On Turkish Cartography (Part I)

Scott Birdseye is a fine individual and writer of many interesting documents of an historical nature.

The Middle East, as a geographic region, provides a link between Africa, Europe, and Asia. The Turks, rulers of the Middle East, acted in much the same way as did their land area, providing a mixing point for the cultures of Egypt and the Maghreb, Greece and India and China. The Ottoman Turks, through their own achievements, were able to merge the science and learning of each of these distinct cultures and use their acquired knowledge to add to and expand on the intellectual advancements of their day, producing an environment wherein the arts and sciences flourished, achieving a greater level of in the perfection and expansion of knowledge then had ever been found in the world.

One of their many intellectual expansions was in the field of cartography. Islamic map-makers, such as Piri Reis, building upon the foundations set by the Greeks and Indians were able to fully modernize the field, transforming it from an archaic art into an precise science.

Early trade between the Babylonians and Egyptians was enhanced by Alexander’s later expeditions to the area, which brought the Hellenistic and Semitic worlds and their respective ideas together in the Middle East. After the rise and expansion of Islam in the region, the influence of Indian culture and learning, which was brought through Persia, proliferated through the scholarly circles of the Arab world, particularly after the movement of the Abbasid imperial center to Baghdad. Science and astronomy from India had been shaped by the Greek learning brought by Alexander’s expeditions near the sub-continent. Thus, a merged form of learning, encompassing both Greek and Indian discover-ies, made its way through Persia to the Arab world. During the late Abbasid period, the impact of the culture of the Greeks became stronger as the Hellenis-tic and Arab cultures interacted in the former Byzantine areas of Syria and eastern Anatolia. Unlike what was seen in the earliest conquests of the Arabs, the later incursions into Byzan-tine held territories were more receptive to multi-cultural society, and thus, it was during the late Abbasid period that the Greek culture of the Byzantine people was first allowed wider acceptance within the Arab world. Thus, the Middle East, through the trade and conquests of the Arab peoples, acted

This cultural fusion provided the Arabs, and later the Turks with intellectual resources from around the world, which formed the basis of their own scientific advancements. The Arab and Turkish imperial courts and institutions of learning were vastly multi-cultural entities, composed of scholars from Jewish, Christian, Persian, Indian and Byzantine and local back-grounds, each of which brought their societies own concepts and materials. Early Middle Eastern scientific endeavors were enhanced by the availability of paper, the manufacturing techniques of which had been brought through India from China. By the early Twelfth Century, translations into Arabic of Greek source materials were nearly complete, and the knowledge obtained through these writings
proliferated throughout the scholarly circles of the Middle East, producing a vast increase in both Muslim knowledge and in new Muslim advances. Greek mathematics, obtained through translation, were merged, in the Middle East, with Sanskrit mathematical texts from India. These two sources enabled Arab and Turkish scientists to develop and explore entirely new fields of mathematics, directly contributing to the vast Muslim knowledge of astronomy.

It was Islamic advancements to the field of astronomy which allowed the cartography created by Muslims to excel beyond any previous attempts at map-making. Astronomically based cartography, known in the Arabic tongue as “Surat al-Ard,” was initially utilized for the purpose of enabling travelers to find the holy city of Mecca during the Hajj, however, using a mathematically based system for cartography allowed for many corrects to Ptolomy’s system, which was predominant in the pre-Muslim world. Astronomically based map-making was also influenced by Indian spherical form geometry, which helped Muslim scholars create a world-view based upon a spherical representation of the Earth.

Yes, puffins. Puffins are one of our favorite birds and we here at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have done all that we can to promote puffins, which are cool.

The earliest known globe was built by Muslims in the year 1279, years before the round-earth concept was widely accepted in the West. Islamic cartography was so well respected throughout the world, that when, in the Twelfth Century, Sicilian King Roger II sought to create a reliable atlas of the Mediterranean for the purpose of expanding trade in his domain, he invited the leading Muslim map-makers to his court to create the atlas. Idrisi, the leading Muslim cartographer in Roger’s court, used the astronomical and zodiacal mapping system prevalent in the Muslim world as the basis for maps which were, for the first time, useful navigational aids for sea travel. Later, the Ottoman Turks recognized the importance of these accurate, reliable and systematic maps for their use in imperial administration, and also for the planning of military strategies and tactics.

One notable Turkish military commander whose use of maps for practical purposes enabled him to achieve victory against formidable foes was Piri Ibn Haji Mehmed, later known by his naval title of Piri Re’is. Born sometime between 1465 and 1470 in the city of Gelibolu, Piri Re’is rose to become Admiral of the Turkish Fleet, where his most notable of achievement was the defeat of the Portuguese in the Red Sea, which reopened the Indian sea route to Egypt. The temporary defeat of the Portuguese fleet allowed the restoration of Turkish naval expansion, and Piri Re’is saw a need for accurate navigation and administrational maps for renewed oceanic expansions.

