Fingerprints of the Gods could not have been written without the generous, warm-hearted and sustaining love of my partner Santha Faiia— who always gives more than she takes and who enriches the lives of everyone around her with creativity, kindness and imagination. All the photographs in the book are her work.

I am also grateful for the support and encouragement of our six children—Gabrielle, Leila, Luke, Ravi, Sean and Shanti—each one of whom I feel privileged to know.

My parents, Donald and Muriel Hancock, have been incredibly helpful, active and involved through this and many other difficult times and projects. Together with my uncle James Macaulay they have also patiently read the drafts of the evolving manuscript, offering a wealth of positive suggestions. Thanks, too, to my oldest and closest friend, Peter Marshall, with whom I have weathered many storms, and to Rob Gardner, Joseph and Sherry Jahoda, Roel Oostra, Joseph and Laura Schor, Niven Sinclair, Colin Skinner and Clem Vallance, all of whom gave me good advice.

In 1992 I suddenly found that I had a friend in Lansing, Michigan. His name is Ed Ponist and he got in touch with me soon after the publication of my previous book, The Sign and the Seal. Like a guardian angel he volunteered to devote a hefty chunk of his spare time to helping me out in the US with research, contacts and the collection of documentary resources of relevance to Fingerprints of the Gods.


He did a brilliant job, always sending me the right books just when I needed them and finding references that I didn’t even know existed. He was also an accurate weather-vane on the quality of my work, whose judgment I quickly learned to trust and respect. Last but not least, when Santha and I went to Arizona, to the Hopi Nation, it was Ed who came with us and who opened the way.

Ed’s initial letter was part of an overwhelming deluge of mail that I received from around the world after writing The Sign and the Seal. For a while I tried to answer all the letters individually. Eventually, however, I got swamped with the new work on Fingerprints and had to stop replying. I feel bad about this, and would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who wrote to me and to whom I did not write back. I’m intending to be more systematic in the future because I enormously value this correspondence and appreciate the high-quality information that it frequently turns out to contain ...

Other researchers who have helped me on Fingerprints of the Gods have been Martin Slavin, David Mestecky and Jonathan Derrick. In addition I would like to thank my Anglophone editors on both sides of the Atlantic, Tom Weldon at Heinemann, Jim Wade at Crown and John Pearce at Doubleday Canada, as well as my literary agents Bill Hamilton and Sara Fisher, for their continuing commitment, solidarity and wise counsel.

My warmest appreciation also to those co-researchers and colleagues who have become my friends during the course of this investigation: Robert Bauval in Britain (with whom I shall be co-authoring two future books on related subjects), Colin Wilson, John Anthony West and Lew Jenkins in the United States, Rand and Rose Flem-Ath and Paul William Roberts in Canada.

Finally I want to pay tribute to Ignatius Donnelly, Arthur Posnansky, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Charles Hapgood and Giorgio de Santillana— investigators who saw that something was badly wrong with the history of mankind, who had the courage to speak out against intellectual adversity, and who pioneered the momentous paradigm shift that is now irrevocably under way.

Back to Contents


Part I
The Mystery of the Maps


Chapter 1 - A Map of Hidden Places



Westover Airforce Base


6 July 1960
SUBJECT: Admiral Piri Reis World Map
To: Professor Charles H. Hapgood,Keene College,Keene, New Hampshire.

Dear Professor Hapgood,

Your request for evaluation of certain unusual features of the Piri Reis World Map of 1513 by this organization has been reviewed.

The claim that the lower part of the map portrays the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land Antarctica, and the Palmer Peninsula, is reasonable. We find this is the most logical and in all probability the correct interpretation of the map.

The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the seismic profile made across the top of the ice-cap by the Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition of 1949.

This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap.

The ice-cap in this region is now about a mile thick.

We have no idea how the data on this map can be reconciled with the supposed state of geographical knowledge in 1513.


Lt Colonel, USAF Commander

Despite the deadpan language, Ohlmeyer’s letter1 is a bombshell. If Queen Maud Land was mapped before it was covered by ice, the original cartography must have been done an extraordinarily long time ago.


1 Letter reproduced in Charles H. Hapgood FRGS, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Chilton Books, Philadelphia and New York, 1966, p. 243.

How long ago exactly?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Antarctic ice-cap, in its present extent and form, is millions of years old. On closer examination, this notion turns out to be seriously flawed—so seriously that we need not assume the map drawn by Admiral Piri Reis depicts Queen Maud Land as it looked millions of years in the past.

The best recent evidence suggests that Queen Maud Land, and the neighbouring regions shown on the map, passed through a long ice-free period which may not have come completely to an end until about six thousand years ago.2 This evidence, which we shall touch upon again in the next chapter, liberates us from the burdensome task of explaining who (or what) had the technology to undertake an accurate geographical survey of Antarctica in, say, two million BC, long before our own species came into existence.


By the same token, since map-making is a complex and civilized activity, it compels us to explain how such a task could have been accomplished even six thousand years ago, well before the development of the first true civilizations recognized by historians.

Ancient sources

In attempting that explanation it is worth reminding ourselves of the basic historical and geological facts:

1 - The Piri Reis Map, which is a genuine document, not a hoax of any kind, was made at Constantinople in AD 1513.3


2 - It focuses on the western coast of Africa, the eastern coast of South America and the northern coast of Antarctica.

3 - Piri Reis could not have acquired his information on this latter region from contemporary explorers because Antarctica remained undiscovered until AD 1818,4 more than 300 years after he drew the map.

