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Dating Techniques - Stratigraphy, Seriation, Faunal Dating, Pollen Dating (palynology), Amino Acid Racimization, Cation-ratio Dating - Relative dating, Absolute dating, Radioactive decay dating

methods dates sample element

Dating techniques are procedures used by scientists to determine the age of a specimen. Relative dating methods tell only if one sample is older or younger than another; absolute dating methods provide a date in years. The latter have generally been available only since 1947. Many absolute dating techniques take advantage of radioactive decay, whereby a radioactive form of an element is converted into a non-radioactive product at a regular rate. Others, such as amino acid racimization and cation-ratio dating, are based on chemical changes in the organic or inorganic composition of a sample. In recent years, a few of these methods have come under close scrutiny as scientists strive to develop the most accurate dating techniques possible.


Relative dating methods determine whether one sample is older or younger than another. They do not provide an age in years. Before the advent of absolute dating methods, nearly all dating was relative. The main relative dating method is stratigraphy.


Absolute dating is the term used to describe any dating technique that tells how old a specimen is in years. These are generally analytical methods, and are carried out in a laboratory. Absolute dates are also relative dates, in that they tell which specimens are older or younger than others. Absolute dates must agree with dates from other relative methods in order to be valid.


As previously mentioned, radioactive decay refers to the process in which a radioactive form of an element is converted into a nonradioactive product at a regular rate. Radioactive decay dating is not a single method of absolute dating but instead a group of related methods for absolute dating of samples.


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