The Late Mesoproterozoic (1085-1040. Ma) Ngaanyatjarra Rift, previously referred to as the Giles Event, is the dominant component of the Warakurna Large Igneous Province (LIP) that affected much of central and western Australia. This rift is well preserved and provides excellent examples of rift structure at a variety of crustal levels and times in the rift's evolution. Geological knowledge is integrated with geophysical interpretations and models to understand the crustal structure and evolution of this rift. Two phases are identified: an early rift stage (1085-1074. Ma) that is characterised by voluminous magmatism within the upper crust and relatively little tectonic deformation; and a late rift stage that is characterised by tectonic deformation, synchronous with the deposition of a thick pile of volcanic and sedimentary rocks (1074-1040. Ma). Compared to modern rift examples, this rift is unusual in that the crust was thickened by ~. 15. km and overall extension was very limited. However, its structure and evolution are very similar to the near-contemporaneous Midcontinent Rift, which shows the addition of a similar quantity of magmatic material as well as crustal thickening and limited extension. For these Mesoproterozoic rifts, we suggest that magmatism was the dominant process, and that the extension observed was a response to magmatism-induced crustal thickening and the gravitational collapse of the crustal column. Other Proterozoic rifts show similar characteristics (e.g. Transvaal Rift), whereas most Phanerozoic rifts are dissimilar, showing instead a dominance of extension, with magmatism largely a result of this extension. This change in the style of rifting from the Precambrian to the Phanerozoic may relate to the influence of a typically cooler and stronger lithosphere, which has caused stronger strain localisation and a greater role for extension as the controlling factor in rift evolution. © 2012 International Association for Gondwana Research.