Absolute dating methods
Though using similar methods, these two techniques differ in certain ways that will be discussed in this article.
As the name implies, relative dating can tell which of the two artifacts is older.
Sometimes only one method is possible, reducing the confidence researchers have in the results. “They’re based on ‘it’s that old because I say so,’ a popular approach by some of my older colleagues,” says Shea, laughing, “though I find I like it myself as I get more gray hair.” Kidding aside, dating a find is crucial for understanding its significance and relation to other fossils or artifacts.
Methods fall into one of two categories: relative or absolute.
The good dates are confirmed using at least two different methods, ideally involving multiple independent labs for each method to cross-check results.
It is hard to think that this is a coincidence; it is also hard to think of any mechanism that could produce this agreement other than that the rocks are as old as radiometric methods tell us.
We began our discussion of absolute dating by saying that sedimentation rates could not be relied on for absolute dating.
This is a method that does not find the age in years but is an effective technique to compare the ages of two or more artifacts, rocks or even sites.
It implies that relative dating cannot say conclusively about the true age of an artifact.