The Piri Reis Map was discovered in 1929 while Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey was being converted into a museum. It consists of a map drawn on gazelle skin, primarily detailing the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America. What is most startling about the map is that it shows the Antarctic region 300 years before it was supposedly discovered. It is believed that the map was drawn in 1513 by Piri Reis, a famous admiral of the Turkish fleet, and presented to the Sultan in 1517. Piri Reis stated that the map was based on "twenty older charts and eight planispheres." The Piri Reis map is rarely shown to the public and is currently located in the Library of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.
Details of the Map
The Piri Reis Map shows the western coast of Africa, the eastern coast of South America, and the northern coast of Antarctica. The northern coastline of Antarctica is perfectly detailed. The most puzzling however is not so much how Piri Reis managed to draw such an accurate map of the Antarctic region, but that the map shows the coastline under the ice that has covered the continent for millennia. Geological evidence confirms that the latest date Queen Maud Land could have been charted in an ice-free state is 4000 BC.
A copy of the map was presented to a diplomat of the U.S. government, where it remained a curious artifact for years. The true mysteries of this map were eventually discovered by Professor Charles H. Hapgood and revealed to the scientific community in his book, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age . During scrutiny of the map, Hapgood discovered a partial charting of Antarctica, made during a period when the coast was free of ice. This coastal structure, now covered again by ice, was subsequently verified by satellite radar scanning in the 1960s. Ice core samples of the coastline have fixed the last ice-free period to between 11,000 BC and 4,000 BC.
Our historical understanding of navigation includes a period of time before which it was impossible to determine a ships latitude (North to South position) in the Southern Hemisphere. This was because the known method involved sighting the angle of the only fixed star - the North Star - which cannot be seen in the Southern Hemisphere because of the curviture of the Earth. Despite this handicap, these maps show amazing details and acurate latitude placement of many known islands along the southern-most coastlines of Antarctica! But this paradox of history may be even more astounding.
Hapgood proved that the Piri Reis Map is plotted out in plane geometry, containing latitudes and longitudes at right angles in a traditional "grid"; yet it is obviously copied from an earlier map that was projected using spherical trigonometry. Not only did the early map makers know that the Earth was round, but they had knowledge of its true circumference to within 80 km (~50 miles).
According to Hapgood the Piri Reis Map bears a striking resemblance to the Azimuthal Equidistant Projection Map, as centered near Cairo. The map is most accurate if one were to draw it from space 321 km (~200 miles) above Cairo - information not possible before the age of satellites.
Since Piri Reis recorded that he didn't create the original map, how did the ancients know such intricate cartography?
Regardless of some of the theories, the questionable time-frame of the Piri Reis Map remains a mystery.
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