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The Bosnian Pyramids

by In Wales Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 10:19:56 AM EST

I'm a little late on the scene given that this all broke back in 2005 or thereabouts but I'm currently trying to find out more about the so-called "Bosnian Pyramids". Truth or fiction, they have an interesting story to them.



Wiki starts us off with the official version,
Bosnian pyramids - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Bosnian pyramids has been used for a cluster of natural geological formations sometimes known as flatirons[1] near the Bosnian town of Visoko, northwest of Sarajevo. The hill named Visočica became the focus of international attention in October 2005 following a news-media campaign promoting the idea that they are human-made and the largest ancient pyramids on Earth.

In analysing the site, its known history, and the excavations; geologists, archeologists, and other scientists have concluded that they are natural formations and that there are no signs of human building involved.[2][3][4] Additionally, scientists have criticised the Bosnian authorities for supporting the pyramid claim saying: "This scheme is a cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public and has no place in the world of genuine science."[5]

The man behind all of this is self-styled Indiana Jones of the Balkans, Semir Osmanagić, a Bosnian-American amateur archeologist. From his website 'Sam' tells us:
Sam Semir Osmanagich

He has discovered ancient pyramidal complex in Visoko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) which consists of five colossal stone structures in the shape of the pyramid with extensive pre-historical underground tunnel network.

There are plenty of clips up on youtube covering the early media storm and Sam's lectures promoting his project to unearth the secrets of these pyramids. His Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation has been raising money to excavate the site and unearth further evidence to understand the pyramids by.

At first glance the website seems to be a promotional tool for tourist packages, and for selling Sam's books and DVDs. The site provides information on the project and the pyramids of which they say represent the biggest complex of pyramidal structures in the World:

Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids


Pyramids of Sun, Moon and Dragon form perfect equilateral triangle with 2.170 meters distance between their tops. All pyramids are oriented toward the cosmic North. Fifty-five leading scientists from 13 countries concluded during First International Scientific Conference on Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids in August 2008 that Bosnian pyramids are archaeological phenomenon and further scientific investigation is needed.

Geo-radar and thermal analysis confirmed existence of passageways and chambers inside the pyramids. Sample analysis of rectangular blocks from the Bosnian pyramid of the Sun at Institutes for materials in Bosnia, Italy and France have confirmed that they were man-made as concrete blocks of exceptional quality. According to the radiocarbon datings (Poland, 2011) and pedological analysis (Bosnia, 2006) pyramids are built over 10.000 years ago. Underground labyrinth is tens of kilometers long and consists of passageways, chambers and artificial lakes.

Big claims.  If true, a site of international importance but also one which may turn the conventional wisdom on it's head regarding the timeline of human civilisation; not to mention a challenge to theories on how the Egyptian pyramids were build (also from high quality man-made concrete according to one archeologist involved with the Bosnian site.)

There are however, a great many critics.  Many archeologists say the formations are natural, created by the mountains being pushed up millions of years ago, forming a large lake depositing sediments that now form layers of clay, sandstone and conglomerates.  In the process of excavating to prove/create the existence of man-made pyramids, archeologists claim that other significant aspects of medieval and natural history including fossils are being ignored and destroyed. Yet the project has full backing of the Bosnian Government and it is hoped that the site will eventually gain UNESCO World Heritage status.

The wider social and cultural significance of this is also interesting. Scientists and others who denounce the pyramids as a hoax are declared anti-Bosniaks.

The Mystery of Bosnia's Ancient Pyramids | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

The belief that Visoko was a cradle of European civilization and that the Bosniaks' ancestors were master builders who surpassed even the ancient Egyptians has become a matter of ethnic pride. "The pyra­mids have been turned into a place of Bosniak identification," says historian Dubravko Lovrenovic of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Commission to Preserve National Monuments. "If you are not for the pyramids, you are accused of being an enemy of the Bosniaks."

To quote Orwell, "He who controls the past, controls the future, and he who controls the present, controls the past."

