Surviving fragment of the Piri Reis map showing the Central and South American coast. (Library of Topkapi Palace Museum, No. H 1824)

Fingerprints of the Gods Re: Piri Reis Map

I recommend that anybody interested in the Piri Reis Map read:

Soucek, Svat, 1996, Piri Reis and Turkish Mapmaking After
. Studies in the Khalili Collection, Volume II. Oxford
University Press, Cambridge.

Gregory C. McIntosh
The Piri Reis Map of 1513.
University of Georgia Press
Atlanta, Georgia.

Both are excellent sources of information about the Piri Map of 1513. Both have extensive discussion concerning the source maps and cartographic data from which he compiled Piri Reis Map of 1513.

Below is a post that I posted to sci.archaeology on August 10, 1996 about the Piri Reis Map.

William Miller wrote:
Does anyone have any good recommendations for additional information on the progress of research and studies into the Piri Reis Map?

Someone needs to provide some sort of evidence that it is indeed an accurate map.  The examinations that I have made of it show all sorts of errors that certainly falsify any claim of unusual accuracy for this map.  Also, the methodology used to determine the longitude and latitude of the map allowed all sorts of unintentional fudging.  As Mallery in his Rediscovery of Lost America, on page 145, states:  

Midway in my research on the old charts and maps,  I discovered that the grids marked on them were incorrect.  After deciding that these incorrect grids had probably been added much later by persons other than the original draftsman, I removed them and worked out what I consider to be the correct grids.  During this time it became obvious that each map or chart was an assembly of several charts and/or maps of contiguous areas and that the separate charts or maps combined to produce a single map were not all drawn to the same zero point.

The basic assumption of Mallery is that the maps were originally accurate and any errors are the result of later copying and compilation.  As a result, any error, whether it was part of original source map(s) or not, is erased in the reconstruction of the original “source map(s)” on which a particular map is based.  Thus because removing errors regardless of their origin is a standard part of reconstructing the original source map(s), it is not surprising that they are remarkable accurate.  However, these reconstructed source maps may have no basis in fact because no proof is offered that the errors that they corrected were indeed the result of the copying and compilation process and not actually part of the actual source map.

Dr. Hapgood fixed up the Piri Reis Map in much the same way.  The accuracy that the Piri Reis Map has results from his “source maps” being reconstructed with the assumption that original source maps were accurate and any errors in it came from copying and compilation.  Thus, any errors in the Piri Reis map were eliminated by fitting the Piri Reis to modern maps and accounting for the misfits by adjusting the boundaries and separate grids of his hypothesized and unproven “source maps”.  The latitude and longitude on the Piri Reis is accurate because Dr. Hapgood drew the boundaries and lat.-long. grids on his “source maps” in order to eliminate errors – the gross errors exhibited by the Piri Reis – as best as he could.

Although the Piri Reis Map mentions the existence of various source maps, there is a complete lack of any evidence for the correctness of boundaries and grids of the alleged source maps drawn by Hapgood (1966, 1979).  The reconstructed “source maps” are assumed to be accurate because they eliminated many of the errors present in the uncorrected Piri Reis Map.  However, there is no proof whether these errors were in the alleged original “source maps” or created during compilation.  Dr. Hapgood reasoned that because the hypothetical grids and “source maps” of his can remove the errors proves these maps are accurate and, since they are accurate, that proves that the error was created by copying and compilation of the Piri Reis Map and not in the source maps from which it was made.  Thus, one is the proof of the other without any other independent evidence including not even one of the alleged “source maps” from which the Piri Reis Map was compiled.  As a result, the alleged accuracy of the Piri Reis Map could just be the result of the assumptions made by Dr. Hapgood as to the source of the errors in the existing map.

Even with this fixing, there are still lots of problems with the Piri Reis Map remaining.  

I find this map fascinating, and would like to see what other studies have been published regarding the trigonometric travelogue used to make such an accurate map so long ago.

The Piri Reis Map itself is grossly inaccurate.  The claims of accuracy apply only to the “source maps” reconstructed by Mr. Hapgood.  As discussed above, the accuracy of these maps likely is the result of the assumptions used in reconstructing the “source maps” and is in reality nonexistent.

