Mysterious Findings in the Mauritanian Desert

In the world we live in, many strange things are difficult to explain. One example of this is the Richat Structure, also called the "Eye of Africa," an astonishing structure that has amazed geologists and archaeologists upon its discovery. Some have speculated that these concentric rings located in Mauritania are the remains of the lost city of Atlantis. Others suspect that it may be an impact crater that went undiscovered. Read on to discover the mysterious findings surrounding the enigmatic Richat structure.

Mystery in the Desert

The Richat structure cannot be seen from the surface. So, it was only noticed that it existed during the Space Age, with a view from the top. It did not look weird from the ground level. It merely looked like an outcropping with several layers. It is not noticeable at all, so nobody knew it was actually there.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

With a view from above, speculation about its origin begun, with wild theories relating to extraterrestrials and otherworldly phenomena. However, its origin story is much weirder than that, and it was only very recently discovered by experts in the field.

The Sahara

One of the main reasons the Richat Structure stayed undetected for such a long time is because it is situated in the Sahara Desert, one of the most uninviting places on Earth. Seeing the structures requires going on mile-long hikes in an extremely harsh desert climate, facing aridity, dehydration, and of course, intense heat. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

As some have speculated that aliens were involved in the Eye of Africa, others have theorized that the 30-mile eye was caused by an impact crater. The theory goes that this meteorite crashed into Earth and emitted rock and mineral fragments as it landed, which gives it its unique, perplexing look.

Gemini IV

This fascinating geologic feature was first discovered by scientists on a mission - the German Gemini IV mission. This mission began in the 1960s, in the Space Age. It was launched to orbit the Earth and photograph it for a total of four days. Thanks to this, they discovered the strange-looking Richat structure and were amazed at what they saw.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

The Eye of Africa is situated in Mauritania in a town called Ouadane. As experts studied this strange geologic structure, they discovered great mysteries. This time, the findings were not related to a meteorite, but rather to the Atlantis. Scientists theorized that the circular Richat structure could reveal the famous mythical city. 

Atlantis Found?

Others have suggested that discoveries relating to giants and advanced civilizations have been discovered around the Richat formation. It has been said that the hole exists because it was an ancient lake belonging to the city of Atlantis. The problem around this theory is that there is very little evidence to support it, especially not in the way that theorists have put it.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

There is a good chance that Plato's lost city of Atlantis will forever remain undiscovered, probably because it is a mythical city that never actually existed. The actual explanation for this fascinating structure in the Sahara desert is absolutely mind-blowing. It took experts a very long time to come to a conclusion. Their discovery was astonishing.

The Lost Kingdom

To figure out whether the Eye of Africa was caused by a meteor fall, they had to look at a few specific things. One of the most important things was something called shocked quartz. Shocked quartz, unlike standard quartz, is created due to immense pressure and a limited temperature, differentiating it from standard quartz.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

Basically, shocked quartz is created when huge meteors or asteroids coming from outer space hit Earth. For example, this happened when the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs descended into the Yutacan. In its wake, plenty of shocked quartz remained. Surprisingly, shocked quartz was not found around the Richat structure, which is rather peculiar.

Analogs to the Atlanteans

However, some tales that are a little more believable, yet still have an Atlantean flavor to them have begun circulating. One of these tales relates to the Minoan civilization, a group that lived in Santorini, Greece, surrounding the Aegean Sea. However, the Minoans existed around 3,600 years ago, and definitely not all the way back to 9,000 years.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

Aside from the wrong date ascribed to the Minoan civilization, this group was not wiped out by an earthquake. Instead, an enormous volcano explosion ravaged the group, so the island actually never sank. This means that the hunt for Atlantis continues. Who knows where it will take us?

More on Plato

The reason why some have speculated that the Eye of Africa represents Atlantis is due to its description. Plato described Atlantis as a lake, with circles surrounding each other. Looking from above, it appears that the structure seems that way. However, one must remember that with the effect of erosion, it would not look like this unexplainable geologic feature. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

Atlantis was called the "Lost Continent of Atlantis" by Plato. It's difficult to believe that these 30-mile long circles situated in Northern Africa constitute an entire continent. Some people, however, still stick to that notion. So, in their minds, the legend lives on.

