This paper presents the results of an analogue modelling study on the reactivation of Riedel shears generated by basement-induced sinistral strike-slip faulting. It is based on a natural example in the Sierra de Albarracín, Iberian Range (Spain). The area has a polyphase deformation history, defined by the Variscan and Alpine orogenies. Late Variscan deformation was concentrated in a wide NW-SE shear zone with accompanying kilometre-scale E-W Riedel shears, which divided the Palaeozoic basement into large fault blocks. Alpine reactivation resulted in differential movements on the Riedel shears, as evidenced by a NW-SE chain of Palaeozoic inliers surrounded by a Mesozoic cover that generally shows minor deformations except near the E-W Riedel shears, where strata locally appear in near-vertical to overturned position. Sandbox analogue modelling was applied to improve insight into the structural history. It focused on the kinematics of spontaneously developed en echelon Riedel shears, reactivated in a rotated stress field. Sand with a controlled added strength was used to form Riedel shears in a first deformation phase to act as weak zones for a second phase. The modelling showed that in the first deformation phase large pop-up structures developed between the Riedel shears in a basement-induced sinistral strike-slip zone. Later reactivation in the N060°E and N135°E shortening directions was taken up respectively by sinistral-reverse and dextral-reverse shear along the pre-existing Riedel shears, but only if the sand on one side of the fault zone was allowed to move freely along the other. Scissor faulting along the Riedel shears with their complex 3D-geometry increased the height of the up-squeezed blocks. For experiments with fixed boundaries and no oil-water emulsion layer between the base plate and sand pack, thrusting at the backstop occurred rather than reactivation of the Riedel shears. This approach provided robust insights on the 4D development of the Sierra de Albarracín area. © The Geological Society of London 2006.