This page was originally
devoted to Piri Reis.... this is why you'll find a lot of information on the
Turkish Admiral's ground breaking first map of America, below. However, I came
across bits and pieces of Turkish contributions to civilization that I wanted
to quickly include here. These are factoids I came across arbitrarily during
TAT's construction, and this page is certainly not meant to present a
comprehensive listing. Having gone to American schools while growing up in
America, there was ZERO coverage of the Ottoman Empire and other Turkish
empires. (The only reference to Turkey I remember offhand in my American
schooling was from a college English professor, who was Greek, venting about
what rotten people the Turks were... for a few minutes.) So I am not an expert
on Turkish achievements... however, while preparing this site, I've come
across more than a few claims by maniacal Turcophobes (like Ambassador Henry
"Holier-than-Thou" Morgenthau and equally virulent racist, U.S.
Consul George Horton), stating the Turks were only good when it came to
military conquest and somehow maintained their centuries-long empire by
accident... since they were no good for anything else. Did it ever occur to
these gentlemen the reason why people in the West believe the Turks haven't
contributed to civilization is because the West has largely never cared to
focus on Turkish history (except for periods of history where the Turks are
made out to look villainous, as with the Armenian "Genocide")?
Perhaps there is a reason why
the Middle Ages (Dark Age) came to an abrupt halt not long after
captured by the Turks in 1453, and the New Age
began... and the Rennaissance and Reform soon followed.
FIRST FLIGHT IN HISTORY
The Montgolfier brothers are often credited with the first manned balloon
flight in Paris in 1783. However, almost one and a half centuries earlier, a
Turkish scientist, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi (1609-1640), flew across the
Bosphorous from the Galata tower to Uskudar (after being inspired by the Tenth
Century Turkish scientist Ismail Cevheri, who plummeted to his death during a
flying experiment). The Emperor Sultan Murad IV, among many onlookers, was
delighted and personally congratulated Celebi. But religious leaders and
palace advisers soon changed his mind. Celebi was sent into exile (in
Algeria), a victim of religious closed-mindedness; the scientist died,
broken-hearted, at the youthful age of 31. His contemporary, the great
Galileo, was condemned to lifelong imprisonment (via house arrest) in 1633,
found to have breached the conditions laid down by the Inquisition... also a
victim of religious lunacy.
TURK INVENTS "ZERO"
Ahmed Horezmi, who has an Arab-sounding name, was a Turkish citizen who moved
to the newly-conquered Baghdad in 1517... and discovered the "digit"
of zero... which, along with "ones," forms the basis of the computer
you are reading this on.
FIRST LAW ABOUT STANDARDS of The WORLD
“Kanunname-i Ihtisab-i Bursa (The Law of Bursa Municipality) was the first
law about the standards. This law was imposed in the period of Sultan Bayezid
II, in 1502. (Bayezid II was the sultan who saved the bulk of the Jews
persecuted by the Spanish and Portugese Inquisitions, an act that contributed
to Ottoman Jews being among the most loyal of citizens until the empire’s
end.) In this law, animal products, fruits and vegetables, salt, bread,
industrial products, textile products, forest products, and leather products
were bounded to a standard and their prices were fixed.
Some of these standards are that:
Pastry: The pastries will be made with white flour and they will be half
weight of a bread. Into a bushel of flour one okka (400 drachma) oil will be
Fruits: One okka of the green nuts will be sold for one coin. 200 drachma of
the peeled ones will be sold for one coin. After their seasons will be passed,
125 drachma will be sold for one coin.
Vegetables: For fresh courgette no official price will be fixed for 3 days.
After 3 days 3 okka will be sold for one coin. In the first week 4 okka, in
the second week 5 okka, in the third week 6 okka, in the fourth week 8 okka
will be sold for one coin.
Jewelers: Silver will be not under 80 standard. 1.5 drams of gold will be not
under 60 coins.
Given as a gift to the French palace was big
news, as Western nations were unfamiliar with the ticking and tocking. (Holdwater: Hmmmm. I'm not too ready to believe that
THE "WATER CLOSET"
Turkish invention called "kenef" or "hela"; centuries
later, the French adopted the idea. (Holdwater: That one is much more believable, as
cleanliness holds a high priority in the Moslem religion. However, what a
claim to fame.... to be the inventor of the toilet.)