4 - The ice-free coast of Queen Maud Land shown in the map is a colossal puzzle because the geological evidence confirms that the latest date it could have been surveyed and charted in an ice-free condition is 4000 BC.5

5 - It is not possible to pinpoint the earliest date that such a task could have been accomplished, but it seems that the Queen Maud Land littoral may have remained in a stable, unglaciated condition for at least 9000 years before the spreading ice-cap swallowed it entirely.6


6 - There is no civilization known to history that had the capacity or need to survey that coastline in the relevant period: between 13,000 BC and 4000 BC.7

2 Ibid., pp. 93-98, 235. The period lasted from about 13000 BC to 4000 BC according, for example, to the findings of Dr Jack Hough of Illinois University, supported by experts at the Carnegie Institution, Washington DC. John G. Weiphaupt, a University of Colorado specialist in seismology and gravity and planetary geology, is another who supports the view of a relatively late ice-free period in at least parts of Antarctica. Together with a number of other geologists, he places that period in a narrower band than Hough et al.—from 7000 BC to 4000 BC.

3 Ibid., preface, pp. 1, 209-211.

4 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991, I:440.

5 Maps of The Ancient Sea Kings, p. 235.

6 Ibid.
7 Historians recognize no ‘civilizations’ as such prior to 4000 BC.

In other words, the true enigma of this 1513 map is not so much its inclusion of a continent not discovered until 1818 but its portrayal of part of the coastline of that continent under ice-free conditions which came to an end 6000 years ago and have not since recurred.

How can this be explained? Piri Reis obligingly gives us the answer in a series of notes written in his own hand on the map itself. He tells us that he was not responsible for the original surveying and cartography. On the contrary, he admits that his role was merely that of compiler and copyist and that the map was derived from a large number of source maps.8 Some of these had been drawn by contemporary or near-contemporary explorers (including Christopher Columbus), who had by then reached South America and the Caribbean, but others were documents dating back to the fourth century BC or earlier.9

Piri Reis did not venture any suggestion as to the identity of the cartographers who had produced the earlier maps. In 1963, however, Professor Hapgood proposed a novel and thought-provoking solution to the problem. He argued that some of the source maps the admiral had made use of, in particular those said to date back to the fourth century BC, had themselves been based on even older sources, which in turn had been based on sources originating in the furthest antiquity. There was, he asserted, irrefutable evidence that the earth had been comprehensively mapped before 4000 BC by a hitherto unknown and undiscovered civilization which had achieved a high level of technological advancement.10

It appears [he concluded] that accurate information has been passed down from people to people. It appears that the charts must have originated with a people unknown and they were passed on, perhaps by the Minoans and the Phoenicians, who were, for a thousand years and more, the greatest sailors of the ancient world. We have evidence that they were collected and studied in the great library of Alexandria [Egypt] and that compilations of them were made by the geographers who worked there.11

8 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, pp. 220-4.

9 Ibid., p. 222.
10 Ibid., p. 193

11 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (revised edition), Turnstone Books, London, 1979, preface.

Piri Reis map (original)


Redrawing to show detail

The US Airforce map shows the probable projection that governed the layout of the ancient Piri Reis map.

From Alexandria, according to Hapgood’s reconstruction, copies of these compilations and of some of the original source maps were transferred to other centers of learning—notably Constantinople. Finally, when Constantinople was seized by the Venetians during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the maps began to find their way into the hands of European sailors and adventurers:

Most of these maps were of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. But maps of other areas survived. These included maps of the Americas and maps of the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. It becomes clear that the ancient voyagers travelled from pole to pole. Unbelievable as it may appear, the evidence nevertheless indicates that some ancient people explored Antarctica when its coasts were free of ice. It is clear, too, that they had an instrument of navigation for accurately determining longitudes that was far superior to anything possessed by the peoples of ancient, medieval or modern times until the second half of the eighteenth century.

This evidence of a lost technology will support and give credence to many of the other hypotheses that have been brought forward of a lost civilization in remote times. Scholars have been able to dismiss most of that evidence as mere myth, but here we have evidence that cannot be dismissed. The evidence requires that all the other evidence that has been brought forward in the past should be re-examined with an open mind.12

Despite a ringing endorsement from Albert Einstein (see below), and despite the later admission of John Wright, president of the American Geographical Society, that Hapgood had ‘posed hypotheses that cry aloud for further testing’, no further scientific research has ever been undertaken into these anomalous early maps.


Moreover, far from being applauded for making a serious new contribution to the debate about the antiquity of human civilization, Hapgood until his death was cold-shouldered by the majority of his professional peers, who couched their discussion of his work in what has accurately been described as ‘thick and unwarranted sarcasm, selecting trivia and factors not subject to verification as the bases for condemnation, seeking in this way to avoid the basic issues’.13

A man ahead of his time

The late Charles Hapgood taught the history of science at Keene College, New Hampshire, USA. He wasn’t a geologist, or an ancient historian. It is possible, however, that future generations will remember him as the man whose work undermined the foundations of world history—and a large chunk of world geology as well.

Albert Einstein was among the first to realize this when he took the unprecedented step of contributing the foreword to a book Hapgood wrote in 1953, some years before he began his investigation of the Piri Reis Map:

I frequently receive communications from people who wish to consult me concerning their unpublished ideas [Einstein observed]. It goes without saying that these ideas are very seldom possessed of scientific validity. The very first communication, however, that I received from Mr. Hapgood electrified me. His idea is original, of great simplicity, and—if it continues to prove itself—of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth’s surface.14

12 - Ibid.
13 - Ibid., foreword. See also F. N. Earll, foreword to C. H. Hapgood, Path of the Pole, Chilton Books, New York, 1970, p. viii.
14 - From Einstein's foreword (written in 1953) to Charles H. Hapgood, Earth's Shifting Crust: A Key to Some Basic Problems of Earth Science, Pantheon Books, New York, 1958, pp. 1-2.


