Thursday, February 9, 2012

Esoteric Studies: The 'Piri Re'is' Map

The Sea Kings of 6000 B.C?

I realize that the phrase ‘Esoteric Studies’ is tautological when you consider that everything done on The X-Files Lexicon Blog, and the main site is about esoteric research. But we’re adding a new on-going feature, it occurred to me recently that one of the original goals of the Lexicon blog was to write about subjects that weren’t specifically referenced on the show, and while we have done that to a degree, it felt that this was the ideal time to dig deeper down the rabbit hole, and explore these areas.

The subject of the Piri Re’is map came to my attention many years ago, and it’s a fascinating subject, for some, it seems to demonstrate evidence of Ancient Astronaut Theory, for other’s, it validates evidence that lost civilizations like Atlantis existed, but one of the most interesting questions about the map is the possibility the map confirms the Earth is older than recorded history would have us believe. Never mind the creationist theories about the Earth being thousands of years younger, if the reverse could be proven, it would shake to their foundations our assumptions about what we know.

The story began in 1956, when a cartographer named M.I. Walter’s, from the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office, found himself looking at a copy of a map that had been presented to the office from a Turkish naval officer, it was very old, and was, in fact, dated 919 in the Muslim calendar, which is AD 1513 by Christian reckoning. Basically, it was a map of the Atlantic ocean, showing a small part of North Africa, and all of South America, but what was remarkable, almost unbelievable was the fact that these continents were in their correct longitudes, an achievement at that period when most maps were crude. It should be noted, for 1513, it was astonishingly accurate map of South America, and that it apparently showed Antarctica, which wasn’t discovered until 1818. It also showed the Mid-Atlantic range, which seems like an astonishing piece of knowledge , for any period, before the invention of sonar – unless, of course, it had been observed while it was still above water.

Comparison between a modern projection of South America, and the Piri Re'is map

The original mapmaker was known to have been a Turkish pirate named Piri Re’is, who had been beheaded in 1554. he was the nephew of a famous pirate Kemal Re’is. He had made a curious statement that he based his map on twenty old maps from the great library of Alexandria which had been destroyed by invading Arabs in AD 640. One of these twenty maps had been made by Christopher Columbus interestingly enough. The Piri Re’is map had been known since 1929, when it had been discovered in the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul, but no one had paid attention to it until Walter’s had gotten involved and showed the map to his colleague Captain Arlington H. Mallery, a retired navigator whom, after reviewing the map, made some startling comments, that the map did depict Antarctica, and what was more, the map had been made before the Antarctic continent was covered in ice.

But the notion seemed absurd, the assumption being that the coast of Antarctica had been covered in ice at the time of Alexander the Great: the last time men could have seen the continent without ice was many thousands of years ago, long before the earliest known maritime civilizations, which could have only meant one or two things: either ships had sailed the seas at a time when, according to historians or convention, our ancestors were living in caves, or – that there had once been a flourishing civilization on Antarctica itself, whose men had made maps that were copied down through the ages, up to the time of Alexander the Great. The controversy came to the attention of Charles Hapgood, a professor of the history of science who resided at Keene State Collage, who found the Piri Re’is map to be of interest, as he considered, it might have been able to support some of the conclusions he had drawn about the movements of the Earth’s crust – that he published in a book titled Earth’s Shifting Crust in 1958.

Hapgood’s starting point had been the great mystery of the ice age, which has remained unexplained thus far. The essence of his arguments were that Ice caps form unevenly at the poles, and this lack of balance affects the rotation of the earth – just as an off-balance wheel begins to vibrate as it spins, Hapgood argued this causes masses of ice, as well as the tectonic plates to dislodge triggering a catastrophic shake-up of the earth’s crust. He estimated that the last catastrophic movement took place between ten to fifteen thousand years ago, before that, Antarctica was 2,500 miles closer to the equator than it is today.

Hapgood assembled a group of students at Keene State Collage in New Hampshire, and set them the task of studying a number of ancient maps, including Piri Re’is. He published his findings in 1966 with the book, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings. His first surprise discovery was that maps known as portolans – those used by seafarers in the Middle ages – had been known to scholars for centuries and that no one had paid much attention to them, and that many of these maps were as accurate as modern maps, the scholar A.E. Nordenskiold believed that the portolans of the fifteenth and sixteenth century were based on maps that dated back before Christ. Hapgood had noted some initial ‘mistakes’ with the Piri Re’is map, that the Amazon river was depicted twice, but it had left out a nine-hundred-mile stretch of the coastline, that Piri had allowed his map to overlap or fail to overlap.

