Start Ancient dating techniques

Ancient dating techniques

For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation.

If the fossil you are trying to date occurs alongside one of these index fossils, then the fossil you are dating must fall into the age range of the index fossil. In a hypothetical example, a rock formation contains fossils of a type of brachiopod known to occur between 410 and 420 million years.

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

While people are most familiar with carbon dating, carbon dating is rarely applicable to fossils.

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.

Potassium-40 on the other hand has a half like of 1.25 billion years and is common in rocks and minerals.

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There are two main methods determining a fossils age, relative dating and absolute dating.

It’s often much easier to date volcanic rocks than the fossils themselves or the sedimentary rocks they are found in.

So, often layers of volcanic rocks above and below the layers containing fossils can be dated to provide a date range for the fossil containing rocks.

Index fossils are fossils that are known to only occur within a very specific age range.