Which Of The Following Is Not An Absolute Dating Method??

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Key Takeaway:

  • There are various absolute dating methods available, such as radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, potassium-argon dating, uranium-lead dating, and obsidian hydration dating, but one method that is not considered an absolute dating method is relative dating.
  • Relative dating involves establishing the chronological order of geological events based on the stratigraphic record, whereas absolute dating methods use isotopes and other physical dating techniques to determine the exact age of an object or event.
  • The limitations of absolute dating methods include contamination, sample size and selection, and human error, which can affect the accuracy and reliability of the results. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each method can help archaeologists and geologists make informed decisions about which method to use for a particular research question.


Archaeology heavily depends on dating methods to comprehend human history and the timeline of historical events. Absolute dating methods provide exact timelines, by giving the exact age of an object or a site. Nevertheless, not all dating techniques are absolute. This article intends to investigate the non-absolute dating approaches used in archaeology.

Relative dating is one of the main non-absolute dating techniques. This technique applies stratigraphy to calculate the relative age of artifacts or sites, by comparing their layers of deposition. Seriation is another non-absolute dating method. It uses the alterations of artifacts over time to craft a chronological arrangement from the oldest to the newest.

Another noteworthy non-absolute dating method is dendrochronology. This relies on the examination of tree-ring patterns. It allows archaeologists to date the wooden items found in archaeological sites, by matching them to the tree-ring patterns of known ages.

Types of absolute dating methods

Absolute dating methods are essential for scientists to determine an accurate chronology of events. In this section, we will discuss the various absolute dating methods that exist, including:

  1. Radiocarbon dating
  2. Dendrochronology
  3. Potassium-argon dating
  4. Uranium-lead dating
  5. Obsidian hydration dating

Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating has been hugely important for archaeological studies. It has given us an accurate timeline of past events, and changed our understanding of human history. It has also been great for finding the age of fossils, rocks, and other geological materials.

Yet, it has limits. It’s only accurate for materials up to 50,000 years old. This is because of the half-life of carbon-14. Plus, changes to atmospheric CO2 levels can affect accuracy too.

Still, it’s one of several absolute dating methods that offer high precision. It has helped us understand the world’s long history, and it’s been vital in fields like archaeology and geology.


Dendrochronology is amazing! It’s a great tool for dating objects, especially those from Europe and North America where there are many trees. It can find out the age of wooden structures, furniture, shipwrecks, even human remains. Amazingly, it can even tell you the year it was made, in recent centuries.

But dendrochronology isn’t just useful for dating. It can help us learn about past climates too. Researchers look at tree rings to find out when there were droughts or cold weather. Historians and climate scientists can use this information.

To get accurate results, it’s important to use good samples with distinct rings. And you need to pick similar trees across locations. Plus, you need special equipment and have to measure carefully. Consider other factors like soil quality to get reliable results.

Potassium-argon dating

Potassium-argon dating is a scientific method used to determine the age of rocks. By analyzing the ratio of potassium-40 to argon-40, scientists can calculate the age by looking at potassium-40’s half-life. This technique is especially useful for volcanic material, like rocks created from eruptions millions of years ago. It has even been used to date hominid fossils in East Africa, offering facts about human evolution.

Although potassium-argon dating is useful, it is not flawless. Contamination can cause inaccurate readings. Also, the size and selection of the sample are essential for reliable results. Additionally, human mistake can also impact the accuracy of measurements.

Ultimately, potassium-argon dating is an invaluable method for calculating the age of rocks and minerals. But it should be used with caution, bearing in mind potential sources of error.

Uranium-lead dating

Uranium-lead dating is a precise way to date rocks that have been around for billions of years. Zircon crystals are often used as they contain high levels of uranium and very little lead. But, it’s important to make sure the sample hasn’t been contaminated. This dating method is used a lot in geology and paleontology. When tree rings don’t work, obsidian hydration dating is an alternative.

Obsidian hydration dating

To do obsidian hydration dating, a sample must be collected and cleaned of contamination. This involves exposing fresh obsidian by taking off a thin layer, then heating it to cause evaporation and rehydration. Special microscopy is used to measure the hydrated layer’s thickness, which is linked to the obsidian’s age.

This method can give accurate dates from decades to thousands of years in the past. But, certain factors like contamination, uncertain geology, and climate-induced hydration rate variation can cause errors.

Obsidian hydration dating is very useful, offering info not available from other methods. It’s often paired with other dating techniques to study archaeological sites and geological events. Accuracy depends on careful sample selection and preparation, and considering potential sources of error.

Limitations of absolute dating methods

Absolute dating methods have been used for decades to determine the age of a wide range of artifacts and geological formations. However, limitations do exist within these methods that need to be carefully considered when interpreting results.

In this section, we will explore the limitations of absolute dating methods and discuss how contamination, sample size and selection, and human error can impact the accuracy of dating.


Absolute dating accuracy relies on avoiding contamination. This means that any new part of the sample not part of its original composition is a problem. For example, if dendrochronology samples are handled carelessly, it can cause cross-contamination with other tree species. Potassium-argon dating can be ruined by argon gas diffusing out of the rock matrix after cooling. Uranium-lead dating can be affected by lead loss and uptake. Radiocarbon dating can be off if it has modern carbon or living organisms.

There’s also human error. If you don’t follow proper procedure, you risk introducing new material into the sample. To keep accuracy up, you must have high-quality samples. Strict sampling protocols must be used to avoid contamination. Care must be taken during each stage of processing, storage, and analysis. This is the only way to maintain absolute dating accuracy.

Sample size and selection

Selecting and analyzing the right sample size is a must for absolute dating methods. We must emphasize the importance of sample size and selection.

