Apatite fission-track (AFT) analyses were performed on 16 sandstone samples from a tectonic mélange unit exposed in three tectonic windows located near the inferred front of the early Miocene subduction system of the Northern Apennines of Italy. The tectonic windows display a block-on-block tectonic mélange present under the Ligurian Units. The mélange is formed by portions of the upper plate incorporated in the plate boundary shear zone as a consequence of a mechanism of frontal tectonic erosion during the Aquitanian (early Miocene). AFT and structural data, together with stratigraphic constraints, allow the reconstruction of a complete deformation cycle with a phase of underthrusting followed by underplating and early exhumation of the tectonic mélange. The exhumation, in particular, took place at ∼10–20 km from the original subduction front. Moreover, the analysis suggests that multiple faults were active at the same time in the frontal part of the subduction zone.

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