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This content is taken from the University of Birmingham's online course, The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands. Join the course to learn more.


Research into material evidence of early Qur’anic Textual history is an emerging field. In Week 2, we looked at the material evidence of the Birmingham Qur’an and other Qur’an manuscripts, including an examination of the handwriting (palaeography) and the material features of Qur’an manuscripts (codicology).

Coming up

This week we will look at how radiocarbon dating and other scientific techniques can provide a key layer of additional information about a manuscript that adds to the material evidence.

In 2013, following the launch of The Coranica Project, which investigates physical evidence of early Qur’anic texts, the Cadbury Research Library decided to have this manuscript radiocarbon dated in order to enhance scholarly understanding. In 2017 the University commissioned further scientific work on the manuscript to examine whether there is any hidden writing that could not be seen with the naked eye. This process, called multi-spectral imaging, examines the manuscript through different wavelengths of light. The results showed no hidden text within the manuscript, proving that it is not a palimpsest.

By the end of this week you will:

  • Have an understanding of how radiocarbon dating can be used to date manuscripts
  • Understand how modern technology can be used to analyse manuscripts
  • Identify techniques and preservation methods used in the conservation and care of manuscripts
  • Consider how such primary sources can be a resource for research

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This article is from the free online course:

The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands

University of Birmingham