© 2016, Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved. The increasing catalogue of high-quality ice-penetrating radar data provides a unique insight in the internal layering architecture of the Greenland ice sheet. The stratigraphy, an indicator of past deformation, highlights irregularities in ice flow and reveals large perturbations without obvious links to bedrock shape. In this work, to establish a new conceptual model for the formation process, we analysed the radar data at the onset of the Petermann Glacier, North Greenland, and created a three-dimensional model of several distinct stratigraphic layers. We demonstrate that the dominant structures are cylindrical folds sub-parallel to the ice flow. By numerical modelling, we show that these folds can be formed by lateral compression of mechanically anisotropic ice, while a general viscosity contrast between layers would not lead to folding for the same boundary conditions. We conclude that the folds primarily form by converging flow as the mechanically anisotropic ice is channelled towards the glacier.