TURKS INADVERTENTLY BRING COFFEE TO EUROPE
When Kara Mustafa Pasha came through Vienna, he was so sure that he would
capture the city that he began to plan the parade resulting from the
successful invasion. Polish King Jean Sobiesky arrived in the nick of time to
dash the Pasha’s hopes... who left all belongings in front of the Vienna
ramparts and retreated towards Belgrade with his army. King Sobiesky, savior
of Vienna, took what was left behind. Along with the treasures taken from
Topkapi Palace, sacks of coffee seeds were found. When the Austrians saw the
coffee seeds they figured, “it seems that Turks eat goat feces” and
decided to throw away the seeds. A Viennese man who lived in the Ottoman lands
recognized the coffee seeds, informed the Europeans, and coffee in the Western
world was born.
OTTOMAN INFLUENCE ON MARCHING BANDS AND SOME OF
THE MUSIC OF HAYDN, MOZART, AND BEETHOVEN
The Ottoman Mehter, founded in the 13th
century, became the model for the world's marching bands. It once boosted the
morale of Ottoman armies as they conquered vast lands from the Balkans to
Africa, and it still thrills visitors to Istanbul's Military Museum.
The thud of giant war drums, over three feet across, blending with the blast
of blunderbuss and cannon, frightened opponents on the battlefield and
terrified the populace of Vienna, the Austrian empire's capital, during sieges
in 1529 and 1683.
''After the second failed attempt . . . both the threat and the strength of
the Ottoman Empire began to diminish and this allowed the Europeans to
consider Turks from a different point of view,'' said Edward J. Hines, an
American composer who has studied Turkish music. ``Oriental culture, which was
always distant and feared, now became fashionable and popular.''
Mehter bands, accompanying Ottoman ambassadors to Europe, fascinated
Westerners with their fiery-red robes, pulsating rhythms and the shrill clash
of cymbals, drums and bells.
Cafes began serving Turkish coffee in Vienna, and Turkish dress became
fashionable at social events.
''Vienna developed into a cultural center in the early 18th century and the
fascination with Turkish culture worked its way into plays and operas,'' Hines
The harbinger of war became the music of the people.
Haydn wrote his Military Symphony, and Mozart composed the popular piano
sonata Rondo Alla Turca under the influence of this music.
Mozart also employed Turkish instruments in the opera The Abduction From the
Seraglio, while Beethoven used Mehter-style big drums in his Ninth Symphony.
Cymbals, timpani drums and bells left behind by the retreating Ottoman armies
were modified and incorporated into symphonic orchestras, while several
European armies set up military bands similar to the Mehter.
Even today the percussion departments of orchestras are occasionally called
the "Turkish section.''
Excerpts from an AP article entitled,
"Once-frightening Turkish bands now delight visitors," by Selcan
Hacaoglu, Mar. 10, 2002, The Miami Herald
Dr. Reşat Hasan Sığındım
diagnosed monocyter Leukaemia. Fellow graduates of the Imperial College of
Medicine were Hulusi Behēet, Akil Muhtar, and Celal Muhtar, who reportedly
made various other scientific discoveries.
FIRST SUBMARINE TO TORPEDO A TARGET
This is certainly no "cultural
contribution," just a fun little claim to fame. The Ottoman Navy was
practically nonexistent by 1908, as the previous sultan was afraid keyed-up
sailors might provide a revolutionary threat. However, when Greece bought a
submarine, the Ottomans didn't want to be left behind; they ordered two,
delivered in 1886. Trouble is, the British built subs wouldn't submerge.
However, the submarines were able to fire torpedoes to target ships
successfully. Thus the Ottoman Navy became the first Navy to fire a torpedo to
a target from a submarine. After a few trial runs, the subs were left to rust,
and it wouldn't be until 1914 when the Ottomans would order submarines again.
(This time from France.) Once W.W.I broke out, France decided to keep the subs
for herself. (Just like the British did with the ship mainly paid for by the Turkish
peasantry.) However, in 1917, the Turks captured a French sub and finally
there was a working submarine in the Ottoman Navy. Unfortunately, the only
wartime use of this subservient sub was to charge the batteries of the German
Oldest Map of America
Work of Turkish Navigator
First Map of America in 1513 by
Turkish Admiral, Piri Reis
of Piri Reis' 1513 map to the later-known atlas, marked by the
dates of discovery; many scholars remain amazed at the map's accuracy, and there is
still one unsolved mystery: how did he know about Antarctica?
