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The Wheeler Formation has been previously dated to approximately 507 million year old, so we know the trilobite is also about 507 million years old.

But, how can we determine how old a rock formation is, if it hasn’t previously been dated?

In many cases, however, it is possible to reconstruct the original sequence of strata so that they can be used for relative dating.

The same rock formation also contains a type of trilobite that was known to live 415 to 425 million years ago.

Since the rock formation contains both types of fossils the ago of the rock formation must be in the overlapping date range of 415 to 420 million years.

We define the rate of this radioactive decay in half-lives.

If a radioactive isotope is said to have a half-life of 5,000 years that means after 5,000 years exactly half of it will have decayed from the parent isotope into the daughter isotopes.

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In the past, relative dating methods often were the only ones available to paleoanthropologists.

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