Define relative age dating

relative age

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Therefore newer sediment is continually deposited on top of previously deposited or older sediment.

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In other words, as sediment fills a depositional basins we would expect the upper most surface of the sediment to be parallel to the horizon. Subsequent layers would follow the same pattern.

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As sediment weathers and erodes from its source, and as long as it is does not encounter any physical barriers to its movement, the sediment will be deposited in all directions until it thins or fades into a different sediment type. For purposes of relative dating this principle is used to identify faults and erosional features within the rock record.

The principle of cross-cutting states that any geologic feature that crosses other layers or rock must be younger then the material it cuts across. Using this principle any fault or igneous intrusion must be younger than all material it or layers it crosses.

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Once a rock is lithified no other material can be incorporated within its internal structure. In order for any material to be included within in the rock it must have been present at the time the rock was lithified. For example, in order to get a pebble inside an igneous rock it must be incorporated when the igneous rock is still molten-- such as when lava flows over the surface. Therefore, the piece, or inclusion, must be older than the material it is included in.

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Lastly the Principle of Fossil Succession. Aside from single-celled bacteria, most living organism reside at or very near the Earth's surface either in continental or oceanic environments. What is the age of inclusions found in a rock relative to the rock in which they are found?

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  4. What is the principle of cross-cutting relations and why is it important for relative dating? What forces can disturb relative dating?


    What is the law of superposition and how can it be used to relatively date rocks? What is meant by dating rocks relatively rather than absolutely?

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    How can fossils be used to determine the relative ages of rock layers? How does the law of crosscutting relationships help scientists determine the relative age of rocks? Are only sedimentary rocks used for relative age determination? How do index fossils help determine age of rock layers?

    What is the difference between absolute age and relative age of fossils?

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