for a First C BCE deposit can only
> be made if contamination of the samples was not taken into
> account or can be shown to have occurred.
The radiocarbon dates do not tell you when the material was deposited.
They date when the material ceased to be alive, assuming no further
contamination by later or earlier carbon sources. Hence a radiocarbon
date after 63BC indicates that the material the scrolls are made from
was still alive after 63BC and thus could not have been deposited
on or before that date.
Some of the radiocarbon dates can be used to argue against Greg's
proposal of a 63BC deposit date. But saying a First century AD deposit
date is "dead on its face" seems to me to be to be stretching the
technique's usefulness beyond its ability to speak to the question of a
If you find this argument hard to accept, consider the similar
situation when the scrolls were transferred in modern times from
their caves. Radiocarbon dating cannot tell you when that took
Bill Rea, Information Technology Services, University of Canterbury \_
E-Mail b dot rea at its dot canterbury dot ac dot nz </ New
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