Eleven upper Eocene through Pliocene stratigraphic units occur in the subsurface of the region surrounding Charleston, South Carolina. These units contain a wealth of information concerning the long- term tectonic and structural setting of that area. These stratigraphic units have a mosaic pattern of distribution, rather than a simple layered pattern, because deposition, erosion, and tectonic warping have interacted in a complex manner through time.
By generating separate structure-contour maps for the base of each stratigraphic unit, an estimate of the original basal surface of each unit can be reconstructed over wide areas. Changes in sea level over geologic time generate patterns of deposition and erosion that are geographically unique for the time of each transgression. Such patterns fail to persist when compared sequentially over time. In some areas, however, there has been persistent, repetitive net downward or upward movement over the past 34 m.y. These repetitive patterns of persistent motion are most readily attributable to tectonism. The spatial pattern of these high and low areas is complex, but it appears to correlate well with known tectonic features of the region. This correlation suggests that the tectonic setting of the Charleston region is controlled by scissors- like compression on a crustal block located between the north-trending Adams Run fault and the northwest-trending Charleston fault. Tectonism is localized in the Charleston region because it lies within a discrete hinge zone that accommodates structural movement between the Cape Fear arch and the Southeast Georgia embayment.