Ancient pyramids? In Bosnia?

Did you know that Bosnia was home to a series of ancient pyramids, the oldest and largest ever discovered? It’s true — that is, according to Semir Osmanagić, amateur archaeologist. He claims that the hills around Visoko, a village near Sarajevo, are in fact giant structures buried in the soil. When I heard about this, I was pretty sceptical, but thought it would be fun to take a trip to the site and see for myself.

Does this hill conceal a pyramid of colossal proportions?

Visoko was a medieval capital but was mostly forgotten until Osmanagić posited that the 220m Visočica hill was in fact a pyramid of epic proportions. He claims to have uncovered stone blocks that formed the pyramid surface, an entrance plateau, and a network of tunnels inside the hill. He also says that a network of pyramids exist here, have important geometric relationships, and connect to each other via subterranean tunnels. The finds captured international attention a few years ago, with many convinced tourists flocking to the site. Osmanagić dates the pyramids to a venerable 12,000 years old, based on carbon dating of soil in the area. If this is true, we would have to discard much of what we know about the ancient world and rewrite the history books. Some even believe that the technology required to build these structures could only have come from a technologically advanced dead civilisation, or, wait for it — aliens! Yes, you can guess what I think of that idea.

Artist’s impression of alleged ‘energy beam’ detected emerging from the peak of the hill

Now, any claim that would warrant the throwing out of decades of painstaking research in any field should be taken with a grain of scepticism. Just a grain. However, that doesn’t mean that we should discount the whole story. Regardless, I decided to visit the site with as open a mind as I could and see for myself. Sure enough, Visočica does look oddly pyramidal, at least from some angles, although it is the only hill in the area shaped as such. I investigated a short section of underground tunnel, which proponent’s claim is part of the network connecting the pyramids, but is at the other end of town. I also checked out Visočica hill itself. At the excavation sites were a few areas of exposed rock that didn’t look unambiguously man-made. Not only that, but the rocks appeared very different at each site. Of course, I’m no geologist or archaeologist, but I wasn’t convinced this was hard evidence. It’s certainly not impossible that there is a genuine pyramid here, after all other such structures exist throughout Europe, although none as big as this.

So, is Bosnia home to a valley of ancient pyramids? Unfortunately, no. It would be nice if this one were true, but the evidence just doesn’t stack up. First of all, Osmanagić is only an amateur, and qualified archaeologists agree that his findings are worthless. The rocks found at the site are probably natural, except for a genuine fort at the summit built on Roman ruins. Naturally rocky hills abound in this part of Europe, so it isn’t at all surprising that digging up a hillside in Bosnia would reveal a stone surface underneath. I couldn’t find any reliable sources to corroborate the wild claims of energy beams or advanced technology requirements, unsurprisingly. So, what we have here is a hill that vaguely resembles a pyramid, some natural rock formations, and a smattering of real archaeological finds that have nothing to do with ancient pyramids. Nice try, Osmanagić. For a thorough debunking of the Bosnian pyramids, I highly recommend the excellent Skeptoid podcast.

The mindset behind all this is fascinating to me. If you convince yourself that your crazy theory is true, then go looking for confirming evidence, you’re bound to find something. It reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes digging for dinosaur fossils (click the image and keep hitting next to see the whole comic):

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

You may wonder what the point of this is, but I think it’s important to shed light on hoaxes and misinformation, to show that not everything you read is true, and to highlight the things that are. So consider this your healthy dose of scepticism for the day!

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