Among the prelithification deformation structures recognised in sedimentary rocks, stepped fractures from glacial environments and coalfields have so far remained unexplained. A comparative analysis of these structures in the two domains has led to the proposal that they are formed by the passage of a striating object over or within the incompletely lithified sediment. Stepped fractures that formed under glacial conditions thus constitute a good indicator of the direction of ice movement in an ice cap, whereas in coalfields they can indicate the polarity of early deformation in gravity slides or on synsedimentary faults.

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