Jurassic coals, coaly shales, shales and claystones from the Eastern Pontides in NE Turkey have been investigated using microscopical, petrophysical and detailed organic geochemical methods in order to determine their catagenetic stage, to reveal the composition of the organic matter and to discuss the depositional environment. The Liassic-Dogger period in the Eastern Pontides was characterised by the presence of a rift system which resulted in rock units of very variable lithology and facies. Coal seams, ranging from a few centimetres to several decimetres and intercalated with shales, claystones and sandstones occur within the basal part (the Aggi Formation) as well as in the uppermost part (the Hamurkesen Formation) of the rift deposits. All coal seams investigated are at a catagenetic maturation stage corresponding to subbituminous B up to low volatile bituminous ranks. They represent a depositional environment of short-lived swamp areas with intense aerobic reworking of the higher plant detritus by heterotrophic bacteria, but with possible anaerobic microenvironments at deeper levels. At least some coal seams were influenced temporarily by marine ingressions. Most samples are impure humic coals with highly variable chemical compositions as indicated by the broad range of their hydrogen contents. This variation in hydrogen content is partly attributed to variable contributions of algal material. On the other side, considering several analytical results, the hydrogen variation is primarily due to bacterial reworking that affected the composition of the organic matter to variable extent and resulted especially in an enrichment of bacterial lipids. Bacterial reworking by an active microbial community within the upper layer of the peat swamp is inferred from elevated concentrations of iso-alkanes even exceeding those of the corresponding n-alkanes in several samples which, to the best of our knowledge, have not been observed with coals before. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.