A study of Rivularia stromatolites demonstrated seasonal and non-seasonal banding patterns of calcification, ‘sun-screen’ scytonemin pigment and nitrogen-fixing heterocysts. Calcification was controlled by seasonal events with abiogenic ‘winter’ deposition and biogenic ‘summer’ deposition. Scytonemin was produced as a series of complex bands, probably as a response to summer Atlantic weather systems. Its production was also correlated in part with the appearance of heterocysts. The heterocysts were produced in bands, the pattern of which was probably controlled by an internal regulatory system. Raman spectra of modern and ancient (up to 4000 year old) Rivularia showed that scytonemin and carotenoid pigment can persist in dried material for >100 yr. The 4000 year old fossils did not reveal any useful biomarkers.