The ‘idea’ expressed in Hapgood’s 1953 book is a global geological theory which elegantly explains how and why large parts of Antarctica could have remained ice-free until 4000 BC, together with many other anomalies of earth science. In brief the argument is:

1 - Antarctica was not always covered with ice and was at one time much warmer than it is today.

2 - It was warm because it was not physically located at the South Pole in that period. Instead it was approximately 2000 miles farther north. This ‘would have put it outside the Antarctic Circle in a temperate or cold temperate climate’.15

3 - The continent moved to its present position inside the Antarctic Circle as a result of a mechanism known as ‘earth-crust displacement’. This mechanism, in no sense to be confused with plate-tectonics or ‘continental drift’, is one whereby the lithosphere, the whole outer crust of the earth, ‘may be displaced at times, moving over the soft inner body, much as the skin of an orange, if it were loose, might shift over the inner part of the orange all in one piece’.16

4 - During the envisaged southwards movement of Antarctica brought about by earth-crust displacement, the continent would gradually have grown colder, an ice-cap forming and remorselessly expanding over several thousands of years until it attained its present dimensions.’17

Further details of the evidence supporting these radical proposals are set out in Part VIII of this book. Orthodox geologists, however, remain reluctant to accept Hapgood’s theory (although none has succeeded in proving it incorrect). It raises many questions.

Of these by far the most important is: what conceivable mechanism would be able to exert sufficient thrust on the lithosphere to precipitate a phenomenon of such magnitude as a crustal displacement?

We have no better guide than Einstein to summarize Hapgood’s findings:

In a polar region there is continual deposition of ice, which is not symmetrically distributed about the pole. The earth’s rotation acts on these unsymmetrically deposited masses, and produces centrifugal momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced in this way will, when it has reached a certain point, produce a movement of the earth’s crust over the rest of the earth’s body ...18

15 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1966 ed., p. 189.

16 Ibid., p. 187.
17 Ibid., p. 189.
18 Einstein's foreword to Earth's Shifting Crust, p. 1

The Piri Reis Map seems to contain surprising collateral evidence in support of the thesis of a geologically recent glaciation of parts of Antarctica following a sudden southward displacement of the earth’s crust. Moreover since such a map could only have been drawn prior to 4000 BC, its implications for the history of human civilization are staggering. Prior to 4000 BC there are supposed to have been no civilizations at all.

At some risk of over-simplification, the academic consensus is broadly:

  • Civilization first developed in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.

  • This development began after 4000 BC, and culminated in the emergence of the earliest true civilizations (Sumer and Egypt) around 3000 BC, soon followed by the Indus Valley and China.

  • About 1500 years later, civilization took off spontaneously and independently in the Americas.

  • Since 3000 BC in the Old World (and about 1500 BC in the New) civilization has steadily ‘evolved’ in the direction of ever more refined, complex and productive forms.

  • In consequence, and particularly by comparison with ourselves, all ancient civilizations (and all their works) are to be understood as essentially primitive (the Sumerian astronomers regarded the heavens with unscientific awe, and even the pyramids of Egypt were built by ‘technological primitives’).

The evidence of the Piri Reis Map appears to contradict all this.

Piri Reis and his sources

In his day, Piri Reis was a well-known figure; his historical identity is firmly established. An admiral in the navy of the Ottoman Turks, he was involved, often on the winning side, in numerous sea battles around the mid-sixteenth century. He was, in addition, considered an expert on the lands of the Mediterranean, and was the author of a famous sailing book, the Kitabi Bahriye, which provided a comprehensive description of the coasts, harbours, currents, shallows, landing places, bays and straits of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Despite this illustrious career he fell foul of his masters and was beheaded in AD 1554 or 1555.19

The source maps Piri Reis used to draw up his 1513 map were in all probability lodged originally in the Imperial Library at Constantinople, to which the admiral is known to have enjoyed privileged access. Those sources (which may have been transferred or copied from even more ancient centers of learning) no longer exist, or, at any rate, have not been found. It was, however, in the library of the old Imperial Palace at Constantinople that the Piri Reis Map was rediscovered, painted on a gazelle skin and rolled up on a dusty shelf, as recently as 1929.20


19 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, pp. 209-11.

20 Ibid., p. 1.

Legacy of a lost civilization?

As the baffled Ohlmeyer admitted in his letter to Hapgood in 1960, the Piri Reis Map depicts the subglacial topography, the true profile of Queen Maud Land Antarctica beneath the ice. This profile remained completely hidden from view from 4000 BC (when the advancing ice sheet covered it) until it was revealed again as a result of the comprehensive seismic survey of Queen Maud Land carried out during 1949 by a joint British-Swedish scientific reconnaissance team.21


21 Ibid., pp. 76-7 and 231-2.

If Piri Reis had been the only cartographer with access to such anomalous information, it would be wrong to place any great weight on his map. At the most one might say, ‘Perhaps it is significant but, then again, perhaps it is just a coincidence.’ However, the Turkish admiral was by no means alone in the possession of seemingly impossible and inexplicable geographical knowledge.


It would be futile to speculate further than Hapgood has already done as to what ‘underground stream’ could have carried and preserved such knowledge through the ages, transmitting fragments of it from culture to culture and from epoch to epoch. Whatever the mechanism, the fact is that a number of other cartographers seem to have been privy to the same curious secrets.

Is it possible that all these map-makers could have partaken, perhaps unknowingly, in the bountiful scientific legacy of a vanished civilization?

Back to Contents


Chapter 2 - Rivers in the Southern Continent

In the Christmas recess of 1959-60 Charles Hapgood was looking for Antarctica in the Reference Room of the Library of Congress, Washington DC. For several consecutive weeks he worked there, lost in the search, surrounded by literally hundreds of medieval maps and charts.