By DR. ESIN ATIL
Curator, Islamic Art
The imperial libraries of the Topkapi Palace Museum house a wealth of manuscripts
illustrated with over 14,000 paintings. Among the possessions of the Palace libraries is a
unique map of the New World made by Pin Reis in 1513 at Gallipoli and presented to Sultan
Selim I four years later in Egypt after the conquest of that region.
Piri Reis, a famous admiral in charge of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean fleets, is the
author of a treatise on navigation entitled the Bahriye which also contains descriptions
and drawings of the Mediterranean ports.
The map of Piri Reis is painted in polychrome colors on deer skin parchment. It is a
fragment of a larger map of the known world which included the American, African, European
and Asian continents, The surviving portion shows the Atlantic Ocean; coastal regions of
North and South Americas are on the left while the African shore is opposite.
In the inscription on the lower left, Piri Reis states that before he drew this portion he
studied the maps made by four Portuguese cartographers. He also obtained a first-hand
account of the discoveries in the New World from a Spanish sailor who had sailed to the
Americas with Christopher Columbus three times. Finally, he adds that he relied on the map
made by Columbus for the names that appear on the coastal regions and the islands. Piri
Reis has included the descriptions of these sites and added representations of unusual
creatures which inhabited those areas.
Since the materials Piri Reis consuIted are no longer available, this is the earliest map
of the Americas; it was made only nine years after the last voyage of Columbus, which took
place in 1504. The original map was the first to show all the continents and oceans,
indicating the remarkable knowledge of the author.
Dr. Esin Atil
Holdwater adds: The author of the
above is Dr. Esin Atil, who has written numerous books on Islamic art. The first time I
became aware of the Turkish-American was when I first saw the only PBS program that
approached objectivity, regarding Turks... ISLAM: EMPIRE OF FAITH. She handled herself in
such an exceptionally elegant and charming manner, on the show.
PIRI REIS MAP
The Piri Reis Map of 1513 is the first
surviving map that shows the Americas (the Vinland map may be older but only shows a
part of North America). The Piri Reis map shows North America, South America,
Greenland and Antarctica which had not yet been discovered.
Piri Reis was a famous admiral of the Turkish fleet in the sixteenth century. His
passion was cartography, he was always on the lookout for new maps and other such
documents.š In 1513 a map had been commissioned him.
Piri Reis was high rank within the Turkish navy which allowed him to have a
privileged access to the Imperial Library of Constantinople. He was considered an
expert on Mediterranean lands and coastlines, and he even wrote a famous sailing
book called Kitabi Bahriye where he described all the details of coastlines,
harbors, currents, shallows, bays and straits of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
He died in 1554 or 1555 being beheaded for unknown reasons.š
It is saidš that in a now-forgotten sea battle he met, among the prisoners, a
sailor who claimed to have been sailing along with Columbus in his three journeys to
the new world, and that he was one of his pilots. It turned out that Columbus had a
map of the lands he was chasing, and that this map now was in the possession of that
The admiral Piri Reis got to put hands and eyes on the map; then in 1513 he compiled
a world map based on that map and on the other antique charts from his collection -
many of which had survived from the days of the Great Library of Alexandria.š
The map had drawn the attention of scholars in 1929 when it had been discovered in
the archives of the Imperial Palace in Constantinople.
The map showed the outline of South America very accurately. This was surprising
since Columbus had discovered the New World only 21 years earlier in 1492.
Notes made by Piri indicated he had based his map on earlier maps, including one
consulted by Columbus before his famous voyage.
This excited the scholars since there had been rumors that there existed a
pre-Columbian map of the New World. Piri's claim that he had possessed the
"lost map" intrigued historians.
It wasn't the accuracy of the South American coastline that interested Mallery,
though. It was what was shown at the very bottom of the map: a chunk of land that
looked very much like Antarctica.
This was surprising since Antarctica had not been discovered until 1820.
Even more intriguing was a section of the coastline of this southern continent.
Part of it looked very much like the coast of Queen Maud Land which was a section of
The strange thing was that the coast of Queen Maud Land had been covered with a
thick sheet of ice for many centuries and its shape was only known now to modern
mapmakers through the use of modern seismographic equipment.
