Peaty, tidal-marsh soils interbedded with estuarine mud in late Holocene stratigraphic sequences near Coos Bay, Oregon, may have been submerged and buried during great (M > 8) subduction earthquakes, smaller localized earthquakes, or by nontectonic processes. Radiocarbon dating might help distinguish among these alternatives by showing that soils at different sites were submerged at different times along this part of the Cascadia subduction zone. But comparison of conventional 14C ages for different materials from the same buried soils shows that they contain materials that differ in age by many hundreds of years. Errors in calibrated soil ages represent about the same length of time as recurrence times for submergence events (150-500 yr)-this similarity precludes using conventional 14C ages to distinguish buried soils along the southern Oregon coast. Accelerator mass spectrometer 14C ages of carefully selected macrofossils from the tops of peaty soils should provide more precise estimates of the times of submergence events. ?? 1992.