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Hiking group on Alpine meadow with Dolomites in the backgroundPanorama of the DolomitesClose-up of shale in stone

Geology of the Dolomites

Formed 200 millions years ago out of the primeval ocean, today the Dolomites reach 3,000 metres into the sky.

The Dolomites owe their name to the French Déodat Guy Sylvain Tancrède Gratet de Dolomieu (1750- 1801) who "discovered" the chemical composition, i.e., stratified calcium magnesium carbonate, of their unusual rock. Dolomieu, a nobleman and member of the French Institute, was also a geologist, and in 1789, he collected rock samples and sent these to the geologist Nicholas de Saussure for examination. He had been intrigued by the rock's abnormal reaction to chloral acid, since it reacted less violently to this acid than other calcium-based rocks.

The geological history of the Dolomites is represented by the numerous fossils and minerals that have been found in the area. The sedimentary rocks unveil a large number of easily accessible fossils and minerals.