A cave is a natural void beneath the land surface that is large enough for a human to fit into. A cave system refers to a group of interconnected or related caves like Mammoth Cave System in Kentucky. The study of caves, cave systems, and karst landscapes is called speleology (from the Greek spelaion, meaning cave). Speleology encompasses many different aspects of science including geology, chemistry, hydrology, meteorology, and even microbiology.
There are many different types of caves that differ greatly in origin and appearance. Caves are most commonly classified by origin, how they formed. This includes:
This classification scheme can be difficult, as caves can have multiple origins or the origin may be unknown. Artificial mines and tunnels are not considered caves but can have natural deposits like a true cave.
To learn more about caves and the formations that occur in them please visit our Speleothems page.
Last updated: October 11, 2017