By Rachel Cox

People have been traveling the world, raking the ocean floor, and flooding money into the search for the Lost City of Atlantis for years.

But could it be that it has been right there in front of us? In one of the most unlikely places on earth? The middle of the Sahara Desert? Or somewhere still undiscovered? Or is it just a fictional place created for moral tales? Read on and decide for yourself.

What is The Eye of the Sahara?

The Eye of the Sahara, also known as the Richat Structure, is a mysterious phenomenon found near west-central Mauritania in Africa. It’s located in the Sahara’s Adrar Plateau.

It’s a nearly symmetrical geologic structure formed of multiple concentric circles of exposed sedimentary rock that can be seen from space. In fact, that’s how we discovered it in the first place.

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In the 1960s, astronauts who were a part of Project Gemini were searching for circular impact structures when they came across the Eye of the Sahara. It was briefly thought to have been caused by an extraterrestrial impact, but after further consideration, it was concluded to have been made completely planetside.

Now, it’s used as a landmark for astronauts, and as an object of wonder for the curious Google Earth explorer.

But there are also those who think it’s something more. Could there be anything to that belief?

What is the Lost City of Atlantis?

The Lost City of Atlantis is the legendary island that sank beneath the ocean a long, long time ago, taking with it the most advanced society in history.

It’s first mentioned in Plato’s texts Timaeus and Critias, written in about 360 B.C. He wrote that Atlantis was larger than Libya and Asia together (which referred to modern-day northern Africa and over half of Turkey).

On the island, Plato said, there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.

The city was made up of alternating rings of land and water, with bridges extending from the center to the outside, protected by gates and guards.

But the origin of the Atlantis story dates back to the Greek Gods. Specifically, Poseidon.

My Big, Fat, Greek Island

Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea, earthquakes, and horses, came across Atlantis when he was walking the world in search of the biggest island. It was said to have been inhabited by the most beautiful and intelligent people on Earth. This is where he found his true love, Cleito.

In order to claim Cleito as his own and not worry about other people falling in love with her, he decided to do what any rational person would: he built a palace into a mountain and surrounded it with three circular moats, each increasing in width, separated by large rings of land, and placed her in it to dwell for an undetermined amount of time.

Rational, right? And y’all thought Greek mythology was boring!

This is not unusual for Poseidon, as he was constantly having affairs and defiling women, and disguising himself as other gods in order to get who he wanted. Basically, he sucked.

While captured by Poseidon, Cleito had five sets of twin boys. The first of which, Atlas, became the King of Atlantis and had the ocean named after him (hence the name Atlantic Ocean).

The other sons were also rulers of the surrounding nine kingdoms, named the Kingdoms of Atlantis.

The island was said to be self-sufficient, growing its own crops and livestock and having a well-maintained irrigation system.

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A map from the 1600s depicting Atlantis

Rumors claim that the inhabitants of Atlantis were extraterrestrial in origin, having reached the island 50,000 years ago from the Lyrian star system. They were all taller and fairer than humans are now and could live on average 800 years.

They were believed to have powers such as the ability to control the weather and modify volcanic eruptions. This could also be linked to the claim that all the inhabitants were half-human, half-god.

Many people called Atlantis a utopia, when in reality, according to Ken Feder, a professor of archaeology, said it was the opposite, stating:

Atlantis is the embodiment of a materially wealthy, technologically advanced, and militarily powerful nation that has become corrupted by its wealth, sophistication, and might.

This is a major reason people believe that Atlantis isn’t real at all and is actually just a moral tale Plato created.

Evidence that it IS Atlantis

Assuming Atlantis is real, here is some evidence that indicates the Eye of the Sahara IS the Lost City of Atlantis:

Salt in the Area

When viewing aerial photos of the Eye, there are large white spots visible. These are actually pockets of salt on the surface of the sand. This indicates that there was ocean water that flowed over this area in the last 12,000 years.

