The Piri Reis Map stands alone, singular and aloof from all other maps used to support the idea of “gods” from outer space or as a leftover from our own Atlantean super-civilization of prehistory. It is studied for its apparent anachronisms; marveled over for its detail. It dates to 1513, only 21 years after Columbus’ historic discovery of the New World. Yet it reveals remarkable knowledge of the Americas. It was made for an “Amir al bar” (Admiral) of the Turkish Navy, Piri Ibn Haji Mehmed. This map was found when Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, the former residence of the deposed Sultans, was being converted into a museum in 1929.
The Ancient Astronaut Theory was popularized by Erich von Däniken in his Chariots of the Gods, 1969. Von Däniken observed: “The maps are absolutely accurate . . .The coasts of North and South America and even the contours of the Antarctic were also precisely delineated on Piri
Reis’ maps. The maps not only reproduced the outlines of the continents but also showed the topography of the interiors! . . .The latest studies of Professor Charles H. Hapgood and mathematician Richard W. Strachan give us some more shattering information. Comparison with modern photographs of our globe taken from satellites showed that the originals of the Piri Reis maps must have been aerial photographs taken from a very great height.”
Charles Berlitz added the Atlantean connection in The Bermuda Triangle in 1974. “The Piri Reis Map, found in Istanbul in 1929, is part of a world map said to have been copied from a Greek original in the Library of Alexandria. Among other features, the Piri Reis map shows detailed features of Antarctica evidently drawn several thousand years before Antarctica was “discovered,” as well as the true shape of Antarctica without the covering ice. Other features indicate an advanced knowledge of astronomy, trigonometry,
and theability to determine longitude, not known to our culture until the reign of George III of England.”
Many books and magazines have echoed such ideas. As late as 1995 in his Finger Print of the Gods, Graham Hancock used the Piri Reis Map as evidence for the possibility of a prehistoric super-civilization. He said: “ . . .the true enigma of this 1513 map is not so much its inclusion of a continent not discovered until 1818 [Antarctica] but its portrayal of part of the coastline of that continent under ice free conditions which came to an end 6,000 years ago and have not since recurred.”
Again, as with the Buache Map, all of those above could extend some scientific credibility to their points of view by mentioning the 1965 work of Prof. Charles Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, in which he postulated the map was drawn not only from Greek maps of 400 B.C., but from much older maps as well, preceding 4,000 B.C. in that nebulous era of
“prehistory” before our culture’s records begin in Sumeria and Egypt. Hapgood had some very novel theories, for which he was ridiculed. However, the extent that pseudo-science took his work and added thereto is incredible.
The Piri Reis Map was made in 1513, as the map itself says in Turkish. Reis might have had some ancient Greek maps at his disposal from the imperial library of the Byzantine emperors, and these might have been inspired by Phoenician maps (perhaps even of America, which it seems they did discover long before Columbus), but little if any of this can be deduced from looking at the actual map. The Piri Reis Map is a composite of the eastern shores so far as they were known up to 1513. He obviously consulted many good maps, including, supposedly, one which Columbus drew himself. In fact, Cuba does not even appear on the map, which means it had not been fully circumnavigated yet.
In light of this it is remarkable that it is said to show
the coast of Antarctica at all, whether with or without ice, nor at some primordial epoch when it was connected to South America. If the map reflected that, then Antarctica was attached to South America by sitting on top of it!
The land mass at the bottom of the map is so obviously connected to South America because it is South America. One can follow the coast line of South America quite well. The cartographer merely bent it around to keep it on the same swatch of paper (actually gazelle hide).
As for the advanced astronomy and trigonometry, this myth was popularized by von Däniken’s belief that the curving of South America at the bottom of the map indicates that this was a copy of an ancient satellite photo taken over Cairo, from which vantage point South America would look distorted and curved. Yet Hapgood himself had said that the Andes drawn on the map showed they were mapped from sea-level. To top it off, von Däniken did, on one occasion, renounce his point of view but then retracted his retraction again.
Graham Hancock’s use of the map is the most surprising, since long before the 1990s von Däniken’s ideas, including those on the Piri Reis Map, had been soundly countered by Dr. Clifford Wilson’s Crash Go The Chariots and Ron Story’s Space Gods Revealed.
However, in Underworld (2002) Hancock brings up some fascinating data on the composite origins of the Piri Reis Map, which seems rather relevant here, for it explains something quite piquing on the map: there is a large island off the coast of North America which the cartographer marked, as was the custom of the art form at the time, with something representing its most salient feature; in this case, it is a line of polygonal stones. To my knowledge I was the first to notice this and post an article on this website back in 1999. I did so in relation to the Bimini Road. Since this island appears right off the coast it could be that Bimini inspired this artistic license. However, they appear on land and not under water. Clearly, they were observed by some of the Spanish on one of their voyages prior to 1513 and they were greatly
impressed by them. This would explain why they were preserved on some map that Reis used (or described and illustrated on some other independent document of which he had a copy). If not the Spaniards, then it was indeed from some other map that Reis used. But the island is shown as huge and far out of proportion to recognizable Caribbean islands represented on the map. This doesn’t suggest Bimini at all. Just what is this island? Is it the Bahama Bank before it was submerged, and therefore Reis did have very ancient maps or their copies? Are we truly ignorant of the water levels of the Atlantic at this time and the Bimini Road was indeed on land? Hancock actually has some good information. Amazingly, the island may be Taiwan! This is to say, that indeed the Piri Reis map is a huge composite.
