The Piri Reis Map – Theories Debunked

[Editor’s note: I have long been interested in ancient history and archaeology, therefore I have always found it deeply frustrating that the most prominent authors on the subjects are utter frauds who write not because they want to uncover the truth, but because they crave fame and fortune. One of the worst of these fame whores is the swindler and crook Eric Von Daniken, a man who wrote his nonsense fairytale Chariots of The Gods while sitting in a Swiss jail cell serving a term for fraud. Another equally unpleasant liar is Graham Hancock, a man who has made quite a fortune from his ability to weave a good fairytale, evidence and facts be damned!

One of the key  pieces of ‘evidence’ cited by both these clowns is the map drawn by Turkish admiral Piri Reis in the 16th century, they both claim this map proves ancient high technology must have existed because it accurately shows the coast of Antarctica as it was at least 15,000 years ago before it was covered in ice. As Professor Dutch outlines in his excellent analysis below, this is utter nonsense, a complete lie with zero basis in reality.

Antarctica is an area of great interest to myself and others at VT, not least because we have highly unusual events like John Kerry going there on the day of the last US presidential election. Sadly, the likes of Von Daniken and Hancock have nothing but lies and fairytales to tell us about this mysterious continent. Ian]

The Piri Reis Map

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

The Map

The Piri Reis Map, shown below, is the oldest surviving map to show the Americas. It is not European, surprisingly, but Turkish. It bears a date of 919 in the Moslem calendar, corresponding to 1513 in the Western Calendar. It is in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a fabulous museum and the locale for a truly awful movie in the late 1960’s. (I’ve been there – the real place bears no resemblance to the place in the movie.) The map was lost for a long time and only rediscovered in the 20th century.

Apart from its great historic interest, the map has been alleged to contain details no European could have known in the 1500’s, and therefore proves the existence of ancient technological civilizations, visits by extraterrestrials, or both.

The map is a portolan chart, a common form at this time. Instead of latitude and longitude grids, compass roses were placed at key points with azimuths radiating from them. That said, the east-west lines through the small rose off South America in the center of the map are a very good approximation to the Equator, both there and with respect to Africa. The small one at the very top of the map is a very good estimate of 45 north where the east-west azimuth hits the coast of France. The two big compass roses in mid-Atlantic are harder to place. They might locate the tropic lines (23-1/2 north and south) or they could represent 22-1/2 latitude (one-fourth of the way from equator to pole). Considering they are a bit closer to 45 degrees than the equator, the tropic lines are the best bet.

Erich von Daniken in Chariots of the Gods?claimed that the map closely resembled an azimuthal projection centered on Cairo.At left is a real azimuthal projection centered on Cairo. This projection does tilt the Greater Antilles vertical and bring them up even with northern Europe. But it fails to bring South America below the bulge of Africa. And the equator, which is quite precise on the Piri Reis map, is curved.

The straight parallels of latitude show that the map cannot be azimuthal. It has to be a cylindrical projection, probably cylindrical equidistant if anything. A cylindrical equidistant projection has equally spaced parallels of latitude. It was rarely used in pre-computer times (there are better projections that are just as easy to construct) but has become a lot more common recently because it is the easiest projection to plot on a computer. (You just plot latitude and longitude directly without any mathematical alterations.)

At left is a direct comparison between the Piri Reis Map and the supposedly identical azimuthal equidistant projection. The scale is chosen to find the best fit with the western bulge of Africa.  Nothing matches. Spain on the azimuthal equidistant map is well to the right of western Africa, not directly above.

So clearly the claim that the Piri Reis Map matches a map centered on the Middle East is total garbage. At left is an azimuthal equidistant map centered on 0, 0. The fit of Africa and Spain is far better and the fit with Brazil is surprisingly good. Features on the South American coast down to southern Brazil can be identified with certainty. Beyond that, though, the map is fantasy. It doesn’t match either South America or Antarctica very well.So, apart from claiming vague similarities between the Piri Reis map and Antarctica, what positive, specific evidence do you have that the map shows Antarctica?

The Marginal Notes

The marginal writings on the map are very revealing. Translations are in The Oldest Map of America, by Professor Dr. Afet Inan. Ankara, 1954, pp. 28-34 and available at a number of Web sites. Until 1928 the Turkish language was written with Arabic letters, but the language on the map is Turkish, not Arabic.

Most important is that references to maps of Asia, plus some fragmentary lines south of Africa, indicate that this was originally a world map which was torn in half along the eastern edge. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to see the other half?

Most of the bizarre claims made for the Piri Reis Map utterly ignore the marginal notes, which pretty conclusively show the map is entirely 16th century terrestrial in origin.

Cartography of the Piri Reis Map

Below is a tracing of the coastlines on the map. Western Europe and Africa are easily recognizable, the Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands are fairly accurate both as to location and the number and arrangements of individual islands. Eastern South America is also easily recognizable, but there are a lot of things not so easily recognized. The map, by the way, is very clear on the existence of mountains in the interior of South America (in brown on the tracing).

Europe

The coastline of France and Iberia is well-drawn. There are four major rivers shown in Iberia, from north to south the Atlantic rivers are the Tagus and Guadalquivir, and the east-flowing rivers are the Ebro (north) and an unknown river in the south (there are several minor rivers it could be).

The rivers are very inaccurately located. The Tagus enters the Atlantic at Lisbon as shown, but does not have a hook in its upper reaches. The Duoro, to the north, does, but it’s not shown. It looks very much as if the draftsman confused the two rivers.

By the way, the Spanish syllable guad- that begins so many place names comes from Arabic wadi, valley. Wadi-al-yahara, valley of the flowing water, became Guadalajara, for example.

Africa

The western bulge of Africa is pretty well drawn and the offshore islands are as well (though too large relative to everything else).

There are a couple of small rivers in Morocco that could correspond to the northernmost river. The river emptying at the center of the bulge is the Senegal and the next one south is the Gambia, followed to the south by the Guinea. The two rivers do not join but do approach closely. The south-flowing river is probably the Sassandra in the Ivory Coast.

The welter of lakes and rivers inland do not exist as shown but may reflect some garbled knowledge of the Niger headwaters and its inland delta.

Some people have claimed the map shows the Sahara as it was during the Pleistocene, when it had huge inland lakes. There are several reasons to doubt this:

  • If the rivers of Iberia, which was occupied by Moslems for 700 years, are inaccurately shown, why should we think the map of Africa is any more accurate?
  • No amount of flooding the basins of the Sahara could make the Niger top its drainage divide and flow to the Atlantic. It’s just too high. In fact, it’s the highest land for a thousand miles. You could flood the Sahara enough to put Khartoum on the Atlantic and still leave the Niger drainage divide above water.
  • Sailors navigating the desert coast of west Africa would be interested in where to find fresh water now, not where it was during the Pleistocene.

North America

North America is frankly a mess on this map. The only voyages to North America by 1513 were voyages to Newfoundland beginning with John Cabot in 1498, and some Spanish sightings of the southeast coast of the U.S. It was only in 1513 that Balboa reached the Pacific and Ponce de Leon discovered people who can’t punch ballots correctly in Miami Beach.

The marginal notes refer to some of the islands and coasts north of South America as “Antilia,” clearly referring to the Antilles. The lack of good detail is puzzling since there must have been much better maps of the Caribbean by this time. If it’s a real place at all – “Antilia” was a legendary island of the times. The big triangular island in the far northwest could be Newfoundland. It’s close to the right latitude and even pretty much the right shape. Given that the most detailed knowledge of North America was in the north at this time, the big island off the coast is much more likely to be Nova Scotia than one of the Antilles. Supporting this is the fact that a nearby note refers to St. Brendan, an Irish monk who according to tradition sailed far into the North Atlantic in the sixth century. He might conceivably have reached Newfoundland or Nova Scotia but is pretty unlikely to have reached the Antilles.

