Bosnian pyramid claims

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Coordinates: 43°58′37″N 18°10′34″E / 43.97694°N 18.17611°E / 43.97694; 18.17611

Visočica hill in Bosnia
Plješevica hill in Bosnia

The 'Bosnian pyramid complex' is a debunked pseudoarchaeological[1] notion which has been promoted by author and businessman Semir Osmanagić. He claims that a cluster of natural hills in central Bosnia and Herzegovina are the largest human-made ancient pyramids on Earth. Osmanagić opened excavations in 2006 which have since reshaped one of the hills, making it look like a stepped pyramid.[2][3]

Direct study of the site by geologists, archeologists and other scientists have demonstrated that the hills are natural formations known as flatirons[4] and that there are no signs of human construction involved.[5][6][7] The European Association of Archaeologists has condemned the so-called 'Bosnian pyramids' as a "cruel hoax".[8] Many scholars have noted that the claims are used for serious ideological, political and economical gains in Bosnia.[9][4][10][11]

Despite being completely disowned by the scientific community, Osmanagić was still pursuing his project in 2017.

Osmanagić's claims[edit]

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.[4] The fortress was built over an old Roman Empire observation post, which in turn was constructed over the ruins of an ancient settlement.[9] The hills themselves, which form striking pyramidal shapes, are a type known as flatirons. Archaeological geologist Paul Heinrich of Louisiana State University has pointed out that these formations are common throughout the world, giving the example of the so-called 'Russian Twin Pyramids' in Vladivostok.[4]

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 not flatirons, but 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 the hill is an example of cultures building on top of other cultures.[9] In 2017 he was reported to have claimed that the structures date back 34,000 years.[12]

Tunnels around the hill complex, which have been named Ravne tunnels, are claimed to be an ancient man-made underground network.[9][13] They are claimed to be 2.4 miles (3.8km) long.[9] It is claimed that within them were found fossilised leaves dating back 34,000 years.[13]

Osmanagić claims to have 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' which allows for intergalactic communication. He is also an advocate of the ancient astronaut hypothesis, and believes that human beings are the product of genetic engineering.[14]

Osmanagić has given his own names to the hills. Two of the largest hills he has named 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'.[9][4]

His excavations have been funded by local authorities, and the 'pyramids' have been visited by school children and passed off to them as being part of their Bosnian heritage.[1]

Osmanagić's methodology and alleged evidence[edit]

According to Osmanagić, the dig in 2006 involved an international team of archaeologists from Australia, Austria, Ireland, United Kingdom and Slovenia.[15] However, many archaeologists he named have stated they had not agreed to participate and were never at the site.[16] He also claimed the support of an "Oxford archaeologist" who was actually an unqualified undergraduate, and his foundation's website claimed support of a British Member of Parliament, the name of whom did not match any sitting member.[17]

One of the bases for Osmanagić's claims concerns the directions in which the hills are said to lie. According to Enver Buza, a surveyor from Sarajevo’s Geodetic Institute, the "Pyramid of the Sun" is perfectly oriented to the north.[4][11] Osmanagić has said that the sides of the pyramid are oriented toward cardinal points, and has claimed that this could not be produced by natural processes.[4]

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.[10]

According to Osmanagić, his excavations have produced evidence of blocks that he claims may be part of a man-made outer surface.[9][10] Osmanagić claims that these blocks are made of concrete which was poured on-site.[4][10]

Scholarly response[edit]

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.[8]

The Declaration was signed by Hermann Parzinger, President of German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, Willem Willems, Inspector General of Rijksinspectie Archeologie in The Hague, Jean-Paul Demoule, President of the Institut nationale de recherches archéologiques préventives (INRAP) in Paris, Romuald Schild, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Vassil Nikolov, Director of the Institute of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Anthony Harding, President of the European Association of Archaeologists, and Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology in York.[8]

Osmanagić's assertions have been categorically refuted by a number of experts, who have accused him of promoting pseudo-scientific notions and damaging valuable archaeological sites with his excavations. Amar Karapuš, a curator at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, said "When I first read about the pyramids I thought it was a very funny joke. I just couldn't believe that anyone in the world could believe this."[4] Garrett Fagan of Penn State University is quoted as saying "They should not be allowed to destroy genuine sites in the pursuit of these delusions[...] It’s as if someone were given permission to bulldoze Stonehenge to find secret chambers of lost ancient wisdom underneath."[18]

