A satellite-produced map of Earth before the Ice Age?

In 1929, the Turkish Topkapi Palace in Istanbul was being overhauled to become a history museum. During a search of the collection, the Museum director found two fragments of a map by Admiral Piri Reis, who had been in charge of the Ottoman navy 400 years earlier.

Piri Reis had produced the map in 1513, and in 1517 he gave it to Sultan Selim I. Piri Reis was famous as a cartographer in his own time, so his maps were valuable.

In the 1940s, copies of the map fragments were given to other museums, and in 1954, US cartographer Arlington H Mallery received a copy. Mallery was impressed by the maps, but also confused, because they depicted Antarctica – a continent not known in 1513 (in fact, the first known visitor to Antarctica was Russian Mikhail Lazarev in 1820).

Piri Reis said he compiled his own maps from earlier ones, but some of the details on his maps also seem to have been unknown in 1513. He said he had copied details from maps of Christopher Columbus (maps now lost), but the Piri Reis maps of the Americas contain details not known in Europe in 1513.

Mallery worked with a colleague from the US Navy Hydrographical Institute to compare the Piri Reis maps to 1960s chart, and the similarities are astonishing. The distance between the Americas and Europe was accurate, as was the position of the Canary Islands and Azores. The coastlines of North and South America were more complete and detailed than any other maps of the 16th century.

But most amazing of all, the map shows the continent of Antarctica, south of Cape Horn. And it is Antarctica without the ice cap. The coastline of Antarctica on the Piri Reis map was compared to radar and infrared images of the land-masses under the ice cap, and the comparison was very close.

No-one has ever found any old maps that Piri Reis could have copied this image of Antarctica from. But if such a map existed, how could it possibly have been made? This is another unexplained mystery, an anomaly in history.