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As lead isotope decay at a standard and slow rate, it's able to provide fairly accurate date ranges which it measures in the millions of years.
For further details, see uranium-lead dating section below.
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Amino Acid Dating is used to acquire dates numbering in the hundreds of thousands, although some calibration is required to account for local temperature conditions. Paleomagnetic / Archaeomagnetic dating: By studying the changes in the magnetic signature of deposits, artefacts, but particularly soil disturbance, archaeologists and paleontologists can determine precise dates.
There are two ways a magnetic signature forms - firstly through extreme heat such as in pottery production or hearth fires.
Ever since The Enlightenment, and possibly even before that, researchers have attempted to understand the chronology of the world around us, to figure out precisely when each stage in our geological, biological and cultural evolution took place.
Even when the only science we had to go on was religious literature and the western world believed the world was created in 4004BC (1), scholars tried to figure out when each biblical event took place, to define a chronology from savagery to civilization, from creation to the first animal, then to the emergence of the first people.
Some of the methods covered here are tried and tested, representing early methods of examining past geological, geographical, anthropological and archaeological processes.
The pre-enlightenment understanding of our geological and cultural history may now be proven wrong and subject to ridicule, but the principles of defining our place in time in the cosmos underpin many sciences.
As technology advances, so do our methods, accuracy and tools for discovering what we want to learn about the past.
All dating methods today can be grouped into one of two categories: .
The former gives a numeric age (for example, this artefact is 5000 years old); the latter provides a date based on relationships to other elements (for example, this geological layer formed before this other one).
Typically, this will include: These are the scientific areas with which we most associate dating methods.