What needs to be done is for someone to track a couple of the original source maps from which the Piri Reis Map was compiled.  Otherwise, the reconstructions of the “source maps” made by Dr. Hapgood are pure speculation lacking any independent evidence confirming their correctness.  Without any solid proof for the validity of the “source maps” reconstructed by Dr. Hapgood, the claims of accuracy for the Piri Reis Map are simply claims lacking any supporting evidence.

Another example of the problems with this map are illustrated by the claims that it shows the ice-free coastline of Antarctica.

I address some of these claims in brief at:

The Long Explanation

The source of the ice-free claim is a cartographic analysis by a Lt. Colonel Ohlmeyer of the Strategic Air Command. According to an appendix in Hapgood (1966, pp. 244-245), one of the major claims by the 8th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron (SAC) USAF in their letter report of August 14, 1961 was:    

b. As stated by Colonel Harold Z. Ohlmeyer in his letter (July 6, 1960) to you, the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, appears to be truly represented on the southern sector of the Piri Reis Map. The agreement of the Piri Reis Map with the seismic profile of this area made by the Norwegian-British Swedish Expedition of 1949, supported by your solution of the grid, places beyond a reasonable doubt the conclusion that the original source maps must have been made before the present Antarctic ice cap covered the Queen Maud Land coasts.

However, Lt. Colonel Harold Z. Ohlmeyer, 8th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron and Dr. Hapgood all made significant errors that invalidate their conclusions.  First, both Lt. Colonel Ohlmeyer and Dr. Hapgood incorrectly assume that the subglacial topography of Antarctica is the same as the ice-free topography of Antarctica. The actual subglacial topography differs from a hypothetical ice-free topography because of the 293,778,800 cubic kilometers of ice that either lies grounded on bedrock or stacked as ice rises on bedrock islands (Drewry 1982, sheet 4).  The sheer weight of this ice has depressed the continent of Antarctica and associated crust by hundreds of meters.  Should the weight of the Antarctic ice be removed from the Antarctic crust, isostatic rebound would raise the subglacial topography as much as 950 meters (3100 feet) in the interior to 50 meters (160 feet) along the coast.  Furthermore, melting of all of the world’s ice, of which Antarctic ice cap is 90 percent of the total, would raise sea level by about 80 meters (260 feet)(Drewry 1983, sheet 6).  Thus, the modern subglacial bedrock topography and the modern coastline differs significantly from the coastline and topography of a hypothetical ice-free Antarctica.  Thus, the topography and coastline that Lt. Colonel Ohlmeyer and Dr. Hapgood claim match the Piri Reis Map would be different from the topography and coastline that would characterize a hypothetical ice-free Antarctica.

Second, the Piri Reis Map lacks any topographic contours.  If contours are lacking on the Piri Reis Map, the topographic data needed to compare the topography shown by the 1949 seismic data with the topography of the Piri Reis Map on a scientific basis are completely lacking.  Without this data, the claims of Lt. Colonel Ohlmeyer and Dr. Hapgood are nothing more personal opinions, certainly not proof, that cannot be scientifically tested.

Finally, the single seismic line, i.e. the seismic profile of the Norwegian-British Swedish Expedition of 1949, is insufficient evidence to determine if the subglacial bedrock topography of Antarctica resembles the Piri Reis map.  The problem is that the comparison is being made along one essentially randomly chosen line.  Neither Lt. Colonel Ohlmeyer, Dr. Hapgood, nor the 8th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron could know whether the topography outside of this line, a good 99.9 percent of the area resembled the Piri Reis map because they lacked any other data in addition to the seismic profile.  Even the map of the bedrock geology of Antarctica compiled in 1972, Heezen et al. (1972), shows that even by that date the bedrock topography lying beneath Queen Maud Land was largely unmapped and unknown.  Thus, even in 1961, because of insufficient information, it would have been impossible for anybody to make any positive claims about whether the Piri Reis Map and the subglacial topography shows any resemblance.