One error could be pinned down to Greek astronomer Eratoshenes 4 ½ degrees circumference measurement; this was the first clue that the map was based on ancient Greek models. The other problem that is known to all geographers – that the earth is a sphere, and that a map that is flat is bound to distort it, today mapmakers use a ‘projection’ based on division into latitude and longitude, but the old mapmakers used a simpler method. They would choose a center, draw a circle round it, then subdivide into sixteen segments. The original center of the Piri Re’is map is actually off the map, but calculations indicated that it had to be in Egypt. While at first, Alexandria seemed to be the obvious place, after further calculation it had to be further north, where it turned out to be Syene. But Hapgood realized, this held some interesting implications.

When the geographers of Alexandria made their maps – which included Eratosthenes’s 4 ½ degree error – it was unlikely that they sailed off to visit the various places they were mapping. They must have used older maps that were incredibly accurate –without the 4 ½ degree error, suggesting that older mapmakers possessed a more accurate and advanced map making science than the Greeks.

There was already evidence that Egypt understood the circumference of the earth in 2500 BC, only to have that information rediscovered by Eratoshenes two thousand years alter, a fairly staggering revelation until you are reminded that knowledge can be forgotten with great ease. Hapgood made another discovery with the map: that the original maps from which it was drawn from must have used a slightly different length for the degree of latitude than the degree of longitude. The reason being because if you are trying to project the surface of a sphere onto a flat sheet of paper, the lines of latitude get shorter as they draw towards the poles, while the lines of latitude are less affected, being that they run parallel across the globe, and it looked as it the ancient mapmakers had used the same projection method. Hapgood concluded: “evident knowledge of longitude implies a people unknown to us, a nation of seafarers, with instruments for finding longitude undreamed of by the Greeks.”

Further evidence pointed to some other revelations, The Piri Re’is Map wasn’t the only one examined by Hopgood’s team. There was a 1531 map by Oronteus Finaeus that showed the South Pole, three centuries before its official discovery, yet it was a map of the whole polar cap, as it drawn from the air, showing a remarkable resemblance to the poles as we know them today. Furthermore, the evidence suggested that all of these maps had been based some old map that must have been much older. This was further corroborated with a Turkish Hadji map of 1550, and a map of China dated from AD 1137. All of this suggesting the idea that some world-wide seafaring civilization had existed before Alexander The Great and that it had disappeared while the civilization of Mesopotamia was still primitive and illiterate, that this civilization disappeared, either due to some catastrophe or over a long period of time.

While Hapgood merely postulated that a maritime civilization had existed, other’s jumped at the conclusion as proof of the real existence of Atlantis, or the ancient astronaut theory popularized first in The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier (1960) or Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken (1957). Charles Hapgood was initially dismissed as a scientific crank by his colleagues due to these theories, yet there’s evidence that Hapgood might be vindicated regarding the significance of the anomalous map, there seems to be a growing body of evidence for an unknown ice age civilization, due to the work of De Santillana an von Dechend and Graham Hancock. Conventional scientists may arrive at the same discoveries.


One question that came to mind upon studying the history of the Piri Re’is map was – how did this connect to other historical and mythological sources? Certain aspects of the mystery triggered some odd leaps, one being the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and the “Legendarium” of his middle earth. Tolkien was a professor of English literature, and a scholar of language and mythology, and he has acknowledged that Finnish, Norse, Slavic, Greek, Persian, Celtic mythologies, Christianity, and the Arthurian legends shaped the of origins of his ‘middle earth’ tales. When one considers just how in-depth the material is – countless invented histories, maps, languages, and lineages: while the details might have been incorrect, on an intuitive level, was Tolkien touching on a universal unconscious memory of the earth being much older? It is interesting to note that Tolkien describes the events in Middle Earth as the ‘third’ and ‘fourth ages’. When film director Peter Jackson was helming his adaptations of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, he did make the odd comment of treating the material as a ‘forgotten pre-history.’ Additionally, bear in mind that H.P. Lovecraft’s abode for his ancient gods, R’lyeh, is placed in Antarctica.