The mess of North America is important. It’s ridiculous to claim, as many people do, that there are ancient or extraterrestrial secrets lurking in this map when something as big as North America is so crudely drawn.

Robert Bywater and Jean-Pierre Lacroix published a very interesting hypothesis in Journal of Spatial Sciencevol 49 (1); 13-23 (2004) They suggest that the islands off North America might actually be Asia. The dream that the Americas might somehow be joined to Asia died hard, and remember, this map predates Magellan by a decade so nobody really knew how wide the Pacific was. As late as 1634, Jean Nicolet sailed into Green Bay expecting to meet the Chinese. It’s worth considering.

Secrets in the map?

It’s the other stuff that fascinates people. Among other claims:

  • The map shows the earth as seen from space
  • The map shows the subglacial topography of Greenland
  • The map shows the subglacial topography of Antarctica
  • The map is aligned with the earth’s energy grid (whatever that means)
Here’s a map that does show the earth from space as seen from a point that roughly matches the Piri Reis Map (20N, 30W). We can see that any similarity between this map and the Piri Reis Map, apart from what terrestrial navigators knew in the early 1500’s, is imaginary.This projection is called an orthographic projection. Draftsmen of the 1500’s would have been perfectly capable of drawing such a map given the geographic coordinates. You do not need to go into space to do it. For one thing, by this time there were globes to use as models.
At left is the same map with the Piri Reis map superimposed on it. The conclusions don’t change: Europe and Africa, pretty good. South America, fair. In fact the crudeness of the cartography of the Caribbean coast is more obvious here. Similarity to North America: vague at best. Similarity to Antarctica: imaginary.The fit is actually not as good as the fit with the azimuthal equidistant map shown above.

Below is the Piri Reis Map with modern maps superimposed. We can see that Europe and Africa are pretty good but with lots of inaccuracy in detail. Promontories and bays are exaggerated, a natural enough tendency in a day when navigating by landmark was a matter of life and death. The Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands are accurately located but again, exaggerated in size. Also note a hint of cartographic breakdown where the coast of Africa meets the right edge of the map.

Brazil is pretty recognizable, but South America is too big compared to Africa and Europe, the Atlantic is way too narrow, and South America is compressed east-to-west. Also, what are the big islands offshore? North America is essentially imaginary.

Now one thing we can count on navigators of the 1500’s being able to measure accurately was latitude. On the east side we can clearly see the tip of France, so the top of the map represents about 50 degrees north latitude. So right away we can forget about this map showing Greenland, subglacial or not. The coast of subglacial Greenland, by the way, won’t look very different from the present coast, for the simple reason that most of the Greenland coast is rock, not ice. There’s nothing on the map that even vaguely resembles Greenland.

The Piri Reis Map does not use any systematic projection, although as noted above it’s close to a cylindrical equidistant. It tries to get features accurate to shape and relative location, and it tries to plot accurate latitudes, but there is no reasonable transformation of the present earth that will yield the Piri Reis Map. (You can, of course, come up with a mathematical transformation that will transform any map into any other map, but any transformation of the real world into the Piri Reis Map would be so convoluted and ad hoc that it would prove nothing.)

South America

The scale of South America above was chosen to give a good fit in latitude from the north coast to the tip of Brazil, presumably the best-mapped part at the time the map was drawn. We can see that the match between the modern map and the Piri Reis Map is pretty good for some distance south of that, both in scale and in geographic detail.

That long stretch of coast on the bottom of the map has been claimed to be Antarctica, a place not known to humans (according to orthodox history) until the 19th century. So let’s compare a modern map of South America (left, below) with the Piri Reis Map (right).

Start with the obvious. The tip of Brazil is easy to place (A-a). To the west (b) we have a large river flowing into a broad recess. This can only be the Amazon (B). The big island to the northeast on the Piri Reis Map may be Marajo Island, the big island at the mouth of the Amazon. Whatever, the fact that there is no island in mid-Atlantic as shown doesn’t bode well for the idea that this map drew on ancient advanced knowledge.

To the south, the sharp recess in the coast of Brazil (C-c) is easy to see on both maps. At d we have a large river with a big delta flowing out of a convex coastline, and a big island offshore (e). It’s a nearly perfect match for the Orinoco (D) and the island is Trinidad (E). One of the two rivers at g is almost certainly the Magdalena (G) but it’s not clear what the other one is. Possibly the Magdalena is the river to the east and the Darien is the river to the west. The coastal bend north of Panama is fairly clear (F-f) but everything north of that bears almost no resemblance to any modern maps.

Moving south, it’s tempting to identify the big river at h with the Rio de la Plata (P), except the Rio de la Plata is too far south and empties into a large bay, not on a bulge in the coast. The Piri Reis Map actually matches the real coastal bulge at H far better, except there’s no river there. But there is a city called Rio de Janeiro, or “River of January” because the discoverer mistook the complex bays there for the mouth of a large river. In fact, the real coastline there looks rather like the Piri Reis coastline, if you squint a bit. It certainly looks more like it than anything on the map looks like Greenland! If we buy this, the smooth concave indentation to the south (I-i) falls into place.

The southern compass rose on the map would place the tropic of Capricorn on the small coastal bump halfway between c and h, and that would favor the big river being the Rio de la Plata. So we have to conclude that either the latitudes or the coastline (or both) are inaccurate south of c. The coastal fit seems too good to discard, and the marginal notes in this area explain how Piri Reis synthesized his map from a number of sources, so it’s not hard to see how latitude might have suffered a bit in the process. Remember, he didn’t have the raw latitude observations to go on.

Thereafter, the Piri Reis Map drifts into the Twilight Zone. It shows South America swinging far to the east. Given that the map so far has done fairly well in latitude, we can be sure the coastline is not Antarctica. Also, if the map draws on ancient knowledge to show things no 16th century explorer would have known, why is the coastline continuous? So why isn’t there open water between South America and “Antarctica?” You can’t seize on an accidental resemblance to a couple of bumps on the coast of Antarctica and blithely ignore the failure to show the Drake Passage!

Most damning of all to the Antarctica interpretation is that the marginal notes refer to the coast in this region being discovered by Portuguese ships blown off course. One note refers to the land being “very hot,” which probably rules out Antarctica. The Piri Reis Map itself explicitly says the information in this area came from European sources. Atlanteans and extraterrestrials need not apply. We have isolated sightings of coast made by ships far off course and unsure of their location. Small wonder the map is wildly inaccurate.

Considering that we have had a good match so far by assuming the Piri Reis Map shows relative latitude accurately (although not nearly as well as north of the equator; the scale of South America is too large), and that coastal features like points and bays are accurately rendered, then south of the smoothly curving coast at I-i there must be a cusp on the coast (j-J). The next prominent point k could be the point beyond the Rio de la Plata (K). The latitude is about right compared to the rest of South America.

Above is an alternative interpretation of the mystery area. It requires us to assume the latitudes are badly off, something not hard to envision in maps of that era. However, it matches the curves in the coast. Point k might even correspond to the tip of Tierra del Fuego.

Antarctica?

Above is a map of South America and Antarctica with the Piri Reis coastline in magenta. Southern South America and Antarctica are in the orthographic projection – in other words they do look like they would as seen from space. We can see the Piri Reis Map bears no resemblance at all to Antarctica. The 600-mile wide Drake Passage is not shown, nor are the large islands in the Weddell Sea. The latitude is thousands of miles off.

So in response to people who ask how to explain why the Piri Reis Map shows the coastline of Antarctica accurately, the answer is – it doesn’t. It especially doesn’t show the subglacial coastline of Antarctica, which corresponds to the existing coastline of Antarctica around most of the continent anyway.

Rule #1 For Interpreting Ancient Maps (If You Want A Best Seller)

Anything that matches (or can be made to seem like a match to) existing cartography is proof that the cartographer had access to secret knowledge. Anything that doesn’t match, doesn’t count.

