Ancient history dating techniques

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Third, magnetism in rocks can be used to estimate the age of a fossil site.

This method uses the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field, which has changed through time, to determine ages for fossils and rocks.

Most sediment is either laid down horizontally in bodies of water like the oceans, or on land on the margins of streams and rivers.

Each time a new layer of sediment is deposited it is laid down horizontally on top of an older layer.

Second, it is possible to determine the numerical age for fossils or earth materials.

Numerical ages estimate the date of a geological event and can sometimes reveal quite precisely when a fossil species existed in time.

For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.

By comparing fossils of different primate species, scientists can examine how features changed and how primates evolved through time.

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After death the amount of carbon-14 in the organic specimen decreases very regularly as the molecules decay.Geologists have established a set of principles that can be applied to sedimentary and volcanic rocks that are exposed at the Earth's surface to determine the relative ages of geological events preserved in the rock record.For example, in the rocks exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon (Figure 1) there are many horizontal layers, which are called strata.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.Samples from the past 70,000 years made of wood, charcoal, peat, bone, antler or one of many other carbonates may be dated using this technique.

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