Dozens and dozens of locations have been suggested as the real Atlantis since Plato’s work describing the lost city was first discovered by modern scholars, but none have ever been proven definitively. Armchair archaeologists of the internet have never been quite as willing to let go of this mythological city as experts have though, and a new theory has taken root that people want explored and it lies in the unlikeliest of places - deep in the Sahara desert. Find out what evidence is convincing the public that we need to send archaeologists to check it out.
In the northwest corner of Africa in Mauritania lies a strange geologic formation known as the Richat Structure or the Eye of the Sahara for its distinctive shape, and there are mounting indications that somebody should at least check there for the fabled lost city of Atlantis starting with several ancient Greek and Roman maps that quite literally mark the spot as Atlantis. Most frequently referenced is the “Herodotus map” which is of uncertain origin but is believed to have been created by somebody else based on Herodotus’ descriptions of his travels.
Additionally, there is a Roman map created by Pomponius Mela that was meant to display the known world at the time. The atlas is wildly wrong, of course, but one can see the general idea and forgive the inaccuracies considering the tools they were working with at the time. The map is oriented to the east but if turned to the modern northern orientation it becomes clear they had a general idea of where Africa was in relation to themselves, and the northwest area of the continent is clearly labeled “Atlantae” and is next to the spot labeled “Mauri”.
Aside from maps literally labeling this area, there is also the physical description Plato provided which claimed the capitol city of Atlantis consisted of concentric circles of alternating land and water, which exactly describes what the Eye of the Sahara would look like if the desert had long ago been filled with water. Some dismiss the natural land formation as a location because it is, in fact, a natural land formation but ancient people often took advantage of natural formations and built upon them for the benefits they offered.
The famed city was also said to have an opening to the sea at the south which matches the Eye of the Sahara’s southern opening. Strangely, there is evidence from satellite and salt deposits that at one point an ocean did flow in the structure which is counter to the currently accepted water table timeline favored by experts. Surrounding the southerly oceanic entrance was said to be large rectangular plains, which certainly could have described the now barren area surrounding the structure from a higher level and grasslands would have been feasible if water sources were present in the area at the time.
Atlantis was also described by Plato as being made of three different kinds of stone that they quarried - white, black, and red. This also eerily matches what can still be found at the location today. Plato also describes the citadel as being covered in gold, silver, and orichalcum which is extremely specific but frustratingly modern scientists do not know what substance was referred to as “orichalcum” but it was described as flashing with red light. Once again, “red” sounds pretty specific but when one recalls Homer once described oceans as “wine-dark” it really calls into question if the ancient Greeks knew how colors work. Interestingly, finding the location of Atlantis may also help solve the mystery of what orichalcum actually is, as evidence of it would surely be present.
Mauritania itself was also known for its abundance of gold and preliminary treaties tracing back to the 1800s state that a significant percentage of European gold was supplied by the region prior to the discovery of the Americas. The area was so laden with gold that when it was still referred to as the Mali empire one of their kings was considered to be the richest man ever alive, even surpassing Elon Musk at the height of his wealth.
Perhaps most convincingly are the hydrothermal springs that Plato described the island nation as having - one of hot water and another of cold. On the surface this sounds like another reason to dismiss the dry desert region as a potential location, however the Richat Structure has been studied by geologists who determined it’s actually a hydrothermal complex so despite its current barren state it could have previously produced springs of fresh water, in theory.