Methods of absolute fossil dating

It is only by correlations that the conditions on different parts of Earth at any particular stage in its history can be deduced.

In addition, because sediment deposition is not continuous and much rock material has been removed by erosion, the fossil record from many localities has to be integrated before a complete picture of the evolution of life on Earth can be assembled.

Continents move, carried on huge slabs, or plates, of dense rock about 100 km (62 miles) thick over a low-friction, partially melted zone (the asthenosphere) below.

In the oceans, new seafloor, created at the globe-circling oceanic ridges, moves away, cools, and sinks back into the mantle in what are known as subduction zones (i.e., long, narrow belts at which one plate descends beneath another).

A coin, vessel, or other common artifact could link two archaeological sites, but the possibility of recycling would have to be considered.

It should be emphasized that linking sites together is essential if the nature of an ancient society is to be understood, as the information at a single location may be relatively insignificant by itself.

This then can be used to deduce the sequence of events and processes that took place or the history of that brief period of time as recorded in the rocks or soil.

For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.

The need to correlate over the rest of geologic time, to correlate nonfossiliferous units, and to calibrate the fossil time scale has led to the development of a specialized field that makes use of natural radioactive isotopes in order to calculate absolute isotopes has been improved to the point that for rocks 3 billion years old geologically meaningful errors of less than ±1 million years can be obtained.Similarly, in geology, if distinctive granitic pebbles can be found in the sediment beside a similar granitic body, it can be inferred that the granite, after cooling, had been uplifted and eroded and therefore was not injected into the adjacent rock sequence.Although with clever detective work many complex time sequences or relative ages can be deduced, the ability to show that objects at two separated sites were formed at the same time requires additional information.Similarly, in geologic studies, vast quantities of information from widely spaced outcrops have to be integrated.Some method of correlating rock units must be found.

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