Some of the questions about the revelations with the Piri Re’is map, and the age of the earth, can be raised by some strange quotes in the Bible, the book of Genesis. If one views the scriptures as allegorical and full of parables, then perhaps there’s clues, in a limited fashion, that the scriptures describe the early history of the earth. What could one make of the following passage?

"There were giants in the earth in those days: and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." Gen 6:4

Were the giants cited, actual giants, or the race of Atlantis, or another advanced civilization? Could the book of genesis be a parable describing multiple extinctions throughout earth’s early history? Could the descriptions of Adam’s descendants, their longevity, and their offspring, in Genesis, chapter five, be an allegory for different races of men?

The Nephilim are described by Father Gregory in the season five X-Files episode, “All Souls” with the following version of the legend: "In the story, the angel descends from heaven and fathers four children with a mortal woman. Their offspring are the nephilim – the ‘fallen ones’"

Yet the narrative account in the book of Enoch, a source from the Torah, seems very allegorical, for example in Chapter V:

1. And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' 3. And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'

7. And these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8. These are their chiefs of tens.

Then in Chapter VII, it described the women bearing Giants whom turned against mankind, In Chapter VIII:

1. And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth, and the art of working them…2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl, (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven...

Then within Chapter IX is the following:

6. Thou seest what Azâzêl hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which men were striving to learn: 7. And Semjâzâ, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. 8. And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins.

Was the great sin the creation of these giants, or the passing of knowledge to mortal man before men were ready for such knowledge? Then in Chapter X is following:

8. And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azâzêl: to him ascribe all sin.' 9. And to Gabriel said the Lord: 'Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men [and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in battle: for length of days shall they not have.

It is believed that the Nephilim, these Giants, were wiped out with the great flood, but then how can one account for the fact that they resurface later?

"And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim); and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ Then all the congregation raised a loud cry; and the people wept that night." Num 13:33

When one considers that Anthropologists have found evidence of humanoid giants existed over one million years ago, and that these have been categorized under Gigantopithecus. Or considers the discovered mummified remains of two giant men in Lima, Peru, 1969, or Magellan’s account of native giant, or Don Ciezza de Leon’s account of South American Giants, circa 1553 and 1555 AD, could these giants be the descendents of the Nephilim? In any way could the Nephilim relate to the lost civilization of Atlantis? When you consider the Critias account by Plato that reads:

. . . which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

What is known about Atlantis, and what has been described as a great island which had vanished “in a night and a day”. That it was a "great and wonderful empire" which had conquered Libia, Europe, and Etruria in Central Italy. It has been said the Atlantians were great engineers and architects, building palaces, harbors, temples and docks: their capital city was built on a hill, which was surrounded by concentric bands of land and water, joined by immense tunnels, large enough for a ship to sail through. It has been said that the city was eleven miles in diameter, a huge canal, 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep, connected the outermost of these rings of water to the sea. In the second dialogue of the Critias, Plato describes how Poseidon (Neptune), the sea god, founded the Atlantian race by fathering ten children on a mortal, Cleito, whom he kept on a hill surrounded by canals. But, as told by Cleito, the Atlantians began to lose the wisdom and virtue they inherited from the god, they became greedy, corrupt, and domineering. Then Zeus decided to teach them a lesson. It is indeed interesting to notice the similarities between the Critias and the accounts in the Book of Enoch.

Now setting aside ancient astronaut theory for a moment - could an ancient civilization like Atlantis, or one in the arctic have been destroyed because they gained too much knowledge? Or because they used that knowledge against the laws of nature, and developed a disconnect to greater cosmic powers? A disconnect from the source of all life?

To digress, in fairness, Hopgood’s theories do seem to validate the ancient astronaut theories of Erich von Daniken, and Louis Pauwels, that beings from the stars, or another dimension, shaped our development. But it would also be arrogant to assume that earlier civilizations couldn’t have reached technological advances on their own. Our understanding of ‘advanced’ based on the modern definition in an industrialized society, might differ from the criteria used in ancient civilization. Setting aside from the science fiction hypothesis’ by some Atlantis proponents, of power crystals and machines, Atlantis might have been simply a highly evolved civilization early in the earth’s history, and one could hypothesize, they engaged in an early form of eugenics, in the same manner that dogs were conditioned and bred away from their ancestral wolf instincts, for example. The symbolism behind the Atlantis or Nephilim tales might be the most important clue, parables to warn us about past cycles and history.

