The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

The Mysterious Origins of Man:
The Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532

Copyright © 1996 by Paul Heinrich
[Last Update: June 6, 1996]

The segment of The Mysterious Origins of Man concerning the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 starts out with Charlton Heston stating that Dr. Charles Hapgood [author of Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Hapgood (1966, 1979)], made a "startling discovery" while he was combing through the map room at the Library of Congress. MOM then quotes Dr. Hapgood as saying:

As my eyes fell upon the southern hemisphere of a world map drawn by a Oronteus Finaeus in 1532, I had the instant conviction that I had found here a truly authentic map of the real Antarctica.

Unfortunately, this conviction likely so prejudiced his ideas concerning the Oronteus Finaeus Map that he was unable to evaluate it objectively. Once Dr. Hapgood knew he had an authentic map of Antarctica, he proceeded to overlooked, as is later explained, many serious problems with this map being an accurate, although possibly still authentic, map of Antarctica.

In MOM, Mr. Graham Hancock stated:

The mystery of this map is it shows Antarctica as it looks under the ice long before Antarctica is even supposed to have been discovered.

In this part of MOM, Mr. Hancock not only incorrectly states the claims made by Hapgood (1966, 1979), but also the claims made in his own book, The Fingerprints of the Gods (Hancock 1995). According to Hapgood (1966, p. 93, 1979, p. 79) and Hancock (1995, p. 18, 478), it is the Phillip Buache Map of 1737 that shows either the ice-free, sub-glacial bedrock, or combined topography of Antarctica. As discussed in a previous post of mine titled Part 6 - The Buache Map, Exhibit 9, Fingerprints of the Gods (long Post), the Phillip Buache Map of 1737 fails miserably in any way to accurately portray either the subglacial bedrock topography of Antarctica as mapped by Drewry (1983, sheet 3) or the ice-free topography of Antarctica as represented by the bedrock surface as adjusted for isostatic rebound by Drewry (1983, sheet 6).

In their claims, both Mr. Hancock and Dr. Hapgood incorrectly consider the subglacial topography of Antarctica to be the same as the ice-free topography of Antarctica. The actual subglacial topography differs from a hypothetical ice-free topography because the 293,778,800 cubic kilometers of ice either lies grounded on bedrock or stacked as ice rises on bedrock islands (Drewry 1982, sheet 4). The sheer weight of this ice has depressed Antarctica by hundreds of meters. If the Antarctic ice sheet melted and removed this weight from the crust, isostatic rebound would raise the subglacial topography as much as 950 meters (3100 feet) in the interior to 50 meters (160 feet) along the coast. Furthermore, melting of all of the world's ice, of which Antarctica is 90 percent of the total, would raise sea level by about 80 meters (260 feet)(Drewry 1983, sheet 6).

Contrary to MOM, both Hapgood (1966, p. 79-93, 1979, p. 69-79) and Hancock (1995, p. 14-16,22) clearly state that the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 shows the continent of Antarctica with ice-free coasts "when the ice-cap was present only in the deep interior". Thus, nowhere in MOM are the issues concerning a partially glaciated Antarctica mentioned.

Antarctica Peninsula Problem

Then Mr. Hancock continues:

And perhaps the greatest mystery of all is it shows the Antarctica Peninsula not as it looks today covered by more than a mile of ice, but as it actually looks underneath that cover of ice.

It is mysterious that both MOM and Mr. Hancock manage again to seriously misrepresent the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 and the claims of Hapgood (1966, 1979). As noted by Hapgood (1966, p. 93, 1979, p. 78-79), a major deficiency of Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 is that it lacks any feature that can be clearly either recognized as or inferred to be related to the Antarctic Peninsula. In fact, the great mystery is why MOM and Mr. Hancock would claim that the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 shows the Antarctic Peninsula (Palmer Land) when it clearly does not (Hapgood 1979, Figure 52).

