Radiocarbon dating of the dead sea scrolls

16-Dec-2019 21:08

Donahue, Physics Professor and Director of the AMS facility, measured the amount of radioactive carbon in samples of 18 texts and two textiles from four Qumran Caves and from Nahal Hever, both in the Dead Sea region. Coming from the late Second Temple Period, a time when Jesus of Nazareth lived, they are older than any other surviving biblical manuscripts by almost one thousand years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in jars inside a Qumran cave by young Bedouin shepherds in 1947.

by Donna Kent Researchers in the Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) Laboratory at the University of Arizona have carbon-14 dated samples of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and their results are consistent with ages determined by paleographic research. Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 /-40 years, which means that it takes 5,730 years for half of the radioisotope to disintegrate.

Carbon-14 dating of milligram samples taken from ragged edges of manuscript margins determined the ages of the scrolls to range from the third century B. The carbon-14 dating technique, developed by Nobel Laureat Willard Frank Libby in 1946, involves measuring the amount of residual radioactive carbon (carbon-14) in a given sample.

Since there appear to be no women among the burials, the researchers suggest it's probable we're looking at a "community of ideologically celibate men…

child proportion and adult age at death distribution match the common desert monasteric societies of the subsequent periods".

Now a new analysis of 33 skeletons excavated in Qumran just last year adds a lot of weight to that argument.

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But the precise origins and authorship of these ancient texts have always been shrouded in mystery.

The laboratory is supported by the National Science Foundation.