The East Anatolian plateau (Turkey) is extensively covered by Neogene to Quaternary volcanic-sedimentary rocks, and is characterized by an attenuated lithospheric mantle. Its pre-Neogene basement is commonly considered to consist entirely of Late Cretaceous to Oligocene oceanic accretionary complexes, formed at the junction of several continental blocks. Here we report on three main exposures of the pre-Neogene basement in this region. The exposed areas consist mainly of amphibolite- to granulite-facies metamorphic rocks, including marble, amphibolite, metapelite, metagranite, and metaquartzite. An upper amphibolite– to granulite-facies domain is equilibrated at ∼0.7 GPa and ∼800 °C at 83 ± 2 Ma (2σ). U-Pb dating of magmatic zircons from the metagranite yielded a Late Ordovician–early Silurian protolith age (444 ± 9 Ma, 2σ). The detrital zircons from one metaquartzite point to a Neoproterozoic–early Paleozoic provenance. Ophiolitic rocks tectonically sit on the metamorphic rocks. Both the metamorphic and ophiolitic rocks are in turn unconformably covered by lower Maastrichtian clastic rocks and reefal limestones, suggesting that the whole exhumation process and juxtaposition with the ophiolitic rocks had occurred by the early Maastrichtian. Several lines of evidence, such as (1) the absence of any indication of a former high-pressure metamorphism in the metamorphic rocks, (2) the allochthonous nature of the ophiolitic rocks, (3) the presence of metagranite with a Late Ordovician–early Silurian protolith age, and (4) the Neoproterozoic–early Paleozoic provenance of detrital zircons in the metaquartzite (in contrast to the dominance of late Paleozoic–Mesozoic crystalline rocks in the adjacent continental blocks) indicate a substantial component of continental basement beneath the Neogene to Quaternary cover. Thus, the loss of the lithospheric mantle probably resulted from lithospheric foundering processes beneath the plateau, rather than just slab steepening and break-off.