it could date back to Mohammed’s childhood, or possibly even before his birth. Trouble with a capital “T.” That rhymes with “P” and that stands for, um, pissed Muslims.
(If you don’t get the reference, please remedy that grievous shortcoming immediately.)The probability that this date range is correct was placed at over 94%.
Radiocarbon is not suitable for this purpose because it is only applicable: a) on a time scale of thousands of years and b) to remains of once-living organisms (with minor exceptions, from which rocks are excluded).
Radioactive decay causes once-living specimens to lose half of their C14 atoms in about each 5,730-year half-life.
Thus, if the level today is half of what it was estimated to be when the thing died, it is said to be 5,730 years old.
They are: (1) the C14 concentration in a specimen at its time of death; (2) the decay rate of C14; (3) the current C14 concentration in the specimen being “dated”; and (4) if anything else has affected the specimen’s C14 content. The curved line represents the declining amount of C14 atoms over time due to radioactive decay.
Note: only the third of those four necessary facts can be measured, the other three must be estimated, assumed, or extrapolated. During each half-life (~5,730 years), about half of the remaining C14 atoms in a specimen are expected to decay.