Absolute dating and relative dating

The Law of Superposition, which states that older layers will be deeper in a site than more recent layers, was the summary outcome of 'relative dating' as observed in geology from the 17th century to the early 20th century.The regular order of occurrence of fossils in rock layers was discovered around 1800 by William Smith.Though relative dating can only determine the sequential order in which a series of events occurred, not when they occur, it remains a useful technique especially in radiometric dating.Relative dating by biostratigraphy is the preferred method in paleontology, and is in some respects more accurate (Stanley, 167–69).From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone.Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.The Permian through Jurassic stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah is a great example of Original Horizontality and the Law of Superposition, two important ideas used in relative dating.

Prior to the discovery of radiometric dating which provided a means of absolute dating in the early 20th century, archaeologists and geologists used this technique to determine ages of materials.Sixteen years after his discovery, he published a geological map of England showing the rocks of different geologic time eras.While digging the Somerset Coal Canal in southwest England, he found that fossils were always in the same order in the rock layers.As he continued his job as a surveyor, he found the same patterns across England.

He also found that certain animals were in only certain layers and that they were in the same layers all across England.Due to that discovery, Smith was able to recognize the order that the rocks were formed.

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