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By contrast, crustal destruction occurs at the margins of two colliding continents, as, for example, where the subcontinent of India is moving north over Asia.Great uplift, accompanied by rapid erosion, is taking place and large sediment fans are being deposited in the Indian Ocean to the south.Where this occurs at the edge of a continent, as along the west coast of North and South America, large mountain chains develop with abundant volcanoes and their subvolcanic equivalents.These units, called igneous rock, or magma in their molten form, constitute major crustal additions.With time, water-soluble “cement” will cause the sandy units to become sandstone.Rocks of this kind in the ancient record may very well have resulted from rapid uplift and continent collision.In the ideal case, the geologist will discover a single rock unit with a unique collection of easily observed attributes called a marker horizon that can be found at widely spaced localities.Any feature, including colour variations, textures, fossil content, mineralogy, or any unusual combinations of these can be used.



It should be emphasized that linking sites together is essential if the nature of an ancient society is to be understood, as the information at a single location may be relatively insignificant by itself.Using this established record, geologists have been able to piece together events over the past 635 million years, or about one-eighth of Earth history, during which time useful fossils have been abundant.The need to correlate over the rest of geologic time, to correlate nonfossiliferous units, and to calibrate the fossil time scale has led to the development of a specialized field that makes use of natural radioactive isotopes in order to calculate absolute isotopes has been improved to the point that for rocks 3 billion years old geologically meaningful errors of less than ±1 million years can be obtained.Just as the use of the fossil record has allowed a precise definition of geologic processes in approximately the past 600 million years, absolute ages allow correlations back to Earth’s oldest known rocks formed more than 4 billion years ago.

In fact, even in younger rocks, absolute dating is the only way that the fossil record can be calibrated.

Episodes of global volcanic activity, rifting of continents, folding, and metamorphism are defined by absolute ages.


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