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For example, JJA Worsaae used this law to prove the Three Age System.For more information on stratigraphy and how it is used in archaeology, see the Stratigraphy glossary entry.Each original isotope, called the parent, gradually decays to form a new isotope, called the daughter.Each isotope is identified with what is called a ‘mass number’.When ‘parent’ uranium-238 decays, for example, it produces subatomic particles, energy and ‘daughter’ lead-206.Isotopes are important to geologists because each radioactive element decays at a constant rate, which is unique to that element.Stratigraphy is the oldest of the relative dating methods that archaeologists use to date things.

Two broad categories of dating or chronometric techniques that archaeologists use are called relative and absolute dating.

Techniques include tree rings in timbers, radiocarbon dating of wood or bones, and trapped charge dating methods such as thermoluminescence dating of glazed ceramics.

Coins found in excavations may have their production date written on them, or there may be written records describing the coin and when it was used, allowing the site to be associated with a particular calendar year.

In historical geology, the primary methods of absolute dating involve using the radioactive decay of elements trapped in rocks or minerals, including isotope systems from very young (radiocarbon dating with Radiometric dating is based on the known and constant rate of decay of radioactive isotopes into their radiogenic daughter isotopes.

Particular isotopes are suitable for different applications due to the type of atoms present in the mineral or other material and its approximate age.