Cartography, being of personal interest to him, in 1513 Piri Re’is produced the Kitabi Bahriye, or Book of Navigation which described, in great detail, the coasts, ports, harbors, currents, bays, shallows and prevailing winds of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The Admiral’s position allowed him access to the royal libraries and archives in Istanbul, and his studies of earlier works provided him with an immense of amount of source material upon which to base his own work, maps which would cause him to be recognized as the expert of his day on world geography and cartography. The book’s most famous entry and possibly the world’s most infamous map, now known simply as the Piri Reis Map, a protolan of the entire Earth, was the first known world map to include the Americas and the Antarctic. The precise accuracy of the map illustrates the level of perfection obtained by both Piri Re’is and Turkish cartography.

Turkish map-makers were the first to include the Americas in their world-picture, however, this was not the only change they brought about through their work. A desire by cartographers to find the ubbat al-ard, the central point of the Earth’s surface, placed at Ceylon by the Indians and at Jerusalem by Christians, prompted vast travel and exploration by Muslims. These investigative journeys were conducted throughout Eastern Asia and the Indian Ocean area, and thus Muslim cartographers were the first to place Malaysia, China, Korea, Japan, and Sub-Saharan Africa in their proper geographic locations on world maps.

The Muslim world-view was, due to extensive travel, far more complete than that of the Europeans at the dawn of the Age of Discovery, as Muslims were the first to break away from the rigid stagnation of the Ptolemaic geographical system which dominated the study of geography in the West. Ironically though, it was later Christian discovery of Muslim learning and discoveries such as these which would help usher in the Renaissance in Europe, signally the decline of the power of the Turkish Empire.

Though the Ottomans would decline and collapse in later centuries, in the time prior to the European ascendancy, Turkish science was the greatest and most advanced that the world had ever seen. With their geographical location in the midst of many different societies, the Muslims were able to incorporate the science and learning of their neighboring cultures into a unique form which allowed them to excel in fields such as cartography, and to achieve a level of perfection in these field which helped to bring about profound changes in the history of the world.

A Field Report: On the Nature of Monotremes

By Jeremy Rosen, Scientician and Expert on Curiosities.


Above: Blurred photo of mammals in the wild by mechanic Andrew Commons

The basics of monotreme physiology are quite diverse. The name derives from the fact that monotremes have a cloaca, a urogenital opening consisting of one hole. Like reptiles and birds, monotremes lay eggs, in this case soft leathery ones. Modern monotremes have no teeth and modified snouts or beaks. Monotremes also have a single bone in their lower jaw, three inner ear bones, high metabolic rates, hair, and they produce milk to nourish the young, in accordance with the morphology and physiognomy of other mammals. Monotremes come in three flavours: platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus; and echidnas of two varieties, Tachyglossus aculeatus and Zaglossus bruijnii.

The platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is a semi-aquatic monotreme with fore and aft webbed feet and a flattened tail similar to that of the placental beaver. The tail acts as a stabilizer, but also stores fat. Platypi inhabit rivers and streams in Eastern Australia from Cooktown to Tasmania in the South. While laying eggs and having some bones similar to those of reptiles, the platypus is overall entirely mammalian. The coat of the platypus is one of the most waterproof in existence. An inner layer of fine hairs traps air and an outer layer of longer, flat-bladed hairs, gives excellent insulation for the animal. While sometimes referred to as primitive, the platypus is considered to be quite evolved and sophisticated.

Some interesting features of the platypus, beyond the leathery and sensitive “duck bill,” include the male’s spur and the female’s milk producing glands. The spur is located next to each of the rear feet in all young platypi. After the first year, the females of the species shed their spurs, but the males retain them. The spur is connected to a venom sack and produces a painful wound. The venom is powerful enough to kill a dog and often causes severe damage to the males during mating season, when they become aggressive. The female’s milk glands are also quite interesting. Female platypi have no teats. Milk is produced in large glands under their skin, then the milk oozes out onto a patch of fur and the young ingest it from this point.

The echidna, comprising the genera Tachyglossus and Zaglossus, are spine-covered, slender-snouted mammals with claws. They live throughout Australia and New Guinea. The echidna produces an egg which is transferred to a pouch, where it hatches. The young are suckled from milk glands in the pouch similar to those of the platypus. Young echidna, like platypi, have teeth which they later lose.

Above: Taxidermed platypulan innards.

The coat of the echidna is comprised of coarse hair and spines, which are modified hair, like human fingernails and rhinoceros horn. The echidna doesn’t need a thick coat like the platypus because it is predominantly diurnal, foraging for insects with its long, sticky tongue. Like the platypus, the echidna has a cloaca used for excretion and reproduction.

