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Paleomagnetism: Earth’s magnetic polarity flip-flops about every 100,000 to 600,000 years.The polarity is recorded by the orientation of magnetic crystals in specific kinds of rock, and researchers have established a timeline of normal and reversed periods of polarity.Paleomagnetism is often used as a rough check of results from another dating method.Tephrochronology: Within hours or days of a volcanic eruption, tephra — fragments of rock and other material hurled into the atmosphere by the event — is deposited in a single layer with a unique geochemical fingerprint.The uranium-thorium method is often helpful for dating finds in the 40,000- to 500,000-year-old range, too old for radiocarbon but too young for K-Ar or Ar-Ar.Over time, certain kinds of rocks and organic material, such as coral and teeth, are very good at trapping electrons from sunlight and cosmic rays pummeling Earth.

Generally speaking, the more complex a poem or piece of pottery is, the more advanced it is and the later it falls in the chronology.

Egyptologists, for example, created a relative chronology of pre-pharaonic Egypt based on increasing complexity in ceramics found at burial sites.

Whenever possible, researchers use one or more absolute dating methods, which provide an age for the actual fossil or artifact.

Both plants and animals exchange carbon with their environment until they die.

Afterward, the amount of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in their remains decreases.

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  1. Biostratigraphy One of the first and most basic scientific dating methods is also one of the easiest to understand. Layers of rock build one atop another — find a fossil or artifact in one layer, and you can reasonably assume it’s older than anything above it.

  2. Dating methods are used to determine the timing and rate of various processes, such as sedimentation terrestrial and marine, tectonics, volcanism, geomorphological change, cooling rates, crystallization, fluid flow, glaciation, climate change and evolution.

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