Bosnian pyramid claims
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The Bosnian pyramid claims are pseudoarchaeological theories put forward to explain the formation of a cluster of natural hills in the area of Visoko in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 2005, Semir Osmanagić, a Bosnian-American businessman based in Houston, Texas, has claimed that these hills are the largest human-made ancient pyramids on Earth. His claims have been overwhelmingly refuted by scientists but he has proceeded to promote the area as a tourist attraction.
Direct study of the site by geologists, archaeologists, and other scientists has demonstrated that the hills are natural formations known as flatirons, and that there is no evidence that they were shaped by human construction. The European Association of Archaeologists has condemned the so-called 'Bosnian pyramids' as a "cruel hoax". Osmanagić initiated excavations in 2006 and has since reshaped one of the hills, making it look like a stepped pyramid.
By June 2016, Osmanagić had completed an "archaeological park" at one of the hills, where he attracts volunteers who are constructing botanical gardens; meditation sessions have been held at the site.
The hills are located near the town of Visoko, northwest of Sarajevo. The town was Bosnia's capital during the Middle Ages, and ruins of a medieval fortress are located atop Visočica hill. Given the defensive strategic value of hilltop locations, other civilizations built facilities at this site: the fortress was built over an old observation post of the Roman Empire, which, in turn, had been constructed on top of the ruins of a further more ancient settlement. The hills are a type known as flatirons. Archaeological geologist Paul Heinrich of Louisiana State University has said that such formations are common throughout the world, for example, the so-called 'Russian Twin Pyramids' in Vladivostok, and there are many in the nearby region.
In October 2005, Osmanagić and his supporters initiated a long-running media campaign to promote the pseudo-scientific belief that Visočica hill and the surrounding hills are an ancient pyramid complex. In an interview with Philip Coppens in Nexus (April–May 2006), Osmanagić suggested that they were most likely constructed by the Illyrians, who (according to Osmanagić) lived in the area from 12,000 BC to 500 BC. He has since argued that Visočica is an example of cultures building on top of other cultures. In 2017 Osmanagić was reported to have claimed that the structures date back 34,000 years.
In addition, Osmanagić claims that tunnels around the hill complex, which have been named Ravne tunnels, are an ancient man-made underground network. They are claimed to be 2.4 miles (3.8 km) long. He claims to have found fossilised leaves in them dating back 34,000 years.
Osmanagić supports a number of fringe claims, saying he discovered 'standing waves' at the top of the largest of the hills, waves which he asserts travel faster than light and prove the existence of a 'cosmic internet' that allows for intergalactic communication. He also promotes the idea of ancient astronauts and claims that human beings are the product of genetic engineering.
Osmanagić has given his own names to the hills. He has named the two largest hills as the 'Pyramid of the Sun' and the 'Pyramid of the Moon' (not to be confused with the genuine pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico). Other hills have been named by Osmanagić as the pyramids of 'Love,' 'the Earth,' and 'the Dragon.'
Local authorities have funded his excavations, and authorized visits to the 'pyramids' by school children, with guides telling them the hills are part of their Bosnian heritage. The site has become a tourist destination.
Osmanagić's methodology and alleged evidence
According to Osmanagić, the dig in 2006 involved an international team of archaeologists from Australia, Austria, Ireland, United Kingdom and Slovenia. However, many archaeologists whom he named have stated they did not agree to participate and were never at the site. Osmanagić also claimed the support of an "Oxford archaeologist," who was found to be an unqualified undergraduate. His foundation's website claimed support of a British Member of Parliament; the name given was not that of any sitting member.
Osmanagić claims that the direction of the hills reveals alignment to support ancient human cosmology. According to Enver Buza, a surveyor from Sarajevo’s Geodetic Institute, the "Pyramid of the Sun" is perfectly oriented to the north. Osmanagić has said that the sides of the pyramid are oriented toward the cardinal points, and has claimed that this could not be produced by natural processes.
Osmanagić's claims have also centred on alleged evidence concerning satellite photography, thermal analysis and radar detection. An article by Ian Traynor for The Guardian in 2006 reported that Osmanagić and his team alleged that their results from such research showed that the hills were not natural formations and that tunnels may exist inside the hills.
