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


Tsurugi's picture

In Hapgood's book, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, the following letter was reproduced(emphasis mine):


Westover Airforce Base

6 July 1960

SUBJECT: Admiral Piri Reis World Map

To: Professor Charles H. Hapgood,
Keene College,
Keene, New Hampshire.

Dear Professor Hapgood,

Your request for evaluation of certain unusual features of the Piri Reis World Map of 1513 by this organization has been reviewed.
The claim that the lower part of the map portrays the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land Antarctica, and the Palmer Peninsula, is reasonable. We find this is the most logical and in all probability the correct interpretation of the map.
The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the seismic profile made across the top of the ice-cap by the Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition of 1949. This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap.
The ice-cap in this region is now about a mile thick.
We have no idea how the data on this map can be reconciled with the supposed state of geographical knowledge in 1513.

Lt Colonel, USAF

I always like to include this bit of correspondence in any discussion of the Piri Reis map or Charles Hapgood's ideas, for the Skeptics to chew on(and perhaps chip a tooth or two). :D

And don't rule out the presence of aliens assisting and teaching humans in the distant past!

Tsurugi's picture

Yah. Also, there are petrified tree stumps in Antartica. And huge deposits of coal.

So it has not only been free of ice, it must also have spent large amounts of time in places other than at the pole, where even if it weren't frozen it would be pretty much impossible for trees and jungle forests to grow, because of the long night.

I beleive Hapgood have been dismissed to easily. He may have missed out on the duration of such a slip, being an aggressive techtonical time period rather than an instant shift. Also he forgot to explain why it occures.

A theory on this is as follows: We begin with Gondwana land: the continental landmass crowds along the equator line. Why ? the earth works like a centrifuge! Later in time the plants have taken so much of the CO2 in the athmosvere, that have been bound up either in biomass or fossilized matter, that the temperature have fallen. This, creating glaciers at the poles. These glaciers bind up water, so the sealevels are going down, giving place for more carbon deposits and increasing the cooling pace of the earth. The glaciers would then have been well centered around the poles, but not perfectly centered, so when the icemasses passed a critical level, the centrifugal force started to push them toward the equator, creating an aggresive tectonical disturbance as an effect. As soon as this got going, the inballance increased and the movement increased. But also when the ismass moves from the pole, it starts to melt, giving rising sealevels as a result. At some point it comes to a rest, but now, the nice symetrical pattern of continental mass have been disturbed by the techtonical unrest, and also, at the poles, new glaciers start to build. This will repeat itself untill today, when CO2 levels will be brought back to those before all this started.

If so, Antarctica have probably been free of ice some time in the past, well, early enough it would have been anayway, but I meant also at a time, when an earlier civilisation could have made the original template for a much later and more or less corrupted map.

That's most informative and totally puncture the piri reis ballon!. Thank you.


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