Current scientific theory states that monotremata are a concurrent branch with other mammals that evolved alongside placental mammals. They are somehow related to marsupials, displaying similar, if more primitive physiognomy, but it is believed that they are not primitive forebears, but another branch along with marsupials. All in all, monotremata fits within the mammalian profile, nursing their young, having hair and maintaining a warm-blooded metabolism. Monotremes are cool.

Faithfully submitted to the Royal Tractor Repair and Maintenance Society of Outer Mongolia, on this the Fourth Day of May, 2003 A.D.

Dr. Jeremy-Joseph Rosen holds the distinguished Lord Rosemary Chair at the Salisbury College of Science at the University of Pretoria. Through his continued travels and expeditions, he has unearthed many biological curiosities, amongst them The Forked Fox, the Nine Toed Plute, and the Hammer Toad.

Pictured is Dr. Rosen on his expedition to Peking, Chinastan with TV personality Jamie Farr.

Letters: August 2003

Written Correspondences from good natured gentlemen who have read our previous installments and wish to comment on some aspects thereof.

Cheerio Boys,

Just thought I’d nip a few lines in the post for you to tell you how much I enjoy celery. It’s so crunchy. Crunch crunch crunch.

Sincerely Yours,

G. Gordon Liddy

To the Editor:

Many in this readership will no doubt find these comments disturbing. My aim is not to offend, nor to enlighten, but rather to state my own thoughts and opinions about the way in which our world is changing. These are but one person’s opinions and in no way should they be perceived as indicative of the opinions of any group; scientists, atheists, or such. They are merely words, which in this time, should be said, must be said, and I shall say them. Hate them if you will, shrug them off, but they still must be put down. In troubling times, an apologist must make known his or her concepts, else debate and progress cannot be forged out of argument and stagnation.

The recent attacks levied on human cloning by some people who continue to uphold Medieval concepts of gods and devils, are unfounded and baseless, particularly when one scrutinizes these practitioners’ own supposed “holy” texts. According to the Book of Genesis, the first commandment which Elohim gave to humans was “be fruitful and multiply.” Closely associated with this command was the similar “subdue the earth and rule over it.” It would seem to me that there were no stipulations as to how this multiplication was to be achieved. Revolutionary scientists are enabling this multiplication, and are managing through modern techniques new and bold ways for humankind to subdue the natural world. To one free from the mental constraints of archaic thought, human cloning appears to work well within the guidelines of the Bible and with this god’s ineffable plan.

I would warn the Papists and other such anachronistic thinkers, that due to their lot’s Aristotelian views they went against much of modern scientific thought, condemning everything from the Heliocentric model, the germ theory of disease, evolutionary biology, and now, human cloning. In all previous cases, their attacks have been unwarranted and unvictorious. Now, they unsheathe their sabers again for a bit more rattling, and based on the evidence of the past, their gestures will be meaningless as always.

And as for this supposed human dignity, I would answer back that we are but one tiny little twig on the tree of life, descendants of primordial unicellular lifeforms, and perhaps ancestors of many more types of creatures not yet seen in this kaleidoscope of life.

An attack on human cloning is not an attack on a medical procedure, it is an all out assault on science. Unfortunately, these religions believe themselves to have truth behind them, and unfortunately, science cannot claim this same dogmatic truth. Science is not a faith, and rarely does it give us certainties, often its discoveries lead only to more questions, many of which show us how insignificant our little band of Homo Sapiens Sapiens is. And that is why they fear science. But, that is why science will triumph. For, in what claims in can make, it provides proof, something which religion has yet to grasp.

It is now the year 2003, despite the emotional hold-outs who disagree, we are living in the future. We must embrace the future, and not hold on to the past. Human cloning is the future and our world will change. Despite what the religious thinkers believe, you cannot fight change and you cannot stop it. Yesterday’s outrage, will become tomorrow’s acceptance as we move into the darkness and light of the wonderful and terrifying things our future holds for us. In a world of nuclear weapons, disappearing ice caps, halls rife with rumors of war, the cloning of humans is last worry any one of us should have. Best Wishes, as always.

Pope John Paul II Vatican City

Vol. 456-BR6 Issue 17

Welcome to Issue 17! Inside you’ll find all your favorites, plus monotremes, aeroplanes, and our Eugenic Plea.

A Special Dedication

This Month’s Issue is Cordially Dedicated to the
Memory of our Beloved Friend, Hero and
Brother Doctor Rodger Griswald Surrey
Poet, Author, Explorer, Theosophist,
Mathematician, Dreamer, Philosopher, and
Collector of Rare and Unusual Monkey and Ape

A Man of Wisdom and Worldly Prowess.
Taken from this Mortal Coil far too soon as he
was consumed by the living fire during a freak
Hover Craft accident.

We will remember him in our hearts as he sits in
the Purgatory, suffering for his sins as he awaits
a vacancy in Heaven.

Rodger Griswald Surrey