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orion-list Cave 4 linen and deposit date

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The scrolls in the caves were found associated with linen used
to wrap the scrolls and used also as packing in the jars to
protect the scrolls (discussed in DJD III).  A radiocarbon date
on any of these linen items therefore could reflect a date of
deposit of texts.  At my request a linen item from Cave 4 was
AMS radiocarbon dated in the Tucson battery in 1995.  The
calibrated dating of that linen at 1sigma (68% confidence) is
117-2 BCE.  At 2sigma (95% confidence) the date range is
197 BCE-46 CE.  This radiocarbon dating is in better agreement
with a 63 BCE deposit date than a 68 CE deposit date, although
of course one could propose (a) use of old linen in a 68 CE
deposit, (b) multiple dates of deposits of texts into the same 
caves spanning over a century, or (c) an error in the radiocarbon 
date on that linen.

Speaking of "a", in the current issue of _Radiocarbon_ 41 
(1999): 169-182, an article appears by G.A. Rodley and 
B.E. Thiering, "Use of Radiocarbon Dating in Assessing 
Christian Connections to the Dead Sea Scrolls".  Among 
other things, the authors argue that the Essene use of 
garments and shoes "until they are torn to shreds or worn 
threadbare with age" (Josephus, _War_ 2.126) can be 
applied, by analogy, to the use of old parchment used 
for first writing of manuscripts, and also the use of old linen.  
The authors suggest that the radiocarbon dates on 1QpHab, 
4QSamC, maybe 1QS, and also the Cave 4 linen item are 
explicable as Essene use of old materials.

(At one point Rodley & Thiering misunderstand me as claiming 
that "all the Scrolls belong together in a single generation" 
[p. 177], but that is not my claim.  I propose that the majority 
of text copies cluster together at the late end generation, but 
some unknown quantity of older text copies stretch backward 
in one direction as part of the distribution.)

The key issue in the end may be that of whether the Qumran 
cave deposits are best understood as a single event,
or whether there were multiple cave deposit events over
decades or even centuries.  While ultimate certainty may be 
unattainable, I can only press the argument here that ALL 
comparative evidence points in the direction of a single hiding
event at one date (e.g., cp. the Copper Scroll: multiple hiding 
spots of valuables, ONE event--showing the comparative parallel 
of single-event, isolated area, multiple hiding spots, Dead Sea 
region; also cp. the Nag Hammadi texts, which I understand 
are generally understood by Nag Hammadi experts to be from 
a hiding).  But NO comparative evidence exists to support any 
notions of intentional deposits of expensive religious texts in 
caves in an isolated area for ANY OTHER REASON.  I think this 
must be given the most serious consideration in any 
discussions of proposed other possibilities or proposed multiple 
deposits into those caves over time.  The Qumran cave deposits
indeed show evidence of disturbed contexts, broken contexts, 
some caves with only jar fragments and no texts (indicating 
secondary intrusions and removals of texts within the past 2000 
years).  But there is no good reason to suppose that anyone
ever subsequently intentionally (or by accident) deposited 
additional literary texts INTO any of those caves around Qumran.  
The one deposit event--a single-event hiding--is the only 
explanation which is supported from ancient comparative 
parallels, and this is a substantial and weighty argument which 
should not lightly be ignored.  Simply put, all other explanatory 
possibilities for why those texts ended up in those caves are 
not stronger than unverified, unparalleled, and imaginative 
speculation.  And if this analysis is correct, and there was a 
single hiding event in which the texts were deposited in the caves 
during a time of crisis, that AMS Cave 4 linen date must be 
considered seriously as a genuine question for the conventional 
view of the 68 CE terminus.

Greg Doudna

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