Though relative dating can only determine the sequential order in which a series of events occurred, not when they occurred, it remains a useful technique.
Relative dating by biostratigraphy is the preferred method in paleontology and is, in some respects, more accurate.
The regular order of occurrence of fossils in rock layers was discovered around 1800 by William Smith.
The Permian through Jurassic stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah is a great example of Original Horizontality and the Law of Superposition, two important ideas used in relative dating.
These strata make up much of the famous prominent rock formations in widely spaced protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.
There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.