Stratigraphic relations between lowland plains and highlands, two major types of Martian geologic-terrain units, were not directly distinguishable on Mariner-9 images. Morphologic characteristics and crater densities suggested that the lava plains beneath their eolian cover were younger than adjacent highland rocks, which form a plateau bounded in many places by highly dissected escarpments. Alternatively, the lowland plains could be the older unit and represent a broad erosional surface exhumed by southward retreat of the highlands along their frontal scarp. Viking photos across five areas of the highland-lowland boundary, however, tend to confirm the younger age of the plains-forming lava flows. A time interval of several hundred million years probably occurred between the retreat of the highland scarp and its latest embayment by lava extrusions in the lowlands. ?? 1978.
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Mars, highlands-lowlands: Viking contributions to mariner relative age studies