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orion-list "high-precision palaeographic dating"; 63 BCE

R. Altman scolds me for saying I coined the term "high precision 
palaeographic dating":

> No, Mr. Doudna, the term "high precision dating" is not yours - any
> more than the concept that many 'scripts' are synchronic. Among the
> most elementary tenets of research methodology is that one must _never_
> assume that he or she is the first person to notice a methodological
> procedural problem. . . . 
I did not claim or mean the _concept_ of "high precision palaeographic
dating" (or criticism thereof) was original with me.  When I told Dierk
I had "coined the term" I meant that so far as I know, I introduced the 
term, the string of four words, "high precision palaeographic dating", 
into Qumran studies discourse.  That is, I am not aware of use of this
exact expression in the Qumran field before my use of it in my 
radiocarbon article in Flint and Vanderkam 1998.  Therefore I think
that I did coin the use of this term in the Qumran field.  

The reason I coined this term was, of course, to highlight and 
bring into relief what is being done, and rhetorically by so doing to
suggest the question to readers of how well-supported such high
precision palaeographic dating is.  I used this term in an article
discussing "high-precision AMS dating" which is a technical term
used in radiocarbon.  I found my application of the same expression,
by analogy, to palaeographic dating as it has been done in the
Qumran field tended to bring smiles to readers of my article in its
pre-publication form (and this suggested the term was having the
effect intended).  I also thought it useful in the interests of accuracy
to speak of "high precision palaeographic dating" in order to make
clear that it is not palaeographic dating in principle, or palaeographic
descriptions (or, even more ill-defined, simply "palaeography") to
which I was taking critical exception.  (And finally, I wasn't trying to
claim credit in my comment to Dierk about having coined the term
as much as to say humorously, "speaking of that term you find so
amusing, I'm the guilty one responsible for its existence!")

Also on a previous post of yours, you cited the large number of
scribal hands as supporting a series of deposits in the Qumran 
caves lasting perhaps up to c. 400-500 years.  But that is a non
sequitur.  It does not matter if there were 10,000 scribal hands
in those texts going back some 10,000 years in age--that would
have nothing to do with the issue of the circumstances and 
length of the deposition process.  How long does it take to move 
precious artworks to a museum basement in a war scare?  How 
many artists and how ancient is the art?  The one has nothing
to do with the other.  Rather than your 400-500 years, there is no
positive reason to suppose the deposit process for all of the Qumran
texts took longer than a week.  The notion that the Qumran 
text cave deposits were prompted by a war scare, while not certain,
seems the most plausible explanation to me in accounting for
the location of the massive number of texts in out-of-the-way caves,
the scattering among multiple caves, and the fact that one of the
texts, the Copper Scroll, itself is firsthand testimony of a hiding of
valuables in the Jericho/Dead Sea area during some kind of crisis.
There are many ancient examples, actual and in stories, of caves
used for hidings.  But there seem to be no known ancient 
examples of caves used intentionally as permanent disposals of
texts or genizahs.  If this analysis is correct, the issue then
becomes: which war scare?  And, since the texts went unrecovered
except by later accident of time and chance, it also may mean 
that the war scare was followed by a war--in which the hiders of
the texts lost and were killed.  The only issue then would be to
identify which war . . . 

Greg Doudna

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