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1 Introduction

1.1 Background and purpose

The volume of geological knowledge has increased greatly in recent years. This applies to our knowledge of geological processes and their results as well as to our understanding of the geological evolution of continents and oceans. In the case of Norway, investigations of the continental shelf have produced a particularly large volume of data.

An important prerequisite for exchanging, presenting and putting to practical use the ever-growing mass of information is that the language employed by specialists is used as unambiguously as possible. Much of the geological knowledge disseminated and exchanged through geological maps, scientific publications, and technical and economic reports is connected with definitions and descriptions of named geological units. Such geological units may be rocks and sediments, nappes, landforms, geological time units, etc. To avoid misunderstanding and confusion arising regarding the meaning of such nomenclature, the geological units must be classified and given names and a content in accordance with guidelines about which there is general agreement.

The tradition has developed of using geographical names for geological units. This has led to an almost explosive increase in the numbers of geographical names in use for geological units on Norwegian territory in publications in recent years. However, there is an unfortunate tendency for geographical names to be used also when definitions and descriptions are inadequate, particularly as regards such important properties as boundary relationships and geographical distribution. To avoid misunderstanding, it is important that the publication of such names takes place first after the units have been adequately studied, enabling them to be defined in accordance with international and national rules pertaining to formal units. Place names are part of our cultural heritage. This, along with geological criteria and guidelines, should be taken into account when they are being chosen for naming geological units.

Rules for naming geological units in Norwegian were last published by Henningsmoen (1961). In 1976 the International Subcommission on Stratigraphic Classification published the "International Stratigraphic Guide" (ISSC 1976). This standard work has formed the pattern for geological nomenclature in Norway in recent years. In 1983 the North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature published the "North American Stratigraphic Code" (NACSN 1983). The Norwegian Committee on Stratigraphy (NSK) has drawn up the Norwegian code presented here in accordance with the main principles in these two Codes.

NSK has also formulated rules for classifying and naming geological units which have not been covered previously. These are geological form units (Section 3.7), linear structural units (Section 3.8), planar structural units (Section 3.9), morphostratigraphical units (Section 3.10), tectonostratigraphical units (Section 3.11) and deformational-diachronous units (Section 4.8).

The objective in having a separate, comprehensive Norwegian code was to obtain recommendations, in the Norwegian language, for how geological units are to be (a) understood, with content and limitations, (b) named in Norwegian and English, (c) defined, erected, registered and, if necessary, changed. Additional objectives were (d) to be able to direct attention to special features shown by the individual geological units, which are specially valuable for providing additional clarification of their distinctive character, and (e) to make it easier to present geological knowledge in Norwegian. To achieve the last-mentioned aim, a number of new Norwegian words were coined to replace foreign technical terms, where that was thought desirable.


The need to inform geologists who use English as their technical language about the Norwegian Code has led to this Code now being published in English (see also the Preface to the English edition).

Only the use of the Code will show whether it will fulfil its objectives. NSK believes that the geological fraternity will benefit from giving broadest possible support to the rules which are proposed. This must not hinder the Code from being revised and improved. NSK therefore welcomes comments and suggestions for improvements as experience of using it is obtained. Such reactions will provide a basis for its complete or partial revision.

The Code has been written with a view to it being used as a reference work. To make the rules for the individual categories and units as complete as possible there have had to be some repetitions. This concerns, for example, some general rules and properties which are relevant to many of the geological units dealt with. All users are therefore recommended to study the generally applicable provisions found in Chapter 2.

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