Pleistocene raised coastal deposits characterized by locally abundant shells, aragonite-cemented beachrock and associated nearshore deposits border the western Marmara Sea at elevations of 0-50 in. Field observations confirm that these deposits formed during a series of transgressive and regressive events. U/Th dates in 16 in situ shells from four localities show that the peak of the transgressions occurred during the highstands of oxygen isotopic stages 7 and 5, between similar to 53 and similar to 210 ka. The elevations of these dated deposits can be used to quantify their post-depositional uplift and indicate that the entire western Marmara shelf, including the Strait of Canakkale (Dardanelles) has been rising at an average rate of similar to0.40 mm yr(-1) since similar to225 ka. The primary cause of uplift is the local compression associated with a restraining bend in the western segment of the North Anatolian Fault. Paleogeographic maps constructed using the average rate of tectonic uplift and detailed topographic and bathymetric maps reveal that prior to glacial oxygen isotopic stage 8 the Marmara Sea was never isolated from the Aegean Sea, even when global sea level was low, because the floor of the Strait of Canakkale was too deep early in its uplift history. The dominance of Mytilus edulis in raised coastal terraces dating from the lowstand of glacial oxygen isotopic stage 8 suggests that the degree of communication between the Aegean Sea and Marmara Sea was comparable to that of the present. During the peak of glacial oxygen isotopic stage 6, the floor of the strait was subacrially exposed, isolating the Marmara Sea for the first time in the Pleistocene from the higher salinity Mediterranean water inflow and possibly causing it to become a blackish-water lake. During interglacial isotopic stages 9, 7 and 5, the Strait of Canakkale was very wide and deep (similar to 100-125 m), and there were two subsidiary channels (Bolayir and Eceabat channels), providing additional links between the Aegean Sea the Marmara Sea, further promoting significant water exchange between these basins. The dominance of Ostrea edulis in the raised terraces dating from isotopic stages 5 and 7 confirms an enhanced penetration of the Mediterranean water mass into the Marmara Sea. The history of communication between the Black Sea, fed by central and northern European drainage systems, and the low-latitude Mediterranean Sea is of fundamental importance in understanding the genesis of organic-rich sapropel deposits throughout the region. The results presented in this paper caution against the simple assumption that sea-level change alone controlled the degree of connection across this oceanographic gateway. Instead, the physiography and paleoceanography of the region were controlled both by variations in global sea level and the rate of uplift in an area of active transpression. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.