Indirect and direct geotechnical measurements revealed the presence of high lateral earth pressure (Ko) in shallow, unlithified sediment at a site in the northernmost Mississippi embayment region of the central United States. Results from pile-load and pressuremeter tests showed maximum Ko values greater than 10; however, the complex geologic environment of the Midcontinent made defining an origin for the anomalous Ko based solely on these measurements equivocal. Although in situ sediment characteristics indicated that indirect tectonic or nontectonic geologic mechanisms that include transient overburden loads (e.g., fluvial deposition/erosion, glacial advance/retreat) and dynamic shear loads (e.g., earthquakes) were not the dominant cause, they were unable to provide indicators for a direct tectonic generation. Localized stresses induced anthropogenically by the geotechnical field tests were also considered, but ruled out as the primary origin. A high-resolution shear-wave (SH) reflection image of geologic structure in the immediate vicinity of the test site revealed compression-style neotectonism, and suggested that the elevated stress was a tectonic manifestation. Post-Paleozoic reflectors exhibit a Tertiary (?) structural inversion, as evidenced by post-Cretaceous fault displacement and pronounced positive folds in the hanging wall of the interpreted faults. The latest stratigraphic extent of the stress effects (i.e., all measurements were in the Late Cretaceous to Tertiary McNairy Formation), as well as the relationship of stress orientation with the orientation of local structure and regional stress, remain unknown. These are the subjects of ongoing studies. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.