Re: [asa] Plot of radiometric dates

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Thu Oct 30 2008 - 14:04:32 EDT

The latest PNAS has an article on 14C dating of archaeological
material from Jordan that confirms major metalworking and other
activity around the 10th century BC, in agreement with the picture of
Edom in the OT and in conflict with the dating advocated by
Finklestein et. al., not to mention the folks who are in complete
denial of OT historicity. Similar 14C studies on sites smashed by
Shishak (I Ki 14:25), on Hezekiah's tunnel, and on the Dead Sea
Scrolls all support Biblical chronology against radical
reinterpretation or dismissal (the fact that major parts of the Qumran
material date over a century BC rules out the idea, already ridiculous
on exegetical and historical grounds, that they depict a rivalry in
the early church with Paul as the bad guy).

Levy et al. (2008. High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical
biblical archaeology in southern Jordan, PNAS 105(43):16460-16465.

I don't think there's any odd jump in dates around 2500 BC, though 14C
does have some ups and downs (based on the level of solar activity,
etc.) There was a claim of a bit of a spike rather further back,
about 75000 BC, in samples that ought to be very marginal for 14C,
suggested as reflecting some cosmic energy burst like a nearby
supernova, but I don't know whether that claim has held up well. It
was younger than expected dates rather than a jump to millions of
years, so it's unlikely to be the root of the claim.

Different radioisotopes have all sorts of half lives, though of course
there has to be a source for short-lived ones (like 14C) for them to
be around naturally and giving useful information on earth. Careful
measurement of some of the uranium isotopes can give useful ages on
tens of thousands of years. There are all sorts of other dating
methods that fill in the gap, too, such as varves, Milankovitch
cycles, dendrochronology, stable isotope shifts, magnetic reversals,
index fossils, ...

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Thu Oct 30 14:05:02 2008

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