  • Omission of major land masses, bodies of water, etc., doesn’t count.
  • Failure to draw your home country accurately doesn’t count.
  • Inclusion of non-existent features doesn’t count, except if you want to claim the map actually shows geography as it was in the Pleistocene, Cretaceous, Precambrian, etc.

Rule #1 For Interpreting Ancient Maps (If You Seriously Want to Learn Anything)

The map can be no better than its portrayal of the areas that were well explored in the time and place the map was drawn. If it has significant errors in known geography, claims that the map shows unknowngeography are simply worthless.

Some Real Mysteries About the Map

The map seems to show more detail than Europeans were likely to have in 1513. Pizarro hadn’t been to Peru, yet, so how did Piri Reis know about the Andes? Did somebody hear tales of mountains far inland? Also, the detail on the South American coast seems a bit rich for 1513. Was the map begun then and completed later? Was the map copied later and the date miscopied? But if the map was derived from ancient sources that contained details otherwise unknown to Europeans, why are so many parts of it so crude?

There’s also a marginal note opposite South America that says “It is related by the Portuguese infidel that in this spot night and day are at their shortest of two hours, at their longest of twenty two hours. But the day is very warm and in the night there is much dew.” That would indicate a far southern latitude, but note that the report explicitly comes from the Portuguese, not from arcane ancient sources. It’s possible that some Portuguese expedition was blown very far south, not to Antarctica where the days are rarely “very warm,” but perhaps to 50 south or so.

Let’s Hear it for Piri Reis

For 1513, this map shows an astonishing amount of detail. The notes on the map explain that the map was synthesized from about 20 maps, many of which were captured from Spanish and Portuguese ships in the Mediterranean. It was also supplemented by accounts given by captured Spanish and Portuguese sailors.

Not a map from some ancient Atlantean civilization, not a map created by extraterrestrials, but a first class piece of naval intelligence. Considering that it was created by a sailor whose country never participated in the age of exploration, and that it’s drawn wholly from second-hand sources, it’s an astonishing piece of work. It seems to contain up-to-the-minute details derived from enemy maps, many of which would have been tightly-guarded secrets.

There’s a class of crank that hates the idea that other people might have real accomplishments, because they never accomplish anything themselves. So Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, other people did; Robert Peary didn’t reach the North Pole as he claimed, and so on. And Piri Reis wasn’t a gifted admiral and good intelligence analyst, but had to get help from ancient lost documents. Get a life, folks.

Same Old, Same Old

Here’s a recent e-mail I got. My comments are in red.

So let me get this straight, regarding the Piri Reis map,

You feel that people are totally wrong and probably liars, when they claim:

“In 1953 … the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Bureau … Arlington H. Mallery, an authority on ancient maps … Mallery discovered the projection method used. … the map was totally accurate. … The Hydrographic Office … were … able to correct … errors in the present days maps” <http://www.world-mysteries.com/sar_1.htm>

Yes, they are totally wrong. Certainly the people who created the web page he cites did absolutely no original work of their own but are merely parroting older pseudoscience works.

Reality check here. In 1953, we had just fought a major war in the Atlantic, where errors in maps could lead to ships being sunk and battles being lost. We’re to believe a 16th century map was more accurate than charts used to fight naval warfare in World War II when ships and lives depended on cartographic accuracy? And what specific errors were found and corrected? Where’s the documentation that any of this ever actually happened?

Searching for Arlington H Mallery on line is revealing. He was a prolific author of cult archeological theories, and at least a couple of times he got into professional journals, only to get smacked down soundly for his errors.

Regarding your own page http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/PiriRies.HTM

“Most of the bizarre claims made for the Piri Reis Map utterly ignore the marginal notes, which pretty conclusively show the map is entirely 16th century terrestrial in origin.”

Surely, assuming the translations of his notes are correct:

“The-hand of this poor man has drawn it and now it is constructed. From about twenty charts and Mappae Mundi-these are charts drawn in the days of Alexander, Lord of the Two Horns, which show the inhabited quarter of the world; the Arabs name these charts Jaferiye-from eight Jaferiyes of that kind and one Arabic map of Hind, and from the maps just drawn by four Portuguese which show the countries of Hind, Sind and China geometrically drawn, and also from a map drawn by Colombo in the western region I have extracted it. By reducing all these maps to one scale this final form was arrived at. So that the present map is as correct and reliable for the Seven Seas as the map of these our countries is considered correct and reliable by seamen.”

Which seems to conclusively prove that he may have drawn this in the 16 century, but a lot of it is based on much older information.

Duh. If you draw a map from existing sources, they are certainly older. Note the logical leap from “older” to “much older” or “ancient.”

“One note refers to the land being “very hot,” which probably rules out Antarctica.”

Well, if the ice was gone when they were there, it would be hot, wouldn’t it? He also writes “there are white-haired monsters … , and also six-horned oxen.” – only quote what fits, eh? 😉

Gee, come on up to Wisconsin in May. The ice is gone (usually) but tell me if it’s “very hot.” The quotes about white-haired monsters and six-horned oxen further illustrate the inaccuracy of the source.

“The Piri Reis Map itself explicitly says the information in this area came from European sources. Atlanteans and extraterrestrials need not apply. ”

Actually, it says what Piri Reis thought – not who actually originally authored the maps (not that I’m trying to prove extraterrestrials, you just seem unnecessarily arrogant and condescending here.)

Oh, here we go again. Saying something based on technical information is “arrogant,” arguing about it with no background whatsoever, and expecting to be taken seriously, isn’t. More of the Self-Appointed Expertsyndrome. Aww, pity-poo.


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Created 8 July 1998, Last Update 02 June, 2010

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The Piri Reis Map

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

The Map

The Piri Reis Map, shown below, is the oldest surviving map to show the Americas. It is not European, surprisingly, but Turkish. It bears a date of 919 in the Moslem calendar, corresponding to 1513 in the Western Calendar. It is in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a fabulous museum and the locale for a truly awful movie in the late 1960’s. (I’ve been there – the real place bears no resemblance to the place in the movie.) The map was lost for a long time and only rediscovered in the 20th century.

Apart from its great historic interest, the map has been alleged to contain details no European could have known in the 1500’s, and therefore proves the existence of ancient technological civilizations, visits by extraterrestrials, or both.

The map is a portolan chart, a common form at this time. Instead of latitude and longitude grids, compass roses were placed at key points with azimuths radiating from them. That said, the east-west lines through the small rose off South America in the center of the map are a very good approximation to the Equator, both there and with respect to Africa. The small one at the very top of the map is a very good estimate of 45 north where the east-west azimuth hits the coast of France. The two big compass roses in mid-Atlantic are harder to place. They might locate the tropic lines (23-1/2 north and south) or they could represent 22-1/2 latitude (one-fourth of the way from equator to pole). Considering they are a bit closer to 45 degrees than the equator, the tropic lines are the best bet.

Erich von Daniken in Chariots of the Gods? claimed that the map closely resembled an azimuthal projection centered on Cairo.At left is a real azimuthal projection centered on Cairo. This projection does tilt the Greater Antilles vertical and bring them up even with northern Europe. But it fails to bring South America below the bulge of Africa. And the equator, which is quite precise on the Piri Reis map, is curved.

The straight parallels of latitude show that the map cannot be azimuthal. It has to be a cylindrical projection, probably cylindrical equidistant if anything. A cylindrical equidistant projection has equally spaced parallels of latitude. It was rarely used in pre-computer times (there are better projections that are just as easy to construct) but has become a lot more common recently because it is the easiest projection to plot on a computer. (You just plot latitude and longitude directly without any mathematical alterations.)

At left is a direct comparison between the Piri Reis Map and the supposedly identical azimuthal equidistant projection. The scale is chosen to find the best fit with the western bulge of Africa.  Nothing matches. Spain on the azimuthal equidistant map is well to the right of western Africa, not directly above.

