Carbon 14 dating of the dead sea scrolls

In their letter, however, aside from sending an attachment detailing these new methods, they cited two caveats.

The C14 tests that were done were conducted in two separate runs, one in 1989-91 by laboratories in Oxford and Zurich and a second in 1994 at the University of Arizona ( though general gossip has it that some earlier, seemingly inconclusive tests, were undertaken at the Weismann Institute of Science in Israel ).

Not incuriously, these were the same laboratories that had previously been selected for the C 14 testing of the Holy Shroud of Turin.

Drori could not force the International Team to open access to the unpublished Scrolls, he could at least employ the recently developed methods of AMS carbon testing to the Scrolls, which had early on been dated by older carbon testing techniques that consumed too much Scroll material to be applied in any general fashion.

The new AMS C14 techniques did not consume so much material and therefore, could be used test the claims of paleographic analysis that were at the time being cited regarding the chronology of the Scrolls by members of the International Team as gospel.

In particular, these attacks focused upon Eisenman, possibly because, though he was the scholar who had initially called for the tests, they did not wish to follow his caveats or possibly because it had since become clear that he was one of the prime movers in the campaign to gain access to and free the Scrolls.

Not only did the framers of these articles directly attack his theories, but Magen Broshi took this attack to a new level of personalized invective in the press releases and news stories accompanying these reports, calling Eisenman ignorant, "vain, even worse, and describing his theories as cranky. ( who while not part of the team appointed to test the Scrolls was generally representative of network theorizing regarding them ) was quoted as referring to Eisenmans position that there was a connection between the Scrolls and the movement we call Christianity as a wholesale theft from the Jewish people.In the first place, radiocarbon dating is only able to give approximate dates and its results, therefore, are given in units of mean and standard deviations -- known as sigmas -- that represent the statistical range in which the mean date may fall.The first sigma is the time span that radiocarbon dating theory posits would contain the actual date 68% of the time; the second sigma is a wider time span that would theoretically include the date 98% of the time.The groups that oversaw the two recent rounds of AMS C14 used the inexact pre-1998 dating curve in calculating these sigmas.In addition, they presented the time range arrived at by prior paleographic analysis -- analysis that was begun primarily by Frank Moore Cross and Josef Milik, but was now being carried forward by their inheritors, like Emmanuel Tov, Geza Vermes, James Vander Kam, Lawrence Schiffman, Emil Puech, and others.4) Finally -- and this is a general statement -- carbon testing (and to some extent as a result the findings of paleography) is too imprecise a tool to provide conclusive evidence for a time span as short as the one at issue in the debate concerning when the sectarian Scrolls were written.

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