Ali Bey el Abbassi
The Sahara Desert and in particular its northern regions have attracted its share of attention from Atlantis investigators. However unlikely it may appear as a possible location for Atlantis it must be kept in mind that the Sahara of prehistory was very different from what we see today. Not only was it wetter at various periods in the past, but also there is clear evidence for the existence of a large inland sea extending across the borders of modern Algeria and Tunisia. This evidence is in the form of the chotts or salt flats in both countries. This proposed sea is considered by some to have been the Lake Tritonis referred to by classical writers. It is suggested that some form of tectonic/seismic activity, common in the region, was responsible for isolating this body of seawater from the Mediterranean and eventually turning it into the salt flats we see today.
An even more extensive inland sea, further south, was proposed by Ali Bey el Abbassi and based on his theory a map was published in 1802 which can be viewed online(c).
More recently, Riaan Booysen has published an illustrated paper on the ancient inland Saharan seas as indicated on the 16th century maps of Mercator and Ortelius(i). King’s College London runs The Sahara Megalakes Project which studies the Megalakes and the Saharan Palaeoclimate record(m).
A 2013 report in New Scientist magazine(d) revealed that 100,000 years ago the Sahara had been home to three large rivers that flowed northward, which probably provided migration routes for our ancestors.
Other studies(h) have shown the previous existence of a huge river system in the Western Sahara, which flowed into the Atlantic on the Mauritanian coast.
An article in the Sept. 2008 edition of National Geographic pointed out that the Saharan climate has been similar for the past 70,000 years except for a period beginning 12,000 years ago when a number of factors combined to alter this fact. A northerly shift by seasonal monsoons brought additional rain to an area the size of contiguous USA. This period of a greener Sahara lasted until around 4,500 years ago.
More recent studies claim that “there’s geologic evidence from ocean sediments that these orbitally-paced Green Sahara events occur as far back as the Miocene epoch (23 million to 5 million years ago), including during periods when atmospheric carbon dioxide was similar to, and possibly higher, than today’s levels. So, a future Green Sahara event is still highly likely in the distant future.”
More recent studies claim that “there’s geologic evidence from ocean sediments that these orbitally-paced Green Sahara events occur as far back as the Miocene epoch (23 million to 5 million years ago), including during periods when atmospheric carbon dioxide was similar to, and possibly higher, than today’s levels. So, a future Green Sahara event is still highly likely in the distant future.” (p)
Henri Lhote contributed an article to the Reader’s Digest’s, The World’s Last Mysteries , regarding the ‘green’ Sahara that existed prior to 2500 BC. An interesting question might be; what happened circa 2500 BC to cause this reversal? Some have suggested a connection between the aridification of the Sahara and the destruction of Atlantis!
More recently, human activity has been blamed as a major contributory factor for the desertification of the Sahara region less than 10,000 years ago.(n)
Related to the above is a recent study of sediments off the west coast of Africa, which resulted in the discovery of what was “primarily a new “beat,” in which the Sahara vacillated between wet and dry climates every 20,000 years, in sync with the region’s monsoon activity and the periodic tilting of the Earth.” (o)
In 1868, it was proposed by D.A. Godron, the French botanist, that the Sahara was the location of Atlantis. In 2003, the non-existent archaeologist Dr.Carla Sage announced that she was hoping to lead an international expedition to the Sahara in search of Atlantis. Her contention was that “Atlantis was the capital of a vast North African empire with ports on the Gulf of Sidra”. This report is now confirmed to have been a hoax! I am indebted to Stel Pavlou for uncovering the origin of this story(e).
The idea of an African Atlantis was highlighted in 2021 with the publication of Atletenu , in which the author, Diego Ratti, identified the Hyksos as Atlanteans with their capital at Avaris in the eastern Nile Delta. At the other end of North Africa, the chotts of Tunisia and Algeria were nominated by Holden Zhang as the location of Atlantis in a YouTube clip(q).
Gary Gilligan, the well-known catastrophist, wrote a thought-provoking article(k) on the origin of the Saharan sands, which he claims are extraterrestrial in origin and expands on the idea in his 2016 book Extraterrestrial Sands .
David Mattingly, an archaeologist at Leicester University has found that an ancient people known as the Garamantes had an extensive civilisation in the Sahara(l). He has evidence of at least three cities and twenty other settlements. The Garamantes reached their peak around 100 BC and then gradually diminished in influence as fossil water supplies reduced until in the 7th century AD they were subjected to Islamic domination. Some researchers such as Frank Joseph have identified the Garamantes as being linked with the Sea Peoples. Bob Idjennaden has published short but informative Kindle books about both the Garamantes  and the Sea Peoples , without a suggestion of any connection between the two.
The discovery of the megalithic structures discovered at Nabta Playa (Nabta Lake) in the Egyptian Sahara has provided evidence for the existence of a sophisticated society in that area around 5000 BC. In the same region, near the Dakhleh Oasis, archaeologists have produced data that supports the idea that pre-Pharaonic Egypt had Desert Origins rather than being an importation from Mesopotamia or elsewhere(a).
