It was found that certain fossils, now referred to as index fossils, were restricted to a narrow zone of strata.
Studies done on the European continent soon demonstrated the universal validity of index fossils.
If green dice were found only in the middle Ordovician strata, they would make excellent "index fossils." Evolution should be seen as an explanation of the faunal succession, a succession which was worked out long before evolution dominated the scene.
Evolution, working in tandem with geologic ages, can explain why we have index fossils, but evolution is needed to make the index fossils useful for dating strata.
Any kind of object clearly restricted to a specific point in the geologic column would do just fine.
The principle of faunal succession in the geologic record was established by direct observation as early as 1799 by William Smith.
By the 1830's Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison established a correlation between the various types of fossils and the rock formations in the British Isles.
One creationist editor, who is more mellow than his unfortunate statement suggests, phrased the argument thus: Unfortunately the geologists date the rocks as the paleontologists tell them to. That passage might have come out of one of Henry Morris' books, except that Morris usually avoids crude slander. Hovind is not aware of the fact that by 1815 the broad outlines of the geologic column from Paleozoic times onward had been worked out by people who were mostly geologists.
Then the paleontologists use the geologists' dates as evidence for the age of the fossils! The relative order of the strata was first determined by the principles of stratification. Beagle, a very strong Bible believer, made it a point to have a copy of Lyell's book for the ship's library.