OUCC Proceedings 4 (1966)

Cave Location in Turkey

M. J. Walker


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Most caves in Turkey occur in Limestone, although caves in conglomerate have been recorded from the Plain of Konya (7, 9, 16), see map. However the limestone spelaeology has been as little studied as the Turkish karst. Karstic landforms are mainly represented by the Toros mountain chain of southern Turkey, although smaller areas occur near Istanbul in the north-west, and near the Iraq frontier in the far south-east. Lindberg (17, 18, 19) investigated some caves in Palaeozoic limestones which outcrop around the Sea of Marmara and in the region of the Erogli-Zondguldak coalfield to the north of it. These were mainly horizontal systems of limited extension. One of the longest, Yarim Bourgaz, occurs in European Turkey. It is a mere 600m long, and was first described forty years ago (14). Lindberg also undertook biospelaeological investigations in south-east Turkey and around Lake Van. One of these caves was 300m long, occurring at Sikefte in the canyon of the Güröle-Suyu near Siirt. Most of the other caves were considerably shorter than this.

Although Lindberg states (17) that the Turkish anthropologist Dr. Kiliç Kökten claimed that there were in 1952 at least 10 000 caves in Turkey of which 585 had been explored, and although Lindberg also says that the spelaeologist in Turkey is confronted with an " embarras de choix ", he seems nevertheless to have explored only a handful of caves of quite small size. He neglected the Toros mountain chain where, in one small region around Antalya alone, the Turkish Historical Society had examined 512 out of 10 000 local caves for archaeological remains even before 1947 (16).

The limestone around the Plain of Konya is of little interest to sportive spelaeologists. This is an arid basin containing conical hills, salt-marshes, and lakes. The hills were once thought due to volcanic action, but have recently been shown to be the result of hot springs (12). Palaeozoic limestones around its edge rise above the later Miocene limestones owing to thrusting, and where the two rocks meet there are interesting sinkholes which collect the run-off from the higher Permo-Carboniferous beds. The sinkholes are 200 - 300m in diameter and contain freshwater lakes between 130 -180m deep (8, 12). Erinc (12) says that the sinkholes are formed on well-jointed limestones containing cave systems and tubes, but does not describe any cave systems in further detail.

At the western edge of the accompanying sketch map of southern Turkey is the Aydin limestone massif, an imposing plateau raised 1 000m above the Menderes river. Detailed geological studies of the massif with maps were made before the First World War (21). It has been written of the area that " the drainage is largely swallowed and runs underground " (23). Near to Denizli to the north of the plateau are the petrifying springs of Hierapolis, well-known throughout historical time.

The rest of this paper will be given to a description of the Toros mountain chain ( see sketch map ) and its spelaeology. The mountain chain itself must be subdivided into the western Toros ranges, which describe an acute angle around the gulf of Antalya, and the Toros ( sometimes known as the Cicilian Toros ) which runs NE of the river Göksu to merge with the Anti-Toros ranges. Whilst many place names give a clue to the geology (e. g. White Mountain, Ak Dag ) (1), very many mountains and rivers in all parts of the mountain chain have identical names as Turkish has a paucity of adjectives. Moreover, the available maps are at a limited scale, the best edition being the British M. D. R. / 3 series to 1 : 200 000, although even this is not on general sale. One French geologist had to use maps to 1 : 800 000 which he declared were " incroyable " (10). The area of limestone roughly indicated in the sketch map are taken from (5). The geological map in (24) is of no use.

The Western Toros

The western ranges have been concisely described thus :

" Deep valleys lie between the ranges and drain to the sea at their southern ends, but some are obstructed further inland, and lakes are formed....... Most are freshwater expanses fed by intermittent torrents which course the bare mountain-sides after storms, this freshness is probably caused by the underground drainage of the lakes, a suggestion supported by the large bodies of limestone which swallow up whole streams at suitable points to deliver them as copious springs or from subterranean rivers lower down. " (23).