I found [he reported] many fascinating things I had not expected to find, and a number of charts showing the southern continent. Then, one day, I turned a page and sat transfixed. As my eyes fell upon the southern hemisphere of a world map drawn by Oronteus Finaeus in 1531, I had the instant conviction that I had found here a truly authentic map of the real Antarctica.

The general shape of the continent was startlingly like the outline of the continent on our modern maps. The position of the South Pole, nearly in the center of the continent, seemed about right. The mountain ranges that skirted the coasts suggested the numerous ranges that have been discovered in Antarctica in recent years. It was obvious, too, that this was no slapdash creation of somebody’s imagination.


The mountain ranges were individualized, some definitely coastal and some not. From most of them rivers were shown flowing into the sea, following in every case what looked like very natural and very convincing drainage patterns. This suggested, of course, that the coasts may have been ice-free when the original map was drawn. The deep interior, however, was free entirely of rivers and mountains, suggesting that the ice might have been present there.1

Closer investigation of the Oronteus Finaeus Map by Hapgood, and by Dr Richard Strachan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, confirmed the following:

1 - It had been copied and compiled from several earlier source maps drawn up according to a number of different projections.2

2 - It did indeed show non-glacial conditions in coastal regions of Antarctica, notably Queen Maud Land, Enderby Land, Wilkes Land, Victoria Land (the east coast of the Ross Sea), and Marie Byrd Land.3

3 - As in the case of the Piri Reis Map, the general profile of the terrain, and the visible physical features, matched closely seismic survey maps of the subglacial land surfaces of Antarctica.4

1 Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (henceforth Maps), p. 79.

2 Ibid., p. 233.
3 Ibid., p. 89.
4 Ibid., p. 90. These maps were made in 1958, International Geophysical Year, by survey teams from several different nations.


The Oronteus Finaeus Map, Hapgood concluded, appeared to document,

‘the surprising proposition that Antarctica was visited and perhaps settled by men when it was largely if not entirely non-glacial. It goes without saying that this implies a very great antiquity ... [Indeed] the Oronteus Finaeus Map takes the civilization of the original map-makers back to a time contemporary with the end of the last Ice Age in the northern hemisphere.’5

The Oronteus Finaeus map,

showing Antarctica with ice-free coasts, mountains and rivers.


Ross Sea

Further evidence in support of this view arises from the manner in which the Ross Sea was shown by Oronteus Finaeus. Where today great glaciers like the Beardmore and the Scott disgorge themselves into the sea, the 1531 map shows estuaries, broad inlets and indications of rivers. The unmistakable implication of these features is that there was no ice on the Ross Sea or its coasts when the source maps used by Oronteus Finaeus were made:

‘There also had to be a considerable hinterland free of ice to feed the rivers. At the present time all these coasts and their hinterlands are deeply buried in the mile-thick ice-cap, while on the Ross Sea itself there is a floating ice-shelf hundreds of feet thick.’6

The Ross Sea evidence provides strong corroboration for the notion that Antarctica must have been mapped by some unknown civilization during the extensively ice-free period which ended around 4000 BC. This is emphasized by the coring tubes used, in 1949, by one of the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions to take samples of sediment from the bottom of the Ross Sea.


The sediments showed numerous clearly demarcated layers of stratification reflecting different environmental conditions in different epochs:

‘coarse glacial marine’, ‘medium glacial marine’, ‘fine glacial marine’, and so on. The most surprising discovery, however, ‘was that a number of the layers were formed of fine-grained, well-assorted sediments, such as are brought down to the sea by rivers flowing from temperate (that is, ice-free) lands ...’7

Using the ionium-dating method developed by Dr W. D. Urry (which makes use of three different radioactive elements found in sea water8), researchers at the Carnegie Institute in Washington DC were able to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that great rivers carrying fine-grained well-assorted sediments had indeed flowed in Antarctica until about 6000 years ago, as the Oronteus Finaeus Map showed.


It was only after that date, around 4000 BC,

‘that the glacial kind of sediment began to be deposited on the Ross Sea bottom ... The cores indicate that warm conditions had prevailed for a long period before that.’9

5 Ibid., p. 149.

6 Ibid., p. 93-6.
7 Ibid., p. 97.
8 For a detailed description of the process see Maps, P. 96.

9 Ibid., page 98.

Mercator and Buache
The Piri Reis and Oronteus Finaeus Maps therefore provide us with a glimpse of Antarctica as no cartographer in historical times could possibly have seen it. On their own, of course, these two pieces of evidence should not be sufficient to persuade us that we might be gazing at the fingerprints of a lost civilization.


Can three, or four, or six such maps, however, be dismissed with equal justification?

The Mercator map,

showing Antarctica’s mountains and rivers covered by ice.

Is it safe, or reasonable, for example, for us to continue to ignore the historical implications of some of the maps made by the sixteenth-century’s most famous cartographer: Gerard Kremer, otherwise known as Mercator? Best remembered for the Mercator projection, still used on most world maps today, this enigmatic individual (who paid an unexplained visit to the Great Pyramid of Egypt in 156310) was reportedly ‘indefatigable in searching out ... the learning of long ago’, and spent many years diligently accumulating a vast and eclectic reference library of ancient source maps.11


10 He left his graffito there. See Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, p. 38, 285.

11 Maps, p. 102.

Significantly, Mercator included the Oronteus Finaeus map in his Atlas of 1569 and also depicted the Antarctic on several he himself drew in the same year.


