Fatty acids isolated in sedimentary black barite (BaSO4) from Arkansas and Nevada were identified by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy. The dominant or major fatty acids found in these beds of barite are C16:0, C18:0, and C18:1. The occurrence and distribution of these acids in this type of rock may serve as "molecular fingerprints" of microbial biogeochemical processes. The organic matter and associated microorganisms are shown to be trapped within the finely crystalline barite, thus forming a closed system for microbial diagenesis. Important differences that occur in the distribution of the lesser or minor fatty acids probably result from: (1) the nature of the progenitor organic detritus in the environment of barite deposition: and (2) the subsequent degree of microbiological alteration of the parent organic debris swept into and trapped in the depositional environment. Three general models of sedimentary environments are proposed in which anoxic conditions may prevail and where barium sulfate (BaSO4) may precipitate: (1) in a silled basin with semi-restricted circulation; (2) on an outer continental shelf where the slope is encroached upon by water of the oxygen minimum layer; (3) on a low-energy, inner shelf or semi-restricted embayment impinged by a wedge of anoxic water. The major geochemical and geological parameters which are believed to be the significant factors controlling the formation and high grade of these organic-rich, black bedded barites are: (1) a unique source of barium-rich fluid that only contains trace amounts of other elements; (2) the presence of an anoxic bottom environment within the depositional basin; (3) a reflux source of sulfate ion; (4) an adequate source of organic matter. The results of this study may serve as guidelines for future exploration in similar, untested sedimentary basins, especially those with rocks of middle Paleozoic age. ?? 1977.