Bosnian pyramid

Excavation of the site close to the central town of Visoko has been going on now for several years and Von Ward who was in the country this week confirmed he was giving his backing to the claim.

The Harvard trained author said: "The Bosnian Valley of Pyramids is the most exciting and most important archaeological place in the world. Bosnian pyramids are bigger than Egyptian ones."

"They are a stunning blow to conventional history - these mammoth structures were built bigger and better and even earlier - thousands of miles away in Europe - than the pyramids in Egypt.

"The Bosnian pyramids don't have pharaohs in them, but were instead built as tributes to ancient Gods by thousands of slave workers.

The Bosnian bid for recognition is also backed by Egyptian archaeologist Dr Nabil Swelim.

He said: "It is the biggest pyramid in the world. It is a building achievement of genius and great importance for the entire world. This is an unbelievable discovery. It will take a lot of time to understand how these great structures were built."

The Egyptian expert was invited to Visoko two years ago by a group attempting to disprove the claims of an amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagic who believes pyramid shaped mountains in Visoko were man-made.

But instead he declared himself shocked by what he found - delighting Bosnian officials who had earlier decided to sponsor excavations at the site.

Bosnian Prime Minister Nedzad Brankovic said at that stage: "We were told the world was laughing at us when we decided to back this excavation, but there is no government in the world that should stay quiet on things which are positive. Why should we deny something that has attracted the attention of the whole world? We want to have official institutions involved in research in Visoko and to be part of the discovery."

Osmanagic was born in Bosnia but moved to America where he made a fortune that he has spent on travelling the world visiting ancient sites - earning himself the nickname Indiana Jones.

Like the real adventure hero he rejected conventional wisdom and has continued his work in the hills close to Visoko together with hundreds of volunteers. He claims it is the greatest find since Tutankhamen after unearthing what he claims is proof that Europe had the first pyramids.

Locals say the find is the best thing that has happened to Bosnia since visits by Bono Vox or the Pope, and good for business.

Local shopkeeper Safet Salkic said: "People here were sceptical but now we believe in Semir Osmanagic. One can clearly see that the mountain above the town of Visoko is in a pyramid shape, we were so used to it we never saw it, but we have looked at the results so far and are amazed we never noticed what was before our noses.

"This is a great thing for the town and the entire country. It is at least some good news for our economy after years of war and economic crisis, but it is not a PR stunt - which many were claiming at first until big names started to back us and then the government decided to fund the research."

Semir Osmanagic agreed, saying: "Yes, everyone from taxi drivers to hotels, restaurants and coffee shops have benefited - but that wasn't our goal. We want to present to the world the great site that we have discovered in Visoko. Dr Swelim's remarks have now brought international verification that we have Bosnian pyramids. This discovery has changed the history of Europe."

American author Paul Von Ward has backed a new campaign in Bosnia to have the "Bosnian Valley of Pyramids" given official recognition as the oldest and largest pyramids in the world.

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Dr. Robert M. Schoch has been quoted extensively in the media for his pioneering research recasting the date of the Great Sphinx of Egypt using geological analyses, as well as for his work on ancient cultures and monuments in such diverse countries as Peru, Bosnia, and Japan. Dr. Schoch’s research has been instrumental in spurring renewed attention to the interrelationships between geological and astronomical phenomena, natural catastrophes, and the early history of civilization. Dr. Schoch has appeared on many radio and television shows and is featured in the Emmy-winning documentary The Mystery of the Sphinx which first aired on NBC. He has been a featured speaker at many national and international conferences.

The Bosnian Pyramid Phenomenon
By Robert M. Schoch
Many non-geologists have been impressed by the “regularity” of certain features at Visoko, and from these regularities have argued that they cannot be natural, but rather must be manmade. One should realize that geology is full of regularities, from the precise forms of mineral crystals, to the common occurrence of cyclical sedimentation (which at Visoko accounts for the regularity of the sandstone layers occurring at intervals on the order of a meter in many places, separated by layers of mudstones and shales - - a name commonly applied to such a geological feature is “cyclothem” and cyclothems represent natural depositional cycles).

