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orion-list radiocarbon/63

I wish to argue strongly, in agreement with Ian although not always for 
the same reasons, that a 63 BCE terminus is the strongest existing 
hypothesis concerning the latest deposit date for the Qumran texts,
when all evidence is considered.  I am not too concerned about that
4QpPs radiocarbon date because I predict its apparent 1st CE dating
will disappear upon further investigation as have 100 percent of the dates 
at the edges of the total distribution which have been rechecked (i.e. 
4QTQahat and 4QSd).  I will follow the evidence wherever it leads, 
provided only that it is indeed real and substantial evidence.  I think any 
notions that individual radiocarbon dates on Scrolls texts can be relied 
upon as stand-alone evidence for major conclusions must be dispensed 
with for the moment until the contamination problem is demonstrably 
solved.  (Corroborated or redundant patterns of data are another matter.)

It may be useful to consider this issue in terms of the history and
of scholarship.  Why did anyone get the idea that there ever were 1st
CE Qumran texts in the first place?  The original intuition of, e.g.
de Vaux, and Wm F Albright, were that the Cave 1 Scrolls were deposited 
no later than mid-1st BCE (Albright: a "pre-Herodian date in the last two 
centuries B.C. is beyond dispute", BASOR 115, 1949, p. 14).  What changed 
was de Vaux dug Qumran in 1951.  In that first excavation season de Vaux 
thought there was only a 1st CE habitation at Qumran (see his report in 
RQ 1953).  De Vaux announced to the world that the pre-Roman period 
deposit date was in error and that the scrolls went as late as a 1st century

CE date of deposit.  It was only in de Vaux's second season, in 1952, that 
de Vaux discovered Qumran had a 1st BCE habitation as well.  But by then 
the 68 CE scenario for the scrolls was established.  To put it bluntly, the 
whole thing was started based on a mistake and a screwup in 
archaeological interpretation.  The scholarly construction then fed on
But when looked at closely there was nothing substantial there.  

It is as the late Jonas Greenfield said of de Vaux's archaeology (on another

matter): "The problem is we all bought de Vaux hook, line, and sinker."
This is now well recognized concerning de Vaux's idea that sectarians 
built the site instead of the Hasmonean fortress/settlement regional 
interpretation.  One after another the basic pillars of de Vaux's
structure are tumbling down, a process which is continuing, whether it is 
the cemetery, the dating of the periods; the assumption of continuity of 
inhabitants; the interpretation of building remains in terms of monastic 
structures; etc. etc.  Is de Vaux's dating of the late end of the scroll 
deposits to 68 CE simply one more de Vaux blunder that the Qumran 
field has bought hook, line, and sinker?  I think it is exactly that.

As has now been pointed out many times, there is no Qumran text reflecting 
the Herodian period: no name, no battle, no demonstrable allusion to the 
War of 66 CE, etc.  None of the pseudepigrapha which have allusions to 
the Herodian era, e.g. 4 Ezra, are attested at Qumran.  On the other hand, 
the date of 63 BCE and the figure of Pompey stand out in the Scrolls in the 
apparent late-end texts.  There are the names in 4QMishC, as brought out by 
Ian, which run up to c. 63 BCE and then stop.  There is 4Q448 with its pro-
Alexander Jannaeus hymn.  There is 4Q245, the list of high priests published

by Flint that goes up to Jonathan and Simon Maccabaeus.  There is the 
reference to Demetrius III in pNah of c. 88 BCE.  

