This is a method that does not find the age in years but is an effective technique to compare the ages of two or more artifacts, rocks or even sites.
It implies that relative dating cannot say conclusively about the true age of an artifact.
When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.
Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.
It is possible to tell the number of years ago a particular rock or archeological site had been formed.
Two broad categories of classification methods are relative dating and absolute dating.
For example, techniques based on isotopes with half lives in the thousands of years, such as Carbon-14, cannot be used to date materials that have ages on the order of billions of years, as the detectable amounts of the radioactive atoms and their decayed daughter isotopes will be too small to measure within the uncertainty of the instruments.
These use radioactive minerals in rocks as geological clocks.
To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.
Geologists draw on it and other basic principles ( to determine the relative ages of rocks or features such as faults.
Absolute dating is the process of determining an age on a specified chronology in archaeology and geology.
Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty of accuracy.