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Re: orion-list Radiocarbon
Greg Doudna writes:
> Yesterday I cited, in the strongest form I could, the case from
> radiocarbon against a 63 BCE terminus hypothesis. At first blush
> it sounds immediately decisive, indeed virtually airtight: five
> separate radiocarbon dates, of 19 total Qumran texts dated,
> give two-sigma ranges entirely later than 63 BCE, at 95%
> confidence reported by the lab for each one of these datings.
> The reason I do not consider these 5 dates a falsification of a 63 BCE
> terminus hypothesis is simply this: in four of those five cases, the
> edge of the two-sigma range is so close to 63 BCE that it appears
> hairsplitting to claim certainty, in the absence of further data and
> context. <snip> In only one case is the start of the
> 2s range unambiguously and clearly removed from 63 BCE in terms
> of calendar years: 4QpPsA (3 CE...).
It seems to me that Greg is discussing two separate though related
hypotheses. On the one hand he argues that the scrolls may all date to a
single generation (the "Single Generation Hypothesis"). On the other hand,
he suggests that this single generation may predate 63 BCE, based on the lack
of secure historical references in any scroll to persons or events after 63
BCE. This he labels his "63 BCE terminus hypothesis". These two hypotheses
should be formally separated.
It is possible that another logical possibility should also be raised, namely
that the single generation dated to c. 50 BCE. The only data point in
serious conflict with this hypothesis is 4QpPsA, the other four outliers (for
the 63 BCE terminus hypothesis) accomodating a 50 BCE date. This possibility
also accomodates the scrolls reference to Peitholaus Greg discussed last year
(a Jewish general conceivably predating 63 BCE, but definitely known from the
50s BCE). These last data, though easily consistent with a Single Generation
Hypothesis of c. 50 BCE, are a little more problematic for the 63 BCE
terminus hypothesis. Both are of course worthy of consideration, it is just
that a 63 BCE terminus is a little harder to argue on present data.
Hopefully future radiocarbon tests will bring more information to bear, as I
think all participants in the discussion have agreed.
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