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Geology 101 -- What's the Deal?

The erosion that carves out this fascinating topography began over 60 million years ago and can be seen in various stages even today. As the devastating 1999 earthquakes illustrated, Turkey is caught between the insistent pressure exerted from the Asian and European continental plates. The Erciyes Mountain, Melendiz Mountain, and Hasandag -- all dormant or extinct volcanoes -- are the result of underground forces that thrust these landmasses above water level eons ago. Recurrent volcanic eruptions blanketed the area with boulders, ash, and lava, over time creating layers of sediment, with the underneath layers more solid than the newer, softer upper levels of sediment.

The formation of the fairy chimneys is just an example of wind and water erosion in an extreme state. The early stages of erosion are visible in the graceful channels and dunes of the valleys. But as the elements carve away at the channels, the mass of tufa splits from its supports and forms pillars or pyramids. And without the protection of those teetering basalt boulders caught in the balance of gravity and time, the pillars slowly whittle down to nothing, and the crowning boulder eventually comes crashing to the ground.

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