Radiocarbon dating has made a substantive contribution to our understanding of Colorado prehistory by allowing archaeologists to place excavated sites in chronological order and allowing comparison of contemporary archaeological cultures.
While Willard Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for his contributions to the development of the radiocarbon dating method, the process that led to the discovery of this method began much earlier.
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. "Carbon-14 Dating", in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman, Lawrence, & Vander Kam, James, eds., Vol.1 (Oxford: 2000) F. Zeuner carried out tests on date palm wood from the Qumran site yielding a date range of 70 BCE - 90 CE.
In 1963 Libby tested a sample from the Isaiah Scroll, which provided a range of 200 BCE - 1 CE.
Carbon dating the Dead Sea Scrolls refers to a series of radiocarbon dating tests performed on the Dead Sea Scrolls, first by the AMS ( Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) lab of the Zurich Institute of Technology in 1991 and then by the AMS Facility at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1994-95.
There was also a historical test of a piece of linen performed in 1950 by Willard Libby, the inventor of the dating method.
However, a small number of well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts have survived — fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves.
The 11 Qumran Caves lie in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, in modern Israel.
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.
This represents the ideal date for the amount of 14C measured for the sample.
However, as the quantity of 14 absorbed by all life fluctuates from year to year, the figure must be calibrated based on known fluctuation.
The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.