Tafoni (singular: tafone) are small cave-like features found in granular rock such as sandstone, with rounded entrances and smooth concave walls. They often occur in groups that can riddle a hillside, cliff, or other rock formation. They can be found in all climate types, but are most abundant in intertidal areas and semi-arid and arid deserts. Currently favored explanations controlling their formation include salt weathering, differential cementation, structural variation in permeability, and the length of the drying period between wettings. They also frequently occur in granitic rocks.
Small versions of tafoni are sometimes called alveoli; like the former, they are hypothesized to be results of salt weathering. Such tafoni are found in the Jodhpur-Ajmer section of India's Thar Desert.
This type of weathering is also referred to as honeycomb weathering.
The etymology of the word "tafoni" is unclear. Tafoni may come from the Greek word taphos, "tomb". Tafoni may also stem from a Corsican word taffoni, meaning "windows", or from tafonare meaning "to perforate". In Sicilian, tafoni means "windows". The earliest known publication of the term “tafoni” was in 1882.
Tafoni from Antarctica
Tafoni formation in the mountains near San Francisco.
Tafoni at Elgol, Isle of Skye
- Etymology, at Tafoni.com
- Stoppato, Marco, and Alfredo Bini. Deserts. Buffalo: Firefly Books (U.S.) Inc., 2003. ISBN 1-55297-669-6 pp. 30–32
- Owen, Athena M., 2007, Tafoni Caves in Quaternary Carbonate Eolianites: Examples from the Bahamas. Masters Thesis, Mississippi State University, 179 pp.
- www.tafoni.com Comprehensive explanation of tafoni, explanations of how they form, images, references
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