The number 12,000 is not random. Multiple articles have come out recently stating that the Sahara Desert used to be a lush, green climate. After a huge flood about 11,600 years ago, everything was stripped away, leaving behind a deserted wasteland.

That’s later than people originally thought that part of Africa was underwater - by about 56 million years. This was when parts of Africa were submerged by the Trans-Saharan Seaway.

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From left to right - Statue of Unity, Spring Temple Buddha, Statue of Liberty, The Motherland Calls, Christ the Redeemer Michelangelo’s David. (Heights on the left are in meters)

So, if you say it couldn’t be Atlantis because it’s not underwater, guess again. The Eye may be landlocked now, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Declassified CIA Files

Recently, some previously-classified CIA files became available to the public. There were still some redactions that are classified, but they provided new information on the Eye of the Sahara.

In 1967, the CIA conducted a secret mission where aircraft were sent to about a dozen different locations in the world covertly to run surveillance in search of geomagnetic anomalies.

Geomagnetic fields within the earth shield us from the vacuum of space, and scientists wanted to check for any differences or phenomena. The Richat Structure was one of the locations tested.

Now, while the fact that a mission happened is declassified, the results of the mission were not released. This is what was written about the findings from the Eye of the Sahara:

While the scientific aspects of this survey are totally unclassified and available to the worldwide scientific community…


That’s where the declassified information ends. There’s just about a half-page of redacted information that the government felt could not be released even more than 50 years after the mission.

There’s confusion as to why the results would be classified still. This isn’t necessarily proof of the Lost City of Atlantis, but it is proof that something funky is going on at the Eye of the Sahara that the CIA feels should be concealed from the general public.

The center island of Atlantis was said to have interesting properties, like two freshwater springs: one of hot water and one of cold. This would be very unique, as there are no other known places in the world with springs like this.

Something like this could have been a reason for the mission to begin with. But for now, we don’t have an answer.

Another piece from the declassified files was a book called Adam and Eve. This entire book became available but its reasons for being in the CIA files are still unclear.

In the book, there are statements about entire continents being covered with ocean water about 11,600 years ago.

There’s that number again. This number matches the timing of when the Sahara went from lush and green to barren desert. It also aligns with the sinking of Atlantis.

Moreover, it fits within the time frame of the Younger Dryas.

The Younger Dryas is a well-known example of abrupt change on earth. The start of it was about 14,500 years ago when Earth’s climate shifted from a frigid glacial world to a warmer state.

The end is said to have been about 11,500 years ago. And that end was particularly abrupt, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This could have been what caused the Lost City of Atlantis to disappear completely instead of just sinking into the ocean.

Words Lost in Translation

How could the Eye of the Sahara be Atlantis if it’s landlocked and not an island?

People have a habit of taking ancient words just as they are presented. They forget that words change or meanings get construed over time.

Look at the Declaration of Independence, which was written a few hundred years ago, but definitely has outdated language within it. Imagine reading documents from years that end in B.C. and assuming that nothing would be different today.

In the case of Plato’s writings, too, there’s the added complication of translation. Translating ancient Greek into modern-day English will be the cause of misinterpretation and words lost in translation. This could be true for the word ‘island.’

In Plato’s Greek writings, the word ‘nesos’ was used. This was translated to mean ‘island.’ But according to the book Joining the Dots: Plato’s Atlantis in the Central Mediterranean, ‘nesos’ could mean a plethora of things, such as peninsula (which there was no specific Greek word for till later), coast, or land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers, or springs.

That means that Plato could have not been talking about an island at all. The Eye of the Sahara could have been what he was referring to.

There’s also a claim that Plato wrote this as a moral tale, but all of his previous allegories and tales were explicitly called fiction. He stated in his work that this was a true story multiple times.

And if an amateur archaeologist could find the legendary city of Troy using Homer’s The Iliad, why couldn’t Plato’s works be used to find the City of Atlantis?

