This paper is included in the Special Publication entitled 'Cenozoic foreland basins of Western Europe' edited by A. Mascle, C. Puigdefabrega, H.P. Luterbacher and M. Fernandez. This paper presents a compilation and reinterpretation of available geophysical and geological data recently acquired for the ENE-WSW Guadalquivir foreland basin, located on the northern margin of the Betic orogen in southern Iberia. The data include seismic reflection and refraction profiles, well logs, gravity, geoid, surface heat- flow data and field observations. The deep structure of the southern Iberian margin is characterized by large variations in crustal thickness and high heat-flow values, which result in a very low lithospheric rigidity for the whole area. Geoid and gravity data show that deformation affected the crust and the lithospheric mantle differently, producing anomalous mass distributions that could act as subsurface loads. Seismic sequence analysis of the basin infill has permitted the re-assessment of the depositional sequential arrangement of the sediments deposited from Late Langhian- Early Serravallian to Messinian. They are arranged in six sequences and do not show any E-W progradational pattern indicating that during this period the acting loads moved essentially in a NNW direction. A careful analysis of the southern border of the basin shows that the 'so-called olistostromes' correspond to lateral diapirs of squeezed Triassic evaporites and internally imbricated Miocene wedges. We discuss the results obtained in terms of palaeo-geographic environments, time distribution and nature of acting loads, and constraints for future basin modelling approaches.