Cyclic terpenoids present in the solvent extractable material of fossil woods, ambers and brown coals have been analyzed. The sample series chosen consisted of wood remains preserved in Holocene to Jurassic sediments and a set of of ambers from the Philippines (copalite), Israel, Canada and Dominican Republic. The brown coals selected were from the Fortuna Garsdorf Mine and Miocene formations on Fiji. The fossil wood extracts contained dominant diterpenoid or sesquiterpenoid skeletons, and aromatized species were present at high concentrations, with a major amount of two-ring aromatic compounds. Tricyclic diterpenoids were the predominant compounds in the ambers. Aromatized derivatives were the major components, consisting of one or two aromatic ring species with the abietane and occasionally pimarane skeletons. The saturated structures were comprised primarily of the abietane and pimarane skeletons having from three to five carbon (C1, C2, etc.) substituents. Kaurane and phyllocladane isomers were present in only minor amounts. Bicyclic sesquiterpenoids as saturated and partial or fully aromatized forms were also common in these samples, but only traces of sesterterpenoids and triterpenoid derivatives were found. The brown coal extracts were composed of major amounts of one- and two-ring aromatized terpenoids, with a greater proportion of triterpenoid derivatives than in the case of the woods and ambers. This was especially noticeable for the German coal, where the triterpenoids were predominant. Open C-ring aromatized structures were also present in this coal. Steroid compounds were not detectable, but some hopanes were found as minor components in the German brown coal. An overview of the skeletal structure classes identified in each sample, as well as the general mass spectrometric characteristics of the unknown compounds are included in the present paper. It can be concluded from these structural distributions that aromatization is the main process for the transformation of terrestrial cyclic terpenoids during diagenesis, constituting a general pathway for all terpenoids. ?? 1986 Pergamon Journals Ltd.