Identifiable parts of the then undiscovered southern continent on these maps are:

  • Cape Dart and Cape Herlacher in Marie Byrd Land

  • the Amundsen Sea

  • Thurston Island in Ellsworth Land

  • the Fletcher Islands in the Bellinghausen Sea

  • Alexander I Island

  • the Antarctic (Palmer) Peninsula

  • the Weddell Sea, Cape Norvegia

  • the Regula Range in Queen Maud Land (as islands)

  • the Muhlig-Hoffman Mountains (as islands)

  • the Prince Harald Coast

  • the Shirase Glacier as an estuary on Prince Harald Coast

  • Padda Island in Lutzow-Holm Bay

  • the Prince Olaf Coast in Enderby Land

‘In some cases these features are more distinctly recognizable than on the Oronteus Finaeus Map,’ observed Hapgood, ‘and it seems clear, in general, that Mercator had at his disposal source maps other than those used by Oronteus Finaeus.’12

And not only Mercator.

Philippe Buache, the eighteenth-century French geographer, was also able to publish a map of Antarctica long before the southern continent was officially ‘discovered’. And the extraordinary feature of Buache’s map is that it seems to have been based on source maps made earlier, perhaps thousands of years earlier, than those used by Oronteus Finaeus and Mercator.


What Buache gives us is an eerily precise representation of Antarctica as it must have looked when there was no ice on it at all.13 His map reveals the subglacial topography of the entire continent, which even we did not have full knowledge of until 1958, International Geophysical Year, when a comprehensive seismic survey was carried out.


12 Ibid., pp. 103-4.

13 Ibid., p. 93.

That survey only confirmed what Buache had already proclaimed when he published his map of Antarctica in 1737. Basing his cartography on ancient sources now lost, the French academician depicted a clear waterway across the southern continent dividing it into two principal landmasses lying east and west of the line now marked by the Trans-Antarctic Mountains.

Such a waterway, connecting the Ross, Weddell and Bellinghausen Seas, would indeed exist if Antarctica were free of ice. As the 1958 IGY Survey shows, the continent (which appears on modern maps as one continuous landmass) consists of an archipelago of large islands with mile-thick ice packed between them and rising above sea level.

The epoch of the map-makers
As we have seen, many orthodox geologists believe that the last time any waterway existed in these ice-filled basins was millions of years ago. From the scholarly point of view, however, it is equally orthodox to affirm that no human beings had evolved in those remote times, let alone human beings capable of accurately mapping the landmasses of the Antarctic.


The big problem raised by the Buache/IGY evidence is that those landmasses do seem to have been mapped when they were free of ice.

The Buache map,

with landmasses which show Antarctica very much as it would have looked before it became covered by ice.

This confronts scholars with two mutually contradictory propositions.


Which one is correct?

If we are to go along with orthodox geologists and accept that millions of years have indeed elapsed since Antarctica was last completely free of ice, then all the evidence of human evolution, painstakingly accumulated by distinguished scientists from Darwin on, must be wrong. It seems inconceivable that this could be the case: the fossil record makes it abundantly clear that only the unevolved ancestors of humanity existed millions of years ago—low-browed knuckle-dragging hominids incapable of advanced intellectual tasks like map-making.

Are we therefore to assume the intervention of alien cartographers in orbiting spaceships to explain the existence of sophisticated maps of an ice-free Antarctica? Or shall we think again about the implications of Hapgood’s theory of earth-crust displacement which allows the southern continent to have been in the ice-free condition depicted by Buache as little as 15,000 years ago?14

14 For a fuller discussion of the evidence behind this theory see Part VIII of this book and Hapgood's Earth's Shifting Crust.

Above left and right: Redrawings of the Mercator and Oronteus Finaeus maps showing the progressive glaciation of Antarctica.

Below left: Redrawing of the Buache map.

Below right: The subglacial topography of Antarctica, according to modern seismic surveys.

An early nineteenth-century Russian map showing that the existence of Antarctica was at that time unknown. The continent was ‘discovered’ in AD 1818. But could it have been mapped thousands of years earlier than that by the cartographers of an as yet unidentified high civilization of prehistory?

Is it possible that a human civilization, sufficiently advanced to have mapped Antarctica, could have developed by 13,000 BC and later disappeared? And, if so, how much later?

The combined effect of the Piri Reis, Oronteus Finaeus, Mercator and Buache Maps is the strong, though disturbing, impression that Antarctica may have been continuously surveyed over a period of several thousands of years as the ice-cap gradually spread outwards from the interior, increasing its grip with every passing millennium but not engulfing all the coasts of the southern continent until around 4000 BC.


The original sources for the Piri Reis and Mercator Maps must therefore have been prepared towards the end of this period, when only the coasts of Antarctica were free of ice; the source for the Oronteus Finaeus Map, on the other hand, seems to have been considerably earlier, when the icecap was present only in the deep interior of the continent; and the source for the Buache Map appears to originate in even earlier period (around 13,000 BC), when there may have been no ice in Antarctica at all.

South America
Were other parts of the world surveyed and accurately charted at widely separated intervals during this same epoch; roughly from 13,000 BC to 4000 BC? The answer may lie once again in the Piri Reis Map, which contains more mysteries than just Antarctica:

Drawn in 1513, the map demonstrates an uncanny knowledge of South America—and not only of its eastern coast but of the Andes mountains on the western side of the continent, which were of course unknown at that time. The map correctly shows the Amazon River rising in these unexplored mountains and thence flowing eastwards.15


Itself compiled from more than twenty different source documents of varying antiquity,16 the Piri Reis Map depicts the Amazon not once but twice (most probably as a result of the unintentional overlapping of two of the source documents used by the Turkish admiral17). In the first of these the Amazon’s course is shown down to its Para River mouth, but the important island of Marajo does not appear.


According to Hapgood, this suggests that the relevant source map must have dated from a time, perhaps as much as 15,000 years ago, when the Para River was the main or only mouth of the Amazon and when Marajo Island was part of the mainland on the northern side of the river.18


The second depiction of the Amazon, on the other hand, does show Marajo (and in fantastically accurate detail) despite the fact that this island was not discovered until 1543.19 Again, the possibility is raised of an unknown civilization which undertook continuous surveying and mapping operations of the changing face of the earth over a period of many thousands of years, with Piri Reis making use of earlier and later source maps left behind by this civilization.


