Radiocarbon dating of fossils
This is made up of numerous regional tree-ring chronologies, particularly in the medieval and post-medieval periods, for which the laboratory now has more than 200 reference chronologies from many areas. By comparing the proportion of K-40 to Ar-40 in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate of K-40, the date that the rock formed can be determined.
There are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon assays for the scientific community. A series of movie clips walks you through the process.
For each dating or chronological method there is a link in the box at right to take you to that section of this page.
There, you will find a brief description of the method, plus links to take you to other webpages with more extensive information.
Keyed to the relative time scale are examples of index fossils, the forms of life which existed during limited periods of geologic time and thus are used as guides to the age of the rocks in which they are preserved.
William "Strata" Smith, a civil engineer and surveyor, was well acquainted with areas in southern England where "limestone and shales are layered like slices of bread and butter." His hobby of collecting and cataloging fossil shells from these rocks led to the discovery that certain layers contained fossils unlike those in other layers.
A specialized form of cross-dating, using animal and plant fossils, is known as biostratigraphy.
The most compelling argument for an age of the earth of 4.5 billion years are the large number of independent tests that have been used to confirm this date.