Two morphologic settings in the northwestern Argentine prone to giant mountain-front collapse—deeply incised narrow valleys and steep range fronts bordering broad piedmonts—were analyzed through detailed investigations of fossil landslides and related fluvio-lacustrine sediments. Nine different rhyodactic tephra layers were defined by geochemical fingerprinting of glass, morphology of pumice, stratigraphic relationships, and mineralogy. The age of three tephra could be determined either directly by 40Ar/39Ar dating or relatively by 14C dating of associated sediments: Paranilla Ash (723±89 ka), Quebrada del Tonco Ash (∼30 ka), and Alemanía Ash (∼3.7 ka). These units permit correlation of several spatially separate landslide deposits. Landslide deposits in narrow valleys were generated in the late Pleistocene between 40 and 25 ka and in the Holocene since ca. 5 ka and correspond to periods characterized by increased humidity in subtropical South America. In contrast, the age of large landslides in piedmont regions is significantly greater but more difficult to define by tephrochronology. However, selected deposits from this second environment have cosmogenic nuclide exposure ages of 140–400 ka. Because of the large distance of the collapsed mountain fronts from eroding streams and because of important Quaternary displacement along the mountain-bounding faults, we suggest that strong, low-frequency seismic activity is the most likely trigger mechanism for most of the landslides in this environment.

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