So clearly the claim that the Piri Reis Map matches a map centered on the Middle East is total garbage. At left is an azimuthal equidistant map centered on 0, 0. The fit of Africa and Spain is far better and the fit with Brazil is surprisingly good. Features on the South American coast down to southern Brazil can be identified with certainty. Beyond that, though, the map is fantasy. It doesn’t match either South America or Antarctica very well.So, apart from claiming vague similarities between the Piri Reis map and Antarctica, what positive, specific evidence do you have that the map shows Antarctica?

The Marginal Notes

The marginal writings on the map are very revealing. Translations are in The Oldest Map of America, by Professor Dr. Afet Inan. Ankara, 1954, pp. 28-34 and available at a number of Web sites. Until 1928 the Turkish language was written with Arabic letters, but the language on the map is Turkish, not Arabic.

Most important is that references to maps of Asia, plus some fragmentary lines south of Africa, indicate that this was originally a world map which was torn in half along the eastern edge. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to see the other half?

Most of the bizarre claims made for the Piri Reis Map utterly ignore the marginal notes, which pretty conclusively show the map is entirely 16th century terrestrial in origin.

Cartography of the Piri Reis Map

Below is a tracing of the coastlines on the map. Western Europe and Africa are easily recognizable, the Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands are fairly accurate both as to location and the number and arrangements of individual islands. Eastern South America is also easily recognizable, but there are a lot of things not so easily recognized. The map, by the way, is very clear on the existence of mountains in the interior of South America (in brown on the tracing).

Europe

The coastline of France and Iberia is well-drawn. There are four major rivers shown in Iberia, from north to south the Atlantic rivers are the Tagus and Guadalquivir, and the east-flowing rivers are the Ebro (north) and an unknown river in the south (there are several minor rivers it could be).

The rivers are very inaccurately located. The Tagus enters the Atlantic at Lisbon as shown, but does not have a hook in its upper reaches. The Duoro, to the north, does, but it’s not shown. It looks very much as if the draftsman confused the two rivers.

By the way, the Spanish syllable guad- that begins so many place names comes from Arabic wadi, valley. Wadi-al-yahara, valley of the flowing water, became Guadalajara, for example.

Africa

The western bulge of Africa is pretty well drawn and the offshore islands are as well (though too large relative to everything else).

There are a couple of small rivers in Morocco that could correspond to the northernmost river. The river emptying at the center of the bulge is the Senegal and the next one south is the Gambia, followed to the south by the Guinea. The two rivers do not join but do approach closely. The south-flowing river is probably the Sassandra in the Ivory Coast.

The welter of lakes and rivers inland do not exist as shown but may reflect some garbled knowledge of the Niger headwaters and its inland delta.

Some people have claimed the map shows the Sahara as it was during the Pleistocene, when it had huge inland lakes. There are several reasons to doubt this:

  • If the rivers of Iberia, which was occupied by Moslems for 700 years, are inaccurately shown, why should we think the map of Africa is any more accurate?
  • No amount of flooding the basins of the Sahara could make the Niger top its drainage divide and flow to the Atlantic. It’s just too high. In fact, it’s the highest land for a thousand miles. You could flood the Sahara enough to put Khartoum on the Atlantic and still leave the Niger drainage divide above water.
  • Sailors navigating the desert coast of west Africa would be interested in where to find fresh water now, not where it was during the Pleistocene.

North America

North America is frankly a mess on this map. The only voyages to North America by 1513 were voyages to Newfoundland beginning with John Cabot in 1498, and some Spanish sightings of the southeast coast of the U.S. It was only in 1513 that Balboa reached the Pacific and Ponce de Leon discovered people who can’t punch ballots correctly in Miami Beach.

The marginal notes refer to some of the islands and coasts north of South America as “Antilia,” clearly referring to the Antilles. The lack of good detail is puzzling since there must have been much better maps of the Caribbean by this time. If it’s a real place at all – “Antilia” was a legendary island of the times. The big triangular island in the far northwest could be Newfoundland. It’s close to the right latitude and even pretty much the right shape. Given that the most detailed knowledge of North America was in the north at this time, the big island off the coast is much more likely to be Nova Scotia than one of the Antilles. Supporting this is the fact that a nearby note refers to St. Brendan, an Irish monk who according to tradition sailed far into the North Atlantic in the sixth century. He might conceivably have reached Newfoundland or Nova Scotia but is pretty unlikely to have reached the Antilles.

The mess of North America is important. It’s ridiculous to claim, as many people do, that there are ancient or extraterrestrial secrets lurking in this map when something as big as North America is so crudely drawn.

Robert Bywater and Jean-Pierre Lacroix published a very interesting hypothesis in Journal of Spatial Sciencevol 49 (1); 13-23 (2004) They suggest that the islands off North America might actually be Asia. The dream that the Americas might somehow be joined to Asia died hard, and remember, this map predates Magellan by a decade so nobody really knew how wide the Pacific was. As late as 1634, Jean Nicolet sailed into Green Bay expecting to meet the Chinese. It’s worth considering.

Secrets in the map?

It’s the other stuff that fascinates people. Among other claims:

  • The map shows the earth as seen from space
  • The map shows the subglacial topography of Greenland
  • The map shows the subglacial topography of Antarctica
  • The map is aligned with the earth’s energy grid (whatever that means)
Here’s a map that does show the earth from space as seen from a point that roughly matches the Piri Reis Map (20N, 30W). We can see that any similarity between this map and the Piri Reis Map, apart from what terrestrial navigators knew in the early 1500’s, is imaginary.This projection is called an orthographic projection. Draftsmen of the 1500’s would have been perfectly capable of drawing such a map given the geographic coordinates. You do not need to go into space to do it. For one thing, by this time there were globes to use as models.
At left is the same map with the Piri Reis map superimposed on it. The conclusions don’t change: Europe and Africa, pretty good. South America, fair. In fact the crudeness of the cartography of the Caribbean coast is more obvious here. Similarity to North America: vague at best. Similarity to Antarctica: imaginary.The fit is actually not as good as the fit with the azimuthal equidistant map shown above.

Below is the Piri Reis Map with modern maps superimposed. We can see that Europe and Africa are pretty good but with lots of inaccuracy in detail. Promontories and bays are exaggerated, a natural enough tendency in a day when navigating by landmark was a matter of life and death. The Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands are accurately located but again, exaggerated in size. Also note a hint of cartographic breakdown where the coast of Africa meets the right edge of the map.

Brazil is pretty recognizable, but South America is too big compared to Africa and Europe, the Atlantic is way too narrow, and South America is compressed east-to-west. Also, what are the big islands offshore? North America is essentially imaginary.

Now one thing we can count on navigators of the 1500’s being able to measure accurately was latitude. On the east side we can clearly see the tip of France, so the top of the map represents about 50 degrees north latitude. So right away we can forget about this map showing Greenland, subglacial or not. The coast of subglacial Greenland, by the way, won’t look very different from the present coast, for the simple reason that most of the Greenland coast is rock, not ice. There’s nothing on the map that even vaguely resembles Greenland.

The Piri Reis Map does not use any systematic projection, although as noted above it’s close to a cylindrical equidistant. It tries to get features accurate to shape and relative location, and it tries to plot accurate latitudes, but there is no reasonable transformation of the present earth that will yield the Piri Reis Map. (You can, of course, come up with a mathematical transformation that will transform any map into any other map, but any transformation of the real world into the Piri Reis Map would be so convoluted and ad hoc that it would prove nothing.)

South America

The scale of South America above was chosen to give a good fit in latitude from the north coast to the tip of Brazil, presumably the best-mapped part at the time the map was drawn. We can see that the match between the modern map and the Piri Reis Map is pretty good for some distance south of that, both in scale and in geographic detail.

That long stretch of coast on the bottom of the map has been claimed to be Antarctica, a place not known to humans (according to orthodox history) until the 19th century. So let’s compare a modern map of South America (left, below) with the Piri Reis Map (right).

