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Many other indicators are commonly present, including ones that can even tell you the angle of the depositional surface at the time ("geopetal structures"), "assuming" that gravity was "down" at the time, which isn't much of an assumption :-).
In more complicated situations, like in a mountain belt, there are often faults, folds, and other structural complications that have deformed and "chopped up" the original stratigraphy.
his document discusses the way radiometric dating and stratigraphic principles are used to establish the conventional geological time scale.
It is not about the theory behind radiometric dating methods, it is about their , and it therefore assumes the reader has some familiarity with the technique already (refer to "Other Sources" for more information).
They are applied by geologists in the same sense that a "null hypothesis" is in statistics -- not necessarily correct, just testable.
In the last 200 or more years of their application, they are valid, but geologists do not assume they are.
There are situations where it potentially fails -- for example, in cave deposits.
In this situation, the cave contents are younger than both the bedrock below the cave and the suspended roof above.
In such a situation, the "principle of superposition" is easily applied, and the strata towards the bottom are older, those towards the top are younger.Despite this, the "principle of cross cutting relationships" can be used to determine the sequence of deposition, folds, and faults based on their intersections -- if folds and faults deform or cut across the sedimentary layers and surfaces, then they obviously came after deposition of the sediments.You can't deform a structure (e.g., bedding) that is not there yet!The layers of rock are known as "strata", and the study of their succession is known as "stratigraphy".Fundamental to stratigraphy are a set of simple principles, based on elementary geometry, empirical observation of the way these rocks are deposited today, and gravity.
As an example of how they are used, radiometric dates from geologically simple, fossiliferous Cretaceous rocks in western North America are compared to the geological time scale.