Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Pyramid in Bosnia?

There is no resolution to this story as of today, but it will be interesting to watch as this story unfolds. For now, let me say I am a bit skeptical, and I invite the readers with expertise (archaeologists, for instance) to chime in.

From BBC, comes this (a couple of months ago):

Bosnia's leading Muslim daily Dnevni Avaz writes excitedly about "a sensational discovery" of "the first European pyramid" in the central town of Visoko, just north of Sarajevo. Excavations at a hill site above the town have been going on for several months and initial analyses "have confirmed the original claim that this is Europe's first pyramid and a monumental building, similar in dimensions to the Egyptian pyramids."
"The pyramid is 100 metres high and there is evidence that it contains rooms and a monumental causeway ... The plateau is built of stone blocks, which indicates the presence at the time of a highly developed civilisation," the daily explains.
"Archaeological excavations near the surface have uncovered a part of a wall and fragments of steps," it reveals.
"Visocica hill could not have been shaped like this by nature," geologist Nada Nukic tells the daily. "This is already far too more than we have anticipated, but we expect a lot more from further analysis," she concludes.
Note the wording "there is evidence" about the structures inside the hill. Also, note Nada's Mt.Rushmore analogy. Also note that the name of the discoverer is not mentioned.
UNJOURNALED blog adds Pyramid found - in the heart of Bosnia!!:

Near the city of Visoko, 30 km north of Sarajevo, there is a stone pyramid of monumental size, claims the Bosnian archeologist Semir Osmanagić, who lives and works in the USA. After several months of geological and archeological research, Mr. Osmanagić concluded that under the present hill of Visočica hides a stairs-like pyramid, about 12,000 years old. Osmanagić, who intensively researched on pyramids in Americas, Asia and Africa for the last 15 years and wrote several books on the subject, says he's quite sure he found the first pyramid in Europe, which is quite similar to ones in the Southern America.
He believes that the project would completely change Bosnia's significance in the world of archeology. On the top of "Bosnian pyramid of Sun" was a temple, built by pre-Illyrians, people who lived, according to Osmanagić, 27,000 years ago. Mr. Osmanagić thinks he will solve the "Bosnian pyramid of Sun" in the next five years, but also prove the existence of "Bosnian pyramid of Moon", lying under the neighboring hill of Križ.
Note that Osmanagic is identified as an archaeologist. I could not find his institutional website or any other information apart from the articles on this fresh piece of news. Also note that he has published books about this (or other stuff?) already. How does the pyramid already have a name? Since when? Who gave it a name - Osmanagic? Why think there is a second one?
BurakEldem answers one of the questions - Osmanagic has published a book on this particular pyramid and it appears that he gave it a name:

A US-based Bosnian independent researcher, Semir Osmanagic claims in his new published book "The Bosnian Sun Pyramid" that a 700 meters high hill near Sarajevo was actually the oldest known pyramid of the world. According to Osmanagic, archaeological researches has already revealed some sandstone slabs 5 meters below the surface. He recalls the German archaeologists' latest findings of 7000 years old artifacts near the hill. He claims that the "Bosnian Pyramid" dated back 12 thousand years and had same characteristics of the famous Step Pyramid of Saccara. Another Bosnian scientist, Nada Nukic (a geologist) supported his claims by stating that the structure of the hill could hide some "man made" buildings.
Note that Osmanagic is here refered to as "independent researcher". While some of those are legitimate, usually this moniker indicates a person who cannot be employed by a serious institution, due to that person's quakery. I am not saying anything about Semir yet, but we should be careful.
Archaeoblog is reasonably skeptical:

We're rather suspicious of this since the researcher is claiming the thing to be anywhere between 12-27k years old (hard to tell which from the text). Since this generally flies in the face of previous evidence, we predict it will probably blow over within a few months.
A new article from AP came out yesterday: Scientist: Bosnian hill may have pyramid

