Advantages of relative dating techniques in archaeology

However, paleontology as a whole encompasses all life, from bacteria to whales.Paleontology does not usually deal with artifacts made by humans.

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First of all, a number of natural resources are in fact fossils, or derived from fossils.

Coal, oil, and peat are derived from fossil plant material; marble is metamorphosed limestone, which is often biogenically deposited; diatomaceous earth (used as an abrasive and in gardening) is made up of fossil microscopic siliceous skeletons of certain algae.

To study these resources — and to identify areas and rock layers that are likely to contain them — requires in-depth knowledge of sedimentary rocks and of the fossils contained in them.

A fossil is defined as any trace of a past life form.

Thus, although wood, bones, and shells are the most common fossils, under certain conditions soft tissues, tracks and trails, and even coprolites (fossil feces) may be preserved as fossils.

Although most of the fossils that paleontologists study are several thousands to several billions of years old, there is no absolute minimum age for a biological structure to be a fossil.Paleontologists study fossils and attempt to use them to reconstruct the history of the Earth and the life on it.Some paleontologists study the ecology of the past; others work on the evolution of fossil taxa.For additional information on the subdisciplines of paleontology, read our "What is paleontology? Archaeologists primarily work with human artifacts — objects that have been made by humans — and with human remains.Anthropologists work with humans — their cultures, societies, languages, and ways of life, in addition to their bones and artifacts.Some paleontologists do study the fossil record of humans and their relatives.