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For example, which is older, the bricks in a building or the building itself?
Are there repairs or cracks in the sidewalk that came after the sidewalk was built?
In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.
There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.
On the other hand, the half-life of the isotope potassium 40 as it decays to argon is 1.26 billion years.
The half-life of carbon 14, for example, is 5,730 years.
Pretty obvious that the dike came after the rocks it cuts through, right?
With absolute age dating, you get a real age in actual years.
The narrower a range of time that an animal lived, the better it is as an index of a specific time.
No bones about it, fossils are important age markers.