The lakes themselves probably drain through their beds rather than into caves, as the valley floors are filled with alluvial deposits. However, there seem to be swallow holes in the limestone, and influent caves were described 120 years ago (13) as follows:

" The plains or yailahs which these mountain wall in, vary in elevation from 2 000 to 6 000 feet above the sea. They have no outlets; the rivers which water them pass into caverns, and reappear in the low country near the sea. "

More recently Erinc (12) has written :

" Extensive surfaces of erosional nature at an average altitude of 2 000m are entrenched by deep valleys. All of these conditions contributed to maximum development of karst in this belt, where both small and large karst features such as different kinds of lapiés, dolines, uvalas, poljes, blind valleys, ponors, resurgences, travertine terraces, caves, avens, natural bridges, and subterranean river courses form the dominating element of the landscape. "

It may be recalled here that the Antalya region has been said to contain 10 000 caves ( v. supra ) , although it may be wondered whether many of these are no more than rock-shelters, commonly described as " caves " by archaeologists.

Various morphological studies which have been undertaken in the western Toros fail to mention cave systems, thus Binggeli (4) who studied the surface hydrology in the region of Sugla Gölü and the Carsamba river, and Louis (20) who studied polje formation near Sugla Gölü lake. The latter worker concluded that several poljes represent the floors of subsequently vanished valleys, and that the secondary solution under local circumstances has imposed a pattern of sinking drainage towards their edges, resulting in lateral extension of the poljes. Other geomorphologists have studied the area (3).

The high mountains of the western Toros show compact Cretaceous and Tertiary limestones which are bedded at acute angles, dipping away from the axes of the chains. On the floors of the enclosed valleys conglomerate overlies the limestone. To the north more massive Permo-Carboniferous limestone outcrops away from the coastal strip around the Gulf of Antalya where metamorphosed rocks occur. Between these two different rocks there outcrops a Jurassic flysch facies (2, 10) cutting across the Buyuk Ak Dag massif. A section in (5) shows this clearly.

The Toros

The valley of the Göksü divides the western Toros from the Toros proper. The river has two major tributaries of the same name, each pursuing an underground course for short distances. The summits of the Cicilian Toros are Bolkar Dag ( 10 630 ft. ), Aydos ( 11 440 ft. ) and Ala Dag ( 12 250 ft. ). Unlike the western Toros, this range is not folded into parallel ridges. A section in ( 5 ) across Bolkar Dag shows that it is an anticlinal block of Permo- Carboniferous limestone. Suess ( 25 ) has described it thus :

" ....the NW slope shows steeply upturned Eocene limestone, and probably Cretaceous also, while on the SE and S side of the range are very thick limestones of the first or second Mediterranean stage ( we now know that these are in fact Permo-Carboniferous and not Miocene as Suess, following Schaffer, believed M. J. W. ). These show fairly undisturbed bedding, dip for the most part gently away from the range, and are also, perhaps, slightly bent to form a flat anticline; at the same time they reach astonishing heights. On the east side Dumbelek-Dagh such almost horizontal limestones are met with at a height of 2 300m. This mighty girdle of unconformable limestones form plateaux with a surface recalling that of the karst; it is continued towards the SW and W far away into the valley of the Calycadnus. "

Three authors ( 6, 12, 22 ) refer to the large cave through which the Çakit river flows for 500m at Yor-köprü before entering the 1 400m deep canyon in which both the river and the Bagdad railway run south-eastwards towards the coast. This cave is formed in an outcrop of Permo-Carboniferous limestone occurring amidst Cretaceous beds in the Ak Dag massif to the NE of Bolkar Dag (not to be confused with the Ak Dag of the western Toros ). The Cretaceous limestone which caps the Ak Dag massif was thrust up in the Alpine orogeny, whereas Bolkar Dag shows Palaeozoic beds up to the summit. Like Suess, Blanchard ( 6 ) and Furon ( 14 ) refer to caves, dolines, underground water reservoirs, and resurgences throughout the Toros irrespective of the age of the limestone. Many disused lead mines occur on the slopes of the Bolkar Dag; especially at Balyamadeni near Balya, the Ortakomus mine near Anamur, and the lead and zinc deposits at Bulgarmadeni. Reports of a spelaeological expedition to the Toros in 1965 ( 11 ) are uninformative, although fuller information is being sought by the author.

News is also awaited of the findings of an expedition of spelaeologists from University College, London, in 1965. Some large resurgences in the western Toros were noted by British cavers in 1964 but not explored ( private communication ). It is hoped that the expedition which is to explore the caves of the Toros this year, 1966, will clarify the position as to the scope of the spelaeology of the Toros.

M. J. Walker
February 20th 1966


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