Relative absolute dating differences
Second, it is possible to determine the numerical age for fossils or earth materials.
Numerical ages estimate the date of a geological event and can sometimes reveal quite precisely when a fossil species existed in time.
Geologists have established a set of principles that can be applied to sedimentary and volcanic rocks that are exposed at the Earth's surface to determine the relative ages of geological events preserved in the rock record.
For example, in the rocks exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon (Figure 1) there are many horizontal layers, which are called strata.
For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.
By comparing fossils of different primate species, scientists can examine how features changed and how primates evolved through time.
A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.
This method uses the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field, which has changed through time, to determine ages for fossils and rocks.
These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.
The study of strata is called stratigraphy, and using a few basic principles, it is possible to work out the relative ages of rocks.
Just as when they were deposited, the strata are mostly horizontal (principle of original horizontality).
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