Abstract The paper is based on textural, mineralogical and chemical studies of surface and subsurface sediments from 80 stations in the southwestern Barents Sea. Dispersed phases are quantitatively insignificant in these oxic shelf sediments and it is argued that the deposits are predominantly terrigenous in origin. A combined analysis of the mineralogy and chemistry of the separated size fractions allows the recognition of petrographic provinces. The patterns of sediment dispersal are discussed. The coarsest components of the Barents Sea sediments are of local origin whereas long-distance transport of finer material is taking place.