Different methods have their own limitations, especially with regard to the age range they can measure and the substances they can date.
A common problem with any dating method is that a sample may be contaminated with older or younger material and give a false age.
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.
Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.
Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.
Absolute dating is the process of determining an age on a specified chronology in archaeology and geology.
Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty of accuracy.
In archaeology, absolute dating is usually based on the physical, chemical, and life properties of the materials of artifacts, buildings, or other items that have been modified by humans and by historical associations with materials with known dates (coins and written history).
Knowing when a dinosaur or other animal lived is important because it helps us place them on the evolutionary family tree.
Accurate dates also allow us to create sequences of evolutionary change and work out when species appeared or became extinct. These are: Where possible, several different methods are used and each method is repeated to confirm the results obtained and improve accuracy.
The majority of the time fossils are dated using relative dating techniques.
Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known.