A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.
However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.
These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.
Once Steno recognized that the fossils he was contemplating (sharks teeth and sea shells) were formed in the sediments of oceans he was able to work out the basic rules of stratigraphy.
Steno formalized the laws of superposition, original horizontality, original continuity and inclusions in his publication entitled states that any inclusion is older than the rock that contains it.
This chapter is an introduction to rocks and minerals, and the rock cycle.
The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period.
Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.
Relative dating attempts to determine the relative order of past events, without necessarily determining their absolute age.
Before radiometric dating, which provided a means of absolute dating, archaeologists and geologists were for the most part limited to the use of relative dating techniques to determine the geological events.