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This method is thought to represent the time when lead isotopes were last homogeneously distributed throughout the Solar System and, thus, the time that the planetary bodies were segregated into discrete chemical systems.

The results from these methods indicate that the Earth, meteorites, the Moon, and, by inference, the entire Solar System are 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old.

Using fossils to correlate from area to area, geologists have been able to work out a relative worldwide order of rock formations and to divide the rock record and geologic time into the eras, periods, and epochs shown in Figure 1.

The best evidence is contained in the Earth’s incomplete and complex but accurate stratigraphic record — a record that has been the subject of nearly two centuries of study.

Slowly and painstakingly, geologists have assembled this record into the generalized geologic time scale shown in Figure 1.

The abundance and variety of fossils in Phanerozoic rocks have allowed geologists to decipher in considerable detail the past 600 million years or so of the Earth’s history.

In Precambrian rocks, however, fossils are rare; thus, the geologic record of this important part of the Earth’s history has been especially difficult to decipher.

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Most commonly, the event causes partial or total loss of the radiogenic daughter isotope, resulting in a reduced age.