Melissa graduated from NC State University with a Bachelor's Degree in geology in and currently works as a lab technician. Figuring out the geologic history of an area seems like a daunting task, but there are several strategies that geologists use to figure out which rocks are older than other rocks, and what geologic processes occurred in a particular order. Geologists can numerically date certain rocks by using the radioactive decay of elements trapped in rocks or minerals to figure out their exact age. However, these radioactive isotopes aren't always present in a rock, so geologists must use context clues to build a calendar called a geologic timescale of when each rock layer in a formation was created. Relative dating uses a series of 5 principles listed in the following paragraphs that help geologists compare the ages of different layers of rock and create a geologic timescale for an area.
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Relative techniques were developed earlier in the history of archaeology as a profession and are considered less trustworthy than absolute ones. There are several different methods. In stratigraphy , archaeologists assume that sites undergo stratification over time, leaving older layers beneath newer ones. Archaeologists use that assumption, called the law of superposition, to help determine a relative chronology for the site itself. Then, they use contextual clues and absolute dating techniques to help point to the age of the artifacts found in each layer.
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Dating techniques are procedures used by scientists to determine the age of rocks, fossils, or artifacts. Relative dating methods tell only if one sample is older or younger than another; absolute dating methods provide an approximate date in years. The latter have generally been available only since Many absolute dating techniques take advantage of radioactive decay , whereby a radioactive form of an element decays into a non-radioactive product at a regular rate.
The age of a rock is determined by stratigraphy , a branch in geology which studies the chronology of events and changes, along with the development of organisms, which have determined the development of the Earth from when it became an independent spatial body until today. The age, or the chronology of geological creations and events is determined using relative and absolute age. In determining the relative age of a rock, the data from sedimentary rocks are generally used. Relative age of magmatic and metamorphic rocks is determined according to their relation with sedimentary rocks.