Relative and absolute age dating of rocks
In the ideal case, the geologist will discover a single rock unit with a unique collection of easily observed attributes called a marker horizon that can be found at widely spaced localities.Any feature, including colour variations, textures, fossil content, mineralogy, or any unusual combinations of these can be used.The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.Local relationships on a single outcrop or archaeological site can often be interpreted to deduce the sequence in which the materials were assembled.The same margin of error applies for younger fossiliferous rocks, making absolute dating comparable in precision to that attained using fossils.To achieve this precision, geochronologists have had to develop the ability to isolate certain high-quality minerals that can be shown to have remained closed to migration of the radioactive parent atoms they contain and the daughter atoms formed by radioactive decay over billions of years of geologic time.Similarly, in geology, if distinctive granitic pebbles can be found in the sediment beside a similar granitic body, it can be inferred that the granite, after cooling, had been uplifted and eroded and therefore was not injected into the adjacent rock sequence.
The age of a rock in years is called its absolute age.
This then can be used to deduce the sequence of events and processes that took place or the history of that brief period of time as recorded in the rocks or soil.
For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.
Episodes of global volcanic activity, rifting of continents, folding, and metamorphism are defined by absolute ages.
The results suggest that the present-day global tectonic scheme was operative in the distant past as well.