The relative ages of rocks are important for understanding Earth’s history.New rock layers are always deposited on top of existing rock layers.The Permian through Jurassic stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah is a great example of Original Horizontality and the Law of Superposition, two important ideas used in relative dating.These strata make up much of the famous prominent rock formations in widely spaced protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park.The laws of stratigraphy are usually credited to a geologist from Denmark named Nicolas Steno. Superposition refers to the position of rock layers and their relative ages.Relative age means age in comparison with other rocks, either younger or older.
Photo from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.
Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4.6 billion years.
Mountains have been built and eroded, continents and oceans have moved great distances, and the Earth has fluctuated from being extremely cold and almost completely covered with ice to being very warm and ice-free.
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.
Relative dating by biostratigraphy is the preferred method in paleontology and is, in some respects, more accurate.