In the literary texts, 1QpHab knows of a Roman threat and anticipates a 
Roman conquest, and is best read as composed in the era immediately 
prior to 63 BCE.  I believe Segal 1951 and later Dupont-Sommer were 
correct that the "head of the kings of Yavan" of CD is an allusion to
written in anticipation of the same Roman conquest.  And in my own study 
of 4QpNah, now complete and submitted for the Danish doctorate, I argue 
and I believe establish that the the Lion of Wrath is Pompey (and not 
Alexander Jannaeus), a conclusion which has the most far-reaching 
implications for an understanding of the historical context of the Qumran 
texts.  In contrast to the absolute lack of a secure textual allusion to 
anything after 63 BCE, there are these massive internal textual signals 
within the Qumran texts pointing to the arrival of Pompey and 63 BCE as 
the watershed.  I call it the water spigot argument.  The texts flourish and

breathe ferment and expectations in the era leading up to the arrival of 
Pompey, and then, all at once, appear to shut off to zero, suddenly at 63

The scrolls deposits then become situated far more naturally at the end of 
Qumran's Period Ib, not Period II.  (Period II activity at Qumran becomes
something different and irrelevant.)  The end of Period Ib becomes perhaps
situated in Josephus in the forced abandonment of the fortresses ordered by
Pompey and the Romans.  (Whether or not Qumran was one of those 
fortresses the site presumably would have ceased to function effectively in 
its regional purpose.)  As for palaeographic dating of the Qumran texts, 
please see my critique of Cross's methods on the orion web page.  Simply 
put, there is nothing in Cross's palaeography that establishes post-63 BCE 
Qumran text scribal activity.

And so we come now to the radiocarbon dates.  Ian and I are perceived as 
challenging something well-established or factual, as if the 63 BCE 
proposal is somehow odd or unusual.  But which date terminus is the odd
one?  The 68 CE terminus never was established or shown to be a fact.  It is

not that the apparent post-63 BCE AMS dates are confirming what was 
already "known".  In fact, these AMS dates are giving the possibility of 
establishing truly new information, i.e. a real basis to know the existence 
of post-63 BCE Qumran textual activity for the first time.  But the issue is

one of evidence: has the existing AMS data in fact securely said this?  
And I say, no, it has not.

Twice when AMS dates were produced that differed from conventional 
assumptions, both at the edges, they were rechecked.  In both cases,
two out of two, the rechecking confirmed or established reason to dispute 
those "outlier" datings.  But pPs, which is in exactly the same relative
as those first two, i.e. at one edge of the total distribution, and giving
an AMS 
date in a century in which there was no prior evidence of Qumran textual
was treated differently.  It was not double-checked.  It is not
"objectivity" that 
rejects 4QTQahat and 4QSamd #1 while retaining a belief or provisional
in 4QpPsA.  Consider that it is the scholarly construction which has shaped 
the responses toward these data points in different ways, and is thereby 
skewing perception.  How can we disentangle ourselves from inherited, 
flawed constructions, and come to see clearly?    

Gmirkin is correct that my single-generation 1st BCE hypothesis (which is 
not shared by Ian) is in principle distinguishable from the 63 BCE terminus 
(which is shared by Ian and me).  I agree that if the AMS date on 4QpPs--
which is neither known to be true nor known to be false but is instead in 
a third category: uncertain--is corroborated and verified that kills the 63 
BCE hypothesis.  But because I see the 63 BCE terminus as having very 
strong prima facie grounds, I will defend its right to exist until there is
evidence contradicting it.  I agree also that the four other AMS dates whose

2-sigma ranges narrowly but entirely postdate 63 BCE cannot reasonably 
be explained as all sample contaminations.  I have already cited from the 
authors of the Seattle-Belfast calibration curve the cautions that there is
c. +/- 20 uncertainty concerning regional variation.  This is not simply 
hypothetical but is supported from studies.  It is not for me to prove a
offset in the Middle East.  It is for anyone who is sure there is not one in
Middle East to prove that.  Nevertheless, tomorrow or the next day (in light
Tim Jull listening in and perhaps willing to comment) I will post an
from existing Scrolls radiocarbon data which I believe suggests the
of a regional offset in the Middle East in the direction predicted and 
necessitated by the 63 BCE terminus hypothesis (yet the argument is 
independent of that hypothesis).  

Some orioners may have noticed the discussion on 63 BCE has appeared
on other lists.  I intend to stay here on orion, and hope that others may 
correct any misunderstandings or misrepresentations as they may occur 
on other lists from time to time.  Thank you.  

Greg Doudna

For private reply, e-mail to Greg Doudna <gd@teol.ku.dk>
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