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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.In addition, they have had to develop special techniques with which to dissolve these highly refractory minerals without contaminating the small amount (about one-billionth of a gram) of contained lead and uranium on which the age must be calculated.Since parent uranium atoms change into daughter atoms with time at a known rate, their relative abundance leads directly to the absolute age of the host mineral.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.
To achieve this precision, geochronologists have had to develop the ability to isolate certain high-quality minerals that can be shown to have remained closed to migration of the radioactive parent atoms they contain and the daughter atoms formed by radioactive decay over billions of years of geologic time.
The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.
Local relationships on a single outcrop or archaeological site can often be interpreted to deduce the sequence in which the materials were assembled.
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.
Any feature, including colour variations, textures, fossil content, mineralogy, or any unusual combinations of these can be used.