This made Mallory wonder if the Admiral had somehow owned maps that dated back
before the ice sheet covered the coast and if the coast had been somehow surveyed
from the air.
Most serious professional geographers, though, rejected Mallery's radical theory
without even considering it carefully.
Professor Charles H. Hapgood, of Keene State College at the University of New
Hampshire, did take an interest in the map and Mallory's thoughts. Professor Hapgood
was known for his support of unorthodox theories.
With the help of some of his students, Hapgood did a careful examination of Piri's
map and several other old maps and published a book on the subject called Maps of
the Ancient Sea Kings.
The book suggests that at one time in the ancient past there was a world-wide
civilization with advanced technology. Though this civilization was destroyed, some
of its knowledge survived to wind up in the maps.
Later, an even more radical theory for Piri's map was advanced from writer Eric Von
Daniken. Von Daniken, a supporter of the idea that aliens had visited Earth in the
distant past, noted that the map resembled what might be seen from space if you took
a picture of Earth from directly over Cairo, Egypt. He suggested that the map was
the result of aerial photographs taken from an alien spaceship.
Critics of Hapgood and Von Daniken offer a more mundane explanation for the map.
They start by pointing out that lots of maps from that era displayed a continent at
the bottom of the Earth, though none had yet been found.
There was a general belief going back to the time of the Greeks that all the
continents must have been connected at one time. This lead to the belief in a
southern continent (Interestingly enough, they were correct.
The modern theory of plate tectonics supports the idea of single land mass in the
very distant past).
The critics point out that the land mass shown on the map may have a similar
coastline to that of Queen Maud Land, but the similarity is not unmistakable. What
is on Piri's map, they argue, is just a lucky attempt to display an unknown, but
suspected land. The similarity, say critics, is just coincidence.
They also point out that the map shows South America and Antarctica connected, which
they have not been for many millions of years. Also information about weather
conditions and animal life in Antarctica as found on the map is completely wrong.
Other experts speculate that though the first recorded sighting of land in the
Antarctica was in 1820, there may have been earlier unreported voyages to the
Though this might not explain the coastline of Queen Maud Land on the Piri map, it
might be the reason that there was such a strong belief in the existence of a
here for a large version of the map
"Piri Reis and the Hapgood Hypotheses"
in "Aramco World Magazine"
by Paul F. Hoye with Paul Lunde
In 1929, scholars working in the archives of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey's Topkapi Palace
Museum made an exciting discovery: a section of an early 16th-century Ottoman map based in
part, apparently, on the original chart drawn or used by Christopher Columbus and showing
his historic discoveries in the New World. The map, signed by an Ottoman captain named
Piri Reis, was dated 1513, just 21 years after Columbus discovered America.
This find -- disclosed two years later in Holland by German Orientalist Paul Kahle --
astonished the 18th Congress of Orientalists. For if a notation on the map were true --
"The coasts and islands on this map are taken from Columbus's map" -- the
Turkish map might finally settle a centuries-old debate: did Columbus know he had found a
new world? Or did he die thinking he had found a new route to China?
As it turned out, the map did not settle the question. To the contrary, it has raised new
and far more perplexing questions, and, in recent years, has sparked a rash of
quasi-scientific and popular theories and hypotheses that attempt to answer those
questions. Some of those theories, to be sure, verge on the ludicrous. But others, even
when startling, have raised fascinating and sometimes disturbing possibilities.
Those developments, however, came later. In 1931, historians of cartography had quite
enough to do trying to cope with the immediate questions posed by the discovery in
Istanbul. Was the Piri Reis map authentic? If so, how did it get into the hands of
Christian Spain's feared Muslim rivals? And just who, incidentally, was this Piri Reis?
According to subsequent research, the story of the Piri Reis map began in 1501, just nine
years after Columbus discovered the New World, when Kemal Reis, a captain in the Ottoman
fleet, captured seven ships off the coast of Spain, interrogated the crews and discovered
that one man had sailed with Columbus on his great voyages of discovery. More important,
in an age when maps were secret and maritime information invaluable, the sailor had in his
possession a map of the New World drawn by Columbus himself. Kemal Reis seized the map,
kept it and subsequently willed it to his nephew Piri Reis, also an Ottoman naval captain,
and a cartographer.