As seen in the table, appropriate sample size selection is necessary to get accurate results. Factors that can influence sample size include: quality of preservation, material type, sample’s age, the scientific question asked, and available technology.

Sample selection bias is an issue when selecting samples. This happens when they are chosen for convenience or preconceptions, instead of randomly. This can lead to false results. For this reason, sample selection must be unbiased and representative of the wider population.

Sample size depends on the dating technique. For example, radiocarbon dating requires a small sample for more accurate results. On the other hand, potassium-argon needs more material to extract enough potassium minerals.

Multiple samples from different parts of an object or artifact are often used to refine accuracy. This is done to have points within a feature that confirm or reject data.

A poor sample selection example is the 1988 Shroud of Turin experiment. Experts believe the linen was patched due to the researchers selecting from one corner. This inadequate coverage gave low statistical power. So, we must consider all factors when choosing an appropriate sample size.

Human error

Human error can greatly affect all absolute dating methods, not just radiocarbon dating. This may happen because of lack of training or experience, leading to incorrect dates.

Biases of the scientist, which they are unaware of, can also impact data collection and analysis.

To reduce the risk of human error, scientists must take precautions. This includes preparing samples correctly, using correct instruments and techniques, and using critical thinking and peer review throughout.

Though it is not possible to avoid mistakes altogether, scientists can improve their understanding of Earth’s evolution by acknowledging this limitation and trying to minimize its effect.

Relative dating vs absolute dating

When it comes to dating the earth and its ancient history, there are two main approaches: relative dating and absolute dating. In this section, we’ll explore the difference between these approaches and delve into why relative dating is not the same as absolute dating. From understanding the chronological order of events to discovering new fossils, the methods used in relative dating can provide valuable insights into the earth’s past. However, it’s important to recognize the limitations and differences between relative and absolute dating methods.

Explanation of relative dating

Relative dating is a key method used by geologists to determine the age of an object or event, with reference to other objects or events. It can’t give an exact age, but can provide a rough estimate based on the relative position of the object.

Using principles such as superposition, cross-cutting relationships, and fossil succession, geologists can figure out which rock layers are older or younger than others. For example, if sedimentary rock layers with fossils are found underneath layers without fossils, we know that the lower rocks are older than the ones above.

Relative dating is a great tool for understanding geological processes and working out relative sequences of events over long periods. Yet, it can’t give an absolute age.

It’s important to remember that relying solely on relative dating can be inaccurate since the geological record can have gaps caused by erosion or other factors. Thus, combining relative dating with absolute dating gives a fuller picture of Earth’s history and its inhabitants.

Why relative dating is not absolute dating

Relative and absolute dating are two techniques used in geology. Relative dating looks at the order and age of things compared with one another, but it doesn’t give a precise age. Whereas, absolute dating gives an exact age. It uses methods like radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, potassium-argon dating, uranium-lead dating and obsidian hydration dating.

Absolute dating is more accurate than relative dating. It relies on physical and chemical properties to know an object’s exact age. But, there can be errors. Issues like contamination and sample size can affect results. Despite this, absolute dating is important for understanding the Earth’s geological record.


The answer to the query “Which of the following is not an absolute dating method?” is: Relative dating.

Absolute dating methods, such as radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, and thermoluminescence dating, tell us the exact age of an object or incident.

But, relative dating is different. It works out a sequence of events or items based on their location in time or space. Stratigraphy and seriation are examples of relative dating. They give us valuable info about the age and environs of archaeological discoveries.

By studying the position of different artifacts or features, archaeologists can discover more about past societies’ cultural, economic, and social customs. Hence, even though relative dating is not an absolute dating method, it still reveals a lot about our knowledge of the past.

Five Facts About Which Of The Following Is Not An Absolute Dating Method?:

  • ✅ Absolute dating methods provide an actual date in history, while relative dating methods only provide a relative date. (Source: Study.com)
  • ✅ Absolute dating methods include carbon dating, dendrochronology, and potassium-argon dating. (Source: Boundless)
  • ✅ The three main categories of absolute dating methods are radiometric, luminescence, and varve dating. (Source: ThoughtCo)
  • ✄ Relative dating methods include stratigraphy and cross-dating, but are not considered absolute dating methods. (Source: Study.com)
  • ✅ The reliability of absolute dating depends on the accuracy of laboratory measurements and assumptions made about the past. (Source: Boundless)

FAQs about Which Of The Following Is Not An Absolute Dating Method??

Which of the following methods is not an absolute dating method?

The following are absolute dating methods: radiometric dating, dendrochronology, varve chronology, and amino acid dating. The answer to this question is the method that is not included in this list.

What makes absolute dating methods different from relative dating methods?

Absolute dating methods give an actual date or range of dates for an object or event, while relative dating methods only establish a sequence of events without giving an actual date.

Can multiple absolute dating methods be used on the same object or event?

Yes, multiple absolute dating methods can be used to verify or cross-check the results from each other and provide a higher degree of accuracy and confidence in the date or range of dates determined.

Are all absolute dating methods equally reliable?

No, the reliability of each absolute dating method varies depending on factors such as the type of material being dated, the age range being studied, and the analytical techniques used.

Why are absolute dating methods important in anthropology and archaeology?

Absolute dating methods provide a precise and reliable way to determine the age of objects, events, or geological layers, which is crucial for interpreting the past and reconstructing human history and culture. They also allow for a more accurate correlation of different sites and regions and a better understanding of the relationships between them.

Can absolute dating methods be used to date anything in the past?

No, absolute dating methods have limitations and are not applicable to all materials and time periods. For example, radiocarbon dating can only be used on organic materials up to about 50,000 years old, while potassium-argon dating is only useful for dating volcanic rocks and minerals that are millions of years old.

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