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ARTICLE

Absolute dating

Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find. They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of ...

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ARTICLE

Relative dating

Relative dating is used to arrange geological events, and the rocks they leave behind, in a sequence. The method of reading the order is called stratigraphy (layers of rock are called strata) ...

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ARTICLE

The rock cycle

The Earth is an active planet. Earthquakes shake and volcanoes erupt. Sections of the crust are on the move. Mountains push up and wear down. These and many other processes contribute to the rock ...

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ARTICLE

Date a dinosaur

Dinosaurs used to live in New Zealand. We know this because their fossils have been found in a few places. The fossils of a number of different dinosaurs were found at the Mangahouanga Stream, in ...

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ARTICLE

Carbon-14 dating artefacts

Dr Fiona Petchey is using carbon-14 (C-14) to date artefacts of historical importance excavated from the Wairau Bar archaeological site in Blenheim. However, pre-1950 samples that are less than ...

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ARTICLE

Dating the past - introduction

“How old is it?” is one of the first questions you’ll probably ask when you see an interesting rock or fossil. It’s certainly one of the first things that a geologist wants to know. As you’ll ...

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ACTIVITY

Fossil correlation

In this activity, students date fossils from one site by matching them to fossils already dated somewhere else. They use real data from Mangahouanga, made famous by paleontologist Joan Wiffen. By ...

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ARTICLE

Age of the earth – timeline

This timeline provides a look at some of the historical aspects in finding out the age of the Earth. Find about more the developments in how geologists find out the ages of rocks and fossils ...

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ARTICLE

Extracting ancient DNA

Museums worldwide hold large collections of preserved specimens of living things. In well preserved specimens, the cell nucleus contains DNA that scientists can extract and use for ...

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ARTICLE

Antarctica and global climate change

A changing climate The Earth’s climate is always changing, but the changes are usually very slow – typically taking hundreds to thousands of years. Natural processes such as variations in the ...

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ARTICLE

Developing the New Zealand geological timescale

Many of us are familiar with some names for parts of Earth’s distant past. There’s the Jurassic, made famous in the movie Jurassic Park, and the Cretaceous, when dinosaurs roamed New Zealand, but ...

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ARTICLE

Discovering the secret past of Antarctica

The first human to ever visit the Ross Sea might have been Ui-te-Rangiora, who travelled there from Rarotonga in the 7th century. The first New Zealander to see Antarctica was a Māori sailor ...

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ARTICLE

Clues to the past

Go back in time 50 million years, and Earth looked incredibly different. Crocodiles lived near the North Pole, and the Antarctic coast looked more like our West Coast beech forest than the frozen ...

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ARTICLE

Heritage scientist timeline – Joan Wiffen

Tributes came in from around the world when Joan Wiffen died in 2009. She was the woman who found the first dinosaur fossils in New Zealand and rewrote the way we understand the country’s past ...

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