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Relative Vs. Absolute Dating: The Ultimate Face-off

Our planet inherits a large number of artifacts and monuments bestowed upon us by older historic civilizations. These remains are subjected to dating techniques in order to predict their ages and trace their history. This Buzzle post enlists the differences between the absolute and relative dating methods.
Although both relative and absolute dating methods are used to estimate the age of historical remains, the results produced by both these techniques for the same sample may be ambiguous.
Geological specimens that are unearthed need to be assigned an appropriate age. To find their age, two major geological dating methods are used. These are called relative and absolute dating techniques. Absolute dating, also called numerical dating, arranges the historical remains in order of their ages. Whereas, relative dating arranges them in the geological order of their formation.

The relative dating techniques are very effective when it comes to radioactive isotope or radiocarbon dating. However, not all fossils or remains contain such elements. Relative techniques are of great help in such types of sediments.
Relative Dating Vs. Absolute Dating
➤ It determines if an object/event is younger or older than another object/event from history.
➤ Relative dating is qualitative.
➤ This technique helps determine the relative age of the remains.
➤ It is less specific than absolute dating.
➤ Relative dating is comparatively less expensive and time-efficient.
➤ It works best for sedimentary rocks having layered arrangement of sediments.
The following are the major methods of relative dating.

Stratigraphy: The oldest dating method which studies the successive placement of layers. It is based on the concept that the lowest layer is the oldest and the topmost layer is the youngest.

Biostratigraphy: An extended version of stratigraphy where the faunal deposits are used to establish dating. Faunal deposits include remains and fossils of dead animals.

Cross dating: This method compares the age of remains or fossils found in a layer with the ones found in other layers. The comparison helps establish the relative age of these remains.

Fluorine dating: Bones from fossils absorb fluorine from the groundwater. The amount of fluorine absorbed indicates how long the fossil has been buried in the sediments.
➤ It determines the age of a rock/object using radiometric techniques.
➤ Absolute dating is quantitative.
➤ This technique helps determine the exact age of the remains.
➤ It is more specific than relative dating.
➤ Absolute dating is expensive and time-consuming.
➤ It works best for igneous and metamorphic rocks.
The following are the major methods of relative dating.

Radiometric dating: This technique solely depends on the traces of radioactive isotopes found in fossils. The rate of decay of these elements helps determine their age, and in turn the age of the rocks.

Amino acid dating: Physical structure of living beings depends on the protein content in their bodies. The changes in this content help determine the relative age of these fossils.

Dendrochronology: Each tree has growth rings in its trunk. This technique dates the time period during which these rings were formed.

Thermoluminescence: It determines the period during which certain object was last subjected to heat. It is based on the concept that heated objects absorb light, and emit electrons. The emissions are measured to compute the age.
Differentiation Using a Venn Diagram
A Venn diagram depicts both dating methods as two individual sets. The area of intersection of both sets depicts the functions common to both. Take a look at the diagram to understand their common functions.
When we observe the intersection in this diagram depicting these two dating techniques, we can conclude that they both have two things in common:

1.Provide an idea of the sequence in which events have occurred.
2.Determine the age of fossils, rocks, or ancient monuments.
Although absolute dating methods determine the accurate age compared to the relative methods, both are good in their own ways.
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