Absolute vs relative dating techniques
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 the occurrence of fossils in rock layers was discovered around 1800 by William Smith.The principle of faunal succession is based on the appearance of fossils in sedimentary rocks.As organisms exist at the same time period throughout the world, their presence or (sometimes) absence may be used to provide a relative age of the formations in which they are found.There are a number of different types of intrusions, including stocks, laccoliths, batholiths, sills and dikes.Cross-cutting relations can be used to determine the relative ages of rock strata and other geological structures.
Prior to the discovery of radiometric dating in the early 20th century, which provided a means of absolute dating, archaeologists and geologists used relative dating to determine ages of materials.
This is because it is not possible for a younger layer to slip beneath a layer previously deposited.
The only disturbance that the layers experience is bioturbation, in which animals and/or plants move things in the layers.
Explanations: A – folded rock strata cut by a thrust fault; B – large intrusion (cutting through A); C – erosional angular unconformity (cutting off A & B) on which rock strata were deposited; D – volcanic dyke (cutting through A, B & C); E – even younger rock strata (overlying C & D); F – normal fault (cutting through A, B, C & E).
The principle of cross-cutting relationships pertains to the formation of faults and the age of the sequences through which they cut.