Law of superposition

The law of superposition is an axiom that forms one of the bases of the sciences of geology, archaeology, and other fields pertaining to geological stratigraphy. In its plainest form, it states that in undeformed stratigraphic sequences, the oldest strata will lie at the bottom of the sequence, while newer material stacks upon the surface to form new deposits over time. This is paramount to stratigraphic dating, which requires a set of assumptions, including that the law of superposition holds true and that an object cannot be older than the materials of which it is composed. To illustrate the practical applications of superposition in scientific inquiry, sedimentary rock that has not been deformed by more than 90° will exhibit the oldest layers on the bottom, thus enabling paleontologists and paleobotanists to identify the relative ages of any fossils found within the strata, with the remains of the most archaic lifeforms confined to the lowest. These findings can inform the community on the fossil record covering the relevant strata, to determine which species coexisted temporally and which species existed successively in perhaps an evolutionarily or phylogenetically relevant way.

Layer upon layer of rocks on north shore of Isfjord, Svalbard, Norway. Since there is no overturning, the rock at the bottom is older than the rock on the top by the Law of Superposition.