after many years became an Admiral on the Mediterranean Sea. Later, Piri Reis became an Admiral in 1547. But it was during those early pirating days that a member of Christopher Columbus's crew, who had sailed to the Americas, was captured and related what he had seen.
Piri Reis became very
knowledgeable in cartography and geography, studying these fervently
when his uncle drowned in a storm at sea in 1511. Written navigation
became more important to him. Shortly after 1513, his first book
was a gift to the Suleiman I, an Ottoman sultan. The book was revised
once in his lifetime and once after his death. About 1555, when Piri
Reis was close to 90 years old and living in Egypt, he was beheaded for
being nonsupportive of an Ottoman ruler in battle against Portugal.
Centuries later, the Turkish Minister of Education
hired Gustav Deissmann, a theologian from Germany, to list all
non-Muslim items in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. A group of
random maps were found to be sorted through. In 1929, one stood out as
particularly interesting and was passed to the theologian. He contacted
an orientalist who found a signature identifying it as part of a world
map made by Piri Reis.
Piri Reis made his map on gazelle skin and based his observations on maps in the Imperial Library
of Constantinople. Some maps dated as far back as 300 B.C. to his
present days, and were from multiple countries. His map was made to aide
sailors traveling from port to port, using circular patterns that
radiated from the region of Alexandria outward. They were also painted
colors so differentiating waters from lands was easier.
unique feature of this map was his hand written notes about climate,
animals. and people of the lands. He mentioned colors of a certain type
of bird's plumage, how its feathers were used for head dresses, and that
the birds were eaten by people there. He gave credit to observations
made by others, such as Columbus's misinformation blending India with
the Caribbean area. He learned from some observation that the world was
not flat with definite ends. The coasts of Africa, Asia, and
Mediterranean were all pretty accurately drawn.
The area along the southern coast of South America
near Antarctica has produced the most controversy. It is so accurate
that comparative study between his map and present day ones have been
researched repeatedly. In his day or prior, there was no way to know of
the land masses below the icy surface yet he included them with great
precision on his map as if no ice was there. The surfaces of land had
been covered for millions of years, and the area supposedly hadn't even
been discovered yet. From what maps did he gain this knowledge and who
Edges of the Piri Reis map look like they have been torn from a larger map. Was it ripped from a world map
that had equally mysterious lands and creatures? Was the rest of the
map disposed of or could it be tucked away somewhere in the world where
it has been overlooked? Someday, maybe the Piri Reis map will have
another piece added to the puzzle causing more mysteries to unfold.