BAR 21:04, Jul/Aug 1995
New Carbon-14 Results Leave Room for Debate
A second batch of carbon-14 tests recently completed on the Dead Sea Scrolls is unlikely to settle any of the many outstanding disagreements concerning the interpretation of the scrolls, or even their dates.
Although in general the new carbon-14 tests are, in the words of the report on the tests, in reasonable agreement with palaeographic estimates of the age of the scrolls, there are enough deviations and uncertainties to provide argument for all sides.
Carbon-14 tests give only a range of dates, sometimes quite wide. Even more important, the range itself must be qualified: Test conclusions state only that in 68 percent (one sigma) of the cases the date will be within a particular range; if the range is increased (from one sigma to two sigmas) the percentage can be increased from 68 percent to 95 percent. Expressed somewhat differently, the probability is 68 percent (or 95 percent) that the date falls within a particular range.