Porewaters from a variety of Recent, Pleistocene, and Eocene lithified marine carbonate frameworks displayed similar chemical characteristics: highly depleted concentrations of dissolved oxygen (>20 μM), elevated levels of dissolved methane (25-5000 nM), and near-seawater sulphate levels. These porewaters also had low pH values (7·5-7·9), and contained elevated concentrations of sulphide (4–10 μM), dissolved inorganic carbon (2·05–2·46 mM), and inorganic nutrients. Hydrocarbon composition data indicate that the methane is biogenic, whereas the methane δ13C values (–47·4 ± 2·7%0) suggest that it has been subject to oxidation. The porewater dissolved inorganic carbon δ13C values varied from –0·6 to –39%0, suggesting input of carbon dioxide from organic matter oxidation. We conclude that anaerobic diagenesis involving bacterial degradation of organic matter is a common process in lithified marine carbonates and hypothesize that it may be an important factor controlling their carbonate geochemistry.