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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.


Radiocarbon dating is a method of determining the age of organic objects. It can only be applied to materials that contain carbon and were once living things. For example, paper made of cotton plant fibres, ivory from elephant tusks, and parchment made from goat skins are all materials that can be radiocarbon dated.

In this activity we will address the following questions:

  • What is radiocarbon dating?
  • How can radiocarbon dating be used to date manuscripts?
  • How does the process work?
  • What are the considerations for conservators when contemplating using such methods?
  • What were the radiocarbon dating results for the Birmingham Qu’ran?
  • How can we understand them?

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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