Theodore Monod

Frenchman Theodore Monot was a famous naturalist that was extremely enamored with the desert. He liked the Sahara desert in particular. This love began when he was only around 20 years old as he experienced the unending, arid sands. This led to him studying the Richat structure.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

The problem is that when not looking from above, the area is nearly impossible to find, as mentioned earlier. Due to these circles not really looking like anything from the ground, one is extremely likely to drive over the area and not even realize having done so.

Theodore Monod: Part II

The Frenchman did great things in the domain of naturalism, discovering many important anthropological finds in the Sahara. For example, he found the remains of an ancient human species off the coast of Mauritania in Northwest Africa. The fascinating part, however, is that these were not just any human species, but a species that was never discovered before.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

This particular species is called the Asselar man. Their skeleton belongs to the Neolithic period. This indicates that this civilization came about after people around the Mediterranean started to really thrive off agriculture and domestication. Some of his other discoveries were mostly related to fish and flower species in other parts of the Mediterranean.

Acheulean

Monot found arrowheads and tools which are known to come from the Acheulean time period. Acheulean is French, an industry encompassing tools in many different parts of Africa. These tools were used by Homo erectus as well as Homo heidelbergensis. These tools came around the same time as the adoption of fire by these species.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

However, in the same area, pre-Acheulean tools were also found. It seems like the Acheulean toolset was created around 1.7 million years ago. As human civilization evolved and progressed through geologic times, we stopped needing these tools as we came up with better ones.

Ancient Clues

In his adventures through the Sahara desert, Monod discovered many different things. Aside from being the first person to identify the Asselar man, he also identified many other human indicators. One of these indicators was carvings on rocks.  

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

What we can conclude from these carvings is that these cultures had the desire as well as the capacity to create art. It also shows that anatomically modern humans also lived in that area. This has made the area a point of interest for anyone interested in the minds involved in the Neolithic Revolution. 

The Neolithic Revolution

In their venture, the area that Monod and his team explored, and which was later examined by other archaeologists showed an amazing advance in human history. These advances brought modern-day practices that allowed humans to get on the path to the modern times that we live in today.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

One of the most critical advances in this revolution is the reliance on agriculture to live. However, humans also inherited ugly social traits. One of these includes social stratification. At the end of the day, the more we became used to acquiring and keeping a surplus of stores goods, the more we could have control over others.

Traveling the Sahara

As you can probably image, trekking the Sahara can be extraordinarily grueling. It can be extremely dangerous to go there due to the extreme, dry heat. When Monod was exploring the area, he was well aware of these dangers.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

The biggest concerns when traveling in a desert such as the Sahara is skin protection, and of course, water. If unprepared, exhaustion from the heat can be a problem. Weather is not something to take lightly, as many people have died in the desert due to the scorching sun. This number is only likely to grow as unprepared people explore its vast lands.

Traveling the Sahara: Part II 

One of the reasons why the eye of Africa remained undiscovered for so long is because it is situated in the vast desert. As not many people travel to that part of the world, the particular, fascinating geological traits on the Richat structure were not picked up by anybody.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

Also, as we have previously mentioned, it is tough to spot from the ground. Due to it being spaced out in an area of 30 miles, it's difficult to pinpoint and find it. That's why many have failed to discover this fascinating structure.

The Hidden Danger of Dunes

The vast dunes that make up the enormous Sahara desert are terribly monotonous. This doesn't exactly mean that they're boring but alludes more to the fact that it can be disorienting. After spending just a couple of hours there, it's easy to get lost. Getting lost in the dangerous Sahara desert is not the best situation in the world.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

To avoid losing your way while traveling in dunes, you may require a compass and other navigation tools. The Sahara Desert might not be a place you want to visit, but you might want to visit other sand dunes. When you think of sand dunes, it is perplexing to believe that an amazing structure like the Richat was discovered there.

The Dome

Some researchers have concluded that the arrangement of these concentric circles is the result of the erosion of a dome over several thousands of years. This means that the rocks from which the structure are made are ancient.

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Image Credits: Science 101

As geologists observe the structure, they conclude that it is in fact extremely ancient, over 600 million years old. This means that the rock existed in a time when animals first began to flourish. 

