Geological Time: Dating Techniques


Numerical dating (‘absolute dating’) of geological events allows us to place time estimates on geological and biological phenomena of the past. A number of techniques are used, most of which use the process of radioactive decay as a clock. From the latest dates, we have discovered that many evolutionary processes and events took place either much faster or much more slowly than previously imagined.

Keywords: geochronology; geological timescale; radioactivity; macroevolution

Further Reading

Berggren WA, Kent DV and Hardenbol J (eds) (1995) Geochronology, Time Scales, and Stratigraphic Correlation. SEPM Special Publication 54.

Dalrymple GB (1991) The Age of the Earth. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Dalrymple GB and Lanphere MA (1969) Potassium–Argon Dating. New York, NY: WH Freeman.

Easterbrook DJ (1988) Dating quaternary sediments. Geological Society of America Special Paper 227.

Eicher DL (1976) Geologic Time, 2nd edn. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice‐Hall.

McDougall I and Harrison TM (1988) Geochronology and Thermochronology by the 40Ar/39Ar Method. New York: Oxford University Press.

Parrish R and Roddick JC (1985) Geochronology and isotope geology for the geologist and explorationist. Geological Society of Canada Short Course 4.

Prothero DR (1990) Interpreting the Stratigraphic Record. New York: WH Freeman.

Prothero DR and Dott RH Jr (2001) Evolution of the Earth, 6th edn. New York: McGraw‐Hill.

York D and Farquhar RM (1972) The Earth's Age and Geochronology. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

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How to Cite close
Prothero, Donald R(Mar 2002) Geological Time: Dating Techniques. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001618]