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Since certain species of animals existed on Earth at specific times in history, the fossils or remains of such animals embedded within those successive layers of rock also help scientists determine the age of the layers.
These include the uranium-thorium method, the potassium-argon method, and the rubidium-strontium method. Thermoluminescence (pronounced ther-moeloo-mi-NES-ence) dating is very useful for determining the age of pottery.
When a piece of pottery is heated in a laboratory at temperatures more than 930°F (500°C), electrons from quartz and other minerals in the pottery clay emit light.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 remaining, scientists can pinpoint the exact date of the organism's death.
The range of conventional radiocarbon dating is 30,000 to 40,000 years.
This method is based on the assumption (which nearly always holds true) that deeper layers of rock were deposited earlier in Earth's history, and thus are older than more shallow layers.