In 1511, the story goes on, Piri Reis began to draw a new map of the world which was to
incorporate all of the recent Spanish and Portuguese discoveries. To do so, he used about
20 source maps. Among them, he wrote, were eight maps of the world done in the time of
Alexander the Great (the fourth century B.C.), an Arab map of India, four Portuguese maps
of the Indian Ocean and China, and his uncle Kemal's bequest, "a map drawn by
Columbus in the western region." He did not, however, say what the other six source
In Gallipoli, where he temporarily retired, Piri Reis reduced his source maps to a single
scale -- a difficult task in those days -- and spent three years producing his map. When
it was finished he added this inscription: "The author of this is the humble Piri
Hajji Muhammad, known as the nephew of Kemal Reis, in the town of Gallipoli in the Holy
Month of Muharram of the year 919 [A.D. 1513]."
This map, presented to Sultan Selim, seems to have helped the career of Piri Reis. He was
made an admiral. But it was not Piri Reis' only contribution to cartography. In 1521 he
also wrote a mariner's guide to the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean -- which was
to interest the cartographers trying to authenticate the map found in Istanbul. Called
"Kitab-i Bahriye" ("Book of the Mariner," or "The Naval
Handbook"), this book contained an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
that was virtually identical to a long inscription on the left hand side of the map found
in the archives of Istanbul.
The map found in Istanbul, therefore, is authentic. Although research has never disclosed
what the six unlisted sources were, or further identified the eight "done in the time
of Alexander the Great," there is no doubt that one source was a map drawn or used by
Christopher Columbus himself.
There is little doubt, either, that both Piri Reis' map and book were valuable to the
Ottoman Empire. Focusing, as they both did, on discoveries by Spanish and Portuguese
mariners, they probably alerted the sultan to the growing threat to Ottoman power posed by
European exploration of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf.
Ironically, Piri Reis' book -- in which he urged Suleiman the Magnificent to drive the
Portuguese out of the Red Sea and the Gulf -- also led to his death. Put in command of a
fleet to drive the Portuguese out of the Gulf in 1551, he lost most of his ships and,
although in his 80's, was executed. By 1929 both Piri Reis and his map had been virtually
forgotten. Even then the enthusiasm aroused by the map was short. Once the initial
excitement over the discovery had faded, relatively few historians of cartography, with
the exception of Kahle, paid much attention to the map or tried seriously to determine
exactly what it proved -- even with regard to Columbus. "Imago Mundi," for
example, one of the more important journals devoted to the history of cartography, has
never run a full-length article on the Piri Reis map.
In 1954, however, a Harvard-trained teacher of the history of science named Charles
Hapgood assigned his class at Keene State College in New Hampshire to the task of
examining the Piri Reis map more closely. Starting with little knowledge of the subject --
and, says Professor Hapgood emphatically, "no preconceived notions" -- he and
his students eventually spent seven years on the project. During that time, Hapgood says,
"we discarded hundreds of hypotheses" before arriving at those advanced in a
book called "Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings."
Two years later those hypotheses became unexpectedly famous when they were incorporated in
the controversial best-seller "Chariots of the Gods." Written by Erich von
Daniken, "Chariots" went into at least 18 English editions and was translated
into numerous other languages. Presented as fact, and written in a pseudo-scientific tone,
"Chariots" described and briefly examined what the author called "the
unsolved mysteries of the past."
Among the "unsolved mysteries," von Daniken said, was the appearance on the Piri
Reis map of information that 16th-century cartographers could not possibly have known.
Citing Hapgood, von Daniken said that the map showed the coast of Antarctica, not
discovered for centuries afterward, and certain mountains in Antarctica that were not
discovered until modern sonar made it possible to locate them beneath the ice cap.
For the author -- if not for his legions of critics -- it was obvious how Piri Reis got
such information: astronauts from another planet had provided it on maps. The astronauts,
he claimed, had made numerous appearances on earth before and during the period of
recorded history, and left traces all over the world.
Despite inaccuracies in describing what in some cases are mysteries -- and in citing
Hapgood -- and despite frequently debatable logic, "Chariots" sold millions of
copies. It also persuaded thousands of readers -- brought up during a period of intense
public interest in "flying saucers" and "UFO's" -- that its premises
were valid. "Chariots," indeed, attracted such attention that BBC Television
filmed and showed a two-part refutation of the book.
