Cappadoccia, known as Hitti in the late Bronze age (circa 1500 BCE), is in the Anatolia region of present day Turkey. Once ruled by Alexander the Great, it later came under the influence of the Persians. Pompey, Caeser, Antony, and finally, Octavia fought for its control. By the time of the death of Jesus it was a Roman province, and became an area where early Christians lived. Tourists today flock to see the cave dwellings and underground cities that housed up to 20,000.
They used these underground dwellings primarily in times of danger. Some of these descended six stories into the soft tufa rock. The Christians were not the first to dig into the tufa. The Phrygians, an Indo-European people, may have done so in the 8th–7th centuries B.C .E. Early Christians expanded the dwellings. Many of these Christians were Greek speaking, in fact the Gospels were written in Greek, as the earliest fragments (150 CE), manuscripts and linguistic analysis show.
There was significant expansion in the Byzantine (what we also call the Eastern Roman Empire) era, when Muslim raids became a danger to the population, 780-1180 CE. They constructed underground traps in the case of intrusion, for example using boulders to cut off passages. After the Seljuk Turks of Persia conquered the Byzantine Empire, inhabitants still used the dwellings to avoid the Turks into the 20th century. Kaymakli is the most visited of the underground cities.
The Christians in the area were expelled in 1923 in a population exchange with Greece.
The dark tops of the pillars are giant stones thrown out of volcanoes 2 million years ago that fell on tufa plateaus that developed from volcanic ash spewed out of the same volcanoes 15 million years ago. The stones compressed the tufa when they landed and now protect the soft tufa directly under them as the wind erodes the plateau creating the pillars. Eventually the pillars become so thin that the stones fall.