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At present, the region is home to 14 million people and has 120 million annual visitors.
Crossing routes by road, train or foot are known as passes, and usually consist of depressions in the mountains in which a valley leads from the plains and hilly pre-mountainous zones.Evidence of human habitation in the Alps goes back to the Palaeolithic era.A mummified man, determined to be 5,000 years old, was discovered on a glacier at the Austrian–Italian border in 1991.The variances in nomenclature in the region spanned by the Alps makes classification of the mountains and subregions difficult, but a general classification is that of the Eastern Alps and Western Alps with the divide between the two occurring in eastern Switzerland according to geologist Stefan Schmid, at 3,905 m (12,810 ft), respectively Series of lower mountain ranges run parallel to the main chain of the Alps, including the French Prealps in France and the Jura Mountains in Switzerland and France.The secondary chain of the Alps follows the watershed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Wienerwald, passing over many of the highest and most well-known peaks in the Alps.An alp refers to a high mountain pasture where cows are taken to be grazed during the summer months and where hay barns can be found, and the term "the Alps", referring to the mountains, is a misnomer.
The term for the mountain peaks varies by nation and language: words such as Horn, Kogel, Kopf, Gipfel, Spitze, Stock, and Berg are used in German speaking regions; Mont, Pic, Tête, Pointe, Dent, Roche, and Aiguille in French speaking regions; and Monte, Picco, Corno, Punta, Pizzo, or Cima in Italian speaking regions.The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided.Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.The Alps are a crescent shaped geographic feature of central Europe that ranges in a 800 km (500 mi) arc from east to west and is 200 km (120 mi) in width.The mean height of the mountain peaks is 2.5 km (1.6 mi).The range stretches from the Mediterranean Sea north above the Po basin, extending through France from Grenoble, and stretching eastward through mid and southern Switzerland.