Lead isotope dating
These long time periods are computed by measuring the ratio of daughter to parent substance in a rock and inferring an age based on this ratio.This age is computed under the assumption that the parent substance (say, uranium) gradually decays to the daughter substance (say, lead), so the higher the ratio of lead to uranium, the older the rock must be.
This belief in long ages for the earth and the existence of life is derived largely from radiometric dating.
So, we have a “clock” which starts ticking the moment something dies.
Obviously, this works only for things which were once living.
Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.
One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.