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We'll even visit the Grand Canyon to solve the mystery of the Great Unconformity!
Imagine that you're a geologist, studying the amazing rock formations of the Grand Canyon.
Geologists find the cross-cutting principle especially useful for establishing the relative ages of faults and igneous intrusions in sedimentary rocks.
Sometimes, geologists find strange things inside the strata, like chunks of metamorphic or igneous rock.
It's called the Principle of Original Horizontality, and it just means what it sounds like: that all rock layers were originally horizontal. As you can imagine, regular sediments, like sand, silt, and clay, tend to accumulate over a wide area with a generally consistent thickness.
It sounds like common sense to you and me, but geologists have to define the Principle of Original Horizontality in order to make assumptions about the relative ages of sedimentary rocks. Say you have a layer of mud accumulating at the bottom of a lake. More sediment accumulates from the leaf litter and waste of the forest, until you have a second layer.
If it had happened before the layers had formed, then we wouldn't see it punching through all the layers; we would only see it going through the layers that had existed at the time that it happened. The Principle of Cross-Cutting Relationships states that rock formations that cut across other rocks must be younger than the rocks that they cut across.
The same idea applies to fault lines that slide rock layers apart from each other; a fault that cuts across a set of strata must have occurred after the formation of that set.
Because the sedimentary rock had to have formed around the object for it to be encased within the layers, geologists can establish relative dates between the inclusions and the surrounding rock.Relative dating cannot establish absolute age, but it can establish whether one rock is older or younger than another.