Symphony of the Stones, Garni Gorge, Armenia 2


After you have marvelled at the sight of Garni Temple, you cannot help but swivel around and marvel at the gorgeous Garni Gorge.

Garni Gorge, Armenia

Garni Gorge, Armenia, viewed from Garni Temple. Photo credit: Benjamin White

As your eye sweeps over Garni Gorge your eye alights upon a curiosity: a rugged, twisting, narrow section of ravine.

Venture down into this part of Garni Gorge and you’ll find an astonishing geological formation (you can walk to the gorge following a path that starts at the temple, or you can be lazy and drive. We drove ).

Garni Gorge: Symphony of the Stones

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

The Symphony in Stone. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The locals have given this bizarre cliff-line, formed of neat, hexagonal columns, the title: Symphony of the Stones.

These days we know how the hexagonal columns are formed. It’s a geological process called columnar jointing.

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Columnar jointing occurs when the rock material (its nearly always volcanic in origin) cools and contracts, forming a network of narrow cracks.

When cooling occurs at equally spaced centres the cracks will form at 120 degree angles (i.e. forming hexagons).

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The tall, straight columns, formed where cooling has been uniform, are called colonnades.

The warped columns (see photo below), formed where cooling has been erratic (usually because water has been flowing over the cooling rock), are called entablature.

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The most famous examples of columnar jointing are the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and the Devil’s Tower in the United States.

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

These days we understand the geological processes that produce columnar jointing, and we have a sound knowledge of geomorphology, and yet we still we find the sight of these hexagonal columns bewildering.

Symphony in Stone, Garni Gorge, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Which makes me wonder; how did the worshippers at the first incarnation of Garni Temple view the Symphony of the Stones?

Did they see the hexagonal columns as regular, boring stone?

Or did they think them the work of the gods?


Practical information and how to reach Garni Gorge:

Symphony of the Stones, situated in Garni Gorge, is located about one kilometre east from Garni Temple. Garni Temple is 30 kilometres from Yerevan, and can be reached via a combination of marshrutka (mini-buses), or on a tourist shuttle. More transport info here.


More on Armenia:

The Temple of Garni – dedicated to the sun god Mihr

Noravank – 13th Century monastery in stunning gorge setting

Zorats Karer – the Caucasus’ answer to Stonehenge

Selim Caravanserai – built by the rich and powerful Orbelian Dynasty


Posts on the Caucasus:

Georgia:

Vardzia – crumbling cave city; built by monks

Ushguli – highest inhabited town in Europe

Uplistsikhe – ruins of a once mighty cave city

Nagorno-Karabakh:

Sea Stone Hotel, Vank – see the famous lion in the hill

Azerbaijan:

Gobustan – stone age petroglyphs that inspired Thor Heyerdahl

Baku – world’s deepest capital city

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2 thoughts on “Symphony of the Stones, Garni Gorge, Armenia

  • Karen White

    Wow, what an amazing sight, reminds me a bit of Tassie with the dolerite columns, but I think these ones look much much bigger. I think i would like to see them, they look incredible, especially because the hexagonal shapes look so regular, you do wonder how they can be so nearly perfect
    Kazzieandkitty