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Geosciences LibreTexts

1.40: Methods For Determining the Age of Earth Materials and Features

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    Methods For Determining the Age of Earth Materials and Features

    Geochronology, the branch of earth sciences concerned with determining the age of earth materials and events through geologic time.

    How do geoscientists determine the age of rocks or fossils? How do they figure out how long ago and in what order did geologic processes or events take place? For instance how do they know how often a volcano erupts or how often earthquakes take place. Geologists now have many ways to determine the age of materials using absolute and relative dating methods.

    Absolute and Relative Dating Methods

    Absolute dating is a general term applied to a range of techniques that provide estimates of the age of objects, materials, or sites in real calendar years either directly or through a process of calibration with material of known age. There are many methods of absolute dating rocks or other ancient materials. The methods of absolute dating used depends on whether suitable samples are available for testing.

    Relative dating is the science of determining the relative order of past events, without necessarily determining their absolute age (see below).

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