The season six X-Files closer, “Biogenesis” opens with a monologue that touches on an interesting theme:

"From Space, it seems an abstraction, a magicians trick in a darkened stage. And from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive."

The monologue then describes life appearing almost four billion years ago in the form of single-celled life, an explosion spanning millions of years, multiplying, then stopping, a giant mass extinction. Then plants began to evolve, insects, only to be wiped out in a second extinction, then another repeating cycle, Reptiles emerging independent of the sea, only to be killed off, then dinosaurs, the first birds, fish, and flowering plants, their decimation's being the forth and fifth extinctions. Then only hundred thousand years later Homo Sapiens – man appears, evolving, cataloging the natural world, rising to a world population of over five billion people – all descended from that single cell, that first spark of life. Then the monologue adds:

"But for all out knowledge, what no one can say for certain is what, or who ignited that original spark. Is there a plan, a purpose or a reason to our existence? Will we pass, as those before us into oblivion, into the six extinction that scientists warn is already in progress? Or will the mystery be revealed through a sign? A symbol? A revelation?"

Perhaps learning, and deciphering the past will give us that sign to help us avoid oblivion.


Raj said...

X Files Lexicon,

This is an excellent article full of detail, open-mindedness and consistent logic. The idea of a forgotten civilisation in pre-history is deeply, deeply fascinating to me. Whether we refer to it as Atlantis, Lumeria or some other name; the fact remains that this powerful concept only ever remains half-buried. It keeps teasing and tantalising us, inspiring us to art and modern mythology.

This brings me to something that I think is pertinent. I don't think the Atlantis legends are simply artifacts from pre-history that are either true or false; I think they are generators of current, modern mythology. I don't think they are any less potent or 'real' because of this. Look at the slew of films and novels inspired by Atlantis or similar tales. All that art constitutes a powerful tapestry of modern mythology. From the more New Age, sci-fi stuff of power-crystals, to the more sober legends - it's all storytelling that is deeply intertwined with the current state of the human race.

I know I mentioned in your Mole People post that my view on things like Atlantis and subterranean societies is decidedly psychological and underworld-resonant. And yet, I wouldn't completely dismiss the more wild tales of Atlantean power-crystals and advanced machinery. This is for one basic reason: over the years I have paid close attention to the words of indigenous storytellers and shamanic figures, and what they have to say regarding our pre-history. ALL of them make some intimations concerning a forgotten golden-age civilisation, ALL of them imply that this forgotten society had reached levels of sophistication that we are only beginning to scratch at today.

Also, many indigenous shamans have developed a reputation for being mercurial trickster figures who are just as willing to use a lie as use a truth to better their collective tribe - and I feel that this has some truth to it. But more importantly I believe that shamans are keepers of the holiest forms of Roman a Clefs; true stories presented as works of fiction - vast swathes of history, sociology, psychology and wisdom codified into storytelling beats and storytelling motifs for the purposes of preservation.

I think back then, as now, the most powerful elites were willing to kill to manipulate or suppress certain stories. This makes sense when you consider that all wars begin on the psychic battlefield before they ever make it to the realm of 3D. In this sense, I think that shamans all over the globe were (and are) fully cognisant of the fact that the living, beating heart of storytelling is humanity's last true link to our pre-history, and must be protected at all costs.

Libraries can be burned, history books can be re-written, but tall tales will always exist as long as there are those who are willing to transmit them. This transmission of stories, these truth-telling lies, is, I suspect, one of the holiest past-times of the human race.

As a caveat though, I would add that these pre-history civilisations may indeed have been exceptionally advanced, but that they might have utilised a more shamanic technology; rather than the distinctly sci-fi technology that seers like Edgar Cayce perceived. For example, the the true tech of these societies might have had only a passing resemblance to the tech that we currently least, if the intimations of indigenous shamans is to be believed.

This is not my claim to 'objective truth', however. It's just food for thought.


The X-Files Lexicon Blog said...

Thank you Raj, another astonishing post and wonderful insight.

When you consider the gaps of knowledge we have regarding the ice age, we shouldn't rule out Earth's rich history is much as we do.

While I tend to feel that AAT has become an overused default, it would be arrogant for anthropologists or archeologists to assume no sophisticated cultures existed, indeed.