Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Carbon-dating the Dead Sea Scrolls

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: How old are the Dead Sea Scrolls? Carbon-dating project to offer answers. The project and some preliminary results were presented at a conference at the university last week: while in many instances, some scrolls might be more ancient than previously thought (Rossella Tercatin). Project leader Prof. Mladen Popović:
“Our paleographers will say that they can date Dead Sea Scrolls with a precision of 25 to 50 years’ date range, and [the research] is yet to substantiate their model,” he said. “Pending new data in the future, we dare say that we have a model that works consistently and is able to date manuscripts with an empirically based precision that was not possible before. This is a huge advance for the field.”
That is phrased carefully, but does it impy that carbon dating can (or soon may be able to) yield dates more precise than ±25-50 years from two thousand years ago? If so, that sounds like an important advance.

Back in the early 90s, after the first round of C-14 dating of the Scrolls, I mentioned to Frank Cross that the results seemed to confirm the paleographic dates. He answered that he thought that the paleography confirmed the carbon dating.

For PaleoJudaica posts on radiocarbon dating, start here and follow the links.

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