Start with the obvious. The tip of Brazil is easy to place (A-a). To the west (b) we have a large river flowing into a broad recess. This can only be the Amazon (B). The big island to the northeast on the Piri Reis Map may be Marajo Island, the big island at the mouth of the Amazon. Whatever, the fact that there is no island in mid-Atlantic as shown doesn’t bode well for the idea that this map drew on ancient advanced knowledge.

To the south, the sharp recess in the coast of Brazil (C-c) is easy to see on both maps. At d we have a large river with a big delta flowing out of a convex coastline, and a big island offshore (e). It’s a nearly perfect match for the Orinoco (D) and the island is Trinidad (E). One of the two rivers at g is almost certainly the Magdalena (G) but it’s not clear what the other one is. Possibly the Magdalena is the river to the east and the Darien is the river to the west. The coastal bend north of Panama is fairly clear (F-f) but everything north of that bears almost no resemblance to any modern maps.

Moving south, it’s tempting to identify the big river at h with the Rio de la Plata (P), except the Rio de la Plata is too far south and empties into a large bay, not on a bulge in the coast. The Piri Reis Map actually matches the real coastal bulge at H far better, except there’s no river there. But there is a city called Rio de Janeiro, or “River of January” because the discoverer mistook the complex bays there for the mouth of a large river. In fact, the real coastline there looks rather like the Piri Reis coastline, if you squint a bit. It certainly looks more like it than anything on the map looks like Greenland! If we buy this, the smooth concave indentation to the south (I-i) falls into place.

The southern compass rose on the map would place the tropic of Capricorn on the small coastal bump halfway between c and h, and that would favor the big river being the Rio de la Plata. So we have to conclude that either the latitudes or the coastline (or both) are inaccurate south of c. The coastal fit seems too good to discard, and the marginal notes in this area explain how Piri Reis synthesized his map from a number of sources, so it’s not hard to see how latitude might have suffered a bit in the process. Remember, he didn’t have the raw latitude observations to go on.

Thereafter, the Piri Reis Map drifts into the Twilight Zone. It shows South America swinging far to the east. Given that the map so far has done fairly well in latitude, we can be sure the coastline is not Antarctica. Also, if the map draws on ancient knowledge to show things no 16th century explorer would have known, why is the coastline continuous? So why isn’t there open water between South America and “Antarctica?” You can’t seize on an accidental resemblance to a couple of bumps on the coast of Antarctica and blithely ignore the failure to show the Drake Passage!

Most damning of all to the Antarctica interpretation is that the marginal notes refer to the coast in this region being discovered by Portuguese ships blown off course. One note refers to the land being “very hot,” which probably rules out Antarctica. The Piri Reis Map itself explicitly says the information in this area came from European sources. Atlanteans and extraterrestrials need not apply. We have isolated sightings of coast made by ships far off course and unsure of their location. Small wonder the map is wildly inaccurate.

Considering that we have had a good match so far by assuming the Piri Reis Map shows relative latitude accurately (although not nearly as well as north of the equator; the scale of South America is too large), and that coastal features like points and bays are accurately rendered, then south of the smoothly curving coast at I-i there must be a cusp on the coast (j-J). The next prominent point k could be the point beyond the Rio de la Plata (K). The latitude is about right compared to the rest of South America.

Above is an alternative interpretation of the mystery area. It requires us to assume the latitudes are badly off, something not hard to envision in maps of that era. However, it matches the curves in the coast. Point k might even correspond to the tip of Tierra del Fuego.

Antarctica?

Above is a map of South America and Antarctica with the Piri Reis coastline in magenta. Southern South America and Antarctica are in the orthographic projection – in other words they do look like they would as seen from space. We can see the Piri Reis Map bears no resemblance at all to Antarctica. The 600-mile wide Drake Passage is not shown, nor are the large islands in the Weddell Sea. The latitude is thousands of miles off.

So in response to people who ask how to explain why the Piri Reis Map shows the coastline of Antarctica accurately, the answer is – it doesn’t. It especially doesn’t show the subglacial coastline of Antarctica, which corresponds to the existing coastline of Antarctica around most of the continent anyway.

Rule #1 For Interpreting Ancient Maps (If You Want A Best Seller)

Anything that matches (or can be made to seem like a match to) existing cartography is proof that the cartographer had access to secret knowledge. Anything that doesn’t match, doesn’t count.

  • Omission of major land masses, bodies of water, etc., doesn’t count.
  • Failure to draw your home country accurately doesn’t count.
  • Inclusion of non-existent features doesn’t count, except if you want to claim the map actually shows geography as it was in the Pleistocene, Cretaceous, Precambrian, etc.

Rule #1 For Interpreting Ancient Maps (If You Seriously Want to Learn Anything)

The map can be no better than its portrayal of the areas that were well explored in the time and place the map was drawn. If it has significant errors in known geography, claims that the map shows unknowngeography are simply worthless.

Some Real Mysteries About the Map

The map seems to show more detail than Europeans were likely to have in 1513. Pizarro hadn’t been to Peru, yet, so how did Piri Reis know about the Andes? Did somebody hear tales of mountains far inland? Also, the detail on the South American coast seems a bit rich for 1513. Was the map begun then and completed later? Was the map copied later and the date miscopied? But if the map was derived from ancient sources that contained details otherwise unknown to Europeans, why are so many parts of it so crude?

There’s also a marginal note opposite South America that says “It is related by the Portuguese infidel that in this spot night and day are at their shortest of two hours, at their longest of twenty two hours. But the day is very warm and in the night there is much dew.” That would indicate a far southern latitude, but note that the report explicitly comes from the Portuguese, not from arcane ancient sources. It’s possible that some Portuguese expedition was blown very far south, not to Antarctica where the days are rarely “very warm,” but perhaps to 50 south or so.

Let’s Hear it for Piri Reis

For 1513, this map shows an astonishing amount of detail. The notes on the map explain that the map was synthesized from about 20 maps, many of which were captured from Spanish and Portuguese ships in the Mediterranean. It was also supplemented by accounts given by captured Spanish and Portuguese sailors.

Not a map from some ancient Atlantean civilization, not a map created by extraterrestrials, but a first class piece of naval intelligence. Considering that it was created by a sailor whose country never participated in the age of exploration, and that it’s drawn wholly from second-hand sources, it’s an astonishing piece of work. It seems to contain up-to-the-minute details derived from enemy maps, many of which would have been tightly-guarded secrets.

There’s a class of crank that hates the idea that other people might have real accomplishments, because they never accomplish anything themselves. So Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, other people did; Robert Peary didn’t reach the North Pole as he claimed, and so on. And Piri Reis wasn’t a gifted admiral and good intelligence analyst, but had to get help from ancient lost documents. Get a life, folks.

Same Old, Same Old

Here’s a recent e-mail I got. My comments are in red.

So let me get this straight, regarding the Piri Reis map,

You feel that people are totally wrong and probably liars, when they claim:

“In 1953 … the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Bureau … Arlington H. Mallery, an authority on ancient maps … Mallery discovered the projection method used. … the map was totally accurate. … The Hydrographic Office … were … able to correct … errors in the present days maps” <http://www.world-mysteries.com/sar_1.htm>

Yes, they are totally wrong. Certainly the people who created the web page he cites did absolutely no original work of their own but are merely parroting older pseudoscience works.

Reality check here. In 1953, we had just fought a major war in the Atlantic, where errors in maps could lead to ships being sunk and battles being lost. We’re to believe a 16th century map was more accurate than charts used to fight naval warfare in World War II when ships and lives depended on cartographic accuracy? And what specific errors were found and corrected? Where’s the documentation that any of this ever actually happened?

Searching for Arlington H Mallery on line is revealing. He was a prolific author of cult archeological theories, and at least a couple of times he got into professional journals, only to get smacked down soundly for his errors.

Regarding your own page http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/PiriRies.HTM

“Most of the bizarre claims made for the Piri Reis Map utterly ignore the marginal notes, which pretty conclusively show the map is entirely 16th century terrestrial in origin.”

