5 principles of relative dating

Since we assume all the layers were originally horizontal, then anything that made them not horizontal had to have happened after the fact.We follow this same idea, with a few variations, when we talk about cross-cutting relationships in rock.These items are called inclusions - foreign bodies of rock or mineral enclosed within another rock.Because the sedimentary rock had to have formed around the object for it to be encased within the layers, geologists can establish relative dates between the inclusions and the surrounding rock.Geologists find the cross-cutting principle especially useful for establishing the relative ages of faults and igneous intrusions in sedimentary rocks.Sometimes, geologists find strange things inside the strata, like chunks of metamorphic or igneous rock.What could a geologist say about that section of rock?Following the Principle of Original Horizontality, he could say that whatever forces caused the deformation, like an earthquake, must have occurred after the formation of all the rock strata.

Learn how inclusions and unconformities can tell us stories about the geologic past.

It's called the Principle of Original Horizontality, and it just means what it sounds like: that all rock layers were originally horizontal. As you can imagine, regular sediments, like sand, silt, and clay, tend to accumulate over a wide area with a generally consistent thickness.

It sounds like common sense to you and me, but geologists have to define the Principle of Original Horizontality in order to make assumptions about the relative ages of sedimentary rocks. Say you have a layer of mud accumulating at the bottom of a lake. More sediment accumulates from the leaf litter and waste of the forest, until you have a second layer.

Your goal is to study the smooth, parallel layers of rock to learn how the land built up over geologic time.

Now imagine that you come upon a formation like this: What do you think of it? How can you make any conclusions about rock layers that make such a crazy arrangement?

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