How relative dating is done

Instead, other methods are used to work out a fossil’s age.

These include radiometric dating of volcanic layers above or below the fossils or by comparisons to similar rocks and fossils of known ages.

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Stratigraphy is based on the law of superposition--like a layer cake, the lowest layers must have been formed first.

The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.

The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.

Different methods have their own limitations, especially with regard to the age range they can measure and the substances they can date.

A common problem with any dating method is that a sample may be contaminated with older or younger material and give a false age.