Surely, assuming the translations of his notes are correct:

“The-hand of this poor man has drawn it and now it is constructed. From about twenty charts and Mappae Mundi-these are charts drawn in the days of Alexander, Lord of the Two Horns, which show the inhabited quarter of the world; the Arabs name these charts Jaferiye-from eight Jaferiyes of that kind and one Arabic map of Hind, and from the maps just drawn by four Portuguese which show the countries of Hind, Sind and China geometrically drawn, and also from a map drawn by Colombo in the western region I have extracted it. By reducing all these maps to one scale this final form was arrived at. So that the present map is as correct and reliable for the Seven Seas as the map of these our countries is considered correct and reliable by seamen.”

Which seems to conclusively prove that he may have drawn this in the 16 century, but a lot of it is based on much older information.

Duh. If you draw a map from existing sources, they are certainly older. Note the logical leap from “older” to “much older” or “ancient.”

“One note refers to the land being “very hot,” which probably rules out Antarctica.”

Well, if the ice was gone when they were there, it would be hot, wouldn’t it? He also writes “there are white-haired monsters … , and also six-horned oxen.” – only quote what fits, eh? 😉

Gee, come on up to Wisconsin in May. The ice is gone (usually) but tell me if it’s “very hot.” The quotes about white-haired monsters and six-horned oxen further illustrate the inaccuracy of the source.

“The Piri Reis Map itself explicitly says the information in this area came from European sources. Atlanteans and extraterrestrials need not apply. ”

Actually, it says what Piri Reis thought – not who actually originally authored the maps (not that I’m trying to prove extraterrestrials, you just seem unnecessarily arrogant and condescending here.)

Oh, here we go again. Saying something based on technical information is “arrogant,” arguing about it with no background whatsoever, and expecting to be taken seriously, isn’t. More of the Self-Appointed Expertsyndrome. Aww, pity-poo.


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35 Responses to "The Piri Reis Map – Theories Debunked"

  1. JS  July 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Sobering info, about GPS concerns, taken from the wikipedia page on Celestial navigation: “The United States Naval Academy announced that it was discontinuing its course on celestial navigation, considered to be one of its most demanding non-engineering courses, from the formal curriculum in the spring of 1998. It stated that a sextant is accurate to a three-mile (5 km) radius, while a satellite-linked computer can pinpoint a ship within 60 feet (18 m) as long as the satellites are functioning correctly… In October 2015, citing concerns about the reliability of GPS systems in the face of potential hostile hacking, the USNA reinstated instruction in celestial navigation in the 2015-2016 academic year.[5] At another federal service academy, the US Merchant Marine Academy, there was no break in instruction in celestial navigation as it is required to pass the US Coast Guard License Exam.” So the Merchant Marine has better navigation skills than the Navy.

    • JS  July 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Fortunately, the Naval Academy had kept its stash of $1500 sextants, so they didn’t have to buy new ones when the classes were reinstated (see article below). The article says, “After all, you can’t hack a sextant.” True. In the old days, “hacking” would have consisted of publishing bad tables.
      Capital Gazette, Oct 2015: http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/ph-ac-cn-celestial-navigation-1014-20151009-story.html.

  2. JS  July 13, 2017 at 6:25 am

    Very interesting, Ian. The 1513 Piri Reis coastlines would have been accurate enough between the 2 Tropics, but have problems above the Tropics, for several reasons. In 1513, this map was long before sextants and marine chronometers, and long before the Lunar Distance method was published in 1763. And it was before the time of Pedro Nunes’ contribution of the Nonius device to improve the accuracy of astrolabes, in the mid-1500s. Without a highly accurate watch, you have serious problems determining longitude even today. One navigation site says: “All commonly used methods of astro-navigation do require an accurate time, IIRC 4 seconds error in time can equate to 1 mile error.” 4 lousy seconds!

    • JS  July 13, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Using sightings and geometry, the sailors of the day could draw pretty accurate maps of shoreline, within a small area. But higher latitudes were still a problem, and forget about any accuracy on longitudes! The shorelines on the map would have been useful nonetheless, and that’s the value of the Piri Reis map. Around the Tropics is where the map really veers off. Try adjusting the shorelines at the Tropics for the higher latitudes, and see if the map looks any better.

    • JS  July 13, 2017 at 6:52 am

      The importance of a map lies in the user, not the map itself. For example, I have bought a newer vehicle, with GPS navigation. The average person would use it to find a particular street, or to plot a course on a long road trip. But what I really like about it is the altimeter, which is important to me as an amateur radio op. I have a real altimeter, which requires knowing the barometric pressure, and I plan to compare the 2 side by side. On a nice day, they should be close. But on a stormy day, who knows?

    • Ian Greenhalgh, Managing Editor  July 14, 2017 at 1:07 am

      It seems likely to me that there were pretty accurate maps way back in the time of ancient Greece, I say this because of the existence of the Antikithera mechanism, which shows that they had the ability to build devices of great sophistication and had a deep understanding of celestial navigation. What happened to those maps? Probably they were destroyed in events like the Roman burning of the library of Alexandretta. It is said that some maps and documents were saved from that event and are held/hidden in the Vatican archives to this day.

  3. Chris Paul  July 12, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    There is little doubt that the Phoenicians coming out of Tyre were the most seagoing race around for a long time and may have been the forerunners of the Venetians. The Tribe of Dan was the closest to Tyre and may have been the muscle for the Phoenicians. Further, many river systems after Macedonia also have that word root including; Danube, Dneister, Dneiper and also Sardinia and a place in Sth West Spain and lastly Denmark. Henry The navigator met up with some people from Venice and I believe that Modern Denmark has very interesting research on this subject. As they provide the Kings and Queens of Europe, they may not be forthcoming.

    • kaho  July 13, 2017 at 5:26 am

      About the name of the river Danube : Until the end of Antiquity «Ister» was the common name of the river, while the name «Dānuvius» usually only applied to the upper part of the river. (See de.wikipedia.org)

      From Ireland we also hear about the mythic «Tuatha Dé Danann» (The People of Danu) – early settlers.

      Also, Homer refers to the expeditionary force at Troy as Danaans, never as Greeks.

  4. Chris Paul  July 12, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Antarctica. Admiral Bird has a memorial directly overlooking Wellington, N.Z. on Mount Victoria and not any of the Admirals who were heroes of the WW2 Battles in The Pacific. Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty was sent there on the day JFK was killed too. George Shultz said that “New Zealand is a Dagger pointed at the Heart of Antarctica”.

  5. JohnZ  July 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    This is very interesting and I’m going to re-read it to see what I may have missed. The one thing not mentioned are the Viking incursions into North America where there is evidence they made it as far as Minnesota. It is very possible they could have discovered the Great Lakes and followed them up into the Lake Superior region and thus to where Duluth is. Are there any maps made by Viking explorers?

    • kaho  July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      There aren’t any Viking maps. What we have are some of their ships as well as sagas written on parchment a couple of centuries after after the first Vinland journeys. The main story is told in two sagas
      • Eirík saga rauđa – the saga of Eric the red
      • Grænlendinga saga – the saga of the Greenlanders
      These should both be available online in English translation.

      With regard to the Minnesota Kensington stone, there is a very good article on Wikipedia
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Runestone
      The type of runes used indicate an origin with 19h century Swedish immigrants

  6. kaho  July 12, 2017 at 11:29 am

    With regard to Erich von Däniken, I happened to watch this recently uploaded video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1En5j5TH1O0
    last week, and I happened to find it quite fascinating !

    I must add that I never read or owned a book by Erich von Däniken. But I do remember having leafed through one of his early books at one time or another, looking at the photos, though I cannot remember where or when that was. But I did use to go to the Paperback Booksmith a lot (after a beer or two), and so I think it must have been there. Though, when it was announced that he was going to give a talk at my university, I did not bother to go. Just so you know I am not a big fan. But the first half of the above video I did find very interesting, and that is why I mention it.

