Frost fissures, filled with wind-abraded sand and mineral soil, and numerous small-scale non-diastrophic deformations, occur in the near-surface sediments of the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. The fissures are the result of thermal-contraction cracking and indicate the previous existence of either permafrost or seasonally-frozen ground. The deformations reflect thermokarst activity that occurred when permafrost degraded, icy layers melted and density-controlled mass displacements occurred in water-saturated sediments. Slopes and surficial materials of the area reflect these cold-climate conditions. Optically-stimulated luminescence permits construction of a tentative Late-Pleistocene permafrost chronology. This indicates Illinoian, Early-Wisconsinan and Late-Wisconsinan episodes of permafrost and/or deep seasonal frost and a Middle-Wisconsinan thermokarst event. Copyright ?? 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.