So, Is Atlantis Found At Long Last?
|NASA Landsat 7 image of the Richat Structure, with north at the top and south at the bottom.|
What I propose in this article is nothing less than the possible location of Atlantis. The real Atlantis. The one where the name came from, not the casino or the hotel or anything else named after Atlantis. Yes, that Atlantis. The location discussed below is quite likely is one you've never considered before. However, it "works."
I am going to assume that you have some familiarity with Plato because this article would become a book if I were to recite all of Plato's references with links. Just accept that what is said below about Atlantis does come straight from Plato and nowhere else unless otherwise noted. To verify, read Plato yourself if you are suspicious, better you do that than retain lingering suspicions about my references to Plato here, suspecting that I am "being selective" or using a biased translation or whatever.
All I will claim in this article is that I will convey what Plato himself wrote about Atlantis, with no embellishment or distortion or exaggeration, for purposes of matching those characteristics with a very specific place that exists today. I compare Plato's points about Atlantis to this specific place so that you may independently learn about that place and decide for yourself whether his account matches that location.
Still interested? Read on.
Atlantis: What's the Big Deal?
Solon, Plato claims, obtained his information from the high Egyptian priests of Sais in 600 B.C. The unknown priest translated some hieroglyphics for Solon in the temple. That temple in the Nile Delta was well known at the time but since has ceased to exist. The destruction of Atlantis occurred 9,000 years before that time, the priest said, so that makes it roughly 11,300 ago as we would reckon time. The temple was not hidden, and anyone at the time could visit, given the means. Thus, Plato's account was not some kind of hocus-pocus kind of deal, it was based on a verifiable source. The temple inscriptions were verifiable for anyone who had Solon's or Plato's accounts and cared to double-check them.
Specifically, Plato wrote two dialogues, "Timaeus" and "Critias," which are all we know about Atlantis. Plato wrote his account as a moral and political lesson, but was detailed about the actual location of Atlantis - to a point:
In those far-away days that Ocean could be navigated, as there was an island outside the channel which your countrymen tell me you call the 'pillars of Heracles'. This island was larger than Libya and Asia together, and from it seafarers, in those times, could make their way to the others, and thence to the whole opposite continent, which encircles the true outer Ocean.Fortunately, Plato is very specific about Atlantis itself after that very open-ended geography: it is formed by concentric islands of a certain distance from the city center, there are mountains to the north with rivers flowing through them, and so forth. To summarize, Plato said Atlantis was out in in the Atlantic (or beyond) somewhere - or at least entering the Atlantis was how you got there (which may seem like a fine point, but really is the crux of the case I'm about to make). Since the ancient Greeks didn't know anything at all about the Atlantic beyond the fact that it was there, Plato's description of the location isn't exactly helpful to us today.
|Engravings at the Temple of Horus at Edfu appear to corroborate Plato.|
Contrary to popular belief, Plato is not the only ancient source of knowledge about Atlantis. For example, the inscriptions of the Temple of Horus at Edfu (inscribed after Plato during the Ptolemaic period between 237 and 57 BC) appear to corroborate Solon and Plato without actually using the word "Atlantis" and apparently deriving from other sources. There are other ancient sources about Atlantis of declining levels of acceptance by mainstream scholars. Herodotus of Halicarnassus, for instance, placed Atlantis on his map of the world south of the Pillars of Hercules. He did this after visiting the Temple of Neith at the city of Sais, the same place that Plato visited. However, Herodotus visited the temple in 450 B.C., fifty years before Plato.
|Reconstruction of the map of Herodotus, dated to roughly 430 B.C. - several years before Plato was born.|
There are also ancient sources that appear to corroborate parts of Plato's Atlantis account without actually being about Atlantis (such as Plato's claim about ten initial Atlantean emperors which matches independent Egyptian history about the ten Auritean rulers, called Aleteans by the Phoenicians). However, Plato is considered the Gold Standard as far as Atlantis is concerned, and nobody has any doubt about what he said and that he was describing Atlantis. As far as Atlantis is concerned, what Plato says, goes. To avoid distractions and debates about meanings and legitimacy, Plato's writings are what we will rely upon - but just bear in mind that other sources corroborate what Plato says.