Mother Nature Strikes Down Counter Arguments

The main argument people have for the Eye of the Sahara not being Atlantis is that it is higher than sea level. But 11,600 years is a very long time. The region has lifted since Atlantis would have sunk.

The salt in the area shows the ocean used to flow over this part of Africa, meaning that it once used to be below sea level but now is higher due to how the earth’s crust shifts up and down and side to side.

Especially since there was lots of volcanic activity in this area (more on that in the section on evidence that it isn’t Atlantis).

People think that if Atlantis was really as big as Plato stated and had sunk into the ocean, we would have found it by now. With all the oceanographers, submariners, and other people who study the ocean, someone is bound to have seen remnants of buildings or artifacts.

But if we remember the huge flood that wiped out the green landscape that used to be the Sahara, then you have your answer. Something that could have wiped out a land completely of its foliage and other life forms could definitely wipe out a full city with little to no evidence left behind.

Evidence it is NOT Atlantis

This is not going to be evidence that Atlantis doesn’t exist, but more so proof that the Eye of the Sahara cannot be Atlantis.


One of the things Plato wrote about the location of the City of Atlantis is that it sits west of the Pillars of Hercules. That would put it in the Strait of Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco.

Well, that’s not where the Eye of the Sahara is. It is, however, where an island city named Gades (now Cadiz) is located.

There’s talk about that being one of the 10 Kingdoms of Atlantis named after one of Poseidon’s sons. That may be true, but why would Plato write about the location of one of the kingdoms instead of the capital city of Atlantis?

That wouldn’t make sense, especially since there aren’t other locations listed in his writings. That indicates that the City of Atlantis is still out there in the Strait of Gibraltar to be found.

Volcanic Activity

The Eye of the Sahara is a strange geologic structure. So, it would make sense that there is lots of discussion as to how it was formed. But most people agree that it is a deeply eroded geologic dome.

Cave Entrace

One theory is that when the supercontinent of Pangaea broke up, the Atlantic Ocean waters flowed in the region. At the same time, magma from below the surface pushed up from Earth’s mantle and formed a circular rocky dome surrounded by layers of sandstone.

Erosion took its toll the following millions of years on the sandstones, and as the dome subsided, circular ridges were left behind. It is similar to cutting a slice off the top of the dome and having a perfect circle left behind.

The rings formed with multiple different types of rocks within the dome eroding at different rates.

Another possibility is that volcanic activity below the surface lifted the entire area around the Eye. It was more temperate and lush back then with abundant flowing water and life.

Layered sandstone rocks formed when they were deposited by blowing winds and from the bottoms of lakes and rivers.

Volcanic flow eventually pushed up on the overlying layers of sandstone and the other types of rocks, but when volcanic activity died down in this area, wind and water erosion ate away at the layers and the region eventually settled down and collapsed on itself, creating the signature eye shape.

One last idea is that the area around the eye had a weakened lithosphere (crust and upper mantle) and the magma rose up from below to form an anticline.

This is basically a big fold of rock sticking up from its surroundings. The rock layers alternated between sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks.

These rocks erode at different rates, which is how the concentric circles were created. Also, the oldest rocks at the Eye of the Sahara are at the center, which correlates with how anticlines form. So, this is a very believable theory.

Different Interpretations

Plato wrote down what he wrote for a specific reason. He didn’t write it for things to be taken out of context or for people to adjust the meaning so that it fits where they believe Atlantis could be.

But most people who claim to have found it, especially when it comes to the Eye of the Sahara, can make the location fit Plato’s description by saying it was written out of error or that he wrote it with an intent to deceive.

If you add, omit, or misinterpret various details, anywhere can be Atlantis if you try hard enough.

What Do You Think?

Now that you’ve been presented with evidence on both sides, what do you think? Do you believe that the Eye of the Sahara could be the Lost City of Atlantis? Or is it too far-fetched?

Or maybe Atlantis is actually just a moral tale about society by Plato. That’s still the mystery. What we do know is that the Richat Structure is really freakin’ cool, no matter how it was formed.