Symposium on uses of radioactive carbon dating
Perhaps you know that the radiocarbon clock was used to date the linen wrapping of the ancient manuscript of Isaiah discovered near the Dead Sea.Interest in radiocarbon dating has been stirred up anew by the recent publication (in 1971) of the proceedings of the Twelfth Nobel Symposium, held in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1969.It is most useful for dating things made of wood, charcoal and plant or animal fibers.Its workable range goes back more than 10,000 years.The first samples of wood from old trees and from the tombs of Egyptian kings, measured in Libby’s laboratory, showed a reasonably good correspondence with the accepted ages of these samples, back to about 4,000 years.So it was thought that perhaps the assumptions were correct, at least nearly so.Now there are some samples taken from ancient men’s houses and hearths that, according to the radiocarbon dates, are more than 6,000 years old.
Do the assumptions still look as well-founded as they did then?
Can we still put our faith in the Biblical count of years, or has science shown it to be unreliable?
Before we jump to any conclusion, it would be prudent to look a little more closely into some of the details that were discussed at the Uppsala conference.
This includes the carbon dioxide in the air, as well as the organic carbon in living things, because they are continually taking up carbon dioxide by photosynthesis and releasing it by respiration.
Also, carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, where it forms carbonic acid and carbonate, which becomes mixed with the dissolved carbonate in the ocean.
For example, a piece of wood 7,000 years old according to the ring count may give a radiocarbon age of only 6,000 years.