Piri Reis Map

Piri Reis Map - How Could a 16th Century Map Show Antarctica Without Ice?


On October 9, 1929, a German theologian named Gustav Adolf Deissmann was cataloguing items in the Topkapi Palace library in Istanbul when he happened across a curious parchment located among some disregarded material. On the gazelle skin parchment was a map, now referred to as the Piri Reis map .

The map was drawn and signed by Turkish cartographer Hagji Ahmed Muhiddin Piri , aka Piri Reis, and is dated to 1513 AD. Reis was an admiral in the Turkish navy, an experienced sailor, and a cartographer, who claimed to have used 20 source maps and charts to construct the map, including 8 Ptolemaic maps, 4 Portuguese maps, an Arabic map, and a map by Christopher Columbus.

Since its discovery, the Piri Reis map has stirred both intrigue and controversy, mostly due to the presence of what appears to be a representation of Antarctica 300 years before it was discovered. Another—if not even more intriguing facet of the appearance of Antarctica—is that it appears to show the land mass before it was covered in ice, over 6000 years ago.

Evidence of Ancient Technology?

The great debate was sparked by Professor Charles Hapgood when he published his theory on the Piri Reis map in his book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings in 1965. He and a team of students at the University of New Hampshire studied the map and found many anomalies, such as the use of mercatorial projection and the inclusion of a pre-ice Antarctica.

The Greeks were able to create cylindrical maps based on their knowledge of a spherical earth, though mercatorial projection was not used by Europeans until later in the 16 th century, and were also able to use astronomy and geometry to calculate latitude and longitude, though absolute accuracy was not possible until the invention of the chronometer in 1760. While these two feats—amazing as they are—could be explained by use of Greek source maps and charts from the age of Alexander, nothing could explain the inclusion of Antarctica. As a result, Hapgood proposed that the map was based on materials that pre-date 4000 BC, before any known developed languages or progressive civilizations.

This theory implies that a prehistoric civilization had the technology to navigate major seaways and fairly accurately chart the globe. Hapgood also suggested that the topographic depiction of the interior of the continents required aerial capabilities, implying the prehistoric ‘super’ civilization to be both nautical and aerial masters and leading to the further speculation of either an Atlantean or alien civilization. No evidence has been found to support such theories.

South America vs Antarctica

Skeptics of Hapgood’s theory point out that the map is a representation of the South American coastline, pointing to modern physical features of the coast and interior included on the 16 th century map. Otherwise, argue critics, the image would indicate that Antarctica and South America had once been connected at Uruguay, and that Argentina did not yet exist.

While this argument possibly dismisses the presence of Antarctica on the Piri Reis map,  other anomalous maps have been found that are identical to the the ice free continent as only 20 th century satellite technology has been able to identify.

Other theories of Hapgood’s have already been dismissed, such as his polar shift theory in which he claimed a sudden shift in the inclination of the Earth's axis of rotation in 9,500 BC could have resulted in the displacement of Antarctica, sending it hundreds of miles south and resulting in the alteration of its climate from semi-temperate to freezing. All evidence suggests that this shift could not, and did not, occur.

Undiscovered Civilization?

The true question is whether or not Antarctica is the identifiable continent on the Piri Reis map, or any of the other anomalous maps. If it is, could the Piri Reis map have been based on the documents of a yet undiscovered, prehistoric civilization, one that could possess technology enabling them to travel and accurately chart the globe? Regardless of the true origin of the sources, one thing is for certain: this map opens up the debate over how we view our own history and what, if any, of those views are accurate. Perhaps someday the truth will be discovered.

Top image: The Piri Reis Map. Credit: Mehmetilker / Adobe Stock

By Beth


Barry Sears's picture


Greetings John,

Thank you for your response. The information I have read here and what I see don't seem to match. Great respect for the maps but I think the identification or our interpretation of the maps is not ringing true. The maps even Identify geographical features of the land and I think we will eventually find the maps are not distorted but in actual fact quite precise. [As the Aegean Sea}They are not too old so no drastic geographical changes have happened. If global then the great geographical feature globally would have been included. The features that have been recorded are precise and indicate a much smaller region than globally suggested. Do you know the nationalities represented by the figures??? The maps have been precisely surveyed with many reference lines passing through many specific points, these maps are very precise and contain great detail on land as well as the sea. There must be many studies that have identified the characters and animals represented here. Do you know of any summarised investigative documentation explaining the people?? The suggestion of a much smaller region seems totally logical and supported by the evidence, from my perspective. The suggestion I read that the birds indicate hidden treasure may prove profitable to those exploring this option. It is not my intention to disrespect your view on the maps and I admire they have inspired you. I seek to understand as best as I can the true meaning of the original intention. Speculation Vs Evidence. Cheers Barry


The Piri reis map was one of the first things to spark my interest in ancient humanity back in the early 80's along with the Bagdhad batteries. I think if one is going to speculate, one must also entertain the notion that, like the batteries, the map is not the " Pinnacle" of ancient cartography but rather just what we have so far identified. The map and the batteries could simply be improvisations made by some one who grasped the basic technology but may not of had the resources to produce what was considered "industrial" quality. Look at the batteries, here you have crudely made wet cells, in battery, able to produce usable current in an otherwise Biblical setting. What for? Why? I heard some one say that perhaps it was part of the electroplating process. These items and skills are all products of a more advanced underlying civilization than is portrayed to us by the balance of the archeological findings of that era. If some one in the future found a home made still in what was the Kentucky Hills would that person then assume he or she is looking at the cutting edge of technology of that era?

Barry Sears's picture


Thank you for your reply Tsurugi,

The evidence does suggest a smaller scaled map. If you refer to the Aegean Sea map drawn by the same hand, it is noted two details suggest the map is of a smaller area to the Aegean Sea size. Please note the comparison of the rivers between the two maps, the larger rivers in the map above suggest a closer or smaller map. The second detail is the shore line. For a larger World map one would expect a smoother shore line although the actual shore line above contains greater detail compared to the Aegean Sea map. The human figures represent nationalities and identify countries, do you know who these figures are?? The other detail signifying location is the animals and the Tapir seems to  hold a good clue. The most interesting animal feature here is the repetitive number of birds and I wonder if you are aware, the reason for this. This is very interesting and I wonder if you are able to answer the questions especially the nationalities.

Kind regards Barry 

Tsurugi's picture

This map has been studied in detail by many, many people...I don't think it is a small bay. Remember that it is a small piece of a much larger world map, now lost.

Remember also that it is drawn by hand, and that every cartographer had their own stylistic flairs and such. Cartography is/was an art form as well as a science. A few minutes perusing old maps demonstrates this easily.

Modern maps use standardized parameters such as line thicknesses, color codes, projection types, and so forth. Such standardizations did not exist in 1513 when this map was made.

Barry Sears's picture

I'm not really sure if all that I have read here is to the correct scale. When you view any global map the indication of rivers is not represented as with this map. My feeling is that the map indicates a simply bay some where and down to the details of more rock formations and safe passages and resting points for a tricky area. If anybody has studied these in detail the animals and human representations should indicate a region. Do I see a waterfall ?


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