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The Piri Reis map is a famous pre-modern world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman-Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. The half of the map which survives shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazilmarker with reasonable accuracy. Various Atlantic islands including the Azores and Canary Islandsmarker are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia and possibly Japanmarker. The map has been used to claim an ancient knowledge of an ice-free Antarcticamarker, transmitted either from extra-terrestrials or an Ice Age civilization. These claims are generally considered to be pseudo-scholarship, and some scholarly opinion is that the region sometimes thought to be Antarctica is more likely to be Patagonia or the Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Southern Land) widely believed to exist before the Southern Hemispheremarker was fully explored. The undisputed historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of Portuguese exploration of the New World by approximately 1510, and in its claim to have used Columbus's maps, otherwise lost, as a source.


The map is the extant western third of a world map drawn on gazelle skin, with dimensions reported as 90 cm x 63 cm, 86 cm x 60 cm, 90 cm x 65 cm, 85 cm x 60 cm, 87 cm x 63 cm, and 86 cm x 62 cm. The surviving portion primarily details the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America. The map was signed by Piri Reis, an Ottoman-Turkish admiral, geographer and cartographer, and dated to the month of Muharram in the Islamic year 919 AH, equivalent to 1513 CE. It was presented to Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1517. In the map's legend, Piri inscribed that the map was based on about twenty charts and mappae mundi.Inscription 6 on the map reads: "In this age, no one has seen a map like this. The hand of this poor man [Piri Reis] has drawn it and completed it from about twenty charts and mappaemundi. These are charts drawn in the days of Iskender dhu-l Karnian [[[Alexander the Great]]], which the inhabited quarter of the world. The Arabs name these charts Jaferya." Translation from {{Harvnb|McIntosh|2000|p=15}}. According to Piri, these maps included eight [[Ptolemaic map]]s constructed during the era of [[Alexander the Great]], an [[Arab]]ic map of [[India]], four newly drawn [[Portugal|Portuguese]] maps of their recent discoveries, and a map by [[Christopher Columbus]] of the [[West Indies|western lands]]. From Inscription 6 on the map:
From eight Jaferyas of that kind and one Arabic map of Hint [India], and from four newly drawn Portuguese maps which show the countries of Sint [modern day [[Pakistan]]], Hint and Çin [China] geometrically drawn, and also from a map drawn by Qulūnbū [Columbus] in the western region, I have extracted it. By reducing all these maps to one scale this final form was arrived at, so that this map of these lands is regarded by seamen as accurate and as reliable as the accuracy and reliability of the Seven Seas on the aforesaid maps."

There is some scholarly debate over whether the 20 charts and mappae mundi in Piri's inscriptions includes the eight Ptolemaic maps, the four Portuguese maps, the Arabic map and the Columbus map. From one perspective, the number of charts and mappae mundi used by Piri equals 20, while in the other, it could mean a total of 34. Some have claimed that the source maps were found in the ancient Library of Alexandriamarker, based on Piri's allusions to Alexander the Great, the founder of Alexandriamarker, Ptolemy I, who ruled Alexandria in the 4th century BCE, and Claudius Ptolemy, the Greek geographer and cartographer who lived in Alexandria during the second century CE.


The map was discovered in 1929 while Topkapı Palacemarker was being converted into a museum. It drew immediate attention as it was one of the earliest maps of America, and the only 16th century map that showed South America in its proper longitudinal position in relation to Africa. Furthermore, Piri's claim that he had based some portions of the map on a map drawn by Columbus also drew special attention, as geographers had spent several centuries unsuccessfully searching for a "lost map of Columbus" that was supposedly drawn while he was in the West Indiesmarker. After reading about the map's discovery in the The Illustrated London News, United Statesmarker Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson contacted the United States Ambassador to Turkey Charles H. Sherrill and requested that an investigation be launched to find the Columbus source map, which he believed may have been in Turkey. In turn, the Turkish government complied with Stimson's request, but they were unsuccessful in locating any of the source maps.

The Piri Reis map is currently located in the Library of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbulmarker, Turkeymarker, but is not usually on display to the public.

The map was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 10 million lira banknote of 1999-2005 and of the 10 new lira banknote of 2005-2009. Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 8. Emission Group - Ten New Turkish Lira - I. Series.
Announcement on the Withdrawal of E8 New Turkish Lira Banknotes from Circulation, 8 May 2007. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.


Erich von Daniken

Erich von Daniken proposed the controversial theory that the Piri Reis map was an artifact of an advanced extra-terrestrial race that visited the earth at some point in human antiquity. The projection of the map, he claimed, could only be obtained from a vantage point high in the earth's stratosphere. It also used as its center point Cairo, Egypt, where he claimed that this advanced race had had a hand in building the great pyramids.

Charles Hapgood

Charles Hapgood began studying the map in the middle of the 20th century and published the book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings in 1966.

Hapgood claims this and other maps support a theory of global exploration by a pre-classical undiscovered civilization. He supports this with an analysis of the mathematics of ancient maps and of their accuracy, which he says surpassed instrumentation available at the time of the map's drafting.

Hapgood argued that owing to the map being assembled from components, the Caribbean section was rotated nearly 90º from the top of South America. He attributed this to either copying from a polar projection, or to fit in the space available by hinging the map at that location and giving it an "alternate north", of which other examples are known in maps of the era.

