Deformed continental sedimentary rocks are exposed in the province of Salta, northwestern Argentina, in one of many intermontane basins of the Puna, a high desert region of subparallel north-trending block-fault ranges. These rocks, formerly thought to be Tertiary but recently dated by fossil diatoms as Pleistocene or younger, comprise several thousand feet of elastics and evaporites interpreted as having accumulated in a structural basin under geologic and climatic conditions much like those of today. They are overlain unconformably by sedimentary rocks and sediments of three distinct depositional periods. The stratigraphic section is as follows:

Fan gravels and playa deposits (Recent) — Disconformity

Flat-lying lacustrine sandstones and siltstones, minor salines — Angular unconformity

Gently folded conglomerates and sandstones — Angular unconformity

Folded and faulted conglomerate, sandstone, shale, evaporites, and tuffs

The basin rocks are folded along north-trending axes and are cut by northeast- to southeast-trending normal faults and by a north-trending reverse fault; the next younger conglomerates and sandstones are gently folded; the two youngest units are undisturbed. The three unconformities, the faults and folds in the older beds, and post-lake-bed faulting of an erosion surface on an adjacent block all indicate intermittent late Pleistocene to Recent local deformation.

Neither regional tension nor regional compression can explain both the Pleistocene to Recent movements on the regional block faults and the contemporaneous compressional structures within the basin. The mechanism of horst-wedging, suggested by a current explanation of the analogous ranges of the Great Basin, is proposed as a solution to the dilemma; the horst blocks, forced directly upward along Miocene normal faults, acted as wedges and compressed the sediments accumulating in the graben, creating the pattern of faults and folds now observed. If such structures are ever discovered in the North American Great Basin, as seems reasonable, they should offer new insight into the understanding of basin-and-range structure.

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