A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.Ice cores showed the age of a military plane buried in the artic as thousands of years old.Similarly, dendrochronology measures the tree rings in trees and assumes they represent years.
One known example where this assumption was used is very misleading.
Relative dating methods are used to determine only if one sample is older or younger than another.
Absolute dating methods are used to determine an actual date in years for the age of an object.
Seriation uses the assumption that once a tool was developed, its use would become more widespread.
Stratigraphy uses the assumption that higher layers or strata were laid down after lower layers.