Radio carbon dating dead sea scrolls

radio carbon dating dead sea scrolls-18
The eight texts from Qumran dated generally in agreement with the existing more precise palaeographic date estimates on each of these texts, within margins of error (with the exception of one text, 4QTestament of Qahat, which gave a date inaccurately too early due to contamination).

Therefore I knew that radiocarbon dating was likely to be a sensitive subject to Eisenman.

For this reason, though I was burning to discuss radiocarbon dating with Eisenman when I went out to California, out of consideration for his peace of mind I made a conscious point not to raise the subject or ask him about radiocarbon dating until after the “Nova” filming was completed.

The Zurich radiocarbon datings involved the use of AMS (“Accelerator Mass Spectrometry”), a method of radiocarbon dating which required only small sample sizes.

Before the advent of AMS the amount of material that was necessary to obtain an adequate amount of carbon made radiocarbon dating of texts impracticable.

Now radiocarbon dating added a third, independent external means of dating these texts.

Because of Eisenman’s high profile as a critic of establishment scholarly views on the Qumran texts and his role in calling for open access to the unpublished texts at a time when they were still being held secret, combined with a personal style which can fairly be described as occasionally combative, he had accumulated a few scholarly enemies along the way who were only too happy to characterize the new radiocarbon datings as evidence—they claimed—disproving Eisenman’s theory of large-scale 1 century CE composition of the sectarian texts.The radiocarbon datings of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Zurich were in the news when I visited Eisenman on that occasion. It was this public domain reporting of Dead Sea text radiocarbon datings which was the start of my intense interest in radiocarbon dating.At that point everyone in the entire Dead Sea Scrolls field was interested in radiocarbon dating.Robert Eisenman and Philip Davies had written the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Amir Drori, urging the new method, AMS radiocarbon dating, be used to date the Dead Sea Scrolls.Several months later this request of Eisenman and Davies was acted upon by the Israel Antiquities Authority and fourteen Dead Sea texts were radiocarbon dated, eight from Qumran.It would be more accurate to say that the Zurich radiocarbon datings were compatible with the more precise palaeographic date estimates in the sense of not showing clear disagreements with them (which is not quite the same as the first claim, a subtle but important distinction).Before the AMS datings at Zurich, the Qumran texts had been dated on the grounds of archaeology and palaeography (in addition to internal textual allusions to figures and events of the 2 century CE).Despite anything that has happened since, I will always remember these things.During my first semester of graduate study at Cornell in the fall of 1991, Eisenman called me inviting me to fly out to the West coast to appear with him for a filming of “Nova” in the Huntington Library at San Marino, California.I was poor, but I reasoned that in the unlikely event such an offer was accepted it would be worth it to come up with 0 (or 00 for three runs on the same text) even if I had to beg or borrow it, to pay for a dating of one text.At this stage I was still under the impression that more datings was also Eisenman’s wish.


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