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This problem is now reduced by the careful collection of samples, rigorous crosschecking and the use of newer techniques that can date minute samples.

Accurate dates also allow us to create sequences of evolutionary change and work out when species appeared or became extinct. These are: Where possible, several different methods are used and each method is repeated to confirm the results obtained and improve accuracy.

The heat from a volcanic eruption releases all the argon from the molten rock and disperses it into the atmosphere.

Argon then starts to re-accumulate at a constant rate in the newly formed rock that is created after the eruption.

Different methods have their own limitations, especially with regard to the age range they can measure and the substances they can date.

A common problem with any dating method is that a sample may be contaminated with older or younger material and give a false age.

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