Millions of years ago, the volcanos of Erciyes, Hasandag and melendiz mountains erupted and covered Cappadocia with a layer of tuff. Over millennia, this tuff layer was eroded, producing earth formations that, in turn, inspired cave art that has carried the imprint of ancient civilisations to our times. The earliest human settlements in Cappadocia date to the Palaeolithic Period, and the written history of the region goes back to the Hittites. Throughout its history, Cappadocia has served as an important trading post and bridge between the various lands of the Silk Road.
In the Upper Miocene epoch, the volcanos under the lakes erupted and spouted lava. The lava formed a plateau, a landscape that smaller eruptions constantly altered. During the Upper Pliocene epoch, the Kizilirimak River, together with lesser streams and lakes, cut deep into the tuff plateau, and the region gradually began to take its present shape.
Wind and rainwater flowing down the sides of valleys eroded the tuff structure, and sculpted the formations known as “fairy chimneys”. The principle type of “fairy chimney” in Cappadocia is the conical rock structures topped with a hat, either a cone or a mushroom shaped cap.
The cultures of the Prehistoric Period of Cappadocia can best be seen in the following formations; Kosk Mound in Nigde city, Asikli Mound in Aksaray city and Civelek Cave in Nevsehir city. The human settlement in Cappadocia began during the Prehistoric Period, and the era of Assyrian Civilisation in the region began during the Early Bronze Age. Trading reached its zenith in that era, and it is to this period that the first examples of writing in Anatolia date. The Cappadocia Tablets written in Old Assyrian cuneiform script, deal with methods of taxation, interest rates, and marriage contracts.
The early Hattian settlers were followed by the empires of Hittitei Phrygian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman, and each left its mark on the enchanting landscape of Cappadocia.
Cappadocia, situated on the principal trading routes of the Silk Road, was a meeting place for different philosophies and religions each of which left a historical and cultural impression on the region. Christians who had left Jerusalem in the 2nd century AD passed through Antakya and Kayseri to arrive in Central Anatolia, and settled in the vicinity of Derinkuyu.
These early Christians, facing the oppression of the Roman Emperors, found refuge against raids in the subterranean cities of the region. Here the soft rock allowed the excavation of elaborate dwellings, food stores, water wells and cisterns, wineries and places of worship, enabling habitation for a prolonged period.