Relative age dating of rocks

With absolute age dating, you get a real age in actual years.

It’s based either on fossils which are recognized to represent a particular interval of time, or on radioactive decay of specific isotopes. Based on the Rule of Superposition, certain organisms clearly lived before others, during certain geologic times.

No bones about it, fossils are important age markers.

To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.The Principle of Original Horizontality states that due to the influence of gravity all sediment is originally deposited horizontally.In other words, as sediment fills a depositional basins we would expect the upper most surface of the sediment to be parallel to the horizon. Using this principle we can than assume that sedimentary layers which have been deformed/folded must have been deformed after all affected layers have been deposited.This method works because some unstable (radioactive) isotopes of some elements decay at a known rate into daughter products. Half-life simply means the amount of time it takes for half of a remaining particular isotope to decay to a daughter product. Good discussion from the US Geological Survey: geochronolgists just measure the ratio of the remaining parent atom to the amount of daughter and voila, they know how long the molecule has been hanging out decaying. So to date those, geologists look for layers like volcanic ash that might be sandwiched between the sedimentary layers, and that tend to have radioactive elements.What’s more, if the whole rock is badly weathered, it will be hard to find an intact mineral grain containing radioactive isotopes.

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