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The Effects of Possible Contamination on the Radiocarbon Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls I: Castor Oil

  • Kaare L Rasmussen (a1), Johannes van der Plicht (a2), Frederick H Cryer (a3), Gregory Doudna (a4), Frank M Cross (a5) and John Strugnell (a6)...

Abstract

Some fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts were contaminated with castor oil in the late 1950s. We have conducted experiments in order to establish if the AAA pretreatment cleaning procedures conducted on Dead Sea Scroll manuscript samples in the last two dating series (Bonani et al. 1992; Jull et al. 1995) were effective in removing oil contamination. Our experiments show that not all oil contamination can be expected to have been removed by the acid-alkaline-acid (AAA) pretreatment, and that the radiocarbon ages previously reported therefore cannot be guaranteed to be correct. Any samples contaminated with castor oil were most likely reported with ages that are too young by an unknown amount.

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References

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Bonani, G, Ivy, S, Wölfli, W, Broshi, M, Carmi, I, Strugnell, J. 1992. Radiocarbon dating of fourteen Dead Sea Scrolls. Radiocarbon 34(3):843–49.
Boyd-Alkalay, E, Libman, E. 1998. Preserving the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran artifacts. In: Flint, P, Vanderkam, J, editors. The Dead Sea Scrolls after 50 years. Brill: Leiden et al.:p 535–44.
Caldarero, N. 1995. Storage conditions and physical treatments relating to the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Radiocarbon 37(1):2132.
Doudna, G. 1998. Dating the scrolls on the basis of radiocarbon analysis. In: Flint, P, Vanderkam, J, editors. The Dead Sea Scrolls after 50 years. Brill: Leiden et al. p 430–71.
Doudna, G. 1999. Redating the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran: the case for 63 BCE. The Qumran Chronicle: 8(4). Special issue.
Mook, W, van der Plicht, J. 1999. Reporting 14C Activities and Concentrations. Radiocarbon 41(3):227–39.
Jull, AJT, Donahue, DJ, Broshi, M, Tov, E. 1995. Radiocarbon dating of scrolls and linen fragments from the Judean desert. Radiocarbon 37(1):1119.
Stuiver, M, Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Beck, JW, Burr, GS, Hughen, KA, Kromer, B, McCormac, G, van der Plicht, J, Spurk, M. 1998. Radiocarbon 40(3):1041–84.

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