Many ancient carbonate rocks contain calcite cements that precipitated from shallow, fresh groundwater that entered strata during events of subaerial exposure. Such low-temperature cementation may be difficult to interpret from fluid inclusion studies because some of the inclusions may reequilibrate during later thermal events. Miocene rocks of southeast Spain provide an example of the utility of fluid inclusion studies in rocks that have not been subjected to significant heating. In the Mesa Roldan area, one type of calcite cement occurs exclusively below a regional stratigraphic surface of enigmatic origin. The cement has petrographic characteristics indicative of cementation in the vadose zone (generally thought to be a zone of oxidation) but has cathodoluminescent bands containing reduced manganese and iron. Primary fluid inclusions contain mostly fresh water, have variable ratios of vapor to liquid, and are at one atmosphere of pressure. Our observations indicate that calcite precipitated from a freshwater vadose zone, which was subjected to local or repetitive saturation, and minor brackish water. The fluid inclusion data indicate that low-temperature fluid inclusions can be preserved in ancient sequences despite a later history of different pore fluids. This indication of subaerial diagenesis of distal slope deposits suggests a relative sea-level drop of at least 50-55 m during the Late Miocene. Similar petrographic and fluid inclusion observations can be used to interpret sea-level changes in other areas. ?? 1990.