Prior to and even during Columbus’ lifetime European cartographers and navigators believed that an island existed beyond the Canaries and Azores called Antilia by those who had made it that far and returned.
Obviously, there was some island in the Atlantic which did inspire this. Its existence was so strongly believed in that after discovering islands in the Caribbean they were named the Antilles. But there is a difference between the reality and the cartographic expression of it. We will probably never know what island was actually Antilia, but some cartographic representations of it can most likely be traced to Taiwan.
Remember, the early navigators of the Atlantic were ignorant of the existence of the Americas. Columbus thought that by sailing west he could come to China and India. Maps stemming from Marco Polo had shown Taiwan and Japan, the latter being named Cipango and sometimes Satanaze. In drawing a hypothetical chart of the Atlantic it seems that some cartographers placed the image of these islands out in the Atlantic, so that it looked as if one or two large islands existed in mid-ocean. Beyond them presumably was the coast of China. This seems the origin of the appearance and contours of “Antilia” on some charts. This also seems the
origin of the huge misplaced island in the Bahamas on the Reis map. Hispaniola and the islands of the Windward and Leewards are easy to make out on the map. But that misplaced island could be a leftover from earlier maps that simply had shown it as Antilia, a huge isolated island in the barren Atlantic.
It is obvious to any navigator sailing over the Bahama Bank that one is skimming over a huge island barely beneath the sea. By Columbus’s time did some navigators believe that this was Antilia and it had sunk? Could they have noted the impressive stones and this was now added to the charts as the island’s most salient feature?
By Piri Reis’ time, navigators knew America lay between Asia and Europe. The stark clarity of South America’s coastline is proof of that. But the configuration of the Caribbean and North America seem dependent on maps where the details were not so clear yet. For example, Cuba was not yet identified and the Gulf not explored and the great nations of Central America not yet found. Antilia, so familiar to any navigator on earlier speculative
As regards super-civilization or Atlanteans, there is even less evidence. The whole Gulf of Mexico and Cuba are absent, which a highly skilled space map would not have left out. Since Columbus believed that Cuba was apparently Taiwan (remember, American Indians are called Indians because Columbus thought they were off India and China), and then later Japan, the source maps Piri used were early after Columbus’ first two voyages. As the map, left, shows, there is no Antarctica, so there is no pre 6,000 year old charting evidence on the map.
The Piri Reis Map is as it claims— a huge composite of many previous maps. But there doesn’t appear to be any ancient or orbital knowledge reflected in the map. It is written on gazelle hide and thus space was limited. The result is that the coast of South America is curved in order to keep it on the hide. Seriously, where could the rest of South America be if Antarctica begins just south of Rio de Janeiro?
maps, had to be placed somewhere and Reis seems to have placed it where perhaps other charts spoke of the remnants of a large island and evidence of human habitation.
The contours nevertheless remain those of old Antilia and this it seems was indeed inspired by the pre-Columbian charts showing Taiwan! Thus the great composite Piri Reis Map shows South America drawn with the latest knowledge, and islands in the Caribbean with both correct and some hypothetical leftovers, and no Central America, Cuba or Gulf at all.
This is not the product of an Atlantean super-civilization, orbiting gods or even a reflection of ancient Phoenician knowledge via the Greeks.
Yet it does preserve how Antilia remained a problem. For centuries it had been a huge island far into the Atlantic. It had to be placed somewhere and it does seem appropriate that it is placed over the Great Bahama Bank. This large undersea
plateau might indeed have been the legendary Antilia. The currents south of the Sargasso Sea will direct even a drifting vessel this way from as far as south of the Azores. The Bahamas actually become the easiest point of landfall in the Americas, even for a drifting, dismasted derelict ship. Why could the Great Bahama Bank not have been Antilia?
The polygonal stones on the Great Bahama Bank (and perhaps even on other islands) show how they amazed all who saw them, as they do so today. This raises the idea of lost civilization on large sunken islands and with this the old tales that may have inspired another great composite: Plato’s Atlantis. The ancient Greeks certainly knew more than medieval navigators. From Plato’s Atlantis we know that they knew a great continent lay between Asia and Europe and that before this “boundless continent” there were islands; and this is Plato’s description of Atlantis.
The Piri Reis Map represents the great composite nature of map making at the time, but it also reflects the great
composite nature of our knowledge of the Atlantic prior to formal, modern discovery. In this it truly is connected with Atlantis. Atlantis is a massive composite. And it should not be surprising that various elements of it have been discovered: islands, a boundless continent and perhaps even a sunken civilization in the Americas. The Piri Reis Map reflects all this, including its thin remembrance of a once large island we knew existed far out in the Atlantic.
Coincidences continue today, but they grow more esoteric and hard to explain. Tied into the Bimini Road are the predictions of psychic Edgar Cayce, who said that the secrets of Atlantis would be discovered off Bimini, the very island that holds those enigmatic gigantic polygonal stones. Is there truth to Cayce’s Atlantis? Or is it just yet another thin coincidence with our ideas about the Bahamas, Antilia, and Atlantis?