Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bosnian Pyramid, part 4


Saga continues.

They have started to dig.

I'd also like to pull up a comment an Anonymous reader left on my last post on the topic:
As a graduate with two degrees in archaeology, I am simultaneously saddened and outraged once again at the media's (enabled by the public at large) willingness to promote and turn a blind eye to hucksterism, dubious claims, and incompetent scholarship in the name of a good story.

Anyone who has ever done serious archaeological research knows full well that the final conclusion of what a given site is is generally rendered after analysis of the excavation has been completed. It isn't boldly announced before even preliminary surveys have been completed, which appears to be the case here.

I also have to take issue with the oft-held notion of the "amateur archaeologist"; while the role of amateurs in the research and completion of many contemorary excavations is absolutely essential, untrained individuals such as Mr. Osmanagic do untold harm to the discipline by continuing to promote the idea that "anyone" can do this. Anyone can't; archaeology is an academic discipline that requires no less respect than medicine, law or engineering. Yet one never hears of an "amateur" medical doctor, or an "amateur" lawyer making a discovery or defending a star client in the media the same way that we periodically read about amateurs such as Mr. Osmanagic.

Ultimately, it takes 50 decent, trained, skilled and qualified archaeologists to undo the damage that a Schliemann, Evans, Von Daniken or Osmanagic does.

On a final note, I saw a photograph of Mr. Osmanagic's "excavations" in a story on Yahoo and I can tell you that they are slipshod and poorly done; that alone tells me he has no business destroying a site that may have potentially valuable archaeological evidence.
Commenters on Alun's article also bring up interesting points. For instance, Ron Zeno found Osmanagic's Alternative History website, which shows clearly the guy is a hack. And Aydin wrote:
All the photographs show the same 2 sides of the “pyramid” from different orientations. Presumably, this is because from the other side the hill doesn’t look like a pyramid. The topo map doesn’t actually show a pyramid.
Emperor on Cabinet of Wonders also has some interesting thoughts.

Updates: There is now a Wikipedia page on this.

Here is an excellent article in The Art Newspaper.

Accidental Weblog has an excellent run-down.

There are several more links on YakimaGulag

Every now and then I get a comment that calls me a chetnik and a lover of Greater Serbia, etc. which shows that the person has not read my posts on the pyramid, even less anything else on my blog, for instance my posts about anti-Milosevic demonstrations I participated in, or my barely-hidden glee when Milosevic died, or on scientific skepticism in general.

No, you see on the top of the page that I am Serbian, and just assume that I want to kill poor Bosnians because, of course, every Serb only dreams of killing Bosnian Moslems! And every American is in love with Bush! And every Russian is a communist. And every African-American voted for Sharpton. And every German is a Nazi, and every Jew is a Christ-killer! Knee-jerk ethnic stereotyping of the worst kind! I see this attitude on forums, too, e.g., this one (but not this one).

What does this all have to do with politics? Why is it so important for Bosnian national identity to have a pyramid? Why is everyone who doubts it an enemy? What frustrations are bolstered if this is indeed a pyramid?

Can't we just look at the actual site, check out Osmanagic's credentials, see what the experts have to say about it, wait until more stuff is dug up, then make a conclusion. All we are doing is detective work, with no particular goal - we do not have a special wish for it to be or not be a pyramid. Perhaps it is a pyramid, perhaps it is not. More the time passes, less likely it seems that it is a pyramid, because more and more facts and analyses are coming out, not because one political faction is winning a PR war over another.

But the jury is still out. It has nothing to do with national, ethnic or religious conscience. Evaluate the facts, people, don't just jump to conclusions out of your personal emotional needs.

Will Bosnia be any less beautiful if this pretty mountain is not a pyramid? Don't think so. Will Bosnian people be in any way demoted if this is not a pyramid? Don't think so. Will everyone laugh in the end at those Bosnians who uncriticially swallow this story bait, hook and sinker? You betcha! Will anyone laugh at skeptics if this indeed is a pyramid? No - a skeptical attitude is rational, and if the data show this is a pyramid, skeptics, unlike fanatics, will readily change their minds. That is what mature people do.

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