Also, certain “pyramid experts,” including one from Egypt who has been disavowed by Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, have claimed that there are “primitive” pyramids at Visoko. I have looked at the exact same rocks and sites firsthand, and I believe that all of the so-called pyramid features are easily accountable for in terms of natural geological processes and features. I have also spent many years studying pyramids in Egypt and elsewhere, and I feel I have a good handle on the features that distinguish a genuine pyramid. (As a side note, Dr. Zahi Hawass, who if anyone can claim to be an expert on pyramids, it is certainly him, has clearly stated that based on the evidence he has seen the so-called Bosnian pyramids are natural formations. Admittedly the opinion of Dr. Hawass is based on second-hand evidence, since to my knowledge he has not visited the so-called Bosnian pyramids, but I believe it should still be taken into consideration by those who claim there are genuine pyramids at Visoko.

Semir Osmanagic announced it to the press with fiery conviction: “The history of civilization has to be rewritten,” he said. “Bosnia will become a giant on the world archeological map” (quoted from a May 4, 2006 Reuters Report By Daria Sito-Sucic). On the outskirts of the Bosnian town of Visoko, half an hour drive northwest of Sarajevo, Osmanagic claimed there were two monstrous pyramids (dubbed the “Pyramid of the Sun” and the “Pyramid of the Moon”), and perhaps several smaller pyramids as well. Even the prestigious New York Times picked up the story: “Some See a Pyramid to Hone Bosnia’s Image. Others See a Big Hill.” (New York Times, May 15, 2006, page A8). At least four different websites were devoted to the “Bosnian Pyramids.” The supposed pyramids formed the stuff of heated debate at other websites (most notably, perhaps, that of the Archaeological Institute of America), chat-rooms, and blogs across the Internet.

Were they really man-made pyramids, perhaps dating back thousands of years? (Some advocates placed them as much as 12,000 or 14,000 years in the past.) Now covered with soil, trees, and other vegetation, Bosnian pyramid buffs argued that the “pyramids” needed to be excavated to reveal their glory and prove that Bosnia, of all places, was the virtual origin of, well not just pyramids, but perhaps even civilization. Tunnels reputedly associated with the pyramids were said to contain cryptic engravings that could just possibly be the oldest writing ever discovered. Detractors, on the other hand, saw the so-called pyramids as simply interesting, but perfectly and completely natural, geomorphologic features - - that is, they are just big hills. Some even argued that the whole notion of the Bosnian pyramids was not just a mistake or an ill-conceived notion, but a downright hoax designed to bring prestige, fame, power, and money to Bosnia, Visoko, and the head of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation, the Bosnian-American (he now resides in Houston much of the time where he maintains a business) Semir (“Sam”) Osmanagic (also spelled Osmanagich). Indeed, on May 12, 2006, National Geographic ran an article on their website titled “Pyramid in Bosnia -- Huge Hoax or Colossal Find?” It did not help Osmanagic’s case, at least in the eyes of the traditional academic community, that he is an advocate of “alternative history,” and his numerous books (mostly published in Bosnian, the one widely available in English, is titled The World of the Maya) almost seem purposefully written to provoke the ire of traditional archaeologists.

Having more than a casual interest in ancient pyramids, I wanted to see first-hand what all the pyramid fuss in Bosnia was about. If there really was a huge pyramid, larger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt, in Bosnia, then I wanted the opportunity to study it. On the other hand, if there were no pyramids in Bosnia, that would be important to know too. So I traveled to Bosnia during July and August 2006.

The afternoon I arrived in Bosnia, Osmanagic insisted on taking me straightaway to the so-called “Pyramid of the Sun.” I observed the excavated areas of huge stone blocks; blocks that I was told were most definitely not natural. Clearly, Osmanagic insisted, they were man-made concrete blocks that cannot be explained geologically, put into place with a sophisticated ancient technology that has now been lost. Amazingly, he explained, the “concrete” blocks proved to be harder and more durable than any modern concretes or cements. But he and I were apparently seeing different things, perhaps viewing an entirely different world. Where he saw concrete blocks and human intervention, I saw only perfectly natural sandstones and conglomerates that had broken into larger or smaller blocks due both to tectonic stresses and gravity slumping. For a week and a half this seemed to be the dominant theme: Osmanagic and others who worked with and for him insisting that this or that feature can never occur in nature, and thus must be artificial and human-made, versus me finding a perfectly reasonable geological explanation for each of the same features.