Osmanagić's claims have been repeatedly condemned by qualified scientists and archaeologists. Seven leading European archaeologists issued a European Association of Archaeologists Declaration stating:
- We, the undersigned professional archaeologists from all parts of Europe, wish to protest strongly at the continuing support by the Bosnian authorities for the so-called "pyramid" project being conducted on hills at and near Visoko. This scheme is a cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public and has no place in the world of genuine science. It is a waste of scarce resources that would be much better used in protecting the genuine archaeological heritage and is diverting attention from the pressing problems that are affecting professional archaeologists in Bosnia-Herzegovina on a daily basis.
Responses by archaeologists
After visiting Visočica hill, British professor Anthony Harding, president of the European Association of Archaeologists, wrote a letter to The Times (published 25 April 2006), referring to Osmanagić's theories as "wacky" and "absurd". He expressed concerns that the government of Bosnia had insufficient safeguards in place to protect the country's "rich heritage" from "looting and unmonitored or unauthorised development".
Brian Stewart, assistant curator at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan, said that "There were very worrying reports that he [Osmanagić] and his team have essentially sculpted the sides of these natural hills into something they think resembles pyramids, in the process stripping away sediment which contains layers of actual archaeology from mediaeval and earlier periods".
In June 2006, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, former Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, wrote a letter to Archaeology Magazine after his name became linked to the excavations. Osmanagić had allegedly said that Hawass had recommended Egyptian geologist Aly Abdullah Barakat to investigate the hills. Hawass denied all involvement, accusing Osmanagić of spreading falsehoods; in his letter he noted that Barakat had no archaeological knowledge or standing. He further noted that Osmanagić was totally wrong to claim that the Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica originated in Atlantis or the Pleiades constellation.
Responses from geology community
The Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation commissioned a geological team from the University of Tuzla to investigate Visočica. On 8 May 2006, members held a press conference in Tuzla to present the results of their research. The academics, from the Faculty of Mining and Geology and led by Sejfudin Vrabac, concluded that the hill is a natural geological formation, made of clastic sediments of layered composition and varying thickness, and that its shape is a consequence of endodynamical and exodynamical processes in the post-Miocene era. The 'pyramid' is composed of the same matter as mountains in the area; layers of conglomerate, clay and sandstone.
Following a visit to the site, American geologist Robert Schoch concluded that these were common natural geological formations of little interest. He accused the workers of carving the hillside to make impressions of stepped sides on the so-called 'Pyramid of the Moon', and drew attention to testimony by workers at the site that the alleged ancient inscriptions at the site were freshly made.
- Irna (15 December 2011). "Les " pyramides " de Bosnie-Herzégovine: une affaire de pseudo-archéologie dans le contexte bosnien" [The 'pyramids' of Bosnia and Herzegovina: a case of pseudo-archeology in the Bosnian context]. Balkanologie. 13 (1–2). doi:10.4000/balkanologie.2298.
Que les 'pyramides' de Bosnie, après six années de fouilles sans aucun résultat scientifique, continuent d'être visitées et financées par les autorités, et montrées aux enfants des écoles de Bosnie comme un élément de leur patrimoine.
- Hammer, Olav; Swartz, Karen (May 2020). "The Bosnian Pyramid Phenomenon" (PDF). Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Berkeley: University of California Press. 23 (4): 94–110. doi:10.1525/nr.2020.23.4.94. S2CID 218928395. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
- Cerkez-Robinson, Aida (3 December 2005). "Pyramid on a New Horizon?". The New Mexican. Vol. 156, no. 337. Santa Fe, New Mexico. pp. D1, D3 – via Newspapers.com.
- Sito-Sudic, Daria (4 August 2016). Melander, Ingrid; Heneghan, Tom (eds.). "Bosnian 'Indiana Jones' digs for controversy again with park". Reuters.
- Woodard, Colin (December 2009). "The Pyramid Man:The Mystery of Bosnia's Ancient Pyramids". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. 40:9.
