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Relative time places events or formations in order based on their position within the rock record relative to one another using six principles of relative dating.

Making this processes even more difficult is the fact that due to plate tectonics some rock layers have been uplifted into mountains and eroded while others have subsided to form basins and be buried by younger sediments.

The style of the artefact and its archaeology location stratigraphically are required to arrive at a relative date.

For example, if an artefact, say an oil lamp, is found co-located on the same floor of a governor's dwelling, and that floor can be dated in archaeology terms by reason of the patterns employed in the mosaic, then it is assumed that in relation to the floor that the lamp is of the same age.

Some fossils, called index fossils, are particularly useful in correlating rocks.

For a fossil to be a good index fossil, it needs to have lived during one specific time period, be easy to identify and have been abundant and found in many places. If you find ammonites in a rock in the South Island and also in a rock in the North Island, you can say that both rocks are Mesozoic.

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