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Lecture 15

ANTH-UA 2 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Subfossil, Silt, Organic Matter

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Richard Bailey

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Geology and Dating
The Study of Fossils
Paleontology = study of extinct organisms based on their fossils
Biology meets geology
Paleoanthropology = study of human (primate) fossil record
Fossil = a remain or trace of a once-living organism
Body fossils - mineralized copy of bones, teeth, plants, etc
Trace fossils - footprints, trails, burrows, body impressions, coprolites
Subfossils - fossilization is not complete (subfossil lemurs)
Unaltered fossils - those preserved in amber or frozen
Taphonomy = study of the post-mortem history of an organism
How do you become a fossil?
○ Death
○ Scavengers/decomposition/trampling
Burial (sand, silt, mud, water; dust, volcanic ash)
○ Petrification/mineralization/fossilization
Organic material covered in sediment is
Nicolas Steno
Pliny the Elder’s moon stones
Danish geologist who explained fossilization in 1669 (“tongue stones” and shark teeth)
Importance of geological context - Steno’s Principles of Stratigraphy
Principles of Stenography
1. Cross cutting relationships - layer must exist before a feature can cut through it
2. Faunal succession - fossils are restricted to certain intervals of strata; non-repetitive in
higher or lower strata
Dating Techniques
Relative dating
Chronological dating
Relative Dating
Lithostratigraphy = correlation and relative age estimation of strata based on physical
characteristics of rock layers
Absolute Dating
Methods which put a chronological age on layers and fossils
Radiometric dating - one major type of absolute dating methods that rely on the
principle of radioactive decay
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