Piri Reis: The Ottoman Admiral who inspires the world

The Ottoman admiral, sailor and cartographer Piri Reis pioneered many innovations. Four centuries ago, the eminent cartographer drew a map that many still admire today.

There are many people who have realised contentious works that mark numerous centuries. One of these is the geographer, cartographer and Ottoman admiral who lived in the 16th century – Ahmed Muhiddin Piri, also known as Piri Reis. He is well known even today for his magnificently detailed work collected in his book, Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation), which contains maps and incredibly accurate charts for their time with detailed information, concentrated on navigation and describing important places in the Mediterranean. Piri Reis gained fame when a part of his world map was discovered at Topkapı Palace in 1929. This world map is of great importance – it’s the oldest piece of art that shows the New World and is one of the oldest maps of America that exist. Later in 1528, Piri Reis drew a second world map containing a small fragment that details America in the North and the South, a small fragment of which still exists.

Piri Reis regained importance when a group of historians found a mystery map in 1929, which was drawn on a gazelle skin. Detailed research revealed it was a genuine manuscript drawn in 1513 by Piri Reis, admiral of the Turkish navy in the 16th century, who was deeply passionate about cartography.

The map contained detailed descriptions of the western coast of Africa, the northern coast of Antarctica and the eastern coast of South America, and the northern coastline of Antarctica was perfectly detailed. The most interesting part of this discovery was that it was never known how Piri Reis managed to draw a perfectly accurate map of the Antarctic region 300 years before it was even discovered. Apart from its enormous historic interest, the map has been supposed to include details that nobody could have known in the 16th century, and proves the existence of ancient technological civilisations.

There is another fascinating aspect about the map – it is claimed that it shows the earth as seen from space, with the sub-glacial topography of Greenland and Antarctica, and that the map is aligned with the earth’s energy grid. Moreover, it appears to have been drawn on a highly refined spherical projection. It is even said that the map may have been based on the documents of a yet undiscovered, prehistoric civilisation. But one thing is for certain – this map opens up the debate over how we view our own history.