Cation-ratio dating is used to date rock surfaces such as stone artifacts and cliff and ground drawings. It can be used to obtain dates that would be unobtainable by more conventional methods such as radiocarbon dating. Scientists use cation-ratio dating to determine how long rock surfaces have been exposed. They do this by chemically analyzing the varnish that forms on these surfaces. The varnish contains cations, which are positivelycharged atoms or molecules. Different cations move throughout the environment at different rates, so the ratio of different cations to each other changes over time. Cation ratio dating relies on the principle that the cation ratio (K+ + Ca2+)/Ti4+ decreases with increasing age of a sample. By calibrating these ratios with dates obtained from rocks from a similar microenvironment, a minimum age for the varnish can be determined. This technique can only be applied to rocks from desert areas, where the varnish is most stable.
Although cation-ratio dating has been widely used, recent studies suggest it has many problems. Many of the dates obtained with this method are inaccurate due to improper chemical analyses. In addition, the varnish may not actually be stable over long periods of time. Finally, some scientists have recently suggested that the cation ratios may not even be directly related to the age of the sample.
- Dating Techniques - Thermoluminescence Dating
- Dating Techniques - Amino Acid Racimization
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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cyanohydrins to Departments of philosophy:Dating Techniques - Stratigraphy, Seriation, Faunal Dating, Pollen Dating (palynology), Amino Acid Racimization, Cation-ratio Dating - Relative dating, Absolute dating, Radioactive decay dating