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He also formulated the law of superposition, which states that any given stratum is probably older than those above it and younger than those below it.While Steno's principles were simple, applying them proved challenging.Steno's ideas also lead to other important concepts geologists use today, such as relative dating.Over the course of the 18th century geologists realized that: The Neptunist theories popular at this time (expounded by Abraham Werner (1749–1817) in the late 18th century) proposed that all rocks had precipitated out of a single enormous flood.The existence, timing, and terrestrial effects of the Late Heavy Bombardment are still a matter of debate.In Ancient Greece, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) observed that fossils of seashells in rocks resembled those found on beaches – he inferred that the fossils in rocks were formed by organisms, and he reasoned that the positions of land and sea had changed over long periods of time.In the late 17th century Nicholas Steno (1638–1686) pronounced the principles underlying geologic (geological) time scales.Steno argued that rock layers (or strata) were laid down in succession, and that each represents a "slice" of time.

Eons are divided into eras, which are in turn divided into periods, epochs and ages.The following four timelines show the geologic time scale.The first shows the entire time from the formation of the Earth to the present, but this gives little space for the most recent eon.Corresponding to eons, eras, periods, epochs and ages, the terms "eonothem", "erathem", "system", "series", "stage" are used to refer to the layers of rock that belong to these stretches of geologic time in Earth's history.Geologists qualify these units as "early", "mid", and "late" when referring to time, and "lower", "middle", and "upper" when referring to the corresponding rocks.

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