The distribution of barium and other elements related to biological productivity has been studied in two Palaeocene sections from the Middle East. In the bathyal Ben Gurion section, Israel, Ba* (= Ba/Al2O3 x 15%) concentrations are low, in the range 0.04% to 0.3% in the lower Palaeocene, and very high, 1% to 2%, throughout most of the upper Palaeocene. In the neritic Gebel Aweina section in Egypt Ba* values are low, < 0.1%, throughout the entire Palaeocene. The Ba* enrichments at Ben Gurion and their correlations with increases in P2O5 and opaline silica, and local and global delta(13)C maxima, indicate that upwelling and high productivity were important in this region during the late Palaeocene. The absence of Ba* enrichments in the shallower Gebel Aweina section probably reflects the strong depth dependence of biobarium deposition.