Human & Environmental Relationships: Sentient Ecology of Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cappadocia has been temporarily settled as early as the Neolithic period. Actual settlement in the region began with the arrival of ascetic hermits in the first century AD. This surreal landscape in the midst of the Anatolian highland in Turkey, has been created ten million years ago as the result of the ashes spewing out of three ancient volcanoes, Mt. Erciyes, Mt. Hasan and Mt. Melendiz. The lava produced by these volcanoes, under Neogene lakes, formed a layer of tufa on the area’s plateaus. The substances in the layers include: ignimbrite, soft tufa, lahar, ash, clay, sandstone, marn, basalt and other agglomerates. The continuation of the erosion of the layers of such substances, eventually gave the area its present ‘moonlike’ shape of giant rock cones which were then used by the earliest settlers as cave dwellings, locally known as ‘peri bacaları’ meaning fairy chimneys). These randomly scattered rock structures turned into extravagant forms of tuff as wind, storms, erosion and floodwater created cracks and ruptures in the hard rock. The conical shaped formations are protected with basalt caps. The straight rocky banks of fairy chimneys look like castle walls with protecting towers, enclosing long ravines in which fruit-trees grow.
The early Christians were among the first to move into Cappadocia. The secluded landscape was ideal for hermits, and also for taking refuge from Persian, and, much later, Islamic, invaders. Living space was created by scooping out the tuffa stone, and dwelling caves were dug into these towers, cones and walls. They initially built churches side–by side, or on the top of each other connected by winding steps and narrow passages. These hallowed caves still exist, are richly decorated, and come in many shapes and sizes — simple halls with flat or barreled ceilings, with columns and arches, cross vaultings and domes, naves and apses, arcades and galleries. But these are really much more than mere caves, each of them representing a structure built in one of the many styles of Christian architecture of the time. In each church the peacock adorning the cross is repeatedly painted in red. Walls and barrel vaults are covered with narrative frescoes of stories from the Bible. The early Christians constructed large underground complexes that were used in times of emergency and which contained large storage areas, underground wells and complex ventilation systems.
Fairy Chimneys were firstly used as Churches by the Byzantines and then converted into dovecotes and houses by the Seljuk Turks. This mentioned rocky region in Cappadocia today, for its mentioned rich history and unique landscape is declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Park since 1985, and is under the protection area of legislation of Turkish national heritage sites.