A laterally extensive calcrete profile has been identified in the Late Asbian (Lower Carboniferous) shallow marine shelf limestones of the Llangollen area, North Wales. The upper surface of the profile is defined by a laterally discontinuous palaeokarstic surface and by laminated calcareous crusts which developed within the underlying limestone.

The profile contains a unique series of early pore-filling vadose cements which only occur down to 1 m below the palaeokarstic surface. Cathodoluminescence reveals that these cements pre-date the late pore-filling meteoric phreatic cements which occur throughout local Asbian lithologies. A spar cement stratigraphy has been established for the calcrete profile. Subaerial vadose cements comprise two generations of non-luminescent cement, followed by a brightly luminescent generation which occasionally shows an acicular habit. This needle-fibre calcite represents the final stage of vadose cementation. Precipitation of vadose cements was contemporary with subaerial alteration and micritization of the limestone.

Textures, visible only with cathodoluminescence, provide evidence of recurrent periods of fabric dissolution. The most extensive phase of dissolution occurred immediately after the precipitation of the non-luminescent subaerial vadose cements. Several different textures have been recorded, each reflecting the morphology of a partially dissolved substrate. Dissolution textures are generally confined to the walls of the larger pores and to early brecciation fractures. These probably acted as fluid pathways in the calcrete during early subaerial diagenesis.

Much of the non-marine micrite in the calcrete profile appears as needle-fibre calcite under cathodoluminescence. This acicular calcite was probably formed in response to localized supersaturation of meteoric pore fluids caused by periods of near-surface evaporation. Since needle-fibre luminescence is strongly variable, these ambient conditions are not believed to have directly controlled the activator ion concentrations of cementing pore waters. Needle-fibre calcite is considered to be a cement precipitate which has almost completely recrystallized to micrite, probably during the late stages of subaerial diagenesis. Two generations of subaerial micrite which define a ‘micrite stratigraphy’, have been distinguished under cathodoluminescence.

Reconstructing the diagenetic history of this ancient calcrete profile has revealed that subaerial alteration was multistaged, with many diagenetic processes acting simultaneously during a single phase of emergence.