|Is this mysterious blob Atlantis?|
So, based on Plato's very specific but also frustratingly vague description of the location of Atlantis, people have been searching for Atlantis for centuries. Why exactly everyone wants to find Atlantis is a bit unclear at times, but Atlantis has acquired a legendary mystique. Fantastic tales of death rays and advanced power sources have been joined on to the legend over time despite there being no indication whatsoever from our only source, Plato, that they ever existed. Because of this mystique, Atlantis is the true Holy Grail of adventurers - anyone that finds Atlantis and can prove it basically will become immortal within the scientific community. That is what happened when Heinrich Schliemann - a rich German dilettante determined to find ancient Troy - actually did discover it (to everyone's utter amazement). The lost city of Angkor in Cambodia, capital of the Khmer Empire, is similar, a fabled city not rediscovered until the 1860s.
|The same blob a little further out and colorized.|
As a result, various theories as to the location of Atlantis have been proposed. However, as exciting as they seem at first, every single candidate ultimately collapses for one reason or another. For instance, several islands within the Mediterranean have been proposed. Since every island there contains ancient ruins, it is possible to point to those ruins as "proof" of Atlantis. However, the one thing that Plato was clear about in his dialogues was that Atlantis was not in the Mediterranean, and in fact was beyond what we now know as Gibraltar. The Greeks knew all about the Mediterranean islands and Plato would have just pointed to one if that was the location of Atlantis. So, enticing as those Mediterranean islands and their ruins may be, they are not Atlantis. Sorry.
|The possible location of Atlantis. You can still see the blob if you look hard. (Credit: ESA).|
However, you might be surprised to learn that there is a location that meets virtually all of Plato's requirements. It is in the right location, it is the right size, it has the right geographical features, and it makes absolute sense. You've never heard of such a place? Well, that's why you should keep reading!
|You may be looking right at Atlantis and not even realize it. (Credit: ESA).|
Let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to prove here that the location in question is Atlantis. It may or may not be, and it has not been proven as such. The point is that this one particular place meets Plato's specifications and actually could be Atlantis. That's a lot different than that it is Atlantis. We'll look at the pros and cons as to why this mysterious spot might or might not be Atlantis. In my view, the arguments why this is Atlantis outweigh those that say it is not Atlantis. However, that is for you to judge.
|A close-up of the Richat structure shows the concentric rings. Note what appears to be an ancient channel flowing to the southwest toward the Atlantic. (Credit: ESA).|
The Eye of Africa
What is the Eye of Africa? Its scientific name is the Richat Structure. It is located in Africa in the country we now know as Mauritania. The Eye of Africa is in the province of Adrar, which only has about 70,000 inhabitants.
|The Eye of Africa.|
The Richat Structure is a geologic formation (a "phi structure") that is generally accepted to be formed naturally. Phi structures are closely associated with valuable nearby mineral deposits. Technically, the Richat Structure is an eroded circular anticline (structural dome) of layered sedimentary rocks (this is according to NASA). However, there is some disagreement about how the Richat Structure was formed, with some contending that it is the result of an asteroid strike, known to create phi structures. If the Richat Structure was inhabited at any point, the inhabitants simply availed themselves of what nature had provided, so how it was formed really is irrelevant for our analysis. Plato doesn't specify that land on which Atlantis sat was shaped by humans. Formed during the Late Proterozoic Era according to the most accepted geologic theories, the Richat Structure would have been available to anyone to use.
