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Prior to the discovery of radiometric dating in the early 20th century, which provided a means of absolute dating, archaeologists and geologists used relative dating to determine ages of materials.Though relative dating can only determine the sequential order in which a series of events occurred, not when they occurred, it remains a useful technique.Relative dating by biostratigraphy is the preferred method in paleontology and is, in some respects, more accurate.The Law of Superposition, which states that older layers will be deeper in a site than more recent layers, was the summary outcome of 'relative datin g' as observed in geology from the 17th century to the early 20th century.Fossils are important for working out the relative ages of sedimentary rocks.
Correlation with them has helped geologists date many New Zealand rocks, including those containing dinosaurs.For a fossil to be a good index fossil, it needs to have lived during one specific time period, be easy to identify and have been abundant and found in many places. If you find ammonites in a rock in the South Island and also in a rock in the North Island, you can say that both rocks are Mesozoic.Different species of ammonites lived at different times within the Mesozoic, so identifying a fossil species can help narrow down when a rock was formed.Many of these organisms have left their remains as fossils in sedimentary rocks.
Geologists have studied the order in which fossils appeared and disappeared through time and rocks. Fossils can help to match rocks of the same age, even when you find those rocks a long way apart.
Much like "continent," "planet" is a word without a precise definition, with history and culture playing as much of a role as geology and astrophysics This is a "living glossary".