Subduction of mid-ocean ridges is a common feature in recent convergent margins, but is rarely documented in Proterozoic to Paleozoic orogenic belts. Here we describe evidence for ridge-trench interaction in the deeply eroded late Neoproterozoic Damara orogenic belt, central Namibia. The earliest interaction is indicated by primary intrusive contacts between amphibolite facies mid-ocean ridge metabasalts and trench metasediments. U-Pb zircon ages of 550–540 Ma from syntectonic granites in the forearc indicate the timing of partial melting and mafic underplating of the prism in response to ridge subduction. The thermal peak in the Damara belt, associated widespread granitic and alkalic plutonism, and hydrothermal activity coincide with the waning stages of tectonism at 530–520 Ma and are interpreted to indicate slab window widening and slab delamination. We suggest that the proposed two-stage thermal evolution of the Damara belt, comprising latest Neoproterozoic ridge subduction and early Cambrian slab delamination, represents a fingerprint of ridge subduction in ancient orogens.