15 Maps, p. 68.

16 Ibid., p. 222.

17 Ibid., pp. 64-5.

18 Ibid., p. 64.

19 Ibid., p. 65.

Neither the Orinoco River nor its present delta is represented on the Piri Reis Map. Instead, as Hapgood proved,

‘two estuaries extending far inland (for a distance of about 100 miles) are shown close to the site of the present river. The longitude on the grid would be correct for the Orinoco, and the latitude is also quite accurate. Is it possible that these estuaries have been filled in, and the delta extended this much, since the source maps were made?’20

Although they remained undiscovered until 1592, the Falkland Islands appear on the 1513 map at their correct latitude.21

The library of ancient sources incorporated in the Piri Reis Map may also account for the fact that it convincingly portrays a large island in the Atlantic Ocean to the east of the South American coast where no such island now exists.


Is it pure coincidence that this ‘imaginary island turns out to be located right over the sub-oceanic Mid-Atlantic Ridge just north of the equator and 700 miles east of the coast of Brazil, where the tiny Rocks of Sts. Peter and Paul now jut above the waves?22 Or was the relevant source map drawn deep in the last Ice Age, when sea levels were far lower than they are today and a large island could indeed have been exposed at this spot?


20 Ibid., p. 69.
21 Ibid., p. 72.
22 Ibid., p. 65.


Sea levels and ice ages
Other sixteenth-century maps also look as though they could have been based on accurate world surveys conducted during the last Ice Age. One was compiled by the Turk Hadji Ahmed in 1559, a cartographer, as Hapgood puts it, who must have had access to some ‘most extraordinary’ source maps.23

The strangest and most immediately striking feature of Hadji Ahmed’s compilation is that it shows quite plainly a strip of territory, almost 1000 miles wide, connecting Alaska and Siberia. Such a ‘land-bridge’, as geologists refer to it, did once exist (where the Bering Strait is now) but was submerged beneath the waves by rising sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age.24

The rising sea levels were caused by the tumultuous melting of the icecap which was rapidly retreating everywhere in the northern hemisphere by around 10,000 BC.25 It is therefore interesting that at least one ancient map appears to show southern Sweden covered with remnant glaciers of the kind that must indeed have been prevalent then in these latitudes.


The remnant glaciers are on Claudius Ptolemy’s famous Map of the North. Originally compiled in the second century AD, this remarkable work from the last great geographer of classical antiquity was lost for hundreds of years and rediscovered in the fifteenth century.26

23 Ibid., p. 99.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid., p. 164.
26 Ibid., p. 159.

Ptolemy was custodian of the library at Alexandria, which contained the greatest manuscript collection of ancient times,27 and it was there that he consulted the archaic source documents that enabled him to compile his own map.28 Acceptance of the possibility that the original version of at least one of the charts he referred to could have been made around 10,000 BC helps us to explain why he shows glaciers, characteristic of that exact epoch, together with ‘lakes ... suggesting the shapes of present-day lakes, and streams very much suggesting glacial streams ... flowing from the glaciers into the lakes.’29

It is probably unnecessary to add that no one on earth in Roman times, when Ptolemy drew his map, had the slightest suspicion that ice ages could once have existed in northern Europe. Nor did anyone in the fifteenth century (when the map was rediscovered) possess such knowledge. Indeed, it is impossible to see how the remnant glaciers and other features shown on Ptolemy’s map could have been surveyed, imagined or invented by any known civilization prior to our own.

The implications of this are obvious. So, too, are the implications of another map, the ‘Portolano’ of Iehudi Ibn Ben Zara, drawn in the year 1487.30 This chart of Europe and North Africa may have been based on a source even earlier than Ptolemy’s, for it seems to show glaciers much farther south than Sweden (roughly on the same latitude as England in fact)31 and to depict the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean Seas as they might have looked before the melting of the European ice-cap.32


Sea level would, of course, have been significantly lower than it is today. It is therefore interesting, in the case for instance of the Aegean section of the map, to note that a great many more islands are shown than currently exist.33 At first sight this seems odd. However, if ten or twelve thousand years have indeed elapsed since the era when Ibn Ben Zara’s source map was made, the discrepancy can be simply explained: the missing islands must have been submerged by rising sea levels at the end of the last Ice Age.

27 See Luciano Canfora, The Vanished Library, Hutchinson Radius, London, 1989

28 Maps, p. 159.

29 Ibid., p. 164.
30 Ibid., p. 171
31 Ibid., pp. 171-2.
32 Ibid.
33 Ibid., pp. 176-7.

Once again we seem to be looking at the fingerprints of a vanished civilization—one capable of drawing impressively accurate maps of widely separated parts of the earth.

What kind of technology, and what state of science and culture, would have been required to do a job like that?


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Chapter 3 - Fingerprints of a Lost Science

We saw that the Mercator World Map of 1569 included an accurate portrayal of the coasts of Antarctica as they would have looked thousands of years ago when they were free of ice. Interestingly enough, this same map is considerably less accurate in its portrayal of another region, the west coast of South America, than an earlier (1538) map also drawn by Mercator.1

The reason for this appears to be that the sixteenth-century geographer based the earlier map on the ancient sources which we know he had at his disposal, whereas for the later map he relied upon the observations and measurements of the first Spanish explorers of western South America.


