Shoreline chronologies calibrated by 14C dating can help to disentangle the history of continental deformation. Holocene uplift rates in the SE Zagros of Iran may be explained by serial folding which is partly aseismic and currently in abeyance. The geometry and age of raised beach platforms in the western Makran are consistent with structural models which postulate imbricate thrusting powered by low-angle subduction. The Late Quaternary fossil beaches bordering the eastern Gulf of Corinth indicate repeated shifts in the locus of seismic activity and owe their present elevation to uplift of the footwalls of major normal faults. On the Gulf of Aqaba, coastal emergence during the last 30 000 years appears to represent the early stages of spreading on the Red Sea axis. Coastal sequences thus contribute to structural analysis by revealing changes in the pattern as well as the rate of deformation over the last 50 000 years.