So where's the scam?  Do we have a conspiracy fronted by an amateur archeologist, backed by the Bosnian Government in an attempt to build national identity and improve the economy; or are we dealing with an international elite oppressing and censoring a small war torn country trying to promote and preserve a crucial aspect of heritage that turns conventional wisdom on it's head?

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How is the curious cynic meant to determine the truth?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 10:20:39 AM EST
First, by reading the 27 references in the Wikipedia article, I suppose. This, however, is instantly suspicious:
The dig began in April 2006, and has involved reshaping the hill to make it look like a Mayan step pyramid.
This claim
Osmanagić claims the excavation has produced evidence of building blocks as well as tunnels. Additionally Osmanagić claims to have found tunnels in the hillside which he interprets as ventilation shafts.
should be relatively straightforward to check, too. The Wiki quotes experts invited by Osmanagic who came out saying the structures are natural
Osmanagić also invited geologist and alternative archaeologist Robert Schoch to visit the site. In a preliminary report Schoch concluded that there were natural geological explanations for all the features claimed to be artificial by Osmanagić.
Just to add, the site could be eligible as a World Heritage Site whether or not it's man-made. Geological formations are perfectly suitable candidates.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 10:43:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wiki is a helpful starting place but I won't assume it to be a balanced collection of references.

I'm highly sceptical of the pyramid claims but it does provide an interesting example of how does a non-specialist (of whatever field) begin to seek answers to questions which rely on expert advice.  The value of windfarms could be an example, who should I believe - Crazy Horse or the latest 'independent' report being bleated about by the media?

How does an ordinary person with a bunch of questions determine whose interests and motives seem to be prevailing?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you can read the references on the wiki site, and then you can go on Osmanagic's references and read his references.

The point is that you have to assume that the non-specialist can understand the references and judge their credibility. An appreciation for what constitutes a properly sourced or poorly sourced claim is necessary. Unfortunately, that's not innate knowledge, it's to a certain extent a learned skill, as is "critical thinking". You have a PhD, so one would assume you have that skill, and the critical thinking. Not everyone is so fortunate. And you may not be able to convince somebody else of your own conclusions regarding credibility.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:28:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Wales:
I won't assume it to be a balanced collection of references

In which case it's worth looking at the associated Talk page to get an idea of the quality and fairness of the discussion behind the page. There are quite a few more references there, too.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:30:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does an ordinary person with a bunch of questions determine whose interests and motives seem to be prevailing?

Rational or Scientific Skepticism.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity.

With a heavy reliance, in this case, on Critical Thinking:

... a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false.

It seems to be the case on the "Pro" side the Bosnian discoverer and the Bosnian government have a strong interest in the thesis.  On the "Anti" side are disinterested specialists.  Given extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that evidence has not been provided to the satisfaction, or meets the objections of disinterested specialists, "Not Proven" seems to be the rational conclusion.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:37:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
the site could be eligible as a World Heritage Site whether or not it's man-made.

Indeed, but a lot of resource goes into applying for World Heritage status and many vested interests appear to lie in pushing the 'pyramids'. If genuine and done transparently, this should open them up to international scrutiny and acceptance but if not, a chance is then lost to promote and preserve the genuine geological and cultural heritage of the site.  

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:12:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If UNESCO recognizes the site, it will be as a cultural/archeological site OR a natural formation. It seems reasonable to expect UNESCO scrutiny to make a clear call between the two.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 11:21:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
alternative archaeologist Robert Schoch

Not a complete crank, but already in the ancient civilisation business:

Robert M. Schoch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert M. Schoch is an associate professor of Natural Science at the College of General Studies, a 2 year non-degree granting unit of Boston University. He received his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from Yale in 1983, and is best known for his argument that the Great Sphinx of Giza is much older than conventionally thought and that possibly some kind of catastrophe has wiped out other evidence of a significantly older civilization. ...

Schoch's other theories include the belief that possibly all pyramids -- in Egypt, Mesoamerica and elsewhere -- represent (in the sense that the general concept of pyramids is inherited, along with many other cultural commonalities) a much older global culture, or at least that there was cultural contact around the world in ancient times. He is also known for his research on the Yonaguni underwater "monuments," ...

