Although fossil dating is now more scientifically accurate, it still requires skill and experience as scientists have to make educated guesses based on any evidence and the dating available for the layers surrounding the fossils. What are two major methods of dating artifacts or fossils? The study of stratigraphy enables scientists to determine the age of a fossil if they know the age of layers of rock that surround it. For more information on cosmic rays and half-life, as well as the process of radioactive decay, see How Nuclear Radiation Works. It's called radiometric dating. Scientists can't tell whether the clock ran down a few days or millions of years ago. Rock formations or regions, such as Koobi Fora, are often given names based on descriptions, local names, or geographic features. The radiometric dating method for organic matter that most people know about is carbon dating, and this method is limited to things less than about 60, years old. It is what archaeologists use to get a proxy for tested samples.
Lake Turkana has a geologic history that favored the preservation of fossils. Scientists suggest that the lake as it appears today has only been around for the past , years. The current environment around Lake Turkana is very dry. Over the course of time, though, the area has seen many changes. Over time the sediment solidified into rock. This volcanic matter eventually settles and over time is compacted to form a special type of sedimentary rock called tuff. During the Pliocene geologic epoch 5. This allowed for erosional forces to expose rock that was buried long ago. These processes also exposed the fossils buried within those layers of rock. The layers of volcanic rock are extremely important to reconstructing the history of the Turkana Basin because they allow scientists to calculate the age of hominin fossils found in the region. Dating of the fossils contributes to a clearer timeline of evolutionary history. However, the fossils in the Turkana region can be dated more accurately because they are found in the sedimentary rock between datable layers of tuff. Although radiometric dating of the tuff is scientifically valid, difficulties still exist. Extending the Learning The fossils found in the Turkana Basin support the theory of human evolution and the theory that humans originated in Africa before migrating to other places.
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