Simple definition relative dating

Superposition of rock units is a very simple and straightforward method of relative age determination.The principle states that in a sequence of undeformed sedimentary rocks the oldest beds are at the bottom and the youngest ones are at the top.

It was first recognized by William Smith, a British Surveyor, who while working on open cuts of canals, railroads, and roads, noticed that the fossils change systematically from the older towards the younger rocks.

We define the rate of this radioactive decay in half-lives.

If a radioactive isotope is said to have a half-life of 5,000 years that means after 5,000 years exactly half of it will have decayed from the parent isotope into the daughter isotopes.

The same rock formation also contains a type of trilobite that was known to live 415 to 425 million years ago.

Since the rock formation contains both types of fossils the ago of the rock formation must be in the overlapping date range of 415 to 420 million years.

The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately 507 million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about 507 million years old.

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