However, Schochs final conclusion on the Bosniak pyramids was different from what Osmanagić claims, in fact he seems to be the source of the negative views In Wales wrote about:

...It can easily be seen how some researchers, especially if not well-versed in sedimentary geology, could be persuaded by the force of Osmanagic's rhetoric that there must be at least a "little something" in the way of human-made pyramidal type structures around Visoko. Instead, what we found were totally natural hills composed of sediments dating from the Late Miocene (about six to eight million years ago).

...

Also pointing to a natural origin are the numerous fossils found in the rocks of the hills. In certain layers of the sandstones and mudstones abundant angiosperm leaves and other plant debris occur, all dating back millions of years to Late Miocene times...

Instead of paying attention to the potentially valuable fossils, Osmanagic's crews are chopping right through them, sometimes with shovels, sometimes with backhoes, and discarding the fragile remains on the scrap heaps, apparently oblivious to the loss....

Meanwhile Osmanagic's crews continue their excavations, and as a result the hills surrounding the vicinity of Visoko are being carved and sculpted into Mayan-style step pyramids and their remains hauled off with a tremendous loss of artifacts and fossils...



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 01:21:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we have a conspiracy fronted by an amateur archeologist, backed by the Bosnian Government in an attempt to build national identity and improve the economy; or are we dealing with an international elite oppressing and censoring a small war torn country trying to promote and preserve a crucial aspect of heritage that turns conventional wisdom on it's head?

The former but possibly without the conspiracy: being too in love with an idea and without scientific rigour can be enough. There is a long history of history moulded to back up the ideology of the current regime, and a shorter history of moulding history and archaeology to national mythology. A good example is what we know about a truly ancient civilisation, China: the official line is that it is like a tree with everything going back to a single neolithic culture along the Yellow River, but I read multiple times that research into separate ancient cultures along the Yangtze River and the southern seacoast have been suppressed or compromised.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 01:28:40 PM EST
I just remembered that years ago, I read up on the history of steppe people, which included a site by a Chinese historian who essentially claimed that every nomadic tribe somehow descended from China and treated any claims to the contrary as lies motivated by Western imperialism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 01:31:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So obviously the Tocharians migrated all the way to future Celticland, developed red hair, blue eyes,  an Indo-European language, and tartan kilts, and then got terribly homesick and decided to come all the way back again. ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 02:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing I remember may well have been about the Yuezhi (the tribe mentioned in Chinese records usually identified with the Tocharians): that Chinese historian claimed that the mirror-translation of colours related to the hair, skin or eyes of people in ancient Chinese texts is out of context and refers to variation on a much lesser scale...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 03:18:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Presumably that's why the mummified Tocharians were kept hidden from non-Chinese archeologists for so long.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 04:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what I've read of Central Asian history, it seems like white people used to live on the steppes, until the Chinese kicked their asses and displaced them further West.  I really don't see why that story is bad for Chinese national pride.
by Zwackus on Fri Aug 31st, 2012 at 06:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't get Chinese nationalism. China isn't/wasn't a colonialist empire, conquests weren't conquests: all parts of China were always Chinese, it's just that some parts were brought back under the fold of central government. Think of Tibet for example.

Meanwhile, disregarding his insistence on tracking back every tribe to a Chinese root, the idea I got away from reading this guy's history was that the steppes were the ultimate melting pot: all the tribal kingdoms/empires were short-lived and then the constituent tribe broke up upon wandering, clans joined other tribes, women were taken, alliances were made regularly. (The ultimate end of this was when Ghenghis Khan merged several tribes into the "Mongols".) It also convinced me that the direct connection between the Mongols raiding the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE and the Xingnu Empire battling Han Dynasty China since the 2nd century BC was likely via a few clans at best.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 31st, 2012 at 07:07:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - The Bosnian Pyramids
To quote Orwell, "He who controls the past, controls the future, and he who controls the present, controls the past."

