Newly discovered palaeosols in the Gaskiers Formation of Newfoundland provide a new perspective on its palaeoenvironment, and are evidence that it was not a deep submarine tillite, nor an anoxic deep-sea floor, nor a ‘cap carbonate’ from extreme geochemical perturbation of the global ocean. Discovery of oxidized palaeosols and re-evaluation of sedimentary facies and stratigraphic relationships now suggest reinterpretation as a coastal plain with glacial moraines in the forearc basin of a continental volcanic arc, like modern Japan. Ediacaran palaeosols of the Gaskiers Formation lack large root traces, but show soil profile differentiation (clay enrichment and depletion of alkali and alkaline earth elements at the expense of feldspar and rock fragments) and diagnostic soil structures (blocky peds, argillans, sepic plasmic fabric). These palaeosols are evidence of a humid temperate climate and marked marine regression accompanying the Gaskiers Glaciation of the early Ediacaran (580 Ma). Geochemical weathering trends in the palaeosols, especially phosphorus depletion, are characteristic of biologically active soils. Ediacaran microbial earth ecoystems may have been responsible for filamentous disruption of bedding in the palaeosols.