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Distinctive Topography of Cappadocia

Cappadocia, a region of volcanic tufa, basalt and andesite rock, was in antiquity bordered on the north by the lands of Pontus, to the west by Phrygia, whose boundaries were delineated by the Halys River (Kızılırmak) and Lake Tatta (Tuz Gölü), to the souteast by the nation of Kommagenes, circumscribed by the Euphrates(Fırt) River, and to the south by the lands of Cilicia. The region known as Cappadocia then included the present-day provinces of Çorum, Yozgat, Sivas, Malatya, Kayseri, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, and Niğde, together with parts of the provinces of Tokat, Kahramanmaraş, Adana, and Konya. Today’s Cappadocia is a region of approximately 300 km2 covered by the provinces Nevşehir, Aksaray, Niğde, Kayseri, and Kırşehir.

The evolution of the region has been taking place for 60.000.000 years. During the Third Geological Era the Taurus Mountains were formed, and under pressure from the Anatolian plateau to the north, large and small volcanoes became active, with the lava flow erupting from Mount Hasan to the south, and Göllüdağ and an assortment of other large and small volcanoes in the middle. Vast plateaus were covered by the accumulated ash, eventually forming a soft layer of tufa. Contrary to general belief, Mount Erciyes has had no effect on the formation of fairy chimneys and the central rocky Cappadocia since this volcano is much younger than the others. When the volcaic activity ceased, erosion began to abrade the softer soil, and the harder stone began to emerge. During this long process, in some areas layers of up to 100 meters of tufa were covered by occasional deposits of lava composed of hard basalt.

Over thousands of years, rainwater draining through cracks began to wear away the soft layers of tufa, while the winds, along with warming and cooling air, assisted the erosion. It was in this manner that cones embedded in mushroom-like shapes eventually formed on the tops of hills that were not affected by the erosion. Today these formations that we observe with such admiration have been named ‘fairy chimneys’. The layers of tufa that were not covered with basalt were subject to formation through erosion and were transformed into the valleys that extend one after the other. The layerings of tufa are what give the fairy chimneys and canyons of Cappadocia their legendary beauty. Because of the ease with which the stone is worked numerous churches, monasteries and homes were carved in the region. And because the tufa does not absorb paint, the unique frescoes adorning the rock churches can still be seen today.