The Piri Reis map is one of those artifacts that seem to defy explanation. It is something of an anomaly among maps of its time and it appears to somewhat accurately depict coastlines, rivers and mountains that no European should have had any knowledge of, at the time that it was drawn. If no European should have had any knowledge of these things, than how is it that Piri Reis, a well-known Turkish admiral and cartographer, could have drawn them so accurately? In a nutshell, this is the mystery of the Piri Reis map.
In 1929 a group of historians came across a very old map in the Imperial Palace in Constantinople. The map that they found was drawn on the skin of a gazelle. Upon further inspection, it was realized that the map that they had found had been drawn by Piri Reis in the year 919 A.H. of the Moslem, or Islamic calendar, which would have been 1513 AD. The date that the map was drawn became a very interesting factor when it was realized what the contents of the map were.
Represented clearly on the Piri Reis map are the western coasts of Europe and Africa, as well as the Eastern coasts of North America and South America. There are also several islands that are relatively accurately placed, including the Canary Islands, the islands of Cape Verde and the Azores. Details such as, rivers, mountains, bays and inlets are included and, in some cases, are in astounding detail. The coast of Europe is rather accurate for a map of its time and the coast of Africa is the same. The coast of North America is truly a mess, but it is obvious that the unrecognizable coastline is meant to be that of North America. Piri Reis’ drawing of South America is astonishingly accurate. That is not to say that it is perfect, by any means, but it includes details that no European man would have known in 1513, including the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River.
Now, there are some parts of Piri Reis’ map that have created some controversy. Firstly, there are some who say that Greenland is on the map and is accurately depicted. Now, judging by the fact that much of the Piri Reis map is longitudinally accurate to a great degree and the fact that there is a line on the map that seems to relatively accurately represent the equator, it is impossible to “find” Greenland on this map, without making the rest of the map wildly inaccurate. There were a few mistakes on the map, such as the size of South America in relation to Africa and Europe and, of course, the completely inaccurate North American coastline, but nothing so horribly wrong as the complete misplacement of a continent is detectable on the Piri Reis map. Unless, of course, you believe that the sub glacial coastline of Antarctica is depicted on the Piri Reis map.
Somewhere in South America the coastline takes a sharp and meandering journey to the east, on this map. We know now that the Eastern coast of South America goes gradually west until it comes to a point. So, what is this coastline that lies on the southwest and south of the Piri Reis map? Many scholars believe that this coastline represents the sub glacial coastline of Antarctica. It has been discovered that it does bear a striking similarity to it. However, it is difficult to explain away the absence of the Drake Passage. It is also not in the same position that we know Antarctica to be. That being said, if this is indeed Antarctica, certain inaccuracies can be excused when you take into account that the map was drawn on a bit of gazelle skin in 1513.
Whether the Piri Reis map (drawn 300 years before the discovery of Antarctica) accurately depicts the sub glacial coastline of Antarctica is a matter of debate, but let’s say for a minute that it does. If it does, then we have an even larger mystery to unravel because the last time that the sub glacial coastline of Antarctica could’ve been mapped without the use of modern equipment was roughly 4000 BC. As far as we know, the first human civilization began around 3000 BC in the Middle East. Is it possible that a civilization was advanced enough to map that coastline at that time? Some say yes, others say no. Some people even say that aliens brought the knowledge to an ancient civilization and that information was passed on through ancient maps.
We know from Piri Reis’ notes (click here for a translated version), which are written in Turkish in the margin of the map, that he used roughly twenty older Spanish and Portuguese maps to compile information for his map. He also used oral information from captive Spanish and Portuguese sailors. Some people believe that his notes regarding the twenty older maps may refer to some ancient maps that are unknown to modern man. This would have to mean that there was an advanced civilization that we are wholly unaware of.
There have been outlandish claims that the Piri Reis map is “proof” that there were extremely advanced ancient civilizations or extraterrestrial visits; it does no such thing. There is no concrete proof that this is so. However, when it comes to the unknown, and aspects of the Piri Reis map are certainly unknown, anything is possible.
Even if you disregard all of the far-fetched theories regarding this map, you are still left with an amazing artifact. It is the first known map that shows the Americas, South America is far more accurate than it should be and so are other parts of the map. If the mysteries of this map were unraveled, at the very least, the history of the exploration of South America would drastically change. At most, we would become aware of extraterrestrial beings visiting the ancient people’s of our world. At this point, the source of Piri Reis’ knowledge remains a mystery, so if you want to believe it was aliens, no one can prove you wrong. Ah, the wonder of mystery.
Strange Artifacts-Piri Reis Map, retrieved10/25/09, world-mysteries.com/sar_1.htm
Dutch, Steven, The Piri Reis Map, retrieved 10/25/09, uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/PiriRies.HTM