National Geographic : 1958 Aug
David S. Boyer, National Geographic Staff Egyptians Restore the Enclosure of King Djoser's Pyramid at Saqqara How do we know that radiocarbon dates are valid ? In answer, scientists point to the method's success in dating objects of known age. Egyptian royal tombs prove especially useful because dynastic dates are fairly well established back to 3000 B. C. Wood from Djoser's tomb was the first object tested by Dr. Willard F. Libby, who pioneered the C-14 technique (page 239). This stone structure was the first Egyptian tomb built in the form of a pyramid. Why is it that archeologists today-to use the words of anthropologist Carleton S. Coon - "collect flecks of charcoal as carefully as if the Queen of England had dropped her pearl necklace in a gutter"? Why indeed should anyone bother to spend time and money trying to find out how old a scrap of charcoal is? In part, perhaps, because the riddle of age has always fascinated civilized man. Think for a moment-what is your first question when you look at a mummy or a dinosaur skeleton in a museum, or find an arrowhead in a field? Inevitably you wonder, 'How old is it?" 236 The scientist shares your curiosity and asks even more penetrating questions: How old is the universe? How old is the earth? When did man first appear? When did the glaciers last release their frozen grip and re treat silently into the Arctic? Such problems occupy thousands of minds in universities and laboratories around the world. And remarkable new dating methods, of which radiocarbon is the most spectacular, are beginning to give intriguing answers. During the late 1940's the now-famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a number of caves in Palestine. Were they fakes? Some people thought so.