Published data relevant to the geochemistry of vanadium were used to evaluate processes and conditions that control vanadium accumulation in carbonaceous rocks. Reduction, adsorption, and complexation of dissolved vanadium favor addition of vanadium to sediments rich in organic carbon. Dissolved vanadate (V(V)) species predominate in oxic seawater and are reduced to vanadyl ion (V(IV)) by organic compounds or H2S. Vanadyl ion readily adsorbs to particle surfaces and is added to the sediment as the particles settle. The large vanadium concentrations of rocks deposited in marine as compared to lacustrine environments are the result of the relatively large amount of vanadium provided by circulating ocean water compared to terrestrial runoff. Vanadium-rich carbonaceous rocks typically have high contents of organically bound sulfur and are stratigraphically associated with phosphate-rich units. A correspondence between vanadium content and organically bound sulfur is consistent with high activities of H2S during sediment deposition. Excess H2S exited the sediment into bottom waters and favored reduction of dissolved V(V) to V(IV) or possibly V(III). The stratigraphic association of vanadiferous and phosphatic rocks reflects temporal and spatial shifts in bottom water chemistry from suboxic (phosphate concentrated) to more reducing (euxinic?) conditions that favor vanadium accumulation. During diagenesis some vanadium-organic complexes migrate with petroleum out of carbonaceous rocks, but significant amounts of vanadium are retained in refractory organic matter or clay minerals. As carbon in the rock evolves toward graphite during metamorphism, vanadium is incorporated into silicate minerals. ?? 1991.