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Abstract

Sedimentary structures have been observed and described by geologists for many decades. Because there are many varieties of primary sedimentary structures and an abundant literature of diverse authorship, terminology and classification are confusing. We hope to be clear in our descriptions within the following text, but we do not propose to provide a thorough review of classification or a complete classification scheme of our own. For those interested in classification, the following references offer a fairly complete spectrum of views: Blatt, Middleton and Murray (1972, p. 111 to 118), Pettijohn, Potter and Siever (1973, p. 102 to 127), McKee and Weir (1953), Allen (1963), Campbell (1967), and Conybeare and Crook (1968).

We shall adopt the following general approach to description for the purposes of this course:

  1. Description should aim at defining the original bed configuration because this emphasis provides the most logical link to interpretation of flow conditions. Some primary sedimentary structures represent the original complete bed form, as do ripples or flute casts. However, most structures are incomplete remnants of an original form, for example, sets of cross strata bounded by erosional surfaces. Then careful observation must be used to infer the complete form.

  2. Descriptive terms are a shorthand to convey an image either to yourself or another geologist. In most cases, the terminology best suited to this purpose is descriptive and emphasizes principal shape characteristics with simple adjectives. But many descriptions begin to include

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