|The Richat Structure is a harsh landscape indeed - which has kept explorers away.|
All right. Rather than get all windy about this, let's just set forth why the Eye of Africa may be Atlantis. It has the following characteristics which jibe with Plato's requirements:
- Its outer circle is roughly 23.5 km in diameter, more or less (it varies but is within 20-25 km throughout)
- It has mountains to the north with what appear to be river channels
- The area to the south is open
- The Richat is inland but may have been connected to the Atlantic but now is completely landlocked (250 miles inland)
- The Richat is surrounded by a level plain and there is a rectangular plain nearby
- There are red, black and white stones in the region (mostly red and black)
- A well at the center of the Richat has fresh water, whereas other wells nearby oddly have salt water
- Sailors from Greece would have had to sail out into the Atlantic past the "Pillars of Hercules" to get there and would have encountered "mud" if the passage to the area began to fill in with sand
- Elephant skeletons and ancient rock paintings have been found nearby, suggesting elephants lived there at one time
- There are copper and gold mines nearby, and those are among the chief exports of Mauritania today
- Greek and Egyptian sailors could have sailed there (if there was water) without losing sight of the coast, which was important to sailors of the time
- The date provided by Plato for Atlantis' destruction, 11600 years ago, coincides with a post-glacier change in sea levels known as the Younger Dryas.
- Since the Eye of Africa and Egypt are not that distant, it makes perfect sense that Egypt may have been a colony of Atlantis as claimed by Plato if it was located there.
- The key symbol of ancient Egypt, the Eye of Horus, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Eye of Africa (see picture below).
- The first ruler of Mauretania is known as Atlas (where the mountain range gets its name) - which just so happens to be the name of the first ruler of Atlantis. What a coincidence!
- Ancient historian Herodotus placed a nation called Atlantis in exactly the location of the Richat Structure in a map that he drew up 2500 years ago. Herodotus, incidentally, is known as the "Father of History" and was born 58 years before Plato. The map is dated to 430 B.C., three years before Plato was even born. Herodotus died before Plato was born.
- Herodotus posed a different possible water route to Atlantis, the Nile, which he suggests ran from the Sahara in the past and which is certainly possible.
|Edgar Cayce: finally vindicated?|
Edgar Cayce, a famous "seer" and healer of the early 20th Century, famously predicted that Atlantis would be "discovered" in 1968. It was his more famous, and controversial, prediction. Some other things happened in the mid-1960s that have been claimed as the supposed fulfillment of this "prediction," and then used to damage Cayce's reputation because these discoveries (such as off Bimini) now are considered not to be Atlantis (though, who knows, maybe they are remnants). However, note that the first photographs from space were taken of the Eye of Africa in 1965, and nobody on the ground could possibly see the structure as fulfilling Plato's account due to its magnitude. Perhaps nobody put the Eye of Africa photographs together with Atlantis until 1968 when they had a "Eureka!" moment and spotted the similarities.
|An artist's conception of Atlantis based upon a strict reading of Plato. This is not based upon the Richat Structure - but notice the astonishing similarities with the photos of the Eye of Africa above and below.|
In any event, Cayce was adamant that he wasn't good with dates in his predictions. You have to admit - getting within three years is pretty close. As mentioned, for all we know, Cayce actually was spot on and 1968 was the year. If the Richat Structure finally is determined to be Atlantis, that would have to be seen as complete vindication for Edgar Cayce. I realize that even mentioning Cayce will turn some people off as venturing into the realm of pseudo-science, so ignore this amazing coincidence if it distracts you, as I am trying to lead you to Atlantis, not rehabilitate Cayce.
It is simply astounding that this one location encompasses all of these very specific details given by Plato. There's no other way to put it.
Okay, Why Haven't I Ever Heard Of This "Eye of Africa" As Being Atlantis Then? It's all Pseudo-Science! You're Just Fantasizing About Aliens! You're a Crackpot!Look, I get it. You start talking about Atlantis and you also must believe in Martians and UFOs. It's easy to read these kinds of articles with a grin and a smirk, secure in the belief that it's all just comic-book stuff. We all understand the fantasy of people wishing there was "something more" than just dull reality, that the aliens would just arrive already and "beam us up" so we can go traipsing around the Cosmos together as interstellar brothers.
