Tharsis Tholus is unusual martian shield volcano in that the edifice is cut by a series of large normal faults that appear to penetrate the entire volcano. Northeast-trending narrow graben also cut the flank. The large normal faults may be caused by loading of a ductile subsurface layer allowing failure of the edifice; the narrow graben are typical tensional faults. The flank is heavily mantled by aeolian material. Despite the bulbous appearance, the overall morphology of Tharsis Tholus suggests it is a basaltic shield. Crater counts indicate an age of early Hesperian placing Tharsis Tholus in the middle of the period of activity that built the other small Tharsis volcanoes.