Since those explorers had supposedly brought the latest information back to Europe, Mercator can hardly be blamed for following them. In so doing the accuracy of his work declined: instruments capable of finding longitude did not exist in 1569, but appear to have been used to prepare the ancient source documents Mercator consulted to produce his 1538 map.2


1 Maps, p. 107.

2 Ibid.

The mysteries of longitude
Let us consider the problem of longitude, defined as the distance in degrees east or west of the prime meridian. The current internationally accepted prime meridian is an imaginary curve drawn from the North Pole to the South Pole passing through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, London. Greenwich therefore stands at 0° longitude while New York, for example, stands at around 74° west, and Canberra, Australia, at roughly 150° east.

It would be possible to write an elaborate explanation of longitude and of what needs to be done to fix it precisely for any given point on the earth’s surface. What we are concerned with here, however, is not so much technical detail as the accepted historical facts about humanity’s growing knowledge of the mysteries of longitude.


Among these facts, this is the most important: until a breakthrough invention in the eighteenth century, cartographers and navigators were unable to fix longitude with any kind of precision. They could only make guesses which were usually inaccurate by many hundreds of miles, because the technology had not yet been developed to allow them to do the job properly.

Latitude north or south of the equator did not pose such a problem: it could be worked out by means of angular measurements of the sun and stars taken with relatively simple instruments. But to find longitude equipment of an altogether different and superior calibre was needed, which could combine position measurements with time measurements.


Throughout the span of known history the invention of such equipment had remained beyond the capacities of scientists, but by the beginning of the eighteenth century, with rapidly increasing sea traffic, a mood of impatience and urgency had set in. In the words of an authority on the period,

‘The search for longitude overshadowed the life of every man afloat, and the safety of every ship and cargo. Accurate measurement seemed an impossible dream and “discovering the longitude” had become a stock phrase in the press like “pigs might fly”.’3

3 Simon Bethon and Andrew Robinson, The Shape of the World: The Mapping and Discovery of the Earth, Guild Publishing, London, 1991, p. 117.

What was needed, above all else, was an instrument that would keep the time (at the place of departure) with perfect accuracy during long sea journeys despite the motion of the ship and despite the adverse conditions of alternating heat and cold, wet and dry. ‘Such a Watch’, as Isaac Newton told the members of the British government’s official Board of Longitude in 1714, ‘hath not yet been made’.4

Indeed not. The timepieces of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were crude devices which typically lost or gained as much as a quarter of an hour per day. By contrast, an effective marine chronometer could afford to lose or gain that much only over several years.5

It was not until the 1720s that the talented English clockmaker John Harrison began work on the first of a series of designs which resulted in the manufacture of such a chronometer. His objective was to win the prize of £20,000 offered by the Board of Longitude ‘for the inventor of any means of determining a ship’s longitude within 30 nautical miles at the end of a six weeks’ voyage’.6


A chronometer capable of fulfilling this condition would have to keep time to within three seconds per day. It took almost forty years, during which several prototypes were completed and tested, before Harrison was able to meet these standards. Finally, in 1761, his elegant Chronometer No. 4 left Britain on board HMS Deptford bound for Jamaica, accompanied by Harrison’s son William.


Nine days into the voyage, on the basis of longitude calculations made possible by the chronometer, William advised the captain that they would sight the Madeira Islands the following morning. The captain offered five to one that he was wrong but agreed to hold the course. William won the bet. Two months later, at Jamaica, the instrument was found to have lost just five seconds.7

Harrison had surpassed the conditions set by the Board of Longitude. Thanks to the British government’s bureaucratic dithering, however, he was not awarded the £20,000 prize money until three years before his death in 1776. Understandably, it was only when he had the funds in his hands that he divulged the secrets of his design. As a result of this delay, Captain James Cook did not have the benefit of a chronometer when he made his first voyage of discovery in 1768.8


By the time of his third voyage, however (1778-9), he was able to map the Pacific with impressive accuracy, fixing not only the correct latitude but the correct longitude of every island and coastline.9


4 Ibid., p. 121.
5 Ibid., p. 120.
6 Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991, 3:289.

7 Shape of the World, pp. 123-4.

8 Ibid., p. 125.
9 Ibid., p. 131.


Henceforward, ‘thanks to Cook’s care and Harrison’s chronometer ... no navigator could have an excuse for failing to find a Pacific island ... or for being wrecked on a coastline appearing from nowhere.’10

Indeed, with their accurate longitudes, Cook’s Pacific maps must be ranked among the very first examples of the precise cartography of our modern era. They remind us, moreover, that the making of really good maps requires at least three key ingredients: great journeys of discovery; first-class mathematical and cartographic skills; sophisticated chronometers.

It was not until Harrison’s chronometer became generally available in the 1770s that the third of these preconditions was fulfilled. This brilliant invention made it possible for cartographers to fix longitude precisely, something that the Sumerians, the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, and indeed all other known civilizations before the eighteenth century were supposedly unable to do. It is therefore surprising and unsettling to come across vastly older maps which give latitudes and longitudes with modern precision.

Precision instruments
These inexplicably precise latitudes and longitudes are found in the same general category of documents that contain the advanced geographical knowledge I have outlined.

The Piri Reis Map of 1513, for example, places South America and Africa in the correct relative longitudes,11 theoretically an impossible feat for the science of the time. But Piri Reis was candid in admitting that his map was based on far earlier sources. Could it have been from one of these sources that he derived his accurate longitudes?

