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Though relative dating can only determine the sequential order in which a series of events occurred, not when they occur, it remains a useful technique especially in radiometric dating.

Relative dating by biostratigraphy is the preferred method in paleontology, and is in some respects more accurate (Stanley, 167–69).

A fossil will always be younger than fossils in the beds beneath it and this is called the principle of superposition.

So, when looking at the history of a cliff face, it is important to read the story it tells from the bottom layer up.

Unlike people, you can’t really guess the age of a rock from looking at it.

Yet, you’ve heard the news: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1,000 years old. Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own.

From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone.

Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

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