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Similarly, in geologic studies, vast quantities of information from widely spaced outcrops have to be integrated.

Some method of correlating rock units must be found.

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.

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A coin, vessel, or other common artifact could link two archaeological sites, but the possibility of recycling would have to be considered.

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.

Continents move, carried on huge slabs, or plates, of dense rock about 100 km (62 miles) thick over a low-friction, partially melted zone (the asthenosphere) below.

In the oceans, new seafloor, created at the globe-circling oceanic ridges, moves away, cools, and sinks back into the mantle in what are known as subduction zones (i.e., long, narrow belts at which one plate descends beneath another).

When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.