Matterhorn and Africa

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     The pyramid-shaped Matterhorn, the landmark of Zermatt, is largely made up of rocks of African origin. The base of the mountain is composed of sedimentary rocks (chalk, limestone, shale) and ocean-curstal rocks from the bed of the primeval “Tethys” Sea. The summit, from about 3,400 meters up, consists of metamorphosed granites and gneisses of the Apulian plate, a part of the African continental plate.
     About 45 million years ago the African plate and European plate collided and the edge of the European plate pushed under the African plate. As the Alps formed the sediment and volcanic rock of the former Tethys sea which had existed between Africa and Europe were trapped under the African plate. This rock metamorphosed into granites and gneisses. These rocks were pushed further north and came to rest in the upper section of the mountain on top of much younger rocks at its base.
     The image on the stamp combines the profile of the Matterhorn with the shape of the African continent in a remarkable “hidden” map. An indication of the nature of the stamp is the “two-way” inscription on the stamp with “Helvetia” and 85 upside down to each other.