And archeology is often political. I would say more so then history, mostly because of the greater degree of interpretation needed when dealing with remains instead of written sources. This is obvious in contested areas - can the Bibles version of ancient Israel be proven, is Lucy an ur-Ethiopian or an ur-Eritrean? But even in more boring circumstances politics affects the large degree of interpretation - the center of ancient Sweden is a recurring point of debate.

So color me unsurprised that the new and struggling Bosnian state is willing to pour resources into proving a grand past.

My path of interpretation is that if you can not find artifacts that with a pretty high degree of certainty is human-made, you get more right then wrong by treating what you find as works of nature.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 02:23:36 PM EST
and the bigger the site, the larger the ammount of Human detritus, (shell and bone middens, graveyards/burial mounds, local deforestation, towns/cities for workers) you have to have found in the area for it to be built. and it's the cultral artifacts that are the important things. Find a big mound of rocks or a mound, and ask an archaeologist what it's for and they'll say "Ritual purposes" that's the archaeological version of "We don't know, but someone has given us a bundle of cash so we're not going to admit it"

as a rough rule of thumb, If the number of papers about the culture that has built the monuments, the stratigraphy of the living spaces, the pollen and bones and shells in the middens and so forth doesn't severely outweigh the papers on the pyramids/hills  in the site then you know that they aren't real archaeologists

The statement that other cultural details are being lost tends to make me think they're a) avoiding doing any actual real archaeology and b) actual archaeologists are calling them out on it in the academic press in the language of the science.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2012 at 09:54:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I continue to be fascinated by conspiracy theorists and conspiracy thinking.

One thing that may not be obvious is its unexpected predictability. Not only is it very drama prone, but the focus of interest and the imagery changes very slowly.

Conspiracy theorists don't think like normal people. They free associate with very poor discrimination.

So one of the fundamental leaps of 'logic' is that if one thing looks like another thing the two things must be related and may even be identical.

So if a big hill looks like a pyramid it must be a pyramid and it was probably hewn out of the solid earth by magicians from Atlantis and is currently sending energy beams out into the universe.

(You probably think I made up that last bit. Actually I didn't.)

The other motivator is resentment against clever people. If you're untrained but excitable it's infinitely satisfying to be in the know about huge secrets which Real Scientists™ are too blinkered and stupid to understand, etc.

So I don't expect much real archaeology or physics is going on.

But there will be plenty of narrative logic, and not a little heroic self-importance.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 07:07:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As conspiracy theories go, this is rather feeble. How about this one?
The Monuments of the Cydonia region of Mars are perhaps the most fascinating ruins ever yet discovered by man - on any planet. On the shores of an ancient Martian ocean, now completely dry, Man's first probes to our nearest planetary neighbor have detected a group of mounds, surrounding the Face, that even at first glance appear unnatural and complex in design. Further investigation of the mounds shows that they were in fact arranged in a definite complex geometric pattern - one that could not possibly have occurred naturally, and apparently required much thought and labor to create, by architects who knew more about mathematics than we have the even optimistic ability to half way decode today. Predominant throughout the area, the angles implied by arrangement of structures within the City are of a relation to each other which suggests alignment to astronomical phenomena within this solar system - and beyond.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 07:17:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that the best you can do?

Wikip: "Conspiracy (civil), an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights, or to gain an unfair advantage."

Anything come to mind? ;-p

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 07:40:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I don't expect much real archaeology or physics is going on.

But there will be plenty of narrative logic, and not a little heroic self-importance.

And carving of the existing mounds into Ziggurats...

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 07:21:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You get similar problems in Germany, the majority of stone circles there are built during the 1930's to help prove someones wacky racial and historical theories.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 07:41:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are there stone circles in Germany? Where?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 08:40:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankfurt.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2012 at 08:51:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As we know, pyramids have the shape they have because any steeper and they collapse. We know because we have found the collapsed pyramids they have tried to build steeper.

So somewhere, in the world, there would be a geological formation that was close enough to the characteristics of a man made pile of rocks that it would have a roughly pyramid like shape.

I think that its a conspiracy of material physics, which is trying to trick us into thinking its manmade.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Aug 31st, 2012 at 02:25:03 AM EST


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