In this technique, dried soils are measured for "easily oxidized carbon" using a wet dichromate oxidation (Walkley and Black 1935) and "total carbon" using a loss-on-ignition method (Ball 1964). The OCR Carbon-Dating procedure differs epistemologically from radiometric carbon-dating procedures.
The ratio of the amount of carbon in these two measurements is the OCR. Radiometric carbon-dating procedures measure the decay of unstable carbon isotopes, following a classical physics model of entropy.
How can potential users of OCR decide whether the method is sufficiently accurate and precise for their needs? Such a world can be legitimately viewed through the reductionist approach, describing the behavior of individual particles, and through a holistic approach, describing the collective behavior of the interdependent parts composing a system.
The only evidence provided for the accuracy of the method in Frink's published papers (Frink 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997) or on the OCR Web site is a single graphical plot of "calculated OCR date" against "calibrated 14 radiometric or documented age for cultural features". Becker-Heidemann 1996 Radiocarbon Dating of Soils: Contribution by Bonn and Hamburg. However, one approach cannot be used as the criterion for judging the validity of the other.
The value 14.8888 is a constant, presumably derived from regression of OCR against historic and radiocarbon dates (Frink 1994). Dynamic systems resist entropy by organizing and maintaining themselves at a distance far from equilibrium.
Frink (1994) further asserts that the errors in OCRdate are small, 3 percent of the age, but without explanation. The OCR procedure describes an evolving pedogenic system.
The remainder of this article elaborates on the second and third of these concerns. Relief has not been found to be a major variable, as the samples are from flat-to-gently sloped terrain (Frink 1995).
Frink (1992, 1994, 1995) has reported a novel method of dating archaeological strata by studying the "oxidizable carbon ratio" (OCR) of soils. The OCR formula, presented as a hypothesis to explain the variability in results found between the Ball and Walkley-Black procedures, continues to be tested using archaeological and pedological samples from throughout the world.
We assume that Frink (1994) derived this equation from a purely statistical parametrization of a number of different possible variables. In spite of the fact that interactions among molecules do not exceed a range of some 10 cm, the system is structured as though each molecule were 'informed' about the overall state of the system." In this informed condition, inherent errors of the parts are either accentuated through positive feedback or mollified through negative feedback. Stengers 1984 Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature. In addition, even if the 7 independently measured variables were totally without error, Frink would have to propagate the real error from the calibrated 14 measurements. The article concludes that the combined use of both procedures to obtain corroborative data from independent analytic processes may be scientifically prudent.We simply cannot see any way that these 7 independent variables plus the radiocarbon ages can give a total error in age of 3 percent. Complex dynamic systems are synergistic in behavior and physiology. Prigogine and Stengers (1984: 171) note that "One of the most interesting aspects of dissipative structures is their coherence.More recently, Pertulla (1997) published a list of some of Frink's OCRdate information with errors in age quoted of less than 10 years, also without explanation of the error estimates. This difference in epistemology should not be misconstrued as describing two separate and contradictory sciences, nor as a false dichotomy.Frink (1994) further asserts that "The OCR procedure may be used as an independent test of both the radiocarbon date and the archaeological assumption, verifying one or the other, or casting doubt on both." The claim that these relatively simple measurements and other parameters have small errors is not credible, and therefore warrants further discussion. They are alternative ways of viewing different aspects of a common world.