I had a chance to see the Visoko region from the air, and this only further convinced me that the features are natural hills and not artificial pyramids.

The geology around Visoko is incredibly rich, and I suggested to Osmanagic that, in lieu of “pyramids,” he might redefine his “Archaeological Park” as a “Geological-Archaeological Park” and focus more on the geology. Visocica Hill (the one dubbed “Pyramid of the Sun”) and Pljesevica Hill (“Pyramid of the Moon”) are composed of layers of sandstone, clay, mudstone, siltstone, and conglomerates apparently deposited in an ancient lake and river system during Miocene times (about 5.3 to 23 million years ago). The rocks have been tilted and bent due to tectonic stresses (this can be seen in the last photo to the right, which shows a natural folding and faulting in the rocks composing the side of a so-called pyramid in Visoko). The tectonic forces plastically deformed the clays and mudstones, but the sandstones and conglomerates broke into semi-regularly shaped pieces that Osmanagic and his team have excavated in numerous places, interpreting them as “pavements,” “terraces,” “concrete blocks,” “foundation stones,” and so forth. Interestingly, and tellingly, the sizes of the sandstone and conglomerate blocks found are a function of the thickness of the original rock layers. Thin sandstone layers, stressed tectonically, broke into small blocks while thick and durable conglomerate layers broke into massive blocks. This is exactly the pattern expected among natural rock formations. The sandstones also typically preserve various sedimentary and depositional features, such as ripple marks and the traces of ancient burrowing animals. These same rocks are also rich in paleontology. In some of the sandstone layers, and in many of the mudstone layers, I found large accumulations of fossil leaf debris and even some fairly complete Miocene fossil leaves. I believe that the real treasure of Visoko may be a huge fossil biota just waiting to be uncovered, not some imaginary pyramids.

While wondering the streets of Visoko, being offered all sorts of pyramid souvenirs, from tee shirts to copper plates bearing depictions of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun (stylistically rendered either as a stepped Mayan-style pyramid or, less frequently, as a smooth-sided Giza-style pyramid), I continued to hope against hope that I could find some “truth” underlying the “pyramid mania” that has gripped the region. One last possibility might be the evidence of the reputed tunnels found in the area that supposedly connect one pyramid to another. I had the opportunity to explore one tunnel that is currently open; to put it mildly, I was disappointed with what I saw. The tunnel had clearly been entered and modified in recent times, as evidenced by the graffiti found in places, the collapsed ceilings and walls, and the stories that the Yugoslavian army (Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the former Yugoslavia) had once used the tunnels for military purposes, and possibly purposefully destroyed parts of them. If this was an ancient tunnel, it was difficult to tell now. The much-touted “ancient inscriptions” seem not to be ancient at all. I was told by a reliable source that the inscriptions were not there when members of the “pyramid team” initially entered the tunnels less than two years ago. The “ancient inscriptions” had been added since, perhaps non-maliciously, or perhaps as a downright hoax.

So, no pyramids, but there are many fascinating and genuine archaeological wonders in Bosnia. On the summit of Visocica Hill, which overlooks Visoko, are the remains of a medieval fort built on top of Roman ruins, and there is also evidence of Neolithic occupation of the hill, dating back perhaps 5,000 years. While in Bosnia I also visited megalithic ruins attributed to the Illyrians (circa 4th century B.C.), a possible Paleolithic cave (unfortunately, I had neither the time nor equipment to enter it; I would love to return and explore it), and fascinating medieval cemetery monuments to the dead.

Despite my failure to validate the Bosnian pyramid dreams, Semir Osmanagic and all the members of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation were most gracious hosts. They spared no effort to make sure that I could view all aspects of the so-called pyramids, even arranging for me to take a short airplane ride to see them from the air. Bosnia is a beautiful country with amazing scenery and a rich history. The people are extremely friendly and hospitable, and Bosnia exhibits a wonderful mixture of Western (Austro-Hungarian) and Eastern (Turkish and Islamic) traditions. Even in the absence of pyramids, it is certainly a country worth visiting.

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