Enver Imamović of the University of Sarajevo, a former director of the National Museum of Sarajevo, concerned that the excavations will damage historic sites such as the medieval royal capital Visoki, said that the excavations would "irreversibly destroy a national treasure".[19] Excavations in the summer of 2008 by archaeologists not related to Osmanagić's Foundation uncovered medieval artifacts, which led to renewed calls for the government to cancel Osmanagić's digging permits.[20]

One of his former employees, Nadija Nukić, told a Bosnian newspaper that carvings on stones that Osmanagić characterizes as dating from ancient times were not present when the stones were first uncovered but were later inscribed by his team, an accusation that Osmanagić has denied.[4]

Archaeological responses[edit]

Boston University's Curtis Runnels, an expert on prehistoric Greece and the Balkans, states that the inhabitants of the area, to whom Osmanagić credits the building of the 'pyramids', were a primitive people who were small in number and who "did not have the tools or skills to engage in the construction of monumental architecture."[21] Runnels has said that cultures able to build large structures of that type emerged in the region only around 2,500 years ago, and even then did not avail themselves of the opportunity to do so.[13] He has also pointed out that the pyramidal shape is resistant to certain forces and is therefore common in nature.[22]

After visiting Visočica hill, 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" and expressing concern that insufficient safeguards were in place to protect Bosnia's "rich heritage" from "looting and unmonitored or unauthorised development".[23]

Brian Stewart, assistant curator at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan stated 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".[13]

In June 2006, Zahi Hawass was forced to write a letter to Archaeology Magazine after his name became linked to the excavations,[24] having allegedly recommended a supposed expert, Aly Abdullah Barakat, to investigate the hills. Hawass denied all involvement, accusing Osmanagić of spreading falsehoods, as well as drawing attention to Barakat's absence of archaeological knowledge and to Osmanagić's claims that the Mayan civilization originated in Atlantis or the Pleiades constellation.[25]

Geological responses[edit]

Visočica hill conglomerate layers
Visočica hill conglomerate layers

On 8 May 2006, members of the Geological team investigating Visočica on behalf of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation held a press conference in Tuzla to present the results of their research. The academics, from the Faculty of Mining and Geology at the University of Tuzla and led by Professor Dr. 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.[26][27] The 'pyramid' is composed of the same matter as mountains in the area; layers of conglomerate, clay and sandstone.[4]

According to Professor Vrabac, who specializes in paleogeology, there are dozens of similar morphological formations in the Sarajevo-Zenica mining basin alone. The Geological team report on Visočica, based on the data collected in six drill holes at 3 to 17 metre depths, is supported by the Research and Teaching Council of the Faculty of Mining and Geology, as well as by the Association of Geologists of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[27][citation needed]

In 2006, geologist Aly Abdullah Barakat inspected some blocks at the hills and concluded that they were evidence of pyramids. (The very same blocks were inspected by archaeologist Anthony Harding shortly afterwards, who concluded they did not constitute evidence of pyramids.[16][28]) In a geological report dated 3rd November 2007, Barakat denied that nature produces pyramidal shapes and suggested that the main formation seen today may have been a natural hill shaped into a pyramid by human efforts. He described his own results as inconclusive.[29]

The 2006 dig uncovered fractured conglomerate and sandstone plates.[4] Following a visit to the site, Robert Schoch concluded that these were common natural geological formations of little interest.[4] He accused the workers of carving the hillside to make impressions of stepped sides on the so-called 'Pyramid of the Moon',[4] and drew attention to testimony that the alleged ancient inscriptions at the site were freshly made.[30] Schoch's website documents the alleged damage being done by Osmanagić's digs, and accuses Osmanagić of "a deliberate smear campaign".[31]

In 2007 there appeared a short report by D.Sc candidate Nabil Swelim. Swelim said that the study of the 'Bosnian pyramids' was still in its infancy, and refrained from explicitly concluding that they were man-made.[32] In 2010 Swelim released a report in which he clarified that, while he does not exclude the possibility the Bosnian hills are man-made, he makes no categorical judgment either way.[33]

Sociological responses[edit]

Colin Woodard, writing for the Smithsonian Magazine in December 2009, has suggested that the 'Bosnian pyramid' phenomenon may be a societal reaction to the horrors of the Bosnian War which ended in 1995. He notes that Bosnian leaders, including one prime minister and two presidents, and many Bosnian news outlets have welcomed the scheme which flatters a large and receptive domestic audience with an idea that their homeland was once the seat of a great ancient civilization, and which holds out to them the promise of a bright economic future. Conversely, Woodard notes, those in Bosnia who have attempted to expose the project as a nationalist hoax "have been shouted down and called anti-Bosnian".[34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Les « pyramides » de Bosnie-Herzégovine: une affaire de pseudo-archéologie dans le contexte bosnien, Balkanologie, Vol. XIII, n° 1-2, décembre 2011: "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."
  2. ^ Woodard, C. (2007) The Great Pyramids of…Bosnia? Chronicle of Higher Education. vol. 53 no 30, pA12-A18. March 30, 2007.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Colin Woodard (December 2009). "The Pyramid Man:The Mystery of Bosnia's Ancient Pyramids" (40:9). Smithsonian. 
  5. ^ Pyramid No More, Sub Rosa, Issue 6, Oct 2006.
  6. ^ The great Bosnian pyramid scheme by Anthony Harding, British Archaeology November/December 2006
  7. ^ John Bohannon, Mad About Pyramids, Science Magazine, 22 September 2006.
  8. ^ a b c Declaration from the European Association of Archaeologists Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine., 11 Dec 2006
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Dig for ancient pyramid in Bosnia". BBC News. 15 April 2006. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d Ian Traynor (5 October 2006). "Tourists flock to Bosnian hills but experts mock amateur archaeologist's pyramid claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Tara Maclsaac (13 November 2013). "5 Mysterious Ruins That Predate Known Civilization?". The Epoch Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  12. ^ Austin, Jon (March 1, 2017). "‘Ancient pyramid’ discovery key to Nikola Tesla’s communication with aliens, says expert". The Daily Express. Retrieved March 4, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c d Carolyn Khew (14 August 2015). "Pyramids exist in Bosnia: Archaeologist". The Straits Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  14. ^ Austin, Jon (March 1, 2017). "‘Ancient pyramid’ discovery key to Nikola Tesla’s communication with aliens, says expert". The Daily Express. Retrieved March 4, 2017. 
  15. ^ Australian in Bosnia pyramid riddle, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 2006
  16. ^ a b Mark Rose, Bosnian "Pyramids" Update, Archaeology Magazine Online, 14 June 2006
  17. ^ John Bohannon, "Researchers Helpless as Bosnian Pyramid Bandwagon Gathers Pace", Science 314:1862
  18. ^ Nick Hawton, Indiana Jones of the Balkans and the mystery of a hidden pyramid, Times Online, 15 April 2006
  19. ^ Lucian Harris, Amateur to dig on site of medieval capital in search of Bosnia's own Valley of the Kings, The Art Newspaper, 15 April 2006 Archived April 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Jusuf Ramadanovic (18 September 2008). "Archaeologists find medieval artefacts on Mt. Visocica, disparage pyramid seeker". Southeast European Times. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. 
  21. ^ Rose, Mark. "The Bosnia-Atlantis Connection". Archaeology Magazine Online. URL accessed 2006-04-29.
  22. ^ Austin, Jon (March 1, 2017). "‘Ancient pyramid’ discovery key to Nikola Tesla’s communication with aliens, says expert". The Daily Express. Retrieved March 4, 2017. 
  23. ^ Anthony Harding (25 April 2006). "Bosnia's rich heritage". Times Online.  (Full Article)
  24. ^ Bosnian 'pyramid' created by nature, say European experts, AFP, June 12, 2006.
  25. ^ Letter to Archaeology Magazine (PDF)
  26. ^ "Vrabac: Visočica je prirodna geološka tvorevina" (in Bosnian). FEMA News Agency. 2006-05-08. 
  27. ^ a b Sejfudin Vrabac; et al. (2006-04-17). "Izvještaj o geološkim istraživanjima Visočice kod Visokog" (PDF) (in Bosnian). Mining, Geology and Civil Engineering Faculty of University of Tuzla. 
  28. ^ Aida Cerkez-Robinson British Expert Nixes Bosnia Pyramid Claim, Washington Post
  29. ^ At last, Dr. Barakat’s report, 8 May 2006
  30. ^ [1], The New Archaeology Review vol 1.8, pp 16-17, September 2006
  31. ^ Articles by Dr. Schoch & Dr. Dowell
  32. ^ "Dr. Swelim: Bosnian Pyramid Of The Sun Is The World’S Largest". July 2007. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2011. 
  33. ^ Swelim, Nabil Mohamed Abdel. "VISOCICA ON THE BALANCE" (PDF). Retrieved 19 March 2011. 
  34. ^ "The Mystery of Bosnia’s Ancient Pyramids". Smithsonian Magazine. December, 2009.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
Further reading

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