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).This orientation is not an assumption, because in virtually all situations, it is also possible to determine the original "way up" in the stratigraphic succession from "way up indicators".

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.

This document is partly based on a prior posting composed in reply to Ted Holden.

My thanks to both him and other critics for motivating me.

However, note that because of the "principle of cross-cutting relationships", careful examination of the contact between the cave infill and the surrounding rock will reveal the true relative age relationships, as will the "principle of inclusion" if fragments of the surrounding rock are found within the infill.

Cave deposits also often have distinctive structures of their own (e.g., spelothems like stalactites and stalagmites), so it is not likely that someone could mistake them for a successional sequence of rock units. Each of them is a testable hypothesis about the relationships between rock units and their characteristics.

They are the "initial working hypotheses" to be tested further by data.

Using these principles, it is possible to construct an interpretation of the sequence of events for any geological situation, even on other planets (e.g., a crater impact can cut into an older, pre-existing surface, or craters may overlap, revealing their relative ages).

The simplest situation for a geologist is a "layer cake" succession of sedimentary or extrusive igneous rock units arranged in nearly horizontal layers.

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.

It can't float in mid-air, particularly if the material involved is sand, mud, or molten rock.