  7. kaho  July 12, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Of course it is a big deal.
    But you must discount post WW2 crossings, because they are equipped with radios and now also GPS, and if anything goes wrong, a helicopter will pick them up within the hour.
    ( Same thing with the Mt Everest BTW. Nowadays any one can make it to the summit, with fixed ropes and aluminum ladders all in place, and the Sherpas will even carry your luggage and oxygen tanks. But it is still dangerous, and the path is strewn with frozen bodies )
    Between 1492 and 1896 very few rowing boats made it across the Atlantic. And now it has become just another type of marathon.
    That does not mean that I discount prehistoric crossings. In fact I was impressed by the photos of stone Olmec heads in a book I picked up written by one «Sitchin». The photos showed that the ancient Olmecs looked very much like Africans. But whether that proves prehistoric crossings I do not know. But at least it indicates the possibility. (Modern DNA samples do not support it – at least not for the time being)
    The book «Across Atlantic Ice» by D.J. Stanford and B.A. Bradley might be of interest in that regard.
    (On the origin of America’s Clovis culture)

  8. Altimometer  July 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Interesting story which quite possibly got the gatekeepers corruption to confuse, thanks for the objective take.

  9. Trakkath  July 11, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Sorry Ian, but those who mostly judge others as fraud of history are the proxies of those who falsified history in a heavy way. So E. v. Däniken can only be in error if he got false date as base because the real history lays burried in the the cemetry of time and the Vatican and other libraries. This is not meant that you are also a proxy but if the base or source is poisoned you can only come to the wrong conclusions and can speculate what has happend. Look at the state university in Russia about the historic timeline they show us.
    http://chronologia.org/en/index.html

    • Ian Greenhalgh, Managing Editor  July 12, 2017 at 6:20 am

      von Daniken was a pathological liar and fraudster, he even admitted that he fabricated all of his ‘evidence’ and copied his work from others:

      http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2013/04/chariots-frauds-real-erich-von-daniken/

      von Daniken is a person of low moral character and little intellectual originality. In a nutshell, he’s a clever crook. Sound harsh? He has the prison record to prove it. Here’s an excerpt from Jason’s essay:

      Erich Anton Paul von Däniken was born in Switzerland in 1935, raised a strict Catholic, and in Catholic school developed an interest in UFOs, like many youths in the early 1950s. He had a criminal record. He was convicted of theft when he was 19, and he left school to become a hotelier. He was convicted of embezzlement after leaving that job. He took another hotel position, and he stole money there, too, by falsifying records in order to obtain tens of thousands in fraudulent loans to finance his interest in space aliens and what the court later called his “playboy lifestyle.” The court psychiatrist declared him a pathological liar. Eventually, he would be convicted of embezzlement and fraud yet again, serving a year in prison.

      In 1960, two French authors who were interested in the occult, Nazis, UFOs, and H. P. Lovecraft put out a book called Morning of the Magicians in which they tried to show that Lovecraft’s vision of ancient astronauts could be correlated to the “occult” truths of Theosophy and the UFO movement. Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels put together the entire case for ancient astronauts as we currently know it—from the claims about ancient atom bombs to the claims about “impossibly” precise and heavy stone architecture. Their book inspired several by Robert Charroux, who presented Bergier’s and Pauwel’s discursive, disorganized ideas in a more popular and readable format.

      In 1964, von Däniken simply appropriated this material wholesale for a magazine article, and on the strength of the magazine article, he received a book deal for what became Chariots of the Gods …

      I’ve blogged about von Daniken’s history of deceit before. Readers might recall this telling post to which I linked maybe moons ago, where von Daniken is caught on video acknowledging making up his “evidence” and admits to Playboy Magazine that he contrived the material for the literary fabrication that made him rich.

  10. matthewmccauley  July 11, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Hey Ian, you would have to stand on your mom’s shoulders to kiss Graham Hancock’s ass.

    • David Odell  July 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Hancock does a few things I find quite objectionable. Promoting drugs as a path to spirituality is idiotic. And talking about what time it is or the long ages without any calendrical data serves to muddy the water on how to tell time, which is a long continued practice of religious dogma and academia. They go on and on about the Maya, but never talking about the 20 days, which is the premier scientifically provable calendar on earth. Anyone who talks about ages without knowing the parts is short of knowledge. The one thing I do like about him, is he challenges his colleagues. Don’t forget, many of these guys make their living guiding tours. 20 people can bring in 60 grand in 2 weeks for a tour.

  11. MileHighLife  July 11, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    “Antarctica is an area of great interest to myself and others at VT, not least because we have highly unusual events like John Kerry going there on the day of the last US presidential election.”

    Such a tease, Ian. VT’s sources must have SOMETHING to add to the Antarctic mystery? Wouldn’t wanna be scooped by David Wil(do any)cock or Corey “20 & Back” Goode now would we? 😉

    I agree with your take on Von Daniken — pushed by mainstream H2’s Ancient Aliens — and Hancock, though up until a year or so ago I gobbled up whatever they served.

    Ahhh the search for Truth seems a never ending process in this bass ackward world of illusion…

    • Ian Greenhalgh, Managing Editor  July 12, 2017 at 6:23 am

      The problem is, there is simply no information available at all on what might be really going on down in Antarctica, all we have are suspicions therefore all we could write on the subject would be speculation. That’s what all the writings and hundreds of youtube videos on the subject are – speculation at best, or in many cases,just flat out fabrications. Wilcox & Goode both appear to me, to be nothing more than liars enjoying making money and fame off the back of their outlandish tales.

  12. Eduardo  July 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Dear Ian removing the ego of Erich v. Daeniken and yours you will find that you have much in common – truth. To look at history we have many choices to choose from. We can pick what suits our purpose forgetting that OUR history is a two sided coin; one side in the open the other hidden from sight.
    Which ever side one looks at – truth can be found in fragments or as a whole and it is up to us or our ego’s what to make of it. Unfortunately while focussing on a detail “fake or not” all truth will be lost and the writer is discredited and judged.
    When Chariots of The Gods was written one should remember the time and information which was available. At that time Daenikens book read as a fiction but left a feeling in the reader that certain facts raised questions of truth and doubts to what was freely accepted at the time.

    • Eduardo  July 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      This for me Ian – being uneducated and without intellect or drive for profit and fame – is already one tiny little step towards truth as doubts disturb the vision we took for granted. So instead of bashing others and trying to discredit their work we seem to completely forget that we all are sitting in the same sinking ship called humanity. Only truth can keep it afloat and it does not help bashing each other while the Titanic sinks.
      Instead we should be very grateful that ANYONE who stumbles over an obstacle of fraction of truth and begins to look around in his/her own environment is already a great success before the ego sets in and we argue away about who knows more and who not.
      One fact is very important Ian. The majority of humanity has no idea whatsoever of truth, life or the meaning of God and until one discovers all the secrets hidden from oneself we should strive to remember that.

    • JohnZ  July 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

      I remember Rod Serling and the TV special he narrated about Von Daeniken’s discovery.
      The lines of Nazca were actually landing strips for the ancient astronauts!
      Von Daeniken was as full of rubbish as Joseph Smith or L.Ron Hubbard. All three promoted the same lunacy only by different names.

    • Eduardo  July 12, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      What is rubbish JohnZ? That there is a chance that Aliens do exist or even have meddled with human DNA? Looking at the history fed to us through the “human education department” and the “owner of the human souls” the church I believe we should be very careful what to believe.
      Though nailing individuals to the cross because of different believes has accompanied mankind through its existence. Truth has become a big puzzle in the human conscience as truth has been altered constantly through out the “failed and diverted evolution of men”.
      The sun rises in the east and sets in the west is just a viewpoint when forgetting that our once beautiful planet has been raped and burned by the same who believe that the sun and the universe spins around our planet and “the supreme species men” – no matter of Earth being a deformed mud ball spinning around its own twisted axis or as a flat disk. Maybe time is ripe to change our perception and open our minds stuck in past teachings of directed education?

