The geology of Asia is so complex and over wide areas so little known that it is difficult to give a connected account of either the structure or the development of the continent, and only the broader features can be dealt with here.
In the south, in Syria, Arabia and the peninsula of India, none but the oldest rocks are folded, and the Upper Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic and the Tertiary beds lie almost horizontally upon them. It is a region of quiescence or of faulting, but not of folding. North of this lies a broad belt in which the Mesozoic deposits and even the lower divisions of the Tertiary system are thrown into folds which extend in a series of arcs from west to east and now form the principal mountain ranges of central Asia. This belt includes Asia Minor, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the Himalayas, the Tian-shan, and, although they are very different in direction, the Burmese ranges. The Kuen-lun, Nan-shan and the mountain ranges of southern China are, perhaps, of earlier date, but nevertheless they be in the same belt. It is not true that throughout the whole width of this zone the beds are folded. There are considerable tracts which are but little disturbed, but these tracts are enclosed within the arcs formed by the folds, and the zone taken as a whole is distinctly one of crumpling. North of the folded belt, and including the greater part of Siberia, Mongolia and northern China, lies another area which is, in general, free from any important folding of Mesozoic or Tertiary age. There are, it is true, mountain ranges which are formed of folded beds; but in many cases the direction of the chains is different from that of the folds, so that the ranges must owe their elevation to other causes; and the folds, moreover, are of ancient date, for the most part Archaean or Palaeozoic. The configuration of the region is largely due to faulting, trough-like or tray-like depressions being formed, and the intervening strips, which have not been depressed, standing up as mountain ridges. Over a large part of Siberia and in the north of China, even the Cambrian beds still lie as horizontally as they were first laid down. In the extreme north, in the Verkhoyansk range and in the mountains of the Taimyr peninsula, there are indications of another zone of folding of Mesozoic or later date, but our information concerning these ranges is very scanty. Besides the three chief regions into which the mainland is thus seen to be divided, attention should be drawn to the festoons of islands which border the eastern side of the continent, and which are undoubtedly due to causes similar to those which produced the folds of the folded belt.
Of all the Asiatic ranges the Himalayan is, geologically, the best known; and the evidence which it affords shows clearly that the folds to which it owes its elevation were produced by an overthrust