A high-resolution chronology of the Mediterranean Messinian salinity crisis is proposed. Two types of evaporite deposition may be distinguished: those in marginal areas vs. those in basinal ones. Their diachroneity is deduced from the stratigraphic relationships linking these evaporites to a major Messinian erosional surface. A two-step model is proposed for the evolution of the salinity crisis through time. During the first phase (from 5.75 to 5.60 Ma), the deposition of marginal evaporites took place in response to a modest sea-level fall; in the second interval (from 5.60 to 5.32 Ma), the Mediterranean basin became isolated. During this later period, the deposition of basinal evaporites and the cutting of the Mediterranean canyons took place.