  13. joetv  July 11, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    I’m impressed with your work here. History is very interesting, even if most of the available info is written from the conquerors view. The Piri Reis map may make more sense if we look at it from the perspective of the popular belief in the 14 or 1500s, that the earth was flat. The assigned (estimated) date of origin conviently coincides with the popular Copernicus’ Heliocentric Theory. What’s it look like if it represents the flat earth theory? To date the map earlier trashes much scholarly work. Bad for bizness.

    • MileHighLife  July 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      joetv,
      “IF” the earth was flat, Joe…IF? haha

      What was that Big Hair, one hit wonder band, Rat, hit called from circa mid-80’s?
      Oh yeah…Round and Round!

    • Ian Greenhalgh, Managing Editor  July 12, 2017 at 6:15 am

      No-one thought the earth was flat, that is a myth introduced in the 19th century:

      http://thecreationclub.com/debunking-the-flat-earth-myth/

      “We know, for example, that philosophers understood the spherical shape of the earth long before Christ was born. It was discussed by philosophers like Pythagoras in the fifth century BC (3) and became widely accepted when it was championed by Aristotle (384–322 BC). He saw that the stars were different in one part of the world than the other. This indicated to him that the earth must be a sphere. (4) The spherical shape of the earth was so widely accepted among philosophers that Eratosthenes (c.276–c.195 BC) used the change in a staff’s shadow resulting from a 500-mile trip to measure the circumference of the earth. He was correct to within less than 2% of today’s accepted value. (5)

      But wait a minute. Didn’t the early church teach that the earth is flat? Absolutely not. The earliest voice in Christendom who mentions the shape of the earth is Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), and he wrote: (6)

      And how the Earth and sea their place should keep; And when the seasons, in their circling course, winter and summer, spring and autumn, each should come, according to well ordered plan; out of a confused heap who didst create this ordered sphere, and from the shapeless mass.
      I can’t find any early Christian writer who even suggested that the earth was flat. Why do people think the church taught a flat earth? According to historian Dr. James Hannam: (7)

      The myth that a flat earth was part of Christian doctrine in the Middle Ages appears to have originated with Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), who wrongly claimed that geographers had been put on trial for impiety after asserting the contrary.
      So the church never taught a flat earth, and educated people since the third century BC knew the spherical shape of the earth. Even uneducated sailors understood that the earth must be a sphere, because they knew you that the higher you got above sea level, the farther away you could see the ships that were at sail. Why, then, did Columbus have trouble getting support for his ambitious idea to sail around the world to reach India? Because thanks to Eratosthenes in the second century BC, educated people knew how far he would have to sail to complete the trip, and they didn’t believe such a voyage could be made!

      But who originated the idea that people thought Columbus would sail off the edge of the earth? It seems to have come from Washington Irving, the fiction author who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In 1828, he wrote a novel of historical fiction entitled, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. Apparently, he read an account of the meeting between Columbus and Queen Isabella that was written 130 years after Columbus set sail. He embellished it, and ended up producing a scene in which a “university council” argued that the earth was flat and Columbus would sail off its edge. Samuel Eliot Morison (a historian and distinguished naval officer) evaluates Irving’s work as follows: (8)

      The whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense…The sphericity of the globe was not in question. The issue was the width of the ocean; and therein, the opposition was right.”

    • kaho  July 12, 2017 at 8:51 am

      Also, take a look at «Kosmas Indikopleustes» (Κοσμᾶς Ἰνδικοπλεύστης), who around 550 AD wrote a work in 12 volumes titled Χριστιανικὴ Τοπογραφία ( A Christian Description of the World), where the Earth is described as a flat rectangle. This only goes to show that conflicting views existed side by side by side – as it does today too, on many subjects. Kosmas was from Alexandria, and was widely traveled, hence his name « the India traveler » (Indikopleustes).

      The heathen philosophers were no doubt more mathematically and scientifically inclined, and the Ptolemean world map already included parallels as well as meridians. His map did not differ much from the one invented by Gerhard Mercator 1400 years later.

    • JohnZ  July 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

      And the “flat earth” bunkum continues to this day. You should try surfing the web and discover just how far it’s gone. The flat earth lunatics are in full count. Idiocy reigns supreme in America along side religious extremism and I rather suspect the reason for all this flat earth rubbish comes from the evangelical fundamentalists and like any other disease it spreads quickly to the ignorant and gullible only to be regurgitated on the internet. The level of such idiocy resembles that of the hollow moon and hollow earth.

    • kaho  July 12, 2017 at 10:25 am

      I think there are large groups of people in America who take the Bible OT as literally true. And if you present them with the modern scientific approach to understanding the world we live in, they won’t even look at it because they are so buy learning about creation science.

  14. David Odell  July 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    As much as academia likes to think they are smart because they can blow up cities, the field is rife with political and religious dogma. This impairs their vision. It is arrogance to assume we have technology because we just suddenly thought it all up. It is on schedule. Sea travel has been possible since logs and monkeys found vines to tie them together with. Each small community produces adventurers in the proper portion and that has always been. I find the scientific community insulting to human intelligence and lacking in ethical study due to dogma and the profound inability to see what is in front of their face.
    The concept of space cannot be rectified without knowledge of time. Religious dogma prevents that. When they bring up ET’s it is childish. Academia is an arrogant young teenager.

  15. David Odell  July 11, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Even as Harbo and Samuelsson used a small row boat to cross the Atlantic with ease, the scientific community is blind to the possibility of sea travel before the Christian invasion. Modern academics still cling to the land bridge theory for the explanation of the presence of Native Americans, because wouldn’t that be convenient ? Academia knows nothing of maps and map making and that is why hundreds if not thousands of sites are listed as “mysteries”. They are not mysteries at all, just inconvenient sets of knowledge that are easily dismissed by “lack of documentation”. There is tons of information that exists in this world, that will never be shared with the insanity of the “discoverers”. This has nothing to do with Hancock or ET’s. It has everything to do with genocide, theft, and domination by way of occupation.
    If Stonehenge is still a “mystery” to someone, it is because they are uneducated. A cursory examination of what the earth uses as a calendar today shows how absent and ignorant the science community is.
    And the whole time, all the proof is right in front of anyone, no books necessary.

    • Eduardo  July 11, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      You are right David, everything has to do with genocide, theft, and domination by way of occupation. One imagine history being rewritten without our favourite abrahamic religions and without censorship or manipulation of the facts that actually happened instead of watered down truth for the sake and well being of humanity and the profits of the “chosen tribes” imitating the God they have created and follow.

    • kaho  July 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

      Some years ago I saw a documentary about Samuelsen (sic) and Harbo’s 56 day row boat crossing of the North Atlantic in 1896 ::: Hardly « with ease ».

      Starting out from Manhattan on June 6, on July 10 they ran into really bad weather. Meeting a huge wave the boat capsized and they both found themselves swimming the cold and stormy North Atlantic, clad in oilskins and sea boots. It was only their life lines that saved them from drowning, and finally, after intense struggle, they managed to climb the overturned hull. Finally, after riding the keel for hours, they succeeded in righting the capsized boat . Luckily, the reserve oars were still there, but most of their supplies – everything that wasn’t tied down – was lost. Then, like in a trance, they continued rowing for several more days, until, on July 15, they observed a ship heading their way. It was the bark « Cito » from Larvik, and they were taken aboard, served a warm meal, and after a few hours of rest the two continued their journey. But now resupplied with food and fresh water.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20110724180102/http://hildringstimen.no/faximiler/Harald%20Hansen%20I%20robåt%20over%20Atlanterhavet.htm

    • David Odell  July 12, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Kaho, the point is, that crossing the Atlantic is quite possible with rudimentary craft. It is even easier from Africa to Central America, where visitors have been arriving for at least 6 thousand years and leaving tons of proof of their voyages. Since Harbo & Samuelsson, many others have duplicated the trip alone. It simply is not a big deal.

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