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By measuring the amount of radioactive decay of a radioactive isotope with a known half-life, geologists can establish the absolute age of the parent material.A number of radioactive isotopes are used for this purpose, and depending on the rate of decay, are used for dating different geological periods.

From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone.More slowly decaying isotopes are useful for longer periods of time, but less accurate in absolute years.QUESTION: Can we date sedimentary rocks using radiometric dating techniques?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.Though relative dating can only determine the sequential order in which a series of events occurred, not when they occurred, it remains a useful technique.

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