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Once the relative ages of a number of fossils have been determined, the fossils can be used to determine the relative age of the beds containing them.For example, if a bed contains Fossil F (from the succession specified above), geologists can say the bed is older than a bed containing Fossil A, even if the two beds do not crop out in the same area.Building from the work of Steno, Hutton, and others, the British geologist Charles Lyell (1797–1875) laid out a set of formal, usable geologic principles.These principles continue to provide the basic framework within which geologists read the record of Earth history and determine relative ages.They then go further by interpreting the formation of each feature to be the consequence of a specific geologic event.Examples of geologic events include: Deposition of sedimentary beds; erosion of the land surface; intrusion or extrusion of igneous rocks; deformation (folding and/or faulting); and episodes of metamorphism.

These techniques were first articulated by Nicolas Steno, a Dane living in the Medici court of Italy in the 17th C.Law of Superposition: The principle of superposition states that in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, each layer must be younger than the one below, for a layer of sediment cannot accumulate unless there is already a substrate on which it can collect.Thus, the layer at the bottom of a sequence is the oldest, and the layer at the top is the youngest.The succession of events in order of relative age that have produced the rock, structure, and landscape of a region is called the geologic history of the region.We can use these principles to determine relative ages of the features.

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