Since 1949 and 1966, Drewry (1982) compiled the available data obtained from seismic  surveys and radio echo soundings into what still considered the most comprehensive mapping that has ever been published.  A comparison of the portion of the Piri Reis map, which they claim to be Antarctica, with a both more recent subglacial bedrock topography map (Drewry 1982, sheet 3) and a bedrock surface map isostatically adjusted for glacial rebound (Drewry 1982, sheet 6) showed a distinct lack of any striking similarities their coastlines and that of the Piri Reis Map.  The lack of correspondence between the Piri Reis Map and an ice-free Antarctica is not surprising given the evidence presented by Linde (1980) that the source maps for the other parts of the Piri Reis Map are of no great antiquity.

The Problem of An Ice-Free Antarctica

As previously discussed, there is an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that Antarctica was covered by a fully developed ice cap between 40,000 to 6,000 B.P., contrary to the claims of FOG and Hapgood (1966, 1979).  This evidence includes ice core data (Jouzel et al 1987, Lorius et al. 1979), cores from the Ross Sea (Licht et al. 1996, Kellogg 1979), palynological data from tip of South America (Heusser 1989), and numerous radiocarbon dates from glacio-lacustrine deposits and deltas (Stuvier et al. 1981).  In fact, these and other studies show that a maximum development of the ice cap and Ross Ice Shelf occurred during that period, 21,000 to 16,000 B.P. (Denton et al. 1991), which falsifies all of the claims made by FOG, “The Mysterious Origins of Man,” and Hapgood (1966, 1979) about the glacial history of Antarctica.

As I have reviewed in previous posts, numerous studies, e.g. Denton et al. (1991) and Marchant et al. (1986) present an abundance of evidence that Antarctica was last completely ice-free over 14 million years ago.  Deep cores and borings made into sediments filling deep basins within and thousands of kilometers of seismic data from the continental shelf of Antarctica confirm these studies (Cooper et al. 1995).  Thus, at no time was Antarctica ice-free enough for maps showing either a totally or partially ice-free Antarctica to have been made during the last 14 million years or so.


The clearest deduction that can be made from the above analysis is that there is no evidence of any advanced map-making technology being involved in the production of the Piri Reis Map.  There is really no evidence that the accuracy that it does have reflects accuracy in the original source maps because of the assumptions and methodology used to reconstruct the boundaries and grid of the alleged source maps.  If a person automatically assumes that the errors are all the result of poor compilation, then the “source maps” reconstructed using that assumption are naturally going to be accurate.  They may be accurate, but will still be purely fictional and lack any resemblance to the actual source maps from which the Piri Reis Map was compiled.

References Cited

Bentley, C. R., and Ostenso N. A., 1961, Glacial and subglacial topography of West Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. vol. 3, no. 29, pp. 882-912.

Cooper, A. K., Barker, P. F., Brancolini, G. (eds.), 1995, Geology and seismic stratigraphy of the Antarctic Margin. Antarctic Research Series, vol. 68, American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C., 303 pp.

Denton, G. H., Prentice, M. L., and Burkle, L. H., 1991, Cainozoic history of the Antarctic ice sheet. In R. T. Tingey (ed.), pp. 366-433, The Geology of Antarctica. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Drewry, D. J. (ed.), 1983, Antarctica: Glaciological and Geophysical Folio. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Hapgood, C. H., 1966, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1st Edition, Chilton Books, Philadelphia.

Hapgood, C. H., 1979, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 2nd Edition, E. P. Dutton, New York.

Heezen, B. C., Tharp, M., and Bentley, C. R., 1972, Morphology of the Earth in the Antarctic and Subantarctic.  In Antarctic Map Folio Series no. 16. American Geographical Society.

Heusser, C. J., 1989, Climate and chronology of Antarctica and adjacent South America over the past 30,000 years. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, vol. 76, no. 1/2, pp. 31-37.

Jouzel, S. J., Dansgaard, W., and many others, 1987, Vostok ice core: a continuous isotopic temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,000 years). Nature. vol. 239, pp. 403-408.

