The Effects of Possible Contamination on the Radiocarbon Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls II: Empirical Methods to Remove Castor Oil and Suggestions for Redating
AuthorLund Rasmussen, Kaare
van der Plicht, Johannes
Halfdan Stenby, Erling
Pedersen, Carl Th.
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CitationLund Rasmussen, K., van der Plicht, J., Doudna, G., Nielsen, F., Højrup, P., Halfdan Stenby, E., & Pedersen, C. T. (2009). The effects of possible contamination on the radiocarbon dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls II: Empirical methods to remove castor oil and suggestions for redating. Radiocarbon, 51(3), 1005-1022.
AbstractWhile kept at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, many Dead Sea Scroll fragments were exposed to castor oil by the original team of editors in the course of cleaning the parchments. Castor oil must be regarded as a serious contaminant in relation to radiocarbon dating. If modern castor oil is present and is not removed prior to dating, the 14C dates will be skewed artificially towards modern values. In Rasmussen et al. (2001), it was shown that the standard AAA pretreatment procedure used in the 2 previous studies dating Dead Sea Scroll samples (Bonani et al. 1992; Jull et al. 1995) is not capable of removing castor oil from parchment samples. In the present work, we show that it is unlikely that castor oil reacts with the amino acids of the parchment proteins, a finding which leaves open the possibility of devising a cleaning method that can effectively remove castor oil. We then present 3 different pretreatment protocols designed to effectively remove castor oil from parchment samples. These involve 3 different cleaning techniques: extraction with supercritical CO2, ultrasound cleaning, and Soxhlet extraction--each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Our data show that the protocol involving Soxhlet extraction is the best suited for the purpose of decontaminating the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we recommend that this protocol be used in further attempts to 14C date the Dead Sea Scrolls. If such an attempt is decided on by the proper authorities, we propose a list of Scroll texts, which we suggest be redated in order to validate the 14C dates done earlier by Bonani et al. (1992) and Jull et al. (1995).