Gregory McIntosh

Gregory McIntosh, a historian of cartography, has examined the Piri Reis map in depth and published his research in the book The Piri Reis Map of 1513 (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2000).

He claims that the depiction of the Caribbean was developed from at least one of Columbus's maps. Hispaniolamarker is depicted with a north-south axis similar to depictions of Japanmarker on maps of the same era. At the time it was widely believed that the east coast of the Americas was in fact that of Asia. Columbus believed that Japan and Hispaniola were actually the same island and Cubamarker was part of a mainland. The mainland in the extreme northwest is labeled with place-names from Columbus's voyages along the coasts of Cuba. McIntosh claims the map shows double sets of Virgin Islands because Piri Reis took them from two maps. Many of the names of ports and geographic points are found in Columbus's written texts.

McIntosh, in comparing the Piri Reis map to several other portolan-style maps of the era, found that

The Piri Reis map is not the most accurate map of the sixteenth century, as has been claimed, there being many, many world maps produced in the remaining eighty-seven years of that century that far surpass it in accuracy. The Ribero maps of the 1520s and 1530s, the Ortelius map of 1570, and the Wright-Molyneux map of 1599 (‘the best map of the sixteenth century’) are only a few better-known examples.

McIntosh intended for this conclusion to be part of a direct challenge to Charles Hapgood's theory about the historical roots of the map. McIntosh found that many of Hapgood's claims were problematic and that, in many cases, the accuracy of the map as Hapgood presents it is exaggerated and that some figures, such as Cuba, Hispaniola, part of Newfoundlandmarker, and others have to be rotated or distorted to appear accurately drawn.

Gavin Menzies

Amateur historian Gavin Menzies claims in his book 1421: The Year China Discovered America that the southern landmass is indeed the Antarctic coastline and was based on earlier Chinese maps. According to Menzies, Admiral Hong Bao charted the coast over 70 years before Columbus as part of a larger expedition under the famous Chinese explorer and admiral Zheng He to bring the world under China's tribute system.

Specific geographical points of contention


Gregory McIntosh and other cartographers and historians who have examined the map in detail believe the resemblance of the coastline to the actual coast of Antarctica to be tenuous. For centuries before the actual discovery of Antarctica, cartographers had been depicting a massive southern landmass on global maps based on the theoretical assumption by some that one must exist, if only to balance the landmass of the North. It was widely believed that South America and, once its northern coastline was discovered, Australia, must be joined to this land mass, which was thought to be very much bigger than the real Antarctica. This theoretical southern continent, the Great Southern Land or Terra Australis Incognita (literally Unknown Southern Land), in various configurations, was usually shown on maps until the eighteenth century. An alternate view is that the "Antarctic" coast is simply the eastern coastline of South America skewed to align east-west due to the inaccurate measurement of longtitude or to fit it on the page.

Hapgood suggests that the Antarctic section of the map was copied at an incorrect scale to the rest of the map and resulted in the distortion and enlargement of the continent on several ancient maps. This would explain why there is no waterway between South America and Antarctica. He suggests several points of continuity between the Piri Reis Map and modern maps of the continent below the ice caps. Since the Antarctic continent was not officially sighted until 1820marker and its full coastline was not known until much later, this claim, if true, would require major revisions to the history of exploration, settlement, evolution, and technological advancements of the time.

Comparison between a modern shot of South America and Piri Reis's version.

South America

There are many difficulties in the map of South America, including duplication of rivers, and the continent's southern end allegedly merging with an ice-free Antarctica. Close examination of the coastline supports the alternative theory that the "extra" landmass is simply the South American coast, probably explored in secret by Portuguese navigators, and bent round to fit the parchment. There are features resembling the basins at the mouth of the Strait of Magellanmarker, and the Falkland Islandsmarker; also the annotations on the map itself, which state that this region is hot and inhabited by large snakes contradicts the polar climate and sparse fauna in Antarctica in the 1500s, which is absolutely established from ice core research. Similarly the map states that "spring comes early" to the islands off the coast, which is true of the Falkland Islands but not of any islands close to the Antarctic mainland.

See also


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  13. From the preface of Piri's Kitab-ı Bahriye (1521): "This poor man [Piri Reis] had previously constructed a map which, in comparison with maps hitherto known, displayed many more [and] different details, [and] in which he had included even the newly published maps of the Indian and Chinese Oceans which at that time were totally unknown in the country of Rum [the Turkish Empire]; and he had presented it in Cairo to the Turkish Sultan Selim I, who graciously accepted it."
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  16. In this case, the Seven Seas are the Chinese Sea, the Indian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, the Western Sea (Atlantic Ocean), the Red Sea and the East African Sea (sea surrounding the East African island of Zanzibar), as identified by Piri in Kitab-ı Bahriye (1521). .
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  29. Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 7. Emission Group - Ten Million Turkish Lira - I. Series. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  30. Chariots of the Gods?, 1968
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  33. Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, The land mass at the bottom is a skewed plot of South America.
  34. World Mysteries - Strange Artifacts - Piri Reis Map
  35. Diego Cuoghi, Thorough article on Piri Reis and Oronteus maps refuting the Antarctica claims.


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