The next most famous map to come after that of Piri Reis
, was by a man named Orontius Finaeus, also known in English as Oronce Fine. The map in question, pictured to the right, and clickable if you want to resize it, prominently displays a large southern continent. Antarctica was still centuries away from being discovered, so how did he - and previous cartographers - know of this large land's existence? In the final article I'll discuss the old belief in a southern land to balance out the northern, so we'll look at a couple of finer points here, and you're free to search around for in-depth details.
Terra Australis Incognita
The southern continent shown is labelled "Terra Australis recenter inventa sed nondum plene cognita"
. This translates to "Southern land found recently but not fully known."
Other maps of the time also name the theoretical land Terra Australis
. It had been 'recently found,' according to Finaeus, not anciently mapped. What had been found was actually Tierra del Fuego in South America, and Australia on the other side of the world. These were believed to have been the furthest reaches of Terra Australis, having not been fully explored as yet.
Remember, it was me doing the above cut job so it's not 100% accurate, but you can see the small image of an ice-covered Antarctica overlayed on the large continent of Terra Australis. Of course, you will be able to make out a couple of similarities without trying too hard, but let's look at the next picture.
In the Orontius Finaeus Map you can clearly see a group of islands with one labelled Java
. The others, though hard to read with the picture quality, show nearby islands including Timor. Click the image for a larger view. If you look at the modern map, you will see these as well, roughly set northwest from the Gulf of Carpentaria. The matching Gulf in the 1531 drawing could instead be referring to the Bonaparte Gulf, just west of the first, but in both drawings you can clearly see two islands, which are circled in red. These are the Groote and Wellesley Islands, and the original map cartographer may have been trying his own hand at drawing the northern edge of Australia - not Antarctica.
Now, the first European 'discovery' of Australia took place in 1606, but it had long been visited by other nations, including the Chinese. Some maps of the 15th century even showed the Indonesian Islands and, as cartography goes, Finaeus was most likely using maps from these older sources. The northern coast of Australia had been outlined, as was the Tierra del Fuego, which you'll see in the next picture, and the rest had been guessed at as you'll see in the final article.
No, it's not a very good drawing - the Finaeus map is sideways! But there are many maps of the area showing the same sort of channel, and later maps specifically name this the Sraight of Magellan. And if we look closer into why, we'll still see that he was referring to this separation line between South America and the Tierra del Fuego, not South America and Terra Australis Incognita (not yet found).
During the 16th century, heading anywhere near Cape Horn begged for disaster, so the journey was avoided. Since nobody could make it farther south, it was believed that the southern tip of the Americas carried on to join with the unfound southern land. In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to cross the straight, allowing ships access to the Pacific Ocean, and opening the trade routes. It is this passage that appears on the old maps, and if you look at the next picture, it clearly places Tierra del Fuego on Terra Australis Incognita.
In my eyes, this map could have been the best case for an ancient civilization, but once you look deeper into it than a work by Hancock, you realize there isn't much of an argument to go by. The next map to look at will go quicker.
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