The University of Groningen in the Netherlands has launched a project that will help solve the difficult riddle of the age of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
As part of the project, scientists have combined the dating of carbon-14 (radioactive carbon nuclide) and digital paleography. The researchers have radiocarbon dated a significant number of Dead Sea Scrolls for the first time.
The new project confirmed the assessment of other researchers that some of the scrolls may be older than previously thought.
Carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating is a method of determining age that depends on the decomposition of radiocarbon (carbon-14) into nitrogen. Because of the destructive nature of the analysis, which requires the sacrifice of a piece of parchment, the Israel Antiquities Authority has been hesitant to allow this kind of research, since the main objective of the agency is to preserve artifacts. In recent years, the impact of the analysis on the fragments has been reduced, allowing for additional research.
The University of Groningen examined about 30 fragments. The study found that some manuscripts are older than previously thought. Scientists also agreed that the activity of the scribes developed less standardized and consistent.
Project leader Professor Mladen Popovic stated that their technology will allow them to date artifacts “with empirical accuracy.