Biological marker and carbon isotopic compositions of coals and carbonaceous shales from the Upper Carboniferous strata of the Upper Silesian (USCB), Lower Silesian (LSCB), and Lublin (LCB) coal basins were determined to assess depositional conditions and sources of the organic matter. n-Alkane, sterane, and isoprenoid distribution, and carbon isotope ratios are consistent with an origin from higher plants. In some cases, pristane/phytane (Pr/Ph) ratios of carbonaceous shales (roof and floor shales) are < 1.0, while the associated coals have high ratios (??? 1.0). This suggests that reducing conditions prevailed during deposition of the shales, but a period of oxidizing conditions accompanied deposition of the coals. Steranes present in coal extracts are dominated by the 14??(H)17??(H)20R C29 stereoisomers, typical, but not conclusive, of higher plant origin. Carbonaceous shales exhibit a wider range of sterane composition, suggesting local, significant input of algal organic matter. Significant amounts of benzohopanes and gammacerane are present in some coals. Although benzohopanes are present at least in small amounts in samples from many different environments, they have been reported to occur most commonly in marine environments. The present study seems to provide the first example where benzohopanes have been reported in significant amounts in terrestrial organic matter. Gammacerane is abundant in rocks or sediments deposited in carbonate or highly saline marine environments. The finding of high gammacerane concentrations in the coals expands the depositional settings in which it has been observed and questions its utility as an independent indicator of hypersaline carbonate environments. Stable carbon isotope composition of coals, and type III kerogen in carbonaceous shales as well as correlation of stable carbon isotope composition of saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons in carbonaceous shales from both the USCB and the LSCB indicate terrigenous origin. Bitumens are always co-genetic with associated coals and kerogens. Isotopic data reveal that Sofer's genetic classification of oils is not applicable to organic matter in coals. ?? 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.