Scientist: Bosnian hill may have pyramid
By Aida Cerkez-Robinson, Associated Press
VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — With eyes trained to recognize pyramids hidden in the hills of El Salvador, Mexico and Peru, Semir Osmanagic has been drawn to the mound overlooking this central Bosnian town.
"It has all the elements: four perfectly shaped slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, a flat top and an entrance complex," he said, gazing at the hill and wondering what lies beneath.
No pyramids are known in Europe, and there is no evidence any ancient civilization there ever attempted to build one.
But Osmanagic, a Bosnian archaeologist who has spent the last 15 years studying the pyramids of Latin America, suspects there is one here in his Balkan homeland.
In this week's story, Dan Vergano explains why it may have been better to be the hunted rather than the hunter for humanity's ancestors.
"We have already dug out stone blocks which I believe are covering the pyramid," he said. "We found a paved entrance plateau and discovered underground tunnels. You don't have to be an expert to realize what this is."
Here, he is again refered to as archaeologist. Archaeological News also notes this:

An earlier article called Semir Osmanagic an amateur archaeologist and adventurer. This one calls him a scientist and an archaeologist.
And he claims to have dug out the tunnels. He is personally financing this:

Osmanagic, 45, who now lives in Houston, is personally financing excavations at the Visocica hill, a 2,120-foot hump outside Visoko, a town about 20 miles northwest of the capital, Sarajevo.
He learned about the hill in April from Senad Hodovic, director of a museum devoted to the history of Visoko, which is rich in Bronze Age and medieval artifacts. Hodovic had attended a promotion of an Osmanagic book about ancient civilizations and thought he would like to see Visoko's pyramid-shaped hill.
When the pair climbed the hill, the sweeping view revealed a second, smaller pyramid-shaped hill. It reminded Osmanagic of pairs of pyramids he has seen in Latin America that together create a gateway into a valley.
After obtaining a permit to research the site, which is protected by the state as a national monument, the first probes of the main hill were carried out this summer at six points. Nadja Nukic, a geologist involved in the research, said she found 15 anomalies suggesting that some layers of the hill were manmade.
"We found layers of what we call 'bad concrete,' a definitely unnatural mixture of gravel once used to form blocks with which this hill was covered," Osmanagic said.
So, they are actually doing some work more than just walking up and down the hill. Interesting new twist - the hill itself is natural, but modified by humans:

"The hill was already there," he added. "Some ancient civilization just shaped it and then coated it with this primitive concrete — and there you have a pyramid."
Small-scale excavations continued until early November, when winter set in, with the work focusing on what Osmanagic theorizes may have been the entrance to a pyramid-shaped temple.
Osmanagic has big theories about this:

Osmanagic believes the hill was shaped by the Illyrian people, who inhabited the Balkan peninsula long before Slavic tribes conquered it around A.D. 600. Little is known about the Illyrians, but Osmanagic thinks they were more sophisticated than many experts have suggested.
Nukic, who has walked up and down the hill several times, said she noticed symmetrical platforms in the slopes — indentations that Osmanagic believes are steps built into the pyramid.
A local businessman who bought a lot at the foot of the hill and brought in a bulldozer to dig the foundation for a house, meanwhile, unearthed manmade sandstone plates that the archeologists think may have been paving stones.
Anthropologists say the Visoko valley already offers ample evidence of organized human settlements dating back 7,000 years. The town was Bosnia's capital during the Middle Ages, and German archaeologists working the valley recently found 24,000 Neolithic artifacts just three feet below the surface.
Archaeoblog comments succinctly:

Still needs work.
This passage is fine:

Osmanagic is taking a cautious approach about the hill.
"No fast conclusions, please. The evidence has to be firm, at least beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.
But he does like his theory:

"Not that I don't believe in a pyramid here," he added. "This place was always called 'Pyramid' by the local population. But we have to prove that this is not a natural shape."
He thinks, however, that the shape of the hill speaks for itself.
"God can make many things, but such perfectly geometrically formed slopes, pointing exactly toward the north, south, east and west — if he did that, well, that's phenomenal itself."
Mt.Rushmore versus New Hamshire's Old Man again.
You can see, if you are interested, more pictures and a video.

(Thanks to Katja for tipping me on this story)

Update: There is more information here, here and here.

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