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There is a certain amount of carbon-14 in all organic matter, and over time it breaks down into carbon-12 or regular non-radioactive carbon. Unfortunately carbon dating is only accurate to 50,000 years with an error of ±500 years. One key problem with isotopic dating (carbon dating) is that it assumes that carbon-14 breaks down to carbon-12 at a constant rate.Whilst there is no evidence to show that it doesn't, there is nothing to say that other factors may speed up or slow down decay over extended periods.

This uses radioactive minerals that occur in rocks and fossils almost like a geological clock.

It’s often much easier to date volcanic rocks than the fossils themselves or the sedimentary rocks they are found in.

Carbon-14, the radioactive isotope of carbon used in carbon dating has a half-life of 5730 years, so it decays too fast.

It can only be used to date fossils younger than about 75,000 years.

Using relative dating the fossil is compared to something for which an age is already known.

For example if you have a fossil trilobite and it was found in the Wheeler Formation.

We define the rate of this radioactive decay in half-lives.

If a radioactive isotope is said to have a half-life of 5,000 years that means after 5,000 years exactly half of it will have decayed from the parent isotope into the daughter isotopes.

Scientists can use certain types of fossils referred to as index fossils to assist in relative dating via correlation.

Index fossils are fossils that are known to only occur within a very specific age range.

There are two main methods determining a fossils age, relative dating and absolute dating.

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