A Collapsed Dome 

At the moment, the most plausible explanation for this is that it is the result of dome collapsing into the Earth due to eruption. After this happened, it is believed to have eroded slowly over the course of several thousand years. The result is this - the "Eye of Africa."

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

The time period from which it is believed to have originated in the Ordovician times, a group that existed 485 to 443 million years ago. However, scientists are still baffled as to the details regarding how this happened. Some are even skeptical that this is the correct explanation. Others have come forward to try and come up with a better explanation.

Landmark

Due to how large the structure is, it is actually used by astronauts, who use it as a landmark when they are in the sky. It allows them to approximate how close they are to different parts of the planet by calculating their relationship to the Richat structure.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

So, the structure can guide you home, sort of like a lighthouse. Even though you may not want to be directed to the Sahara desert, the formation allows you to have an idea about where you are. This idea was first discovered by Gemini IV, the German spaceship mentioned earlier. Gemini IV is responsible for introducing this beautiful and mysterious structure.

The Proterozoic 

The Proterozoic is a time period in geology when animals both evolved and flourished. This time period happened before the Cambrian explosion when vertebrates were first seen. Before this, our fossil record was mostly constituted of soft-bodied creatures.

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Image Credits: Science 101

In evolutionary terms, the motivation behind this explosion is believed to have been the evolution of predation. Scary! As predators became more prominent in the Cambrian scene, those that were being eaten responded by growing hard bones. If they didn't, they would easily fall prey to predators and their strong jawbones.

History of the Sahara

As mentioned previously, many believed that the area where the "Eye of Africa" exists used to be the heavenly city of Atlantis. However, there is no evidence to suggest that humans lived in the Nile valley at the time when the city of Atlantis supposedly existed. This makes this theory difficult to back up.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

Although there were times when there was thriving vegetation in the Sahara, these times did not coincide with the Atlantis period, which is around 9,000 years before Plato's time. Nine thousand years ago, it was only just becoming possible to live in the Sahara. 

History of the Sahara: Part 2

The Sahara was becoming inhabitable thanks to increasing monsoons. These brought about rain, which allowed more life to survive off around the Nile. Due to this, people would take over territory going further west. This was fine for the time being.

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

However, the move was only temporary. Also, Atlantis was supposedly simply an island that was sunk by an earthquake. It's clear to conclude that this part of the Sahara was not underwater around the time that it is said to have existed.

Origin story

The Richat structure has also been said to have originated when the supercontinent of Pangea broke, rather than anything related to an advanced Atlantean society. This happened hundreds of millions of years ago. Pangea began to break up around 175 million years ago. It was a very different time to the one we live in today. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

As this process began, plates on parts of the Earth separated, leading to magma pressing up to them. One of the parts was actually Africa as it separated from South America. So, the magma started to go up and press against the part of western Africa where the structure is situated.

Origin story: Part II

The magma that was pressing up against the lithosphere above it started to create a dome. Then, this dome would slowly give in to the effects of weathering. Then, after enough time has passed, the dome started to leave the light traces that we can currently see from the higher atmosphere - the Richat Structure in the Sahara. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

While scientists are not exactly sure how the effects of plate tectonics and the weathering that came after it formed the leftover dome remnants, this theory is currently the most plausible in the academic community. While this may change as more evidence comes to light, it is currently the best explanation we have today.

Eruption 

Experts have also theorized that the dome was eradicated by an ancient eruption. Due to a build-up of magma beneath the surface, it caused an eruption. After the explosion, the dome could die down thanks to the weathering process spoken about earlier, which eventually gave us the remainders of the structure. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

The eye that can be seen in the middle of the Richat structure is believed to be volcanic rock formed by the explosion. The other rings, on the other hand, are composed of a material that eroded due to weathering at different speeds. That's why each one has such a distinct hue when viewed from above.

The Eye of Africa 

So, contrary to many people's beliefs and opinions about the Atlantean origin of the structure, most experts claim that it had nothing to do with humans. Humans did not even exist when it was formed, and the earliest evidence of humans in that part of the world did not coincide with the age of the Atlantean people. 

Image Credits: Science 101

Image Credits: Science 101

It does, however, display a fascinating geologic feature carved hundreds of millions of years ago. After these processes had a significant effect on the dome, it left the Richat structure that we can see from above. This structure will keep inspiring minds all over the world.

Source: Science 101