For the lack of this peninsula, Hapgood (1966, p. 93, 1979, p. 78-79) gives a confused explanation. He claims that the base of this peninsula can be seen, but the Oronteus Finaeus Map shows no such base. He claims that this peninsula exists only as scattered bedrock islands, which is true according to Drewry (1983, sheet 3). However, even the most rudimentary map of either a partially or completely glaciated Antarctica would show the Antarctica Peninsula as a long, over 800 kilometers, prominent north-south trending island. Its elevation and isostatic rebound would have kept this island well above any projected sea level rise (Drewry 1983, sheet 6). The absence of this island on the Oronteus Finaeus Map is one of many gross inconsistencies between this map and the partially glaciated hypothetical, prehistoric Antarctica proposed by Hapgood (1966, 1979) and ice-free Antarctica of MOM.

More Major Inaccuracies

Then Charlton Heston stated that Hapgood put his theory to the test. According to MOM, Dr. Hapgood compared the Oronteus Finaeus map with a modern map of ice-covered Antarctica and found the maps to be similar. Then he compared a map created by seismographic surveys with the actual coastlines of the Oronteus Finaeus map.

As Charlton Heston claims:

When the maps were overlaid, the similarities astonished him.

This is an astonishing statement when the subglacial bedrock topographic map of Drewry (1983, sheet 3) is compared with the Oronteus Finaeus Map. In such a comparison, the major inconsistencies between them that the Oronteus Finaeus Map more closely resembles the modern map of ice-covered Antarctica more than it does the subglacial topography map of Drewry (1983, sheet 3) made by seismographic and radio echo sounding surveys.

For example, Wilkes Land which the Oronteus Finaeus Map shows as solid land is occupied almost entirely by two large subsea basins with only an _archipeligo_ of bedrock islands rising above sea level (Drewry 1983, sheet 3). In a partially glaciated Antarctica, much of the solid land shown on the Oronteus Finaeus Map would be underwater. Even with complete isostatic rebound, large bays would occupy large parts of Wilkes Land and George V Land that the Oronteus Finaeus Map shows as solid land (Drewry 1983, sheet 6).

Also, the Oronteus Finaeus Map fails to show the Amery Basin. In either a partially or completely deglaciated Antarctica, this basin would have been occupied by a 700 to 800 kilometers (430 to 490 miles) long bay lying perpendicular to the coast of Antarctica between Princess Elizabeth Land and Mac Robertson Land (Drewry 1983, sheets 3 and 6). This estuary would have been a major physiographic feature that even the most unskilled map maker would have mapped had it been ice free. Even though this basin forms a prominent bay along the coast of modern Antarctica (Drewry 1983, sheet 2), this basin is absent from the Oronteus Finaeus Map. This case as others completely contradicts any claim of technologically advanced map making abilities.

In addition, West Antarctica poses many problems. Because the bedrock surface underlying West Antarctica lies hundreds of meters below sea level, except for some bedrock _islands_, the solid block of land illustrated by the Oronteus Finaeus Map for West Antarctica fails completely to "shows Antarctica as it looks under the ice", as MOM claims. Hapgood (1966, 1979) tries to avoid this problem by claiming that this map shows a partially glaciated Antarctica with West Antarctica still presumably covered by ice. However, by the time that the Antarctic ice sheet had retreated back into East Antarctica as claimed, the West Antarctic ice sheet would have broken up and left ice covered islands surrounded by open water. Even if the West Antarctic ice sheet remained intact as shown by the Oronteus Finaeus Map, the coastline shown by this map for West Antarctica would have been composed of the edge of an ice sheet. Yet, the Oronteus Finaeus Map shows this glacial coast as having fjords and river mouths just as the nonglacial coast of East Antarctica. Thus, the Oronteus Finaeus Map clearly shows what should be a glacial coast to be a nonglacial coast. Comparison of the Oronteus Finaeus Map with a map showing the bedrock topography adjusted for isostatic rebound, Drewry (1983, sheet 6), fails to solve any of these problems.

This segment of MOM and Mr. Graham Hancock finally concludes:

The clearest deduction of all is that whoever drew up those original source maps thousands of years ago had a level of technology as high as our own.
So this is a testimony of an advanced civilization in remote prehistory.