- Harding, Anthony Harding (January–February 2007). Pitts, Mike (ed.). "The great Bosnian pyramid scheme". British Archaeology. No. 92. Council for British Archaeology. ISSN 1357-4442. Archived from the original on 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
- Schoch, Robert; Dowell, Colette (October 2006). Taylor, Gregg (ed.). "Pyramid No More" (PDF). Sub Rosa. No. 6. The Daily Grail. pp. 6–9.
- Bohannon, John (22 September 2006). "Mad About Pyramids" (PDF). Science. AAAS. 313 (5794): 1718–1720. doi:10.1126/science.313.5794.1718. PMID 16990525. S2CID 161209455.
- Woodard, C. (2007) "The Great Pyramids of…Bosnia?", Chronicle of Higher Education. vol. 53 no 30, pp. A12–A18. March 30, 2007.
- Pruitt, T. (2012a) "Performance, Participation and Pyramids: Addressing Meaning and Method Behind Alternative Archaeology in Visoko, Bosnia". in A. Simandiraki and E. Stefanou, eds., pp. 20–32, From Archaeology to Archaeologies: the 'Other' Past’., BAR International Series no. 2409. Archaeopress, Oxford, England. ISBN 978-1407310077
- "Dig for ancient pyramid in Bosnia". BBC News. 15 April 2006. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Carolyn Khew (14 August 2015). "Pyramids exist in Bosnia: Archaeologist". The Straits Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Marshal, Michael (28 September 2017). "Episode #046 – Sam Osmanagic". Be Reasonable (Podcast). No. 046. Merseyside Skeptics Society. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
- "Bosnian 'pyramids', shunned by archaeologists, still draw tourists". Euronews. 4 October 2017.
- Australian in Bosnia pyramid riddle, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 2006
- Mark Rose, "Bosnian 'Pyramids' Update", Archaeology Magazine Online, 14 June 2006
- John Bohannon, "Researchers Helpless as Bosnian Pyramid Bandwagon Gathers Pace", Science, 22 December 2006, #314:1862
- Ian Traynor (5 October 2006). "Tourists flock to Bosnian hills but experts mock amateur archaeologist's pyramid claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- Declaration from the European Association of Archaeologists Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, 11 Dec 2006
- Staff writer (10 June 2006). "British archaeologist nixes Bosnia pyramid claims". The Ithaca Journal. Vol. 192, no. 138. Ithaca, New York: Gannett Company. p. 2A – via Newspapers.com.
- Anthony Harding (25 April 2006). "Bosnia's rich heritage". Times Online. (Full Article)
- "Bosnian 'pyramid' created by nature, say European experts", AFP, Hürriyet Daily News, 12 June 2006.
- Zahi Hawass, "Letter to Archaeology Magazine" (pdf), Archeology, June 2006
- "Vrabac: Visočica je prirodna geološka tvorevina" (in bosanski). FENA (News Agency). 2006-05-08. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012.
- Sejfudin Vrabac; et al. (2006-04-17). "Izvještaj o geološkim istraživanjima Visočice kod Visokog" (PDF) (in bosanski). Mining, Geology and Civil Engineering Faculty of University of Tuzla. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
-  Archived 2014-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, The New Archaeology Review vol 1.8, pp. 16–17, September 2006
- Further reading
- Bosnian pyramids Archived 2016-12-29 at the Wayback Machine, analysis of claims
- Geology of the Bosnian "pyramids" Archived 2017-01-24 at the Wayback Machine
- "The Bosnia-Atlantis Connection", Archaeology magazine, 27 April 2006
- "Bosnian Pyramids: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Atlantis", Free Republic, 29 May 2006
- More on Bosnian "Pyramids" by Mark Rose 27 June 2006
- "The Bosnian ‘pyramids’ of Semir Osmanagić ", Bad Archaeology, 30 October 2011
- Bosnian pyramid location: 1 2 – Google maps
- Archaeological Park, Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation]
- Osmanagic, Bosanska Piramida Sunca, Alternativa Historija website (in Bosnian),(Alternative History website)
- Dunning, Brian (10 February 2009). "Skeptoid #140: The Bosnian Pyramids". Skeptoid.