Geologic dating issues
Using this established record, geologists have been able to piece together events over the past 635 million years, or about one-eighth of Earth history, during which time useful fossils have been abundant.
The need to correlate over the rest of geologic time, to correlate nonfossiliferous units, and to calibrate the fossil time scale has led to the development of a specialized field that makes use of natural radioactive isotopes in order to calculate absolute isotopes has been improved to the point that for rocks 3 billion years old geologically meaningful errors of less than ±1 million years can be obtained.
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.
When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.
When these regions are later exposed in uptilted portions of ancient continents, a history of terrestrial rock-forming events can be deduced.
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For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.These include some that establish a relative chronology in which occurrences can be placed in the correct sequence relative to one another or to some known succession of events.