Sturt Manning suggests that the current international radiocarbon calibration curve Int Cal13 is unsuitable for use in carbon-14 dating in Israel and the region, and can cause dating errors ranging from a mere few years to several crucial decades.For the past 20 years, a heated debate has been playing out between researchers who use the Bible as a blueprint for archaeological chronology, versus others who claim the evidence speaks to a much more recent settlement, or “Low Chronology.” If accepted, Manning’s new dendrochronological study of juniper tree-ring records in Jordan and Israel would appear to constitute another point for the Low Chronology team.Today, traditional carbon dating is aided by the Int Cal13 curve — revised and adopted in 2013.
“And this was the point of our project – we wondered whether the different growing season in the southern Levant might complicate the use of this radiocarbon record in this area,” explains Manning.
For most carbon dating in the northern hemisphere, the current “corrective” formula is sufficient, Manning argues. “The southern Levant has almost the opposite (antiphase) growing season versus central-northern Europe and northern North America.
To be precise, the study’s findings indicate a discrepancy of only a few decades — but that is just dramatic enough to dispel much C-14-based “evidence” of a potential Davidic United Monarchy.
In his recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) journal, “Fluctuating radiocarbon offsets observed in the southern Levant and implications for archaeological chronology debates,” Prof.
The idea was to find a species which would accurately represent the growing period in the region.
Whereas the species the Int Cal13 calibration is based on grows from late spring to late summer, most native southern Levant fauna do not.The isotope, which has eight neutrons and an atomic mass of 14 (thus the C-14), is mixed with oxygen and creates radioactive carbon dioxide, which is then “inhaled” by plants through photosynthesis.Along the lines of “There Was an Old Lady,” the radioactive carbon dioxide inhaled by the plants is ingested by animals and transported through their bodies.Manning, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology in the Department of Classics and director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, gives a qualified answer.“Of course a lot of effort in archaeology has gone into developing high-precision sequences/dating,” Manning says, naming several of the methods.“If you can use dendrochronology [tree-ring dating] directly, then you have an absolute date.” Combining the use of tree-ring dating with radiocarbon testing, creates accuracy of within a few years, he says, citing a project his lab and colleagues undertook in placing Mesopotamian Middle Bronze Age chronology.