Nabta Playa is not unique, in fact the largest megalithic ellipse in the world is to be found at Mzorah, 27 km from Lixus in Morocco(b). It appears that the construction methods employed at both Mezorah and Nabta Playa are both similar to that used in the British Isles. An even more impressive site is Adam’s Calendar in South Africa which has been claimed as 75,000-250,000 years old.
West of Cairo near the border with Libya is the Siwa Oasis, where it has now been demonstrated that “it is in fact home to one of Ancient Egypt’s astounding solar-calendar technologies– the solar equinox alignment between the Timasirayn Temple and the Temple of Amun Oracle in Aghurmi.”(j).
I think we can expect further exciting discoveries in the Sahara leading to a clearer picture of the prehistoric cultures of the region and what connections there are, if any, with Plato’s Atlantis. In the meanwhile in the Eastern Egyptian Desert, Douglas Brewer, a professor of archaeology at the University of Illinois, has discovered over 1,000 examples of rock art, including numerous depictions of boats although the sites, so far undisclosed, are remote from water.
Even more remarkable is the report(e) of March 2015 that a survey of the Messak Settafet escarpment in the central Sahara revealed that there were enough discarded stone tools in the region “to build more than one Great Pyramid for every square kilometre of land on the continent”! Coincidentally, around the same time it was reported that over a thousand stone tools had been found in the Northern Utah Desert(g). What the Utah discovery lacked in quantity was made up for in quality with the finding of the largest known Haskett point spear head, measuring around nine inches in length.
(a) Saudi Aramco World (2006, Vol. 57, No.5 p.2-11)
(d) NewScientist.com, 16 September 2013, https://tinyurl.com/mg9vcoz
(l) See: Archive 3268
North Africa has received considerable attention as a possible location for Atlantis since the beginning of the 19th century. Gattefosse and Butavand are names associated with early 20th century North African theorists. They, along with Borchardt, Herrmann and others have proposed locations as far west as Lixus on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, on through Tunisia and Libya and even as far east as the Nile delta.
One of the earliest writers was Ali Bey El Abbassi who discussed Atlantis and an ancient inland sea in the Sahara. The concept of such an inland sea, usually linked with Lake Tritonis, has persisted with the Chotts of Tunisia and Algeria as prime suspects. There is acceptance that a seismic/tectonic convulsion in the vicinity of the Gulf of Gabés cut off this inland sea from the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus records this event in his third book dating it to around 1250 BC. If such an event did not occur, how do we explain the salt laden chotts? However, proving a connection with Atlantis is another matter.
Whether this particular geological upheaval was related to the episode that destroyed parts of ancient Malta is questionable as the Maltese event was one of massive subsidence.
It should be kept in mind that Plato described the southern part of the Atlantean confederation as occupying North Africa as far eastward as Egypt (Tim.25b & Crit.114c). This of course conflicts with the idea of the Atlanteans invading from beyond ‘Pillars of Heracles’ situated at Gibraltar since they apparently already controlled at least part of the Western Mediterranean as far as Italy and Egypt.
*One of the principal arguments against Atlantis being located in North Africa is that Plato clearly referred to Atlantis as an island. However, as Papamarinopoulos has pointed out that regarding the Greek word for island, ‘nesos’ “a literary differentiation between ‘island’ and ‘peninsula’ did not exist in alphabetic Greek before Herodotus’ in the 5th century BC. Similarly, there was not any distinction between a coast and an island in Egyptian writing systems, up to the 5th century BC.” In conversation with Mark Adams[1070.198] Papamarinopoulos explains that in the sixth century BC, when Solon lived, nesos had five geographic meanings. “One, an island as we know it. Two, a promontory. Three, a peninsula. Four, a coast. Five, a land within a continent, surrounded by lakes, rivers or springs.”
Personally, from the context, I am quite happy to accept that the principal city of the Atlantean alliance existed on an island as we understand the word. This was probably north of Tunisia, where a number of possible candidates exist. However, it may be unwise to rule out a North African city just yet!
Another argument put forward that appears to exclude at least part of North Africa is that Plato, according to many translations, he refers to Atlantis as ‘greater’ than ‘Libya’ and ‘Asia‘ combined, using the Greek word, ‘meizon‘, which had a primary meaning of ‘more powerful’ not greater in size. Atlantis could not have been situated in either Libya or Asia because ‘a part cannot be greater than the whole’. However, if Plato was referring to military might rather than geographical extent, as seems quite likely, North Africa may indeed have been part of the Atlantean alliance, particularly as Plato describes the control of Atlantis in the Mediterranean as far Tyrrhenia and Egypt.*
Ali Bey El Abbassi (1766-1818) was one of the assumed names of Domingo Badia y Leblich, a Spanish traveller and thought to be a spy for Joseph Bonaparte. Early in the 19th century he published The Ancient Island of Atlantis an account of his journeys in North Africa and the Middle East.
*He wrote of the Atlas Mountains being the ancient island of Atlantis, when the Sahara was a huge interior sea in the centre of Africa, known as Mar de la Nigricia. A map of 1802 based on Ali Bey’s description of this inland sea is available on the Internet(a).*The same map shows Atlantis extending from Tunisia and Libya into the Mediterranean filling most of the Gulf of Sirtis.