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Stratigraphy and Relative Ages
Steno’s Laws of Stratigraphy
a. Law of Superposition
 At the time when any given stratum was
being formed, all the matter resting upon
it was fluid, and, therfore, at the time
when the lower stratum was being
formed, none off the upper strata existed.
 In an undisturbed sequence of rock layers,
the oldest layer, which is the first one to
be deposited, is at the bottom while the
youngest layer is on top.
b.Law of Lateral Continuity
 Material forming any stratum were
continous over the surface of Earth
unless some other solid bodies stood in
the way.
c. Law of Cross-cutting Relationship
 if a body or discontinuity cuts across a
stratum, it must have formed after that
 Any rocks, fault or structure that cuts
another rock or stucture is younger than
the rock or stucture it cuts.
 Important feature to consider in the
relative dating of rock layers.
 These are surfaces of erosion and
nondeposition that seperate younger
rocks from older rocks.
1. Angular Unconformity
 Originally deposited horizontal layers
folded or tilted and then eroded.
 When erosion stops, a new horizontal
layer is deposited on top of the tilted
layer forming an angular boundary
between the older tilted rocks and the
younger horizontal layers.
2. Nonconformity
 Metamorphic rocks in contact with
sedimentary layers which indicates a
period of uplift and erosion of
previous/metamorphic rocks prior to and
deposition of a younger sedimentary
3. Disconformity
 Layers of sediments are uplifted without
folding but are exposed to weathering
and erosion producing an irregular
4. Paraconformity
 Is an unconformity where the strata are
parallel to each other and the contact is a
simple bedding plane indicative of a
continous deposition.
Absolute Dating
 Is a method of measuring the age of an
event or objects in years.
 To determine the absolute ages of fossils
and rocks, scientists analyze isotopes of
radioactive elements.
 Isotopes- atoms of the same element that
have the same number of protons but
different number of neutrons.
 Most of the stable isotopes are stable
will stay in their original form. However,
there unstable isotopes that decay into
other forms in order to achieve stability
(radioactive isotopes).
 These isotopes tend to breakdown into
stable isotopes of the same or other
elements at a steady state.
 Parent isotope- unstable radioactive
 Daughter isotope- stable isotope
produced by the radioactive decay of
parent isotope.
 Half-life- is the time needed for half of a
sample of a radioactive substance to
undergo radioactive decay.
 After every half-life, the amount of parent
material decreases by one-half.
Half-life of common isotopes
Parent isotope Half-life Stable Daughter
Uranium-235 704 million years Lead-207
Potassium-40 1.25 billion years Argon-40
Uranium-238 4.5 billion years Lead-206
Thorium-232 14.0 billion years Lead-208
Lutetium-176 35.9 billion years Halfnium-176
Rubidium-87 48.8 billion years Strontium-87
Samarium-147 106 billion years Neodymium-143
Radiometric Dating
 Scientists use and compare the relative
amount of parent isotope with the
amount of daughter material to date an
object. The more daughter material there
is the older the rock is.
4 radiometric-dating methods
 Potassium-argon- This method is used
mainly to date rocks older than 100 000
 Uranium-lead- can be used to date rocks
more than 10 million years old.
 Rubidium-strontium- used for rocks
olther than 10 million years
 Carbon-14 method uses in three forms of
carbon: carbon-12, carbon-13, and the
radioactive isotope carbon-14. Living
plants and animals contain a constant
ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12. Once a
plant or animal dies, no new carbon is
taken in. The amount of carbon-14 is 5730
years. Used for dating objects lived within
the last 50 000 years.
Fossils and the Geologic Time Scale
 A system of chronological measurement
that relates stratigraphy to time.
 Epoch (tens of million years)
 Period (one hundred million years)
 Era (several hundred million years)
 Eon (half a billion years or more)
 A remnant of any ancient animal or plant
that has been preserved in rock.
 The age of the fossil is equal to the age of
rock which it is found.
 Properties of fossils
- it must had hard parts which favors fossilization
-it must have lived over a short period of time, before it
evolved into a different creature.
- it must have a good distribution and lived all ove the
Earth’s History