Keyed to the relative time scale are examples of index fossils, the forms of life which existed during limited periods of geologic time and thus are used as guides to the age of the rocks in which they are preserved.
[ While this may be true, a shrub in Tasmania could be 40,000 years old.
See Oldest Living Organism.] The Sheffield Laboratory now has a continuous master sequence for England going back to about 5000BC. This article should be a "must read" for any person interested in factualy accurate information on dating methods.
Cross-dating is a technique used to take advantage of consistencies in stratigraphy between parts of a site or different sites, and objects or strata with a known relative chronology.
A specialized form of cross-dating, using animal and plant fossils, is known as biostratigraphy.
A short but clear explanation about radioactive isotopes commonly used for determining ages of rocks (with graphics) and putting numbers on the geologic time scale, extending it back before the occurance of abundant index fossils.
This is a relatively new method intended to to improve the precision of uranium and thorium istopy methods.
Trees from the same species, growing in the same area or environment will be exposed to the same conditions, and hence their growth rings will match at the point where their lifecycles overlap.
Earth's oldest living inhabitant "Methuselah" at 4,767 years, has lived more than a millennium longer than any other tree.
The most compelling argument for an age of the earth of 4.5 billion years are the large number of independent tests that have been used to confirm this date.