In the ideal case, the geologist will discover a single rock unit with a unique collection of easily observed attributes called a marker horizon that can be found at widely spaced localities.Any feature, including colour variations, textures, fossil content, mineralogy, or any unusual combinations of these can be used.In addition, they have had to develop special techniques with which to dissolve these highly refractory minerals without contaminating the small amount (about one-billionth of a gram) of contained lead and uranium on which the age must be calculated.Since parent uranium atoms change into daughter atoms with time at a known rate, their relative abundance leads directly to the absolute age of the host mineral.Continents move, carried on huge slabs, or plates, of dense rock about 100 km (62 miles) thick over a low-friction, partially melted zone (the asthenosphere) below.
Some method of correlating rock units must be found.
When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.
When these regions are later exposed in uptilted portions of ancient continents, a history of terrestrial rock-forming events can be deduced.
This then can be used to deduce the sequence of events and processes that took place or the history of that brief period of time as recorded in the rocks or soil.
For example, the presence of recycled bricks at an archaeological site indicates the sequence in which the structures were built.