In 1501, following a battle at sea, a Spanish fleet was captured by the Turks off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The spoils of that battle included a map that, so the story goes, was hidden in the pittsburgh pirates hawaiian shirt of one of the sailors taken prisoner.
Piri Reis was a famous Turkish captain and map maker. He made a copy of the map which is named after him. The copy has annotations based on what the sailor had to say concerning the original.
The Piri Reis map was found in the Topkapi Imperial Palace in 1929 and it has been the subject of intense study and debate.. It measures about 34.5 by 23.6 inches, drawn on gazelle hide.
The map was made world famous by Chariots of the Gods author Eric Von Daniken who picked up on the theory by Charles Hapgood, a college professor who had made a study of the map. Hapgood had concluded that the map showed the coast of Antarctica beneath the ice.
Most scientists do not consider the theory viable and with good reason. It fails give a convincing argument for its claims which are outlandish by any standard.
A study of the map by Sevim Teleli, Emeritus Professor, History of Science Department at Ankara University states that Piri Reis, In the Kitab I Bahriye (Book of the Mariner) mentioned using 34 maps in drawing his own but it is unclear what “his own” refers to. Many scholars agree that the map is a composite. The idea probably took hold in large part because the map was not understood. Some explanation had to be offered regarding areas that are confusing.
We know that Piri Reis was very careful in copying. He expressed the following sentiment in reference to map making – “…if there is an error in a map, no matter how small, it should not be used, for it could be misleading.” We also know from his own words that he did not have first hand knowledge of the lands depicted in the map we have named after him. For this reason, it is unlikely to be a hodgepodge of many charts. It is possible the reference to the composite of many maps is about a section now missing. The statements by Piri, translated by Teleli, seem to infer that the entire western portion of the map is carefully copied from one used by Columbus. Many of the annotations confirm this.
In fact, a new reading of the map demonstrates that it is in fact an exact copy of the original – down to the last detail. This reading reveals that the map is disguised for a specific and understandable purpose. Once the disguise is understood, the map becomes legible as well as logical with a clear meaning.
The implications of this are exciting. It confirms the theory put forth, mainly by Portuguese historians, that Columbus was an agent working for King John II of Portugal at the time of the voyage of discovery. That theory seems to be confirmed by the correct reading of the map which uses the journal kept by Columbus as a cross-reference to confirm both records.
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