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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Piri Rei map

ometime around 1470 A.D., a boy was born who followed in the role of his uncle by becoming a man of the sea. His name was Piri Reis. Although the exact location of his birth is unknown, it was somewhere within the Ottoman Empire. His uncle, Kamal Reis, began as a pirate, but 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.

Another 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 made them?

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.

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