9 May, 1975
Dr. J. D. H. Iles,
I am writing in answer to your letter of 24 April.
The British Museum radiocarbon dating laboratory publishes results only when it is satisfied that both the scientific measurements and the archaeological provenance of the material being measured are impeccable. The measurements identified by numbers BM 642A and BM 642B were of material from the Museums own collections which could not reliably be associated with Tutankhamuns tomb. The samples were included in a programme of measurements of Egyptian materials of interest both to the British Museum and to the University of Pennsylvania partly because it was hoped that the measurements would finally resolve the question whether they came from Tutankhamuns tomb or not. On the basis of the datings it was decided that the samples did not come from the tomb and, as no other attributions could be suggested and there was no detailed information as to archaeological context, it was decided that the results should not be published. The datings were given in confidence to the University of Pennsylvania where Mr. Mainwaring saw them. Mr. Mainwaring appears to have misunderstood Mr. Burleigh (who is one of the senior staff of the Laboratory but not its head); it is not the case that results which do not conform to a preconceived theory are suppressed but there are, as I expect you know, many problems in the radiocarbon dating of Egyptian material. Mr. Barkers letter to Mr. Van Oosterhout was, therefore, strictly accurate.