Dating, in geology, determining a chronology or calendar of events in the history of Earth, using to a large degree the evidence of organic evolution in the sedimentary rocks accumulated through geologic time in marine and continental environments.
To date past events, processes, formations, and fossil organisms, geologists employ a variety of techniques.
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.
Radiometric dating and certain other approaches are used to provide absolute chronologies in terms of years before the present.
The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.
Although with clever detective work many complex time sequences or relative ages can be deduced, the ability to show that objects at two separated sites were formed at the same time requires additional information.A coin, vessel, or other common artifact could link two archaeological sites, but the possibility of recycling would have to be considered.It should be emphasized that linking sites together is essential if the nature of an ancient society is to be understood, as the information at a single location may be relatively insignificant by itself.Similarly, in geologic studies, vast quantities of information from widely spaced outcrops have to be integrated.Some method of correlating rock units must be found.In the ideal case, the geologist will discover a single rock unit with a unique collection of easily observed attributes called a marker horizon that can be found at widely spaced localities.