Photo : © Jim Richardson

Towering in close symmetry, these basalt columns near Fingal’s Cave form the base of the Scottish island of Staffa

Columnar jointing is a geological structure where sets of intersecting closely spaced fractures, referred to as joints, result in the formation of a regular array of polygonal prisms, or columns. Columnar jointing occurs in many types of igneous rocks and forms as the rock cools and contracts. 
Columnar jointing can occur in cooling lava flows and ashflow tuffs (ignimbrites), as well as in some shallow intrusions. Columnar jointing also occurs rarely in sedimentary rocks if they have been heated by nearby hot magma.