Although Cambrian Burgess Shale-type (BST) biotas arefundamental to understanding the radiation of metazoans, thenature of their extraordinary preservation remains controversial.There remains disagreement about the importance of the roleof early mineral replication of soft tissues versus the conservationof primary organic remains. Most prior work focused on soft-bodiedfossils from the two most important BST biotas, those of theBurgess Shale (Canada) and Maotianshan Shale (Chengjiang, China).Fossils from these two deposits do not provide ideal candidatesfor specimen-level taphonomic study because they have been altered:the Burgess Shale by greenschist facies metamorphism and theMaotianshan Shale by intensive subsurface weathering. Elementalmapping of soft-bodied fossils from 11 other BST deposits worldwidedemonstrates that BST preservation represents a single majortaphonomic pathway that may share a common cause wherever itoccurs. The conservation of organic tissues, and not early authigenicmineralization, is the primary mechanism responsible for thepreservation of BST assemblages. Early authigenic mineral replacementpreserves certain anatomical features of some specimens, butthe preservation of non-biomineralized BST fossils requiressuppression of the processes that normally lead to the degradationof organic remains in marine environments.