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The general upward succession of Carboniferous rocks in the eastern United States, consisting of (1) marine limestones overlain by red and green shales, (2) orthoquartzites with some shale and coal, and (3) dark gray shale, graywacke sandstone, and numerous coals, has been well established since the late 19th century. Recent studies, which attempt to interpret the depositional environment of these rocks, suggest that the marine limestones represent offshore carbonate tidal islands and barriers, and the associated red and green shales represent oxidized clay-floored lagoons. Orthoquartzites and associated dark gray shales are apparently quartzose barrier and back-barrier deposits, and the coal-bearing graywacke sandstones and dark shales indicate deposition on a fluviodeltaic plain.

Analysis of the Appalachian Carboniferous from this point of view yields solutions to some stratigraphic problems and provides a basis for some precise prediction of lateral variation of rock units.

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