A field and petrographic study has been made of 34 massive beds in argillaceous limestones of open marine platform facies in the U.K. Lithologies include grainstones, packstones, wackestones and lime mudstones. The rocks are of Silurian, Carboniferous and Jurassic ages. Additional information was obtained from other limestones in the U.K., the U.S.A., Canada and continental Europe. The beds are parts of sequences composed of couplets of strata, fissile limestones alternating with hard limestones. In the fissile limestones the effects of mechanical compaction and pressure-dissolution have been concentrated, whereas in the hard limestones they are minimal or absent. Bedding planes visible in outcrop are diagenetic in origin and lie in the middle parts of the fissile limestones where compaction has been most severe. The features produced by pressure-dissolution are dissolution seams and fitted fabric: there are no stylolites. The original carbonate sediments were bioturbated and any structures produced by flowing water were destroyed. The vertical distribution of the bedding planes bears no relation to primary depositional bedding planes which are rare or absent.
It is inferred that the strata which were to become the hard limestones were selectively cemented before mechanical compaction had been completed. Thenceforth, mechanical compaction and then pressure-dissolution were concentrated in the less cemented strata: these became the fissile limestones. Pressure-dissolution acted late in the diagenetic history and provided only an insignificant part, if any, of the carbonate for cementation.
It is concluded that the orientation of beds (couplets) is parallel to successive sea floors and that the sediments that eventually became single beds accumulated synchronously. Similar couplets in platform limestones of the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian of the U.S.A. extend over thousands of square kilometres.
The signal that controlled the initial selective cementation must have been widespread and synchronous and also syndepositional in its timing but otherwise cannot be further defined on the basis of the data so far collected. The presumed order of events was (1) accumulation of carbonate sediment, terrigenous clay and organic matter, (2) hydrodynamic reworking and bioturbation. the latter finally overprinting the former, (3) selective cementation of the more carbonate-rich strata yielding couplets, each consisting of a relatively well-cemented stratum and a poorly cemented stratum, (4) mechanical compaction concentrated in the less cemented strata, (5) pressure-dissolution concentrated in the same strata.