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Mixture of tarlike hydrocarbons derived from petroleum. Black or brown, it varies from viscous to solid; the solid form is usually called asphalt. Bitumen occurs in nearly every part of the world and in nearly the whole range of geologic strata. The term may also refer to synthetic hydrocarbon compounds.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on bitumen, visit Britannica.com.