What is the need for geological dating

Navigation aid:

Methods of Age Dating in Paleoanthropology

A clay jug, an old skeleton, a flint arrowhead: these are fascinating finds from an excavation! But how can the age of the fossil finds be determined exactly? In the interactive "Methods of Age Dating in Paleoanthropology" you can slip into the role of a paleontologist and explore an archaeological site!

In the landscape scenery in the right part of the interactivity there are sensitive areas that can be explored. If you move the mouse over such an area - for example the tree trunk - the appropriate dating methods are displayed: in this case the C14 method and the dendrochronology.

How interactivity works

The scenery around the campfire invites you to explore: by moving the mouse over the picture, you can discover found objects. These are highlighted with a red point. The following objects are to be found:


If you move the mouse to the lower part of the picture, the picture also scrolls down and reveals a new area of ‚Äč‚Äčexploration: in the layers of the earth there are objects that can be analyzed!

  • a Vulcano
  • rock
  • a tree trunk
  • Stones by the fire
  • a human
  • Logs of wood
  • a clay jug
  • Ceramics
  • a fresh skeleton
  • a layer of earth
  • a stone ax
  • an old skeleton
  • a flint arrowhead
  • a pig skull

In the left part of the interactivity, the matching methods of age dating are highlighted in color. A detailed description of the method can be called up by clicking on the color bar.

Absolute dating


The various methods of age dating - such as the C14 test here - are explained in detail in the interactivity and illustrated with infographics.

Absolute dating methods allow the exact age of a find to be determined, in extreme cases down to the year! Many absolute dating methods rely on the constant decay rates of radioactive elements.

The following methods of absolute dating can be explored in interactivity: on the one hand, the C14 method, this is the most popular test for dating organic substances. The Uranium-lead method however, it is particularly suitable for dating very old rocks. With the Potassium-Argon Method can be dated volcanic rock. The Argon-argon method in turn is of great importance for the dating of hominid fossils, the age of which cannot be determined with the C14 method. The Thermo-luminescence method is used, for example, to determine the age of fired ceramic objects or heated stones in a fireplace. In the Dendrochronology the age of wood is determined by counting the annual rings. And with the help of the Amino acid dating conclusions can be drawn about the time that has passed since the death of the organism.

Relative dating

The so-called relative dating methods only allow a comparison of different objects to determine which object is younger or older than another.

The following relative dating methods can be tested in interactivity: on the one hand, the geological stratification. Because normally deposited sediment layers contain an evolutionary sequence of fossils. Another option is to date by Index fossils. These fossils, which are typical for an epoch, allow the chronological classification of the sites that are far apart. Another method is that of magnetic polarity. The polarity reversal pattern enables a rough chronological classification of fossils that are located in rocks with magnetic particles. A relative dating is also through the so-called Fluorine test possible because fluorine-containing soils change the mineral composition of bones and teeth over time.