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Studying the layers of rock or strata can also be useful. If a layer of rock containing the fossil is higher up in the sequence that another layer, you know that layer must be younger in age. This can often be complicated by the fact that geological forces can cause faulting and tilting of rocks.
Absolute dating is used to determine a precise age of a rock or fossil through radiometric dating methods.
Relative dating is used to determine a fossils approximate age by comparing it to similar rocks and fossils of known ages.This uses radioactive minerals that occur in rocks and fossils almost like a geological clock.It’s often much easier to date volcanic rocks than the fossils themselves or the sedimentary rocks they are found in.Carbon-14, the radioactive isotope of carbon used in carbon dating has a half-life of 5730 years, so it decays too fast.It can only be used to date fossils younger than about 75,000 years.
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Using these methods, the scientist determines a date range for when an event took place rather than where it fits in the overall record. The techniques scientist need for absolute dating did not become available until the later half of the 20th century.