Kellogg, T. B., Truesdale, R. S., and Osterman, L. E., 1979,  Late Quaternary extent of the West Antarctic ice sheet: New evidence from Ross Sea cores. Geology. vol. 7, pp. 249-253.

Licht, K. J., Jennings, A. E., and others, 1996, Chronology of late Wisconsin ice retreat from the western Ross Sea, Antarctica. Geology. vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 223-226.

Lorius, C., Jouzel, S. J., and many others, 1979, A 150,000-yr isotopic climatic record from Antarctic ice. Nature, vol. 316, pp. 644-648.

Lunde, P., 1980, The Oronteus Finaeus Map. Aramco World Magazine. (Jan-Feb 1980) (accessible here).

Marchant, D. R., Denton, G. H., Swisher, C. C., and Potter, N., 1996, Late Cenozoic Antarctic paleoclimate reconstructed from volcanic ashes in the Dry Valleys region of southern Victoria Land. Geological Society of America Bulletin, vol. 108, no. 2, pp. 181-194.

Stuvier, M., Denton, G. H., and others, 1981, History of marine ice sheet in Antarctica during the last glaciation: a working hypothesis. In G. H. Denton and T. J. Hughes (eds.), pp. 319- 436, The Last Great Ice Sheets. Wiley-Interscience, New York.

….signature omitted……

Other Significant References to Read

Below are recent publications, which either provide or summarize
the results of research which thoroughly disprove claims of an ice-free
Antarctica as proposed by Mr. Hapgood and others.

Anderson, J. B., 1999, Antarctic Marine Geology.
University of Cambridge Press, Cambridge, United

Domack, E. W., Jacobson, E. K., Shipp, S., and Anderson,
J. B., 1999, Late Pleistocene-Holocene retreat of the West
Antarctic Ice-Sheet system in the Ross Sea: Part 2,
Sedimentologic and stratigraphic signature
. Geological
Society of America Bulletin, vol. 111, no. 10, pp. 1517-1536.

Francis, J. E., and Hill, R. S., 1996, Fossil plants from the
Pliocene Sirius Group, Transantarctic Mountains: evidence for
climate from growth rings and fossil leaves
. Palaios. vol. 11,
pp. 389-396.

Kennett, J. P., and Hodell, D. A., 1995, Stability or instability
of Antarctic ice sheets during warm climates of the Pliocene
GSA Today. vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1,10-13.

Surgen, D. E., Marchant, D. R., and others, 1995, Preservation
of Miocene glacier ice in East Antarctica. Science
, vol. 376,
no. 6539, pp. 412-414.

Shipp, S., Anderson, J. B., and Domack, E. W., 1999, Late
Pleistocene-Holocene retreat of the West Antarctic Ice-
Sheet system in the Ross Sea: Part 1,Geophysical results
Geological Society of America Bulletin, vol. 111, no. 10,
pp. 486-1516.

van der Wateren, D., and Hindmarsh, R., 1995, Stabilists strike
. Science. vol. 376, no. 6539, pp. 389-391.

Wilch, T. I., McIntosh, W.C., and Dunbar, N. W., 1991,
Late Quaternary volcanic activity in Marie Byrd Land:
Potential 40Ar/39Ar-dated time horizons in West Antarctic
ice and marine cores
. Geological Society of America
Bulletin. vol. 111, no. 10, pp. 1563-1580.

Ancient Maps

1. Minds in Ablation Part Five: Charting Imaginary Worlds
(More discussion of Hapgood, Mallery, and interpreting ancient maps).

2. Minds in Ablation Part Five Addendum: Living in Imaginary Worlds.
(Even more discussion of Hapgood, Mallery, and interpreting ancient maps).

3. Columbus and the Piri Reis Map of 1513 by Gregory C. McIntosh
(May/June 2000 Mercator’s World)

4. Reply by Gregory C. McIntosh in the letters to the Editor (September/October 2000 Mercator’s World)

Version 4.0
Dec 18, 2001

Copyright © 1996-2002 Paul V. Heinrich All rights reserved.