Thorium is not soluble in natural waters under conditions found at or near the surface of the earth, so materials grown in or from these waters do not usually contain thorium.
In contrast, uranium is soluble to some extent in all natural waters, so any material that precipitates or is grown from such waters also contains trace uranium, typically at levels of between a few parts per billion and few parts per million by weight.
However, by itself a fossil has little meaning unless it is placed within some context.
The age of the fossil must be determined so it can be compared to other fossil species from the same time period.
Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.
For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.
Once they are able to manipulate the cards into the correct sequence, they are asked to do a similar sequencing activity using fossil pictures printed on "rock layer" cards.
Uranium-thorium dating has an upper age limit of somewhat over 500,000 years, defined by the half-life of thorium-230, the precision with which we can measure the thorium-230/uranium-234 ratio in a sample, and the accuracy to which we know the half-lives of thorium-230 and uranium-234.
At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues.
When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.
A fossil can be studied to determine what kind of organism it represents, how the organism lived, and how it was preserved.