The Eye of the Sahara, also known as the Richat Structure and the Eye of Africa, is a geological feature in the Sahara Desert’s Adrar Plateau, located in west–central Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
The structure is an eroded elliptical dome of sedimentary rock, that ranges in age from the Proterozoic (2500 to 538.8 million years ago) within the centre, to Ordovician (488.3 to 443.7 million years ago) sandstone around its periphery.
The dome has a diameter of 40 kilometres (25 mi), with an interior comprised of intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, including rhyolitic volcanic rocks, gabbros, carbonatites and kimberlites.
The rhyolitic rocks have been interpreted as lava flows that are part of two distinct eruptive centres formed from the remains of two maars, a low-relief volcanic crater caused by a phreatomagmatic eruption (an explosion caused when groundwater comes into contact with hot lava or magma).
Eye of the Sahara – Image Credit : NASA – Public Domain
The gabbroic rocks form two concentric ring dikes, the inner ring dyke is 20 metres in width and lies 3 kilometres from the centre of the structure, while the outer ring dyke is 50 metres in width and is located 7 to 8 kilometres from the centre.
The processes that formed the structure has been theorised to be the result of either a meteoric impact, or a deep magmatic intrusion, the latter of which is supported with high-resolution airborne magnetic data and gravity data to reinforce the intrusion hypothesis.
The Eye of the Sahara was first identified during the 1950’s from aerial photographs, leading to ongoing studies by geologists until as recently as 2008. This latest study, explained that the ridges and valleys we see today are formed by the differential erosion of alternating hard and soft rock layers, uplifted as a dome by an underlying alkaline igneous complex of the Cretaceous age.
Archaeological research at the structure has revealed evidence of human activity, with numerous deposits of pre-Acheulian and Acheulian artefacts, characterised by the distinctive oval and pear-shaped “hand axes” normally associated with Homo erectus and derived species such as Homo heidelbergensis.
Acheulean tools were produced during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Europe, first developed about 1.76 million years ago and derived from the more primitive Oldowan technology associated with Homo habilis.
Research by archaeologists have found Acheulean sites located along wadis that occupy the outermost annular depression of the structure, where outcrops of quartzite were sourced to provide the raw materials for tool manufacturing. Tool types found in Acheulean assemblages include pointed, cordate, ovate, ficron, and bout-coupé hand-axes (referring to the shapes of the final tool), cleavers, retouched flakes, scrapers, and segmental chopping tools.
The geographic distribution of Acheulean tools – and thus the peoples who made them – is often interpreted as being the result of palaeo-climatic and ecological factors, such as glaciation and the desertification of the Sahara Desert.
The climate of the region has undergone enormous variations between wet and dry periods over the last few hundred thousand years, believed to be caused by long-term changes in the North African climate cycle that alters the path of the North African Monsoon.
During the African humid period (AHP), much of the Sahara desert was covered by grasses, trees and lakes, where the people of the Lower Palaeolithic lived an existence as hunter-gatherers.
Evidence of Neolithic activity has also been found, with sparse, widely scattered spear points and other artefacts located northwest of the outer ring, although generally absent in its innermost depressions of the structure.
Due to the lack of middens or identifiable evidence of sustained occupation, this has led to the interpretation that the structure was only used for short-term hunting and stone tool manufacturing.
A pseudo theory by Fractal Source Research (FSR), proposes that the structure is the remnants of an advanced Antediluvian civilisation, namely the lost city of Atlantis, based on a comparison of measurements from the structure with the descriptions given by Plato.
Eye of the Sahara, taken by the Sentinel-2 Satellite – CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily
New chambers discovered in Ancient Egyptian pyramid of Sahura
An Egyptian-German archaeological mission has discovered several new chambers in the pyramid of Sahura, located in the Abu Sir Pyramid Field south of Giza.
Sahura, meaning “He who is close to Re”, was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty (2465 BC to 2325 BC). Sahure’s reign is seen as one of economic and cultural prosperity, opening new trading links to the land of Punt and expanding the flow of goods from the Levantine coast.
Choosing not to follow the tradition of being buried in the royal necropolises of Saqqara and Giza, Sahura instead chose for his pyramid to be constructed at Abusir. Although smaller in size than the pyramids of his predecessors, Sahura’s pyramid complex was decorated with over 10,000 m2 of finely carved reliefs, some of which are considered “unparalleled in Egyptian art.”
The interior chambers of the pyramid were extensively damaged by grave robbers during antiquity, making it impossible to precisely reconstruct the substructure plan.
Image Credit : Mohamed Khaled
A restoration project led by Egyptologist Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled of the Department of Egyptology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU) has discovered a series of storage chambers and passageways. The northern and southern parts of these chambers are badly damaged, however, remnants of the original walls and parts of the floor can still be seen.
Using 3D laser scanning with a ZEB Horizon portable LiDAR scanner, the team conducted detailed surveys to map the extensive external areas and the narrow corridors and chambers inside.
According to the researchers: “Careful documentation of the floor plan and dimensions of each storage chamber has greatly enhanced our understanding of the pyramid’s interior. During restoration, a balance between preservation and presentation was pursued to ensure the structural integrity of the chambers while making them accessible for future study and potentially the public.”
During the restoration work, the project was also able to uncover the floor plan of the antechamber which had deteriorated over time. Consequently, the destroyed walls were replaced with new retaining walls. The eastern wall of the antechamber was badly damaged, and only the northeast corner and about 30 centimetres of the eastern wall were still visible.
Header Image – Pyramid of Sahura – Public Domain
Archaeologists identify runesmith who carved the Jelling Stone runes
Archaeologists using 3D scans have identified who carved the Jelling Stone runes, located in the town of Jelling, Denmark.
The first of the two Jelling stones was erected by King Gorm the Old in honour of his wife Thyra. Following this, a second stone was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth, to commemorate his parents and to mark his victorious rule over Denmark and Norway, as well as his role in converting the Danish people to Christianity.
Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen have conducted 3D scans to analyse the carving tracks of the runes. Similar to handwriting, the carving techniques are relatively unique to each runesmith, as each stonemason holds the chisel at a certain angle and strikes with a certain force with the hammer.
By studying the angle of the chisel grooves and the distance between them, comparisons can be made with other rune stones, such as the Laeborg Runestone which stands approximately 30 kilometres southwest of Jelling
The analysis has revealed that the Laeborg Runestone has the same carving technique, which also has the inscription: “Ravnunge-Tue carved these runes after Thyra, his queen”.
Queen Thyra is mentioned in the two Jelling stones as the mother of Harald Bluetooth, wife of Gorm the Elder and “penitent of Denmark”, but Thyra’s name is also mentioned in two other runestones, that of Læborg, carved by Ravnunge-Tue in honor of Thyra, his queen, and that of Bække 1, which bears the inscription “Ravnunge-Tue and Fundin and Gnyple, the three made the stop of Thyra.”
For many years, researchers have debated whether Læborgstenen’s Queen Thyra is the same as the Thyra mentioned on the stones from Jelling.
According to the researchers: “The discovery in itself is interesting because it can link another person to the Jelling dynasty, but it is especially interesting because the realization brings with it another startling revelation, explains Lisbeth Imer, runologist and senior researcher at the National Museum.”
“It is an absolutely incredible discovery that we now know the name of the rune maker behind the Jelling stone, but what makes the discovery even wilder is that we know Ravnunge-Tue’s boss. It is Queen Thyra from Jelling, i.e. Harald Blåtand’s mother, there can no longer be much doubt about that, and that puts the discovery in a completely different light,” says Lisbeth Imer.
Header Image Credit : Shutterstock
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