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As it turned out this was a dreadful title as it just ran and ran and ran…

Possibly not my last ever thoughts, but the only reason I wrote my first post on the subject was that I found the mass acceptance of what is easily checked nonsense mildly amusing. If something endearingly barking comes out of Visoko then I may laugh again but my in depth analysis (The similarity between the Pyramids of the Sun is that the pointy bit is at the top, see below also) is about as excited I can get about it. There is a dark irony to that a country whose heritage sites were targeted in an ethnic cleansing campaign has decided to finish off the job with one of their major sites, but it’s not that amusing. On the whole it’s rather dull and I’m sorry to disappoint Billy Rae but I’m not filled with enthusiasm to write a comprehensive debunking of the site, taking each fact line by line because it’s obvious that Osmanagić isn’t interested in facts. Here are a collection of thoughts which might explain why I’m not moved to keep more of an eye on the topic.

Osmanagić is making claims which he has no evidence for

I was going to talk about the alignments of Mayan pyramids. This was because one of the reasons we ‘know’ the Bosnian pyramid is a pyramid is because it’s aligned in the cardinal directions. The reason it’s called the Pyramid of the Sun is that it looks like the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan. So I fired up Google Earth to take a look at Teotihuacan.

The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, in Google Earth

Well that’s not cardinally aligned.

You can check for yourself by downloading Google Earth and then examining opening this KMZ bookmark with it (alas I lost the bookmark when I switched the host). How ever you twist that pyramid you won’t get it to align north-south or east-west. In fact if Osmanagić did have a passing familiarity with Mayan pyramids he’d know the most astronomically interesting one is famous for not being aligned to the cardinal points.

I’m not being facetious when I say the common feature of the pyramids in Mexico, Egypt (and Bosnia) all have the pointy bit at the top. Now people like Osmanagić think that to the pyramids all have to be built by the same people. Why else would you see pyramids in two completely different places? There are three reasons:
1] Some rulers have big egos.
An easy way to show off your ego is to build something massive. There might be great skill in building something small and intricate but your basic self-centred maniac likes something big and impressive. Julius Caesar didn’t celebrate gaining control over Rome by building himself a small but elegant shed in his garden.
2] The People building the Impressive Thing decreed by the Emperor, King or Generalissimo aren’t stupid.
If you’re given the job of building the Impressive Thing you learn pretty quickly how big and wide a wall has to be to avoid toppling, which leads to –
3] The Laws of Physics are the Same for Everyone
Big is impressive and the easiest way to build big is a cone or, if you want the cone to be built with tessalating blocks (a good idea if you want a stable stone structure) a cone with a square base – which is a pyramid. A cone or pyramid allows you to reach greater height for any given number of blocks without sacrificing stability. The mystery isn’t why some cultures built pyramids, it’s why more cultures didn’t. As building techniques improve you’d expect Pyramids to become pointier, and if you look at the Nubian pyramids built 1,500 years after the Egyptian pyramids you notice they are pointier.

So if people are going to build pyramids because they’re working with the same Laws of Physics under the same gravity we’d expect some similarities. A closer look would reveal differences. The Egyptian pyramids had a point at the top. The Mayan pyramids had a temple because it was expected that people would go up to the top. I haven’t the faintest idea if the Bosnian pyramid is pointy or flat. Osmanagić says it’s flat, but there was medieval settlement, so could the hill have been levelled in the mediveval period? If the top of the hill is bulldozed away, and there are plans to clear the stand of trees at the top, we’ll never know.

In fact this whole being buried thing is a bit of a problem in archaeology, which is why we have to excavate a lot of the time. Without excavation we can’t say a lot. Yet Osmanagić seems to have radar vision and has already measured the base of the pyramid.

Osmanagić has already been contradicted by archaeologists like… Osmanagić

Bosnian explorer Semir Osmanagić, who discovered the pyramidal structure in Bosnia believes that all three pyramids were constructed during the same period, with the Bosnian pyramid the last to be built.

Semir Osmanagić on Bosnianpyramid.com

“The pyramids in Peru, Mexico and Egypt raise the same questions. Who built the pyramids and how, where did it all start, which pyramid is the ‘mother’ of all pyramids. I dare to say that the very Bosnian pyramid of the Sun is one of the main candidates for the “mother” of all pyramids”, deems Osmanagic.

