Natural Wonders: Richat Structure

Desert Natural History
Richat Structure in Mauritania. Photo: JAXA/ESA

The Richat Structure is a 45km-wide geological oddity that some compare to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Its concentric rings provide a spectacular view…from space. Once you’re on the ground, you see nothing but sand, rocks, and more sand. 

So it’s not surprising that the structure was only discovered in 1965 from space. Gemini IV’s four-day flight featured not only the first American spacewalk but the first images of our planet.

A meteor impact?

At first glance, it seems as if this is a remnant of a meteor impact. In fact, it’s likely the result of millions of years of erosion right here on Earth. The meteor impact theory fell out of favor because the site lacks the minerals usually found in cases of shock metamorphism. That is where extreme heat and pressure from a high-velocity impact deform the surrounding rock. 

Richat Structure in its true colors. Photo: NASA

Long ago, the Sahara was not a desert but rather a temperate region, full of vibrant rivers, lakes, and greenery. For uncertain reasons, this changed. As it transformed into a barren wasteland, great amounts of weathering peeled away layers of hard and soft rock.

The rings show the older igneous rocks concentrating at the centre and younger quartzite and sedimentary rock in the outer rings and ridges. The Structure has three main rings whose perfect shape scientists still don’t understand. 

NASA’s images of the Richat Structure use false coloring to show all the layers of rock and to distinguish bedrock, sand, vegetation and sediments heavy in salt. From space, the rings do not actually look blue. 

Tectonic and volcanic activity from the cataclysmic Pangea separation 100 million years ago forced molten rocks to rise and create a dome, whose rocks date back to the Proterozoic and Ordovician periods. The later hydrothermal activity caused the centre to collapse and form megabreccia, a special type of large, fragmented rock containing smaller sandstone fragments rich in quartz. By collapsing in on itself, the centre is below the surrounding rings and ridges.

The Structure, which is also known as the Eye of the Sahara, is surrounded by great sand dunes called the Erg Oudane. These dunes host Ksours, medieval towns, and former stopovers on the Saharan trade route.

Richat Structure false coloring. Photo: NASA

The lost city of Atlantis

One particularly out-there theory suggests that the Richat Structure is the lost city of Atlantis. Plato wrote that Atlantis also had concentric rings. As it turns out, the Structure is less mythological and more archaeological. Scientists have unearthed a wide range of Acheulean artifacts, particularly in the outer ring, made of quartzite from the area. These included spearheads, pottery shards, and even anchors for ships. Not only is it a geological prize but its human history is also wonderful. 

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About the Author

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu

Kristine De Abreu is a writer (and occasional photographer) based in sunny Trinidad and Tobago.

Since graduating from the University of Leicester with a BA in English and History, she has pursued a full-time writing career, exploring multiple niches before settling on travel and exploration. While studying for an additional diploma in travel journalism with the British College of Journalism, she began writing for ExWeb.

Currently, she works at a travel magazine in Trinidad as an editorial assistant and is also ExWeb's Weird Wonder Woman, reporting on the world's natural oddities as well as general stories from the world of exploration.

Although she isn't a climber (yet!), she hikes in the bush, has been known to make friends with iguanas and quote the Lord of the Rings trilogy from start to finish.

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Jason
Jason
2 months ago

This is Atlantis! Everything adds up! The size the location down to the mountains around it named after Poseidon’s sons. The mountains behind it with its ancient rivers and the proof that it was flooded by ocean being there’s salt. There’s even evidence of elephants. Look into The Bright Insight on YouTube and be blown away with all the evidence that hands down makes this literally Atlantis. Google the Richat structure in Google maps and zoom out and in and look at the direction the waters went and how it destroyed Atlantis. Also remember our continents are always shifting. This… Read more »

Twinkletoes
Twinkletoes
2 months ago
Reply to  Jason

Ah, the good old days when I was into this kind of stuff… I’d read von Däniken and be like “Why are we not acting on this!?”… Btw the Lizards called, they say take this comment down or you’re for the mulching vats.

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Kenneth
Kenneth
2 months ago
Reply to  Twinkletoes

All you need to do is actually investigate this info yourself and you might start seeing all the similarities to the Atlantis theory. You just might become a believer yourself.

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Twinkletoes
Twinkletoes
2 months ago
Reply to  Kenneth

“investigate”? At the risk of repeating myself, I used to be all over this kind of stuff. Then investigating further into all this “mystery” business (subtle emphasis on business here) made me realise it’s all… what-ifs trumpeted as hidden truths. Wishful thinking rebranded as argumentation. Religious logic.
It does not bring you anything real, it just titillates your mind. Not that I mind a bit of titillation, but, you know. It’s exciting for a while, but it doesn’t nourish.

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héka
héka
2 months ago
Reply to  Twinkletoes

you just failed from the beginning; the nourishment must come from yourself, not the other way around
that’s probably why you are not “excited” (subtle emphasis on excitement here) anymore about these stuff i’d say, because you didn’t find, or didn’t come around, the right ideology as foundation for your way of thinking, for what you’ve been thinking exclusively about atlantis and its relevance

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Nathanniice
Nathanniice
1 month ago
Reply to  Twinkletoes

Lol zero likes

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Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Jason

Yes I agree and we need a serious exploration of the whole area to include digs and some very serious digging and sifting.

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Jordy
Jordy
2 months ago

I completely think this site and the Atlas Mountains need to be excavated.

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Last edited 2 months ago by Jordy
Kevin Michael Linsley
Kevin Michael Linsley
2 months ago

People who say “this is Atlantis” isnt saying “Oh yes atlantis was full of ancient technology”

The anient leader of the country Richat Structure is located was “King Atlas” (so happens to be the same name as the king of Atlantis.

There are a ridiculous amount of similarities to Richat and Atlantis. The fact People are so ignorant about admitting that shows people stereotype of Atlantis. Like its some fairy tale..rather than it being a real place just overly exaggerated as the centuries went on to be some mystical place.

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Nathanniice
Nathanniice
1 month ago

Did anybody notice the giant fish and the big Red Dragon eating it above the Richardt Structure? If you look with your own 2 eyes and zoom out from what is obviously Atlantis, as it is exactly how Plato described Atlantis to be, you will see something that is truly amazing, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen or heard of this dragon. The dragon is written about in mythology and folklore and even in the Bible. The dragon spans across all of North Africa starting in Mauritania and spanning several countries ending in Ethiopia. It is almost… Read more »

Leonard W Harper
Leonard W Harper
1 month ago

Even the distance between rings and at the center there is still fresh water

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Brandon Kohlmeier
Brandon Kohlmeier
1 month ago

The Author states “that one particular out there theory”. This is the point I realize that today’s Authors do not seem to research anything and just spew nonsense consistently. Mainstream news laid the foundations for this. This is obviously Atlantis! It’s sad how scientists are so set in their ways that even if wrong, they still will promote their theory as correct. Most are too afraid to admit that they could possibly be wrong. Kudos to Graham Hancock, Randall Carlson, Jimmy from Bright Insight etc! https://youtu.be/r9Gj_6dmNcM

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Last edited 1 month ago by Brandon Kohlmeier
Dr. KJ
Dr. KJ
1 month ago

It is not that out there to suggest Richat is Atlantis. It is not out there to suggest Atlantis had respectable technology in the eyes of philosophers from 2,400 years ago.

It WOULD be out there to suggest Atlantis had technology that would be impressive to anyone alive today. Same goes for all the Ancient Aliens nonsense.

But as far as Solon and Socrates description of Atlantis, it doesn’t get more accurate than the description of this location.

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