The above and other problems clearly show that Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532, like the Buache Map of 1737 fails miserably to show either the hypothetical unglaciated or even a speculative partially glaciated Antarctica. The obvious deduction that can be made from the above analysis of both maps is that neither map shows any evidence of any advanced map-making technology being involved in their production. Thus, there is absolutely no evidence of an advanced civilization in remote prehistory as far as the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 and Buache Map of 1737 are concerned. Mr. Paul Lunde, in an article published in the January-February 1980 issue of Aramco World Magazine, presents a more credible hypothesis. Lunde (1980) hypothesizes that the source for the Oronteus Finaeus Map might have been a poorly drawn map of historic Antarctica, possibly Australia, made by some unknown Portuguese sailors sometime before 1513. Regardless of the source data, if any, for the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532, it clearly fails to accurately portray either a partially or completely unglaciated Antarctica, as MOM would have people believe.

A Quick-Frozen Mammoth Teaser

This segment of MOM ends with Charlton Heston stating:

A woolly mammoth was frozen so quickly that its last meal of buttercups remained fresh in its stomach for thousands of years. This sudden drop in temperature maybe is a clue to the disappearance of the civilization that Plato called Atlantis.

Even this last statement presents some problems. First, MOM later fails to present any evidence that Atlantis was ever in Antarctica. Finally the claim by MOM that woolly mammoths were frozen so quickly that its last meal of buttercups remained fresh in its stomach is nothing more than folklore lacking any basis in fact.

To repeat ideas presented by Mr. Darby South in a past post of his, the presence of well preserved plant remains associated with mammoths and mastodons has little to do with quick freezing. Very well preserved gut contents have been found even with skeletal remains without any freezing.

For example, vertebrate paleontologists found plants remains that were once in the guts of a mastodon associated with the skeleton of a mastodon that they excavated from a bog within Ohio (Lepper, et al. 1991, pp. 122-123). Also, paleontologists have recovered other complete mastodon skeletons containing well- preserved plant remains that were once gut and stomach contents in bogs of New York, New Jersey, and other states (Dreimanis 1968, Pp. 264.).

Plant remains are so durable that flash-freezing is unnecessary for their preservation. In the example of the Ohio mastodon, the plant remains that once occupied the gut survived long after the remainder of the mastodon had decayed because of the water- logged, anaerobic environment in which they were buried. If freezing temperatures are essential for the preservation of plant material in the gut contents, why did the plant remains associated with this mastodon survived when the mastodon was never frozen and the rest of the mastodon had decayed away? In this and other cases it is clearly evident that quick freezing is unnecessary for the preservation of plant material.


This segment of MOM fails to present any credible evidence either for an ice-free Antarctica or the fast-freezing of mammoths. The Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532 fails both to show either a completely or partially ice-free Antarctica and demonstrate the existence of ancient civilizations with advanced cartographic technology. Also, the preservation of buttercups fails as proof for sudden climatic change.

[Return to the MOM page]

References Cited

Dreimanis, A., 1968, Extinction of Mastodons in Eastern North America: Testing a New Climatic-Environmental Hypothesis. The Ohio Journal of Science, vol. 68, no. 6, pp. 257-272.

Drewry, D. J. (ed.), 1983, Antarctica: Glaciological and Geophysical Folio. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Hancock, Graham, 1995, Fingerprints of the Gods. Crown Publishers, Inc., New York.

Hapgood, C. H., 1966, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1st Edition, Chilton Books, Philadelphia.

Hapgood, C. H., 1979, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 2nd Edition, E. P. Dutton, New York.

Lepper, B. T., Frolking, T. A., and others, 1991, Intestinal Contents of a Late Pleistocene Mastodont from Midcontinental North America. Quaternary Research vol. 36, pp. 120-125

Lunde, P., The Oronteus Finaeus Map. Aramco World Magazine, Jan-Feb 1980. (accessible from, under LUNDE02 ART)

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