The Mystery of the Piri Reis Map

Several existing theories about unknown ancient civilizations are often largely based on  speculation and not on physical evidence, which is why many of them are greatly discredited by conventional academics and In order to shake the basis of our knowledge of history, most would require hard evidence such as artifacts.

An example of such an artifact is the Piri Reis map. This special, historical map is only one of several anomalous maps drawn during and prior to the 16th century, and is argued by some people to represent better information about the shape of the planet’s continents than what should have been known at the time.

This claim led to even more extraordinary allegations that the geographical information provided by the Piri Reis map may have been obtained at a very distant time in the past and was based on information drawn by an advanced yet still-unknown ancient civilization.


Discovery of the Piri Reis Map

source: abebooks

source: abebooks

The Piri Reis map was discovered on October 9, 1929 by a German theologian named Gustav Adolf Deissmann while he was cataloguing items in the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul. He happened upon a curious parchment and on its gazelle skin, he found a map that was drawn and signed by Turkish cartographer Hagji Ahmen Muhiddin Piri, who was also known as Piri Reis.

Aside from being a cartographer, Reis was also an experienced sailor and served as an admiral in the Turkish navy. The map bears the date of 919 in the Moslem calendar, which correspond to 1513 CE in the Western calendar. In constructing the map, Reis claimed to have used as many as 20 source maps and charts, including 8 Ptolemaic (TOLO MAY IC)maps, 4 Portuguese maps, an Arabic map, and a map supposedly constructed by Christopher Columbus.

Aside from its significant historical value, the Piri Reis map has been alleged to contain details no European could have known in the 16th century, and therefore is believed by some to be a tangible evidence which proves the existence of ancient technological civilizations, extraterrestrial visits, or even both.


Controversy Surrounding the Piri Reis Map

source: wikipedia

source: wikipedia

The Piri Reis map has been the subject of much controversy in academic as well as non-academic circles, sparking a long and intense debate regarding the attribution of its source materials, and the significance of the map’s extraordinary detail of the coastal outlines.

The great debate was sparked by Dr. Charles Hapgood when he published his theory on the Piri Reis map in his 1966 book “Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings.”  Dr. Hapgood was a Harvard-educated historian whose theories about geological shifts earned the admiration of the likes of Albert Einstein.

Dr. Hapgood along with a team of students at the University of New Hampshire studied the Piri Reis map and claims to have found many anomalies, one of which is the alleged representation of the continent Antarctica on the map. The inclusion of the continent’s Queen Maud Land area on this map is particularly interesting because Antarctica was supposedly first discovered in the 19th century, hundreds of years after the construction of the Piri Reis map.

The controversy surrounding the Piri Reis map is not just about how the 16th century Turkish cartographer managed to draw an accurate map of the Antarctic region 300 years prior to its supposed discovery, but also on how the map shows the land mass and coastline of the Antarctic region before it was covered in ice, over 6000 years ago.

In 1961, Captain Lorenzo W. Burroughs, a U.S. Air Force captain working in the cartographic section, wrote a letter to Dr. Hapgood and stated that the “Antarctica” depicted on the Piri Reis map seems to accurately depict the coastline of Antarctica as it is under the ice. The captain based his evaluation on the seismic profile of the Queen Maud Land area made by the Norweigan-British-Swedish Expedition of 1949.

Because of this alleged anomaly, Hapgood proposed that the Piri Reis map was actually based on source materials that pre-date 4000 BCE, thousands of years before the earliest known progressive civilizations with developed languages are known to have existed.

With Hapgood’s extraordinary theory, one glaring and compelling question is raised: “Which unknown civilization had the technology and the need to map the Antarctic region 6000 years ago?”

Hapgood’s theory implies that a prehistoric civilization possessed the technology to navigate major seaways and chart the globe with some level of accuracy. He also suggested that the topographic depiction of the interior of the continents required aerial capabilities. This implies that a prehistoric “super” civilization with aerial and nautical capabilities was the origin of the Piri Reis map’s geographic information on the pre-ice Antarctica.

In his book titled “Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings,” Dr. Hapgood said this about the possibility of ancient voyagers exploring the Antarctic:

“It becomes clear that the ancient voyagers travelled from pole to pole. Unbelievable as it may appear, the evidence nevertheless indicates that some ancient people explored Antarctic when its coasts were free of ice. It is clear too, that they had an instrument of navigation for accurately determining the longitudes that was far superior to anything possessed by the peoples of ancient, medieval or modern times until the second half of the 18th century.”

In short, for Hapgood and his supporters, the Piri Reis map could indicate advanced knowledge passed down from a prehistoric sea-faring civilization which could either Atlantean or alien.


Standpoint of Mainstream Science

source: wikimedia commons

source: wikimedia commons

While mainstream scientists are equally intrigued by the mysteries of the Piri Reis map, many of them have vehemently refuted Hapgood’s implication that the map’s accuracy is the handiwork of mythical Atlanteans or out-of-this-world aliens.

To the skeptics, for a map that was constructed in 1513, the Piri Reis map shows an astonishing amount of detail. While it is clearly an impressive map for its time, it is not without flaws. More than anything, the map is a top-notch example of naval intelligence gathering and cartography, containing very specific details which were possibly derived from tightly-guarded secrets of enemy maps.

Some of the critics’ of Hapgood’s theory claim that the Piri Reis map is a representation of the South American coastline based on the modern physical features of the coast and the interior featured on the 16th century map.

On the other hand, Gregory C. McIntosh - another leading expert on the Piri Reis map - claimed that the southern continent depicted in the map is one produced by imagination. According to him, the idea of a southern continent had already been discussed as early as the time of the ancient Greeks, and many old maps have since shown a southern continent in various forms. Hence, it should not be so surprising that a southern continent also appears on the Piri Reis map.

Is the southern landmass depicted in the Piri Reis Map by a 16th century cartographer only a misguided depiction of South America? Or is it just an imagined representation of a mythical southern continent? Or, is it possible that this map is an astoundingly ancient depiction of Antarctica’s coast, hinting at the existence of an advanced sea-faring civilization several millennia ago?

In the end, we may never really know the truth for certain. After all, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. But if we’re lucky, only time and perhaps several extensive research efforts on the subject matter would be able to tell. And should that time come, all evidences that have been brought forward in the past and shall be discovered in the future should all be re-examined with an open mind.


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