Tafoni in the El Chorro area, Andalucia, southern Spain

Antony Mellor, J. Short, S. Kirkby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Using a combination of field, laboratory and micromorphological evidence, this study examines tafoni (singular, tafone) in the El Chorro area of Andalucia, southern Spain, and makes inferences concerning the processes responsible for their formation. Twenty-five tafoni were randomly selected for field examination. The morphology of these cavernous rock domes is characterized by a helmet-shaped outer roof and an arched-shaped cavern, often with a partially overhanging visor; measurements of height, width and depth of the caverns revealed marked variations in size. The presence or absence of lichen cover, surface varnish, overhanging visor, cavern backwall stripes, rock flaking, weathering pits and cavern floor sediments was also noted. Surface hardness values, obtained using a Schmidt hammer, are relatively low but significantly higher on the outer roof of the tafoni than on the inner cavern walls. Analysis of sediment samples collected from the cavern backwalls and floors indicates predominantly sandy textures, alkaline pH values and some base cation enrichment. Micromorphological analysis of thin sections, prepared from undisturbed blocks, reveals large quantities of pore-filling cement, consisting mainly of calcite, mineral grains affected by weathering and pseudomorphic replacement, and dark, rounded nodules with a metallic appearance. In terms of their formation, different processes appear to act on different parts of the landform. On the outer roof surfaces, case hardening, resulting from near-surface cementation and surface varnish development, is dominant. On the inner cavern surfaces, however, core softening, resulting from granular disintegration and flaking, dominates. Exfoliation weathering, running water and wind deflation also appear to play an important role in tafone formation. A phased model of tafone evolution is proposed whereby the features pass through four phases of development–initiation, enlargement, amalgamation and degradation; in the study area there are examples of tafoni in each of these phases. Much of the evidence suggests that the tafoni are actively developing under current environmental conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-833
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1997


Dive into the research topics of 'Tafoni in the El Chorro area, Andalucia, southern Spain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this