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In addition to being tilted horizontally, the layers have been faulted (dashed lines on figure).Applying the principle of cross-cutting relationships, this fault that offsets the layers of rock must have occurred after the strata were deposited.These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.Third, magnetism in rocks can be used to estimate the age of a fossil site.This method uses the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field, which has changed through time, to determine ages for fossils and rocks.The layers of rock at the base of the canyon were deposited first, and are thus older than the layers of rock exposed at the top (principle of superposition).

Relative dating puts geologic events in chronological order without requiring that a specific numerical age be assigned to each event.Most sediment is either laid down horizontally in bodies of water like the oceans, or on land on the margins of streams and rivers.Each time a new layer of sediment is deposited it is laid down horizontally on top of an older layer.The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period.Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.

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