The BBC, moreover, was not alone; most serious observers scorned the book. Yet one of the
points raised by Hapgood and quoted by von Daniken went stubbornly unanswered: how did
Piri Reis know about Antarctica and its mountains in the 16th century, if, in fact, his
map did show them?
One answer, in science-fiction form, was put forth by author Allan W. Eckert in a
ponderous 1977 novel called "The Hab Theory" in which the Ottoman admiral's map
was a focal point of the plot and in which other, apparently true, phenomena were
described in great detail. Among them was the undeniable fact that mammoths - - extinct
for 18,000 years -- were found in Siberia embedded in the permafrost, the frozen subsoil
of Arctic and Antarctic regions.
According to Eckert, the mammoths were "quick-frozen" rather the way orange
juice is today, thus explaining why the meat was still edible. Furthermore, some mammoths
were found in an upright position with undigested grasses in their stomachs-- facts
confirmed last July by a spokesman at the British Museum. The grasses, moreover, were
tropical grasses. To Eckert, this suggested that Siberia was once a tropical region and
that the shift in climate from tropic to arctic was very swift: in a matter of hours.
This occurred, "The Hab Theory" goes on, because every 6,000 years or so the
polar regions accumulate so much ice that the earth begins to wobble on its axis. At a
critical point the wobble becomes so bad that the earth capsizes, leaving the polar
regions at the equator and the equatorial regions at the poles.
The earth's normal rotation them resumes until the new polar regions accumulate enough ice
to cause another wobble and another cataclysm.
This process, the book continues, explains what characters in the book call scientific
mysteries. One is that the ancient Berbers, in what is now the Sahara, left cave paintings
showing people swimming and sailing in "a vast body of water." This, according
to "The Hab Theory," was a sea created when the earth capsized and the polar ice
cap, now close to the equator, melted, creating a large sea -- now reduced to today's Lake
Even for science fiction, it is a startling idea. Yet it is not entirely without a basis
in fact. In the "New Scientist" issue of May 17, 1979, two professors from
Cardiff and Oxford Universities in Britain were quoted as saying that the last ice age may
have come quite swiftly and cited the mammoths in Siberia as proof. "Their excellent
state of preservation is also evidence that they were quickly frozen after death,"
the article said.
Science fiction, of course, is as much fiction as science. Still, at the heart of
"The Hab Theory" there were some ascertainable facts. The Piri Reis map does
exist, there were mammoths preserved in Siberian permafrost, and cave painting so some
sort have been found in the Sahara, though whether they show "vast seas" or not
could not be determined. Even more to the point, there is a real Hab theory. In fact,
according to Professor Hapgood, the real Hab theory--as distinct from Eckert's
science-fiction treatment -- was what launched him on his first studies of Antarctic
"mysteries" and led, in a curious chain of events, to the Piri Reis map.
The real Hab theory was first proposed by an engineer specializing in centrifugal force:
the late Hugh Auchincloss Brown, whose initials are the same as the fictional proponent of
Eckert's book. In a book called "Cataclysms of the Earth," Brown suggested what
is basically the same theory presented in the novel: that massive accumulation of ice at
the poles, especially the South Pole, caused the earth to wobble on its axis and then,
about every 7,000 years, to "careen." Like the novel, it has some basis in fact.
A spokesman at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England--who says
"careening" is impossible -- confirmed last month that the ice does accumulate
at the South Pole in massive quantities: 2,000 billion tons a year, enough to build a wall
10 inches thick and half a mile high from New York to California.
For Charles Hapgood in New Hampshire, Brown's theory was fascinating. "I spent about
10 years looking into it," he said in a recent interview, "until mathematical
calculations proved it impossible." But as his research had raised certain questions
in his own mind, Hapgood continued to work on the subject and eventually came up with his
own theory, which he outlined in "Earth's Shifting Crust" (Pantheon Books, New
Essentially, he said, the earth's crust "slips" over its core, thus periodically
changing the positions of the poles. Aware that ideas that deviate from traditional
scientific beliefs get short shrift in the scientific community -- as did, for instance,
Wegener's theory of continental drift, now widely accepted -- Hapgood took the precaution
of submitting his manuscript to a scientist whose views were generally thought to be
acceptable: Albert Einstein. Though neither cartographer nor geographer, Einstein read the
manuscript, agreed to write the introduction and said Hapgood's ideas
"electrified" him. He also said that if Hapgood's theory "continued to
prove itself", it would be "of great importance to everything that is related to
the history of the earth's surface."