Also of great interest is the so-called ‘Dulcert Portulano’ of AD 1339 which focuses on Europe and North Africa. Here latitude is perfect across huge distances and the total longitude of the Mediterranean and Black Seas is correct to within half a degree.12

Professor Hapgood comments that the maker of the original source from which the Dulcert Portulano was copied had,

‘achieved highly scientific accuracy in finding the ratio of latitude to longitude. He could only have done this if he had precise information on the relative longitudes of a great many places scattered all the way from Galway in Ireland to the eastern bend of the Don in Russia.’13

The Zeno Map14 of AD 1380 is another enigma. Covering a vast area of the north as far as Greenland, it locates a great many widely scattered places at latitudes and longitudes which are ‘amazingly correct’.15

10 Ibid.
11 Maps, pp. 1, 41.

12 Ibid., p. 116.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid., pp. 149-58.
15 Ibid, p. 152.

It is ‘unbelievable’, asserts Hapgood, ‘that anyone in the fourteenth century could have found accurate latitudes for these places, to say nothing of accurate longitudes’.16

The Oronteus Finaeus World Map also commands attention: it successfully places the coasts of Antarctica in correct latitudes and relative longitudes and finds a remarkably accurate area for the continent as a whole. This reflects a level of geographical knowledge not available until the twentieth century.17

The Portolano of lehudi Ibn Ben Zara is another map notable for its accuracy where relative latitudes and longitudes are concerned.18 Total longitude between Gibraltar and the Sea of Azov is accurate to half a degree, while across the map as a whole average errors of longitude are less than a degree.19


16 Ibid.
17 Ibid., p. 98.
18 Ibid., p. 170.
19 Ibid., p. 173.

These examples represent only a small fraction of the large and challenging dossier of evidence presented by Hapgood. Layer upon layer, the cumulative effect of his painstaking and detailed analysis is to suggest that we are deluding ourselves when we suppose that accurate instruments for measuring longitude were not invented until the eighteenth century.


On the contrary, the Piri Reis and other maps appear to indicate very strongly that such instruments were re-discovered then, that they had existed long ages before and had been used by a civilized people, now lost to history, who had explored and charted the entire earth. Furthermore, it seems that these people were capable not only of designing and manufacturing precise and technically advanced mechanical instruments but were masters of a precocious mathematical science.

The lost mathematicians
To understand why, we should first remind ourselves of the obvious: the earth is a sphere. When it comes to mapping it, therefore, only a globe can represent it in correct proportion. Transferring cartographic data from a globe to flat sheets of paper inevitably involves distortions and can be accomplished only by means of an artificial and complex mechanical and mathematical device known as map projection.

There are many different kinds of projection. Mercator’s, still used in atlases today, is perhaps the most familiar. Others are dauntingly referred to as Azimuthal, Stereographic, Gnomonic, Azimuthal Equidistant, Cordiform, and so on, but it is unnecessary to go into this any further here.


We need only note that all successful projections require the use of sophisticated mathematical techniques of a kind supposedly unknown in the ancient world20 (particularly in the deepest antiquity before 4000 BC when there was allegedly no human civilization at all, let alone one capable of developing and using advanced mathematics and geometry).

Charles Hapgood submitted his collection of ancient maps to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for evaluation by Professor Richard Strachan. The general conclusion was obvious, but he wanted to know precisely what level of mathematics would have been required to draw up the original source documents. On 18 April 1965 Strachan replied that a very high level of mathematics indeed would have been necessary.


Some of the maps, for example, seemed to express ‘a Mercator type projection’ long before the time of Mercator himself. The relative complexity of this projection (involving latitude expansion) meant that a trigonometric coordinate transformation method must have been used.

Other reasons for deducing that the ancient map-makers must have been skilled mathematicians were as follows:

1 - The determination of place locations on a continent requires at least geometric triangulation methods. Over large distances (of the order of 1000 miles) corrections must be made for the curvature of the earth, which requires some understanding of spherical trigonometry.

2 - The location of continents with respect to one another requires an understanding of the earth’s sphericity, and the use of spherical trigonometry.

3 - Cultures with this knowledge, plus the precision instruments to make the required measurements to determine location, would most certainly use their mathematical technology in creating maps and charts.’21

20 Ibid., p. 225ff.

21 Ibid., p. 228.


Strachan’s impression that the maps, through generations of copyists, revealed the handiwork of an ancient, mysterious and technologically advanced civilization, was shared by reconnaissance experts from the US Airforce to whom Hapgood submitted the evidence. Lorenzo Burroughs, chief of the 8th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron’s Cartographic Section at Westover Air Base, made a particularly close study of the Oronteus Finaeus Map.


He concluded that some of the sources upon which it was based must have been drawn up by means of a projection similar to the modern Cordiform Projection.


This, said Burroughs:

suggests the use of advanced mathematics. Further, the shape given to the Antarctic Continent suggests the possibility, if not the probability, that the original source maps were compiled on a stereographic or gnomonic type of projection involving the use of spherical trigonometry.

We are convinced that the findings made by you and your associates are valid, and that they raise extremely important questions affecting geology and ancient history ...’22

Hapgood was to make one more important discovery: a Chinese map copied from an earlier original on to a stone pillar in AD 1137.23 This map incorporates precisely the same kind of high quality information about longitudes as the others. It has a similar grid and was drawn up with the benefit of spherical trigonometry. Indeed, on close examination, it shares so many features with the European and Middle Eastern maps that only one explanation seems adequate: it and they must have stemmed from a common source.24

We seem to be confronted once again by a surviving fragment of the scientific knowledge of a lost civilization. More than that, it appears that this civilization must have been at least in some respects as advanced as our own and that its cartographers had ‘mapped virtually the entire globe with a uniform general level of technology, with similar methods, equal knowledge of mathematics, and probably the same sorts of instruments’.25


22 Ibid., pp. 244-5.

23 Ibid., p. 135.

24 Ibid., p. 139.

25 Ibid., pp. 139, 145.

The Chinese map also indicates something else: a global legacy must have been handed down—a legacy of inestimable value, in all probability incorporating much more than sophisticated geographical knowledge.

Could it have been some portion of this legacy that was distributed in prehistoric Peru by the so-called ‘Viracochas’, mysterious bearded strangers said to have come from across the seas, in a ‘time of darkness’, to restore civilization after a great upheaval of the earth?

I decided to go to Peru to see what I could find.

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