Coalified logs ranging in age from Late Pennsylvania to Miocene and in rank from lignite B to bituminous coal were analyzed by 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) utilizing the cross-polarization, magic-angle spinning technique, as well as by infrared spectroscopy. The results of this study indicate that at least three major stages of coalification can be observed as wood gradually undergoes transformation to bituminous coal. The first stage involves hydrolysis and loss of cellulose from wood with retention and differential concentration of the resistant lignin. The second stage involves conversion of the lignin residues directly to coalified wood of lignitic rank, during which the oxygen content of intermediate diagenetic products remains constant as the hydrogen content and the carbon content increases. These changes are thought to involve loss of methoxyl groups, water, and C3 side chains from the lignin. In the third major stage of coalification, the coalified wood increases in rank to subbituminous and bituminous coal; during this stage the oxygen content decreases, hydrogen remains constant, and the carbon content increases. These changes are thought to result from loss of soluble humic acids that are rich in oxygen and that are mobilized during compaction and dewatering. Relatively resistant resinous substances are differentially concentrated in the coal during this stage. The hypothesis that humic acids are formed as mobile by-products of the coalification of lignin and function only as vehicles for removal of oxygen represents a dramatic departure from commonly accepted views that they are relatively low-molecular-weight intermediates formed during the degradation of lignin that then condense to form high-molecular-weight coal structures. ?? 1982.