Meanwhile, Hapgood had heard of the Piri Reis map. A U.S. Navy cartographer, engineer and
ancient-map specialist--Captain Arlington H. Mallery -- had come across a copy of the map,
studied it and said publicly that the map seemed to show Antarctica -- unknown at the time
the map was drawn -- and that, furthermore, the coast seemed to have been mapped at a time
when it was free of ice, an apparent impossibility. Furthermore, Mallery's opinions had
been endorsed by the directors of the astronomical observatories at Boston College and
Georgetown University, Daniel Linehan and Francis Heyden.
To Hapgood, already caught up in the subject of Antarctica, the questions raised by
Mallery and the Piri Reis map were an irresistible challenge. As Antarctica was not
discovered until 1820 -- 307 years after Piri Reis drew his map -- how could Piri Reis
possibly have included Antarctica -- if he did? And, since Antarctica had, presumably,
been covered with ice for millennia, why would he have shown it without ice? And why does
the notation on the map read as follows: "There is no trace of cultivation in this
country. Everything is desolate, and big snakes are said to be there. For this reason the
Portuguese did not land on these shores, which are said to be very hot"?
Hapgood thought that investigation of these ideas would be an interesting challenge for
his students. Accordingly, he presented it to them as a class project and began to work
with them himself.
As the investigation began, Hapgood and his students immediately came across several
puzzling facts. One was that, on the Piri Reis map, the mountains in the western region of
what is obviously South America seemed to be the Andes. But since Magellan did not find a
way around the continent, through the strait named after him, until 1520 -- seven years
after the map was finished -- and since Pizarro did not sight the Andes until 1527 -- 14
years afterwards--how could Piri Reis have known about the Andes? The answer, obviously,
was that one of Piri Reis' 20-odd source maps must have shown them.
But which map? Hapgood concluded it was probably one of the eight maps of the world done
in the time of Alexander the Great, or one of the six other "unknown"
maps--which meant someone had not only known of the Americas, but had mapped them at least
1,700 years before Columbus.
It was possible, of course, that the mountains were not -- and were not supposed to be --
the Andes at all. Still, the map did show them roughly in the right place, and included a
drawing of a creature that Kahle had tentatively identified as a llama. As the llama is
exclusive to the Andes and was not known in Europe in 1513, when Piri Reis finished his
map, Hapgood concluded that the mountains were indeed the Andes.
As the study went on, the Hapgood team noticed, toward the south, what looked very much
like the Falkland Islands -- even though the Falklands were not discovered until 1592 --
and reasoned that if they were the Falklands, the land south of them would almost surely
be the coast of Queen Maud Land -- Antarctica -- not discovered until more than three
centuries after the Piri Reis map.
As it was this feature that had fascinated Hapgood originally, his team made a
particularly careful comparison of "Antarctica" on the Piri Reis map with
Antarctica on a modern globe. They concluded that there was "a striking
similarity" between the Piri Reis coastline and the Queen Maud Land coast. Later,
after a series of complicated calculations, they also came to believe that the Piri Reis
map, in that area, was accurate to within 20 miles.
In what was a vital aspect of the developing hypotheses, they also concluded that
Mallery's "mountains"--the mountains not discovered until this century -- were,
on the Piri Reis map, the small cluster of islands shown at the bottom toward the right.
According to Hapgood, the "heavy shading of some of the islands" was, in
16th-century map-making techniques, an indication of mountainous terrain. In addition, he
said, a seismic profile made by a Norwegian-British-Swedish expedition in 1949 disclosed a
range of undersea mountains. Some of these, the Hapgood team concluded, would emerge from
the sea as islands if there were no ice cap--another indication that Antarctica had really
been explored and mapped earlier, at a time when no ice cap existed.
By then, of course, Hapgood and his students were captivated by the mystery of the map.
They proceeded cautiously, however, because they knew that many cartographers in ancient
times vaguely believed in the existence of a landmass in the southern regions and, with or
without evidence, might have added something to their charts out of blind faith -- or even
out of a preference for esthetic balance.