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However, the age of each fossil primate needs to be determined so that fossils of the same age found in different parts of the world and fossils of different ages can be compared.
There are three general approaches that allow scientists to date geological materials and answer the question: "How old is this fossil?
Geologists have established a set of principles that can be applied to sedimentary and volcanic rocks that are exposed at the Earth's surface to determine the relative ages of geological events preserved in the rock record.
For example, in the rocks exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon (Figure 1) there are many horizontal layers, which are called strata.
The layers of rock at the base of the canyon were deposited first, and are thus older than the layers of rock exposed at the top (principle of superposition).
In the Grand Canyon, the layers of strata are nearly horizontal.
The principle states that any geologic features that cut across strata must have formed after the rocks they cut through (Figures 2 and 3).
According to the principle of original horizontality, these strata must have been deposited horizontally and then titled vertically after they were deposited.
Just as when they were deposited, the strata are mostly horizontal (principle of original horizontality).These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.In addition to being tilted horizontally, the layers have been faulted (dashed lines on figure).Applying the principle of cross-cutting relationships, this fault that offsets the layers of rock must have occurred after the strata were deposited.