Relative dating is the science of determining the relative order of past events (i.e., the age of an object in comparison to another), without necessarily determining their absolute age, (i.e. In geology, rock or superficial deposits, fossils and lithologies can be used to correlate one stratigraphic column with another.
Prior to the discovery of radiometric dating in the early 20th century, which provided a means of absolute dating, archaeologists and geologists used relative dating to determine ages of materials.
Even when the absolute dates are available, we have to supplement the information with relative dating.
The various methods of relative dating are; This method depends on the common observation that the height of the habitational area increases as the people continue to live at the same place.
This approach helps to order events chronologically but it does not provide the absolute age of an object expressed in years.
Relative dating includes different techniques, but the most commonly used are soil stratigraphy analysis and typology.
Archaeologists use many different techniques to determine the age of a particular artifact, site, or part of a site.
Two broad categories of dating or chronometric techniques that archaeologists use are called relative and absolute dating.
Thus, 1587 is the post quem dating of Shakespeare's play Henry V.
The Law of Superposition, which states that older layers will be deeper in a site than more recent layers, was the summary outcome of 'relative dating' as observed in geology from the 17th century to the early 20th century.
The regular order of occurrence of fossils in rock layers was discovered around 1800 by William Smith.
Several dating methods exist, depending on different criteria and techniques, and some very well known examples of disciplines using such techniques are, for example, history, archaeology, geology, paleontology, astronomy and even forensic science, since in the latter it is sometimes necessary to investigate the moment in the past in which the death of a cadaver occurred.
Relative dating methods are unable to determine the absolute age of an object or event, but can determine the impossibility of a particular event happening before or after another event of which the absolute date is well known.