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Re: orion-list Radiocarbon

On Fri, 27 Aug 1999 05:30:40 GMT, cctr114@cantva.canterbury.ac.nz writes:

   [... Snip ...]

>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. 

   Nope.  The dates are the LATEST possible.  Since we have NO 
   protocols showing how the effects of contamination were taken
   into account we must assume these are the LAST dates possible. 
   IOW, tests done on uncontaminated samples would show EARLIER

>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
>deposit date.

   Some, possibly, but each present serious questions.  There are
   FOURTEEN others earlier than 63 BC.  Unless you can show evidence
   of multiple deposits - which would help explain the dating dif-
   ferences - you must consider the whole deposit.

>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


   You seem to have ignored my layman's argument showing how rapidly
   contamination can skew results.

   Again, you fail to consider that the dates reported are the
   latest for each artifact, not the earliest.  Until the contamin-
   ation issue is fully addressed, you're stuck with what's there.

>Bill Rea, Information Technology Services, University of Canterbury

Tom Simms

   For a number of years, some have argued that the Shroud of Turin
   became heavily contaminated with modern carbon since its deposit
   in Turin.  As a consequence, it is considered a Medieval arti-
   fact.  Just recently, an Israeli scholar has shown the artifact
   originated in the Levant.  This satisfies the evidence, long
   disputed, of its presence in locations from Constantinople to
   Edessa.  The contamination argument then gains more weight and
   argues for better retesting.  In like fashion, we might ask the
   same question of those in control of the Dead Sea Scrolls mater-
   ial.  There's more untested material than tested, by far.

For private reply, e-mail to Tom Simms <tsimms@mailserv.nbnet.nb.ca>
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