Well, let's stick to facts. Atlantis is not "pseudo-science" as some "respected sources" would have it. This has nothing to do with "aliens." There is solid historical support for a place called Atlantis that was the center of some sort of society. We know as much about Atlantis as we do about much of ancient history which depend upon only one or two secondhand sources. Historians often must rely on a single source for events covering large swathes of time, with only sketchy corroboration. There may have been additional written sources for Atlantis available in Plato's time, and in fact there almost certainly were, because Plato says that he used one himself without considering that exceptional. Herodotus had a source for Atlantis, too, and it wasn't Plato because Herodotus was dead before Plato was born. Plato did not rely upon Herodotus, so there are two independent lines sources, not one. And, considering the temple inscriptions which strongly suggest an account of Atlantis without actually naming it, possibly more lines of sources.
|Herodotus is the smoking gun in the Atlantis debate that the detractors overlook.|
Plato and Herodotus are two of the most revered figures of ancient history and their writings are precise and their reasoning is logical. There is no reason to doubt them any more than any other revered historian such as Strabo or hieroglyphics on Egyptian temples. What they offer is proof of an Atlantis, and they corroborate each other.
|A typical artist's conception of Atlantis, based, of course, on Plato's writings.|
While some think that Plato may have "made the whole thing up" for rhetorical purposes, there is no evidence to support that. It is just a way to explain away the inability of explorers to find Atlantis. If Atlantis was entirely a work of fiction, why did Plato give such precise details about it that did not advance the purposes for which he recited the story? There would have been no need to give its precise dimensions, for instance. Unfortunately, the particular source that Plato claims to have used and perhaps many others have been lost over time due to floods or deliberate mischief such as the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Supposing that other detailed sources referring to Atlantis are still in existence somewhere, they have not been found. However, there are lots of possible locations for those sources - ancient Pompeii, for instance, is only partially excavated and wealthy Romans were known to maintain impressive libraries. Who knows what may have been buried there or elsewhere?
One of the reasons that the Richat Structure has never been associated with Atlantis is that its unique shape is only visible from space. Astronauts first noticed its peculiar formation in 1965, but they weren't looking for Atlantis and dismissed it as a curiosity. Thus, if the argument is that this would have been figured out hundreds of years ago if it were true, that won't wash. Nobody had any inkling that Atlantis might be in such an unlikely spot until very recently.
Another reason for the obscurity of the Eye of Africa is that it is remote. Located in a remote area of the Sahara, it is accessible only by a dusty gravel road and very few people go to the Eye of Africa. There's not much reason to go there, either as those that do visit can't see any difference from the rest of the desert from ground level. It is a hostile environment that travelers only want to cross, not stay and "investigate." The Richat Structure is very, very different, as seen from space, but just more desert when traveling on the ground or in an airplane.
A third reason that the Richat Structure is not associated with Atlantis is that there are no known ruins there. Well, that is overstating it - there are artifacts, but they are not what we usually associate with Atlantis. There are African relics. You would expect something like death ray machines and so forth because of the fanciful imaginations of some people in Hollywood - but there isn't anything remotely like that. At least, nothing has been found, but Western Sahara is one of the most unexplored regions in the world. Nobody has dug there. Whatever was there, if anything, might still be there, but buried under sand or rock. Or, it may have been washed away in whatever cataclysm destroyed it in one night - as mentioned again by Plato. Flash floods can wash away just about everything. Mauritania also is a dangerous place with travel advisories in place. So, few experts go to the Richat Structure, let alone dig there.
But here's a shocker: satellite images suggest that there may - may - be buried structures in the Richat Structure. There are rectangular shadows which in other places have suggested buildings. I'm not claiming this as proof of anything. Nobody will know what is underground in the Richat Structure without some digging by professionals, and that would be expensive and difficult.
Oh, and as to whether I'm a crackpot, you can be the judge of that.
So Why Isn't This Atlantis Then? Why Are You Quibbling?