Semir Osmanagić on Fena News

To be fair it’s not just Osmanagić who is inconsistent.

Three pyramids make an isosceles triangle making this complex unique in the world.

Semir Osmanagić on bosnianpyramids.org

The teams measured the sides of the pyramids and the results show equal side triangular shape with each side measuring 365 meters in length and a 60% angle (this is a characteristic of an equal side triangle).

News report from bosnianpyramids.org

I don’t know if Osmanagić has announced conclusively that the pyramid was made of jam, but if he has I can tell you what next week’s headline from the site will be.

To be honest you’d expect some contradiction as a dig progressed because you find new evidence that forces you to change your mind. And often in digs that’s what you’ll hear “We now think it’s a temple because we’ve found…” Yet with this there’s no because. It just is. There’s no reason to suppose anything, so there’s no problem with changing your mind as often as your underwear. But then it makes engaging with the topic boring. Why should I care that he’s found alignments on the rising sun or whatever. Next week it’ll be something else.

Unfortunately because evidence is optional Bosnia won’t have a unique pyramid for long.

Osmanagić has proved Europe’s oldest/biggest pyramid is in Serbia or Croatia

It will be true. Do you seriously think that some intense Serbian or Croation nationalist won’t be poring over maps looking for their own pyramid? And you can bet when they find it it will be bigger and/or older. I know it will be bigger or older because Osmanagić has picked his hill. All the next alternative historian has to do is pick a bigger hill.

Speculators might want to buy property near Jabuka which was previously thought to be a volcanic island. A lot of it’s underwater, but that’s no problem if it was built in the last Ice Age. It would just prove that it’s older than the Bosnia pyramid. Dredge the sea bed around it and you will find archaeological artefacts*. There is the problem of a complete lack of evidence to support the pyramid idea, but Osmanagić has shown you don’t need evidence, just pictures of bedrock. The world’s media are alert to the possibilities of pyramids in the Balkans and where would tourists rather go: The bare bedrock in Bosnia or the Croatian pyramid near the beach.

I’ll be depressed if anyone actually runs with the Jabuka pyramid scheme, but if I were mayor of a town on the Croatian or Montenegrin coast I’d be looking very hard at the local hill and phoning landscaping companies for estimates. And when the counter-claim comes the Bosnian team will have no defence because they haven’t used evidence to support their claim. It will just be their word against the Croats, Serbians and Montenegrins – and the Croats and Montenegrins will have a beach.

Osmanagić could have made this work

The idea of an ancient pyramid in Bosnia is not totally absurd. It would be a deeply weird thing to find, but the Stone Age peoples were very good at doing deeply weird things. Here’s an example.

Silbury Hill
Silbury Hill by PhillipC.

This is Silbury Hill a mound made of earth in the Neolithic period before there were any cities in the British Isles. Neolithic people could organise and if it was done once then why not many times? So why aren’t archaeologists impressed? It is a matter of closing ranks. Perhaps it’s an idea to think about how research funding works.

If you don’t get research funding you risk losing your job. In the UK a major source of funds is the AHRC which funds all the Arts and Humanities including a lot of archaeology. There are not really fixed quotas, so if more archaeologists come in with more exciting projects then they get a bigger slice of the funding pie. In the past prehistoric archaeology did well, but in recent years historical archaeology has done better and some departments are feeling the pinch. Funding doesn’t necessarily go to what is good. Research on research councils has shown that they often fund things simply because they’re sexy or in the news.

So if this pyramid was plausible then archaeologists would be putting in funding proposals faster than you could say “parasite”. You wouldn’t have to agree with it. There’s plenty of research money in examining things from a critical perspective. All it has to be is plausible enough to be worth examining. A prehistoric pyramid in Bosnia would be immensely sexy. In my case I have an MPhil specialising in prehistoric south-east Europe and I’m an archaeoastronomer. If there was anything in this I’d be able to put in a grant application and add in the cost of a wheelbarrow to carry all the money to the bank+. Other European countries have their own systems but they all like to fund exciting stuff. Stone Age archaeologists would love this to be true.

Initially it looked like a very good site to pick. The presence of a whole load of important archaeology meant that there was years and years of potentially lucrative work for everyