The Bosnian Pyramids

Does the world's oldest and largest ancient pyramid stand unnoticed in the open in a tiny village in Bosnia?

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Ancient Mysteries, Urban Legends

Skeptoid #140
February 10, 2009
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
 

Bosnian Pyramid
The Bosnian
"Pyramid of the Sun", 1973
(Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Deep inside Bosnia, in a small village called Visoko, just 15 miles northwest of Sarajevo, stands the world's largest and oldest ancient pyramid.

Or so it would appear, anyway. Ancient pyramids are not completely unknown in Europe. The remains of a small pyramid stand in France, two are found in Greece, and one in Italy. These aren't much larger than a house and certainly nothing like the massive structures in Egypt and Latin America. Thus, claims that a giant pyramid to dwarf them all stands in broad daylight in Bosnia are sure to raise eyebrows.

The pyramid sprang onto the world scene in October of 2005, when Semir Osmanagić, a Bosnian who lives in the United States and owns a successful metalworking shop, announced his discovery. The hill, named Visočica, is at the south end of Visoko and although it's completely covered in trees and other greenery, two sides of it are indeed remarkably pyramid-like. (Download this Google Earth Placemark to have a look for yourself.) If you look at it in 3D you can see that its two clear sides are surprisingly flat, and with a well defined edge between them. These two sides appear to have a nearly square base. The sides face nearly exactly north and east. A 1973 photo shows a great view of Visočica, and though it's a little more squat than what we've seen in Egypt, you clearly don't have to be a crazy person to see a pyramid in its shape.

Just don't look too carefully at the other two sides of the hill, which don't bear any resemblance to a pyramid; they just blend into the natural contours of the other hills surrounding Visočica. This explains why all of the photos you see of Visočica are taken from the same angle — the only one that looks good.

Osmanagić does have his detractors, and it's quite bit more than archaeologists snickering at his claims behind his back. Apparently Visočica happens to also be a real archaeological site. A Medieval fort called Visoki has been excavated on the summit of the hill and declared a National Monument. It's built on top of Roman ruins, which were in turn built on top of ruins from an even older tribe called the Illyirians. Osmanagić's digging amid these ruins, looking for pyramids, has caused outrage in the archaelogical community, and many have been lobbying to have his digging permit revoked. In fact, the European Association of Archaeologists published an official statement signed by the presidents and/or directors of the official archaeological organizations of seven European nations that said:

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.

So clearly, we have battle lines drawn, and two sides each claiming to have the genuine science. Osmanagić is the one making the new extraordinary claim, so the burden of proof is on him. Let's point our skeptical eye at his evidence.

Osmanagić refers to Visočica as the Pyramid of the Sun. He says that it's only one of five such pyramids in the valley, the others being the Pyramid of the Moon, the Dragon, the Earth, and the Pyramid of Love. None of the others have any apparent pyramid shape to them, they are simply hills, so what tipped off Osmanagić that they are ancient pyramids?

Osmanagić founded the Archeological Park - Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation to solicit donations and fund his investigation, though it's mainly funded from his own fairly deep pockets. The Foundation commissioned one of its members, geophysicist Dr. Amer Smailbegovic to study available thermal images of the area, looking for thermal inertia. Basically, looking for areas that cool faster at night, and warm faster in the morning, than the surrounding area. Smailbegovic's report claims to have identified nine pyramids in this manner, five of them in Visočica's valley. Neither Smailbegovic nor Osmanagić offer any plausible explanation of why man-made pyramids might exhibit such a property, but it turns out there is a good reason that they do. The large pyramids in Egypt and Latin America are the highest points around, and a comparison of Smailbegovic's thermal images with topography maps show that (big surprise) it's generally the highest geographic points (hilltops, ridges, pyramids, whatever they are) that exhibit the lowest thermal inertia. If Smailbegovic did control for this fairly obvious correlation, he did not mention it in his report. When you choose your conclusion first, and then look for data that supports it, you're virtually guaranteed to get the results you want.

Osmanagić also offers as evidence the existence of a vast network of tunnels connecting all of his pyramids, and which exit at the summit of each. If true, this would certainly be interesting, but it would not, as he claims, make it consistent with man-made pyramids, as no known pyramids had any such network of tunnels connecting them that we know of. He offers video of one of the tunnels being explored. However this tunnel is the only one found so far, went back only 300 meters, and is located 3 kilometers away from Visočica. It could be an old mine shaft, nobody really knows (the area has been mined for coal, iron, and copper since Roman times); but there's certainly no evidence that the tunnel goes anywhere near Visočica or any other of Osmanagić's hills. Apparently he deduced the existence of a tunnel network from old, unsourced local stories about children going into one hill and emerging at the top of another. So much for the alleged "network of tunnels". If it exists at all, it certainly has never been found or detected.

Further evidence in favor of the pyramid comes from Harry Oldfield, an enthusiast in New Age energy crystals and aura photography. He took video of Visočica using a camera that digitally replaces colors, to which he gives the scientific-sounding name Polycontrast Interference Photography, and which he claims provides a "real time, moving image of the energy field." Technically, replacing colors just alters the visual image, it does not change the fact that the camera is capturing only visual data. Osmanagić, who refers to Oldfield as Dr. Oldfield for reasons known only to himself, analyzed this video and stated:

..The energy fields are vertical, as opposed to horizontal, which is the case with naturally occurring hills. In contrast to natural phenomena where the energy fields are fixed, these electromagnetic fields are pulsating and non-homogenous. The Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun is in fact acting like a giant energy accumulator which continually emits large quantities of energy. It is the proverbial perpetuum mobile, which got its start in the distant past and continues its activity without respite.

In Oldfield's color replacement video, brightness gradients in the sky appear as different colored bands, as is fairly obvious from a glance at the video. In explaining how he chose which colors to replace with which, Oldfield says "Some clairvoyants and mystics with their gifts helped me develop some of the filters in PIP which simulate what they see." If you understand what simple color replacement means, you should be able to judge for yourself the validity of Oldfield's video as proof that Visočica is a man-made pyramid.

Osmanagić's diggings on Visočica have been mainly to expose what appears to be extensive hand-laid stone roads, walls, and plazas, also including what appear to be ancient concrete blocks stacked in regular patterns. Although these structures look pretty convincing, geologists have yet to be impressed. The apparently nicely paved surfaces have been conclusively identified as natural strata. Local geologists call this series of strata the Lasva series, found throughout the region. This includes the blocks of conventional conglomerate, which Osmanagić misidentifies as artificial concrete. Similar structures that are equally or more impressive are found throughout the world.

Osmanagić does have his supporters, and it's not just he who identifies the conglomerate as concrete. These pronouncements claimed as scientific discoveries are made by the Board of Directors of Osmanagić's foundation, who are essentially the same people as the fifty or so who attended his ICBP 2008, the First International Conference on the Bosnian Pyramids. Occasionally the Foundation has named scientists from other countries as participants on their team. Osmanagić once said:

Foreigners on our team include experienced archaeologists such as Richard Royce from Australia, Allyson McDavid from U.S., Chris Mundligler from Canada, Martin Aner from Austria.

Shall we take them one by one? Royce Richards (not Richard Royce) found that he had been named as "Senior Archaeologist" on the Foundation web site after merely sending Osmanagić an email, and describes the project as "snake oil" and "bollocks". Allyson McDavid does not participate in the project and is an illustrator, not an archaeologist. Chris Mundigler spent that year on a different archaeological project in a different country. There is no mention of various spellings of Martin Aner on the Foundation's web site that I could find.

The more I searched, the more people I found with similar stories. Sead Pilav and Grace Fegan are two more such victims. But I did find at least one case where a scientist named by the Foundation actually does exist and did visit the site for 45 days, a Dr. Ali Barakat from Egypt.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

Dr. Barakat was reported to have been "sent by Cairo to assist Osmanagić's team." But when Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities was asked by Archaeology Magazine if this was true, the reply came directly from the Secretary General himself, Dr. Zahi Hawass:

The discoverer of the “pyramid” in Bosnia, Semir Osmanagić, who claims that a hill near the Bosnia River is a man-made structure built before the end of the last Ice Age, is not a specialist on pyramids. His previous claim that the Maya are from the Pleiades and Atlantis should be enough for any educated reader. This “pyramid” is actually a sloping hill near a village. ...Mr. Barakat, the Egyptian geologist working with Mr. Osmanagić, knows nothing about Egyptian pyramids. He was not sent by the SCA, and we do not support or concur with his statements.

But it's worth pointing out that the scientific method does not permit us to use the business ethics of the Foundation as evidence that their scientific claims are not true. But they're certainly a red flag. And red flags turn out to be pretty much all Osmanagić has to justify his theory. The geology tells us that if the "pyramid" was man-made, it was constructed by laying the existing strata right back exactly where they were naturally formed, layer by layer, from bottom to top. This is one case where we can make a conclusion stronger than a lack of sufficient evidence to justify the claim. Visočica itself gives us all the physical, testable evidence needed to conclusively disprove the existence of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun.

Brian Dunning

© 2009 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Harding, A. "The Great Bosnian Pyramid Scheme." British Archaeology. 1 Jan. 2007, Issue 92.

Hawass, Z. Letter to Mark Rose. Cairo: Arab Republic of Egypt, Ministry of Culture, Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2006.

IRNA. "Geology of the Bosnian Pyramids." Le site d’Irna. IRNA, 25 Nov. 2006. Web. 10 Jan. 2010. <http://irna.lautre.net/Geology-of-the-Bosnian-pyramids.html>

Rose, M. "The Bosnia-Atlantis Connection." Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America, 27 Apr. 2006. Web. 10 Feb. 2009. <http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/osmanagic/>

Schoch, R. "The Bosnian Pyramid Phenomenon." The New Archaeology Review. 1 Sep. 2006, Volume 1, Issue 8: 16-17.

Woodard, C. "The Mystery of Bosnia's Ancient Pyramids." Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution, 1 Dec. 2009. Web. 14 Jan. 2010. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Mystery-of-Bosnias-Ancient-Pyramids.html>

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "The Bosnian Pyramids." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 10 Feb 2009. Web. 28 Nov 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4140>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 38 comments

Hawass is a fraud himself.He has continued to lie about that dates of Egypt's own pyramids.

John Bernard, Hebron Ky
May 3, 2012 2:13am

It's amusing in these cases, how it is that ALL mainstream experts are wrong and the one amateur is right - always reminds me of von Daniken SMDH

There seems to be a belief that all of the scientific community club together and agree on some 'fake' history or time-line and stick to it, regardless of 'evidence' and data.

Wishing a terrain feature to be man-made doesn't make it so, reminds me of Charles Berlitz when he claimed years ago that El Panecillo, Quito, Ecuador, was man-made.

Archaeologists - and scientists - have curious querying minds - they love mysteries and solving them - nothing would please them more than to have another 'riddle' to solve. Alas Bosnian pyramids are not one.

Mr C, Portsmouth, England
July 18, 2012 12:28pm

NOT Man-Made!!! What disillusion do people live under? Amazing that the hoax is still going, wasting people's valuable time and money.
I hope somebody wakes them up so that they realize the lies they're telling are making Bosnia look even worse.

Mr. S.O,
Planet Earth.

S.O., PE
September 8, 2012 10:34am

I recall when this find was first announced years ago. Within hours forums were split on whether it was real or not. People were adamant that it was a real pyramid and would argue ad anauseum that it was true. At that point there had been nothing published - nothing more than a press release. Some people just want to believe.

Shane, Syyyyydney, Austraya
August 8, 2013 8:09pm

Shane, it was always a press release.. experts being in dismay and publishing accordingly have ensued ever since.

Since then, its been press releases to the dumbed down and publications and surveys to those worried about what is happening.

Its ok though, its not as if any archaeology is being disturbed in this zeal to be a dork..Wrong, even preservation has been over run.

Madime Dantefer, Greenacres by the sea Oz
August 14, 2013 2:11am

QUESTION EVERYTHING-DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS!!!

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10657023.htm

kbp9, earth
October 27, 2013 1:49pm

In the summer of 2012 I visited Visoko , to meet up with a friend that was working as a volunteer on the pyramid project.

I was half-expecting to find the whole thing a huge joke, but the level of ignorance that I faced was shocking. Even when "Dr." Semir played an audioclip with supposed "alien voices" derived from vibrations in the "energy" of the pyramid to the newly arrived volunteers, there wasn't even a chuckle in the packed conference room atop the "Pyramid" Hotel.

A few days prior to my arrival, the NatGeo Channel had a short segment, denouncing the supposed pyramid as a fraud, and there was a general agreement that this was part of a plot of some kind, they could not believe that NGC would sink so low.

We were shown around the various sites, I never saw anything
out of the ordinary. It's worth mentioning that on the bus ride from Sarajevo to Visoko, I noticed many pyramid-shaped hilltops.

We were marched halfway up the hill and told to sit down and touch the "concrete" in a moment of silence to let the pyramidic energy fill us up. People started chanting. I cracked up. Then the "Dr." said, and I quote: "If you can't feel it, don't worry, not everyone is sensitive enough".

While others were doing pointless slave labour, I met some Bosnian guys camping, one of them a student of archaeology. He said they were not allowed to talk about the pyramids at their university. That it was an embarrassment, and an obstacle for their genuine research.

A real tragicomedy!

Ha-Ha, Laos
December 28, 2013 5:24pm

Stop trying to kill my fantasies with your actual facts, Dr. Buzzkill. I want my Bosnian Pyramids!

Cleve Sharpe, Bloomington, IN
January 10, 2014 11:06am

I have read all the stuff on the web - the photo from one angle defintiely looks like this is man made. It is usually the western arrogance which call Indian history as Mythology and only what they preach is factual history

I will start spreading the message in India and full support to the people of Bosnia and Dr Osmanagić

we need to get to the full depth and no way this can be dismissed as it is being done now. If things are proven the history of mankind as we know stands at risk!!

This calls for more scientific study before we either accept or reject

Raj

Rajshekhar, Bangalore / India
February 19, 2014 11:31pm

Namaste Raj,

Congratulations on having read all the stuff on the web! I am not as well-read as you, so would you mind clarifying the link between Visoko and Indian history?

I have though been to Visoko and I failed to detect any evidence at all of pyramids.*

I have an issue with the connection you draw between supporting the search for pyramids , and "fully supporting the people of Bosnia"

Except for the volunteers, I did not meet anyone, neither in Visoko or Sarajevo, that believed in the pyramids. I do not believe many Bosnians want their country to be associated with this myth.

Morale in the genuine archeological community is dipping as Bosnia is losing credibility internationally. Funding for research on real projects is declining. It is my opinion that Dr. Osmanogovich and his pyramid posse are not doing any favors for the country.

And as the tale of the pyramids spreads from hippie to hipster, so does embarrassment and irritation among Bosnians. My impression is that the joke about the pyramids in Visoko is not that funny anymore.

So unless you meant just the pyramid-ashtray peddlers, you may want to find another way of supporting the people of Bosnia.

*Appearantly, some people aren't sensitive enough to feel pyramidic energy

Ha-Ha, Laos
March 10, 2014 4:13pm

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