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Until the discovery of the Groningen gas field in 1959, few non-Dutch or non-German geologists had ever heard of the Rotliegend or, to give it its original German spelling, “Rotliegendes” (red layers below). Indeed, little factual data were known of the deeper subsurface in surrounding countries apart from outcrops in Germany that had been studied from a mainly stratigraphical and palaeontological point of view (e.g. Lützner, 1961; and papers in Falke, 1976). The regional implications of the Groningen data had to await another decade or so following more widespread exploration drilling.

During the first half of the Twentieth Century, surface exposures of Permian and Triassic red beds across the North Sea in central England tended to be lumped together under the term “New Red Sandstone” to differentiate them from the generally better known Devonian “Old Red Sandstone”. Some of the New Red Sandstone in central and northern Britain had fairly recently been interpreted as having a desert origin (Shotton, 1937, 1956).

It was also known in both Germany and northeastern England that Permian sandstones were overlain by shallow- marine limestones and evaporites (the latter suggestive of aridity) of the Late Permian Zechstein; few if anyone in the west, however, knew that the drilling of similar rocks in Poland during World War II led to small discoveries of oil.

Permian reptilian fossils, footprints, and tail drags had long been known from southwestern Scotland and the Moray Firth coast, while it has recently been

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