Define uranium lead dating
When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.
In addition, because sediment deposition is not continuous and much rock material has been removed by erosion, the fossil record from many localities has to be integrated before a complete picture of the evolution of life on Earth can be assembled.
This then can be used to deduce the sequence of events and processes that took place or the history of that brief period of time as recorded in the rocks or soil.
For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.
Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work! This dating method is based upon the decay of radioactive potassium-40 to radioactive argon-40 in minerals and rocks; potassium-40 also decays to calcium-40.
Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.