The Eye of Africa historically has not been associated with Atlantis because everyone assumes that Atlantis is at the bottom of the ocean. This brings us to the one great reason why the Richat Structure usually is not considered in the hunt for Atlantis: it's not only completely above water level, it is well above sea level.
|The image was created from various bands based on Sentinel 2A data of the EU Copernicus program and provides a spatial resolution of ten meters. The image has been digitally altered to compensate for atmospheric factors.|
Well then, that completely rules the Eye of Africa out as being Atlantis - right? Because Plato says it sank into the sea! Well, maybe, but probably not. Western Sahara certainly isn't "muddy" as described by Plato now, but it could have been once. It is possible that the Atlantic did reach as far as the Richat Structure at some point in the distant past. The sands of the Sahara are known to originate from the Atlantic, and it may have been those sands blowing east that turned the water access to Atlantis "muddy" (a very peculiar description for Plato to use for an ocean region). Those blowing sands would have fouled the water access and ultimately made the area inaccessible by sea. The fact that nearby water wells up to 200 feet below the surface contain seawater to this day suggests that in fact the area was connected to the sea at some point. It is widely accepted that the climate of the Sahara was radically different a few thousand years ago, with lakes and vegetation. Atlantis may have been a casualty of climate change - no, not man-made climate change, but natural climate change that always takes place on planet Earth.
|View of the Richat Structure from Google Earth. Its coordinates are (21°07'30" N, 011°24'00" W.|
Various geologic theories can be spun to explain why Atlantis might be above sea level now when in the past it wasn't. A change of 1300 feet in 12,000 years is hardly impossible, and, in fact, is known to have occurred in places like Antarctica and the Rockies. These theories include tectonic plates pushing land up from underneath, subsurface magma chambers expanding, and that sort of thing. In fact, the very design of the Richat Structure suggests that it was formed by the expansion and contraction of the surface. It is generally accepted that many lands that are are familiar to us once were underwater or were connected to the sea when today that would seem ludicrous. The area of the Rocky Mountains, for instance, was once at the bottom of a large inland ocean.
|The Richat Structure looks like nothing special on the ground. It is only from pictures taken from orbit that you can appreciate its possible significance (Photo courtesy of Hudson Valley Geologist).|
Things change over time, and geology as a science has theories but no proof as to what causes specific areas of land to uplift (there are multiple theories about the formation of the Rockies, for instance). In fact, a leading theory on the Richat Structure is that it is a deeply eroded geologic "dome" that arose from the elevation of different strata of the earth. So, not only is an uplift, or anticline, possible, it appears to be at least one possible explanation for the Richat Structure's current elevation of 1300 feet above sea level.
|A generic diagram of an anticline taken from Wikipedia.|
I'm not claiming a theory as my own here - I am saying that there are theories by respected geologists that would explain Atlantis now being above sea level. It's up to the experts to reach their own conclusions, all I'm claiming that it is physically possible. Professional geologists have to be very careful about seeming to "verify" Atlantis - well, at least until they get tenure. So, we will need insurmountable and conclusive evidence before any will announce that the Richat Structure could have been at sea level. That is unlikely to happen any time soon.
|View from Google Earth.|
So, while it may seem "obvious" that a structure in the desert and hundreds of feet above sea level cannot be Atlantis, the associated science cannot rule it out. And that would be the perfect hiding place for it, the reason it has never been discovered or at least recognized as Atlantis.
The Eye of Africa meets virtually all of Plato's very specific requirements for Atlantis. In fact, the Eye of Africa meets them better than any other known place on earth, without exception. If you read Plato, and compare his description of Atlantis to the Richat Structure and add a little imagination about it being at sea level and populated, it is almost uncanny how closely the two match - it's an absolutely dead-on description of it. Really, I don't see how he could have given a better description of the Eye of Africa with the above provisions, and people of ancient times could only have known the part about the concentric rings if there had been water there to distinguish them (they are not discernible otherwise at ground level).
The few reasons why the Richat Structure does not match the description of Atlantis could be explainable - I am not saying that they are adequately explained given current knowledge, I am saying they could be explainable given additional quite reasonable but unknown factors of geology and archaeology. The differences absolutely do not exclude the site from being Atlantis.
Plato himself said that the tale of Atlantis was "strange." This is an area worthy of further research.