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Geologic time relative dating

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Geologists establish the age of rocks in two ways: numerical dating and relative dating.

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Learn how inclusions and unconformities can tell us stories about the geologic past.

Let's say, in this set of rock strata, that we found a single intrusion of igneous rock punching through the sedimentary layers.

We could assume that this igneous intrusion must have happened after the formation of the strata.

It's called the Principle of Original Horizontality, and it just means what it sounds like: that all rock layers were originally horizontal. As you can imagine, regular sediments, like sand, silt, and clay, tend to accumulate over a wide area with a generally consistent thickness.

It sounds like common sense to you and me, but geologists have to define the Principle of Original Horizontality in order to make assumptions about the relative ages of sedimentary rocks. Say you have a layer of mud accumulating at the bottom of a lake. More sediment accumulates from the leaf litter and waste of the forest, until you have a second layer.