Samples for dating need to be converted into a form suitable for measuring the content; this can mean conversion to gaseous, liquid, or solid form, depending on the measurement technique to be used.
Before this can be done, however, the sample must be treated to remove any contamination and any unwanted constituents.
Libby had first started using the dating method in 1946 and the early testing required relatively large samples, so testing on scrolls themselves only became feasible when methods used in the dating process were improved upon. Davies made a request to date a number of scrolls, which led to a series of tests carried out in Zurich on samples from fourteen scrolls.
Among these were samples from other sites around the Dead Sea, which contained date indications within the text to supply a control for the carbon dating results.
Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.
Therefore dates must be calibrated based on Radiometric dating in general, of course, poses a huge problem for people who believe that the universe is 6000-odd years old.
This calibrated range of dates is represented in the last column, given with a 2-sigma error rating, which means at 95% confidence.
With the exception of the first text from Wadi-ed-Daliyeh, the texts in the table below are only those from the caves around Qumran.
Atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes. Most carbon on Earth exists as the very stable isotope carbon-12, with a very small amount as carbon-13.
Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.