Piri Reis Map

Piri Reis Map : Shows, among others, the Falkland Islands discovered in 1592 . But most surprising is the Antarctic coastline profile shown in great detail.


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  • 1 Dating
  • 2 History
  • 3 Description
  • 4 Map fragments
  • 5 Other information
    • 1 Other spectacular data
  • 6 Cartographic Importance
  • 7 Actual scope
  • 8 Sources


The map is dated 1513 , but was not published until 1523. The final elaboration must have been somewhere between those 2 dates. Here in principle we are going to give the date of 1513 as good, with the exception noted.


The Topkapi Palace, in Istanbul , was transformed in 192 9 into an museum of antiquities. On November 9 of the same year, the director of the Turkish National Museum, B. Halil Eldem, found two fragments of a map drawn by the sailor Piri Reis, who once served as Admiral of the Fleet in the Red Sea and in the Gulf. Persian. It was in 1513 when Piri Reis, in the city of Gallipoli, began to make the maps, which in 1517 he offered as a gift to Sultan Selim I, conqueror of Egypt, during a trip he made through this country. Before this discovery, Piri Reis enjoyed great fame in Turkey as a cartographer, since up to 215 maps signed by him were preserved, along with a marginal writing -bahriye- in which the author himself comments on them.


The map is painted in gazelle leather, with a lattice of lines that cross the Atlantic Ocean . Called heading lines are typical of late medieval seafarers’ charts and do not indicate latitude and longitude, but are used as an aid in setting directions; today, they are also used in aviation. The map includes beautiful drawings, accompanied by inscriptions indicating important discoveries. One of them corresponds, almost with complete certainty, to Pedro Álvares Cabral’s expedition of 150 0. It is believed that Cabral discovered Brazil when the winds knocked him off his route, on a trip to the East Indies.

Fragments of the map

The fragments found are part of the planispheres -definitely lost, it is believed- that our admiral used. In the bahriye Piri Reis writes: “They were drawn by poor Piri Reis, son of Hadj Mehmet, known as the carnal nephew of Kemal Reis, in the city of Gelibolu (Gallipoli). God have mercy on both, in the month of Saint Muharrem of the Year 919 March 9 – April 7, 1513.

Among the maps made by Reis is one dated 1513, which includes Great Britain , Spain , West Africa , the Atlantic , part of North America , South America and the coast of Antarctica to an area below Africa. As it is torn, it is suspected that it must have also contained Europe , Asia and Australia. A second map dated 1528 covers Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, part of Canada, and the eastern coast of North America, down to Florida. In the bahriye Piri Reis noted that he prepared his maps using also 20 old plans and 8 world maps made in the time of Alexander and that the entire inhabited world appeared in them. This annotation raised the researchers’ surprise to much higher degrees

Other data

During the International Geophysical Year, 1957, Father Lineham, former director of the Weston Astronomical Observatory and cartographer of the United States Navy, was also interested in maps. His conclusion was the same: the maps (especially the Antarctic area) are incredibly accurate, coming to offer data that we only know after the Antarctic expeditions that the Swedish, British and Norwegian carried out in 1949 and 1952.

The 28 of August of 1958 took place at Georgetown University public hearing Mallery and Lineham, who were questioned by a certain Warren. Here are some excerpts from the proceedings: WARREN: It is difficult for us today to understand how cartographers before us in many centuries could become so precise, being that the scientific methods of modern cartography have only just been born.

Other spectacular data

Its design was coordinated from the air:

  • Antarctic coastline had to be mapped
  • Before the continent was covered by ice.
  • Science does not know how all these data could be included in a map from the year 1513.

Other researchers such as H. Mallery, Walters, Lineham, Charles H. Hapgood and Richard W. Stracham, assure without any hesitation that the Piri Reis maps were drawn with the help of aerial photographs, taken at high altitude from a satellite. and made from a point located above the City of Cairo. Similar conclusions were reached by the sadly disappeared French space scientist and NASA collaborator Maurice Chatelain, who claimed that these maps represented a flat projection of the spherical surface of the Earth as it could be seen today by an astronaut located at a great height about Egypt. Interestingly, a photo obtained by a satellite on the vertical of Cairo at a height of 4,300 kilometers, shows the same deformation of the coasts as the copies of Piri Reis.

Professor Sarton of Harvard University conducted a comprehensive study of the scales and distances of Piri Reis’s work. In his final report he ensured that the distances between the different points were exact, always taking the Greek stage measurement (1 stage = 186 meters) as a scale, the scale used by the Turkish navigator was extracted from the measurement of the Earth’s circumference by the wise Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC . These data corroborated what was exposed by Piri Reis himself, and that is that the antiquity of the original maps from which he copied, dated back to the time of Alexander the Great .

Cartographic Importance

For historians, the most interesting thing about the map is that one of its sources is a Colombian map seized from a Spanish sailor by the Turkish fleet in 1501. It is assumed that Piri Reis continued to trace North America and the Caribbean islands. to a large extent that map (original of Christopher Columbus or of someone who participated in his first expeditions), and would thus reflect the cosmographic vision of Columbus in the fullness of his discovery stage. In that sense, it would be a unique map (because the original source, along with the rest of the Colombian maps, has been lost).

Actual scope

Real scope

Going into detail a bit, this is the area of ​​the map that Piri Reis is supposed to have drawn based on an original Colombian map. In any case, the map does reflect Colon’s cosmography, mixing the discoveries of the new territories with medieval maps that represent an imaginary coast of Asia in the place where North America should be.

Starting from the south we have a large island painted in red with a parrot perched on top. It’s probably Trinidad (a little misplaced). From there, the continental stretches of coast are rather hypothetical until reaching Colombia, where the curve that forms the Gulf of Darien and the Atlantic coasts of Panama , Costa Rica and Nicaragua is well described .

Curiously, the Pacific coast that would be expected in Panama does not appear, the “South Sea”, discovered by Balboa in 1513, the same year in which the map is dated). And since it was a fairly well-known discovery, that makes us suppose that Piri Reis did not introduce modifications to his map between 1513.

On the island side, the arch formed by the Antilles is perfectly defined (labeled as the “Eleven Virgins” on the map). Puerto Rico appears as a slightly larger rectangular island painted in yellow, and to its left is another large island (the shape of which is vaguely reminiscent of present-day Iceland) representing Hispaniola.

So far so good. The first curiosity comes when we find Cuba (the fortress seen on the continental coast) as being part of the continent. In 1,513 almost everyone already knew that Cuba was an island. It appears drawn as such on the maps of Juan de la Cosa 1500 and Cantino 1502. But against general opinion Piri Reis drew it as part of the continent. why? Probably because he gave more credit to the original Colombian map that was in his possession than to the last drawn maps that circulated in Europe at the time. An error that can be explained by his faith in Columbus as an authority.

The layout of the North American coast to the north of Cuba does not present any mystery. It is a copy of the famous globe of Martin Behaim 1492 or any other map related to it. The only curious thing is that this coastline in the original maps represents the East coast of Asia , China , Katay and in this map of Piri Reis it appears next to the newly discovered new islands, clearly showing the Colombian idea that the New World discovered in reality was the coast of Asia, idea otherwise quite common at the time as we have already seen.

The huge red painted island that appears off the coast of North America is the mythical island of Antilia, very common in medieval cartography. And the most curious thing is the huge fish that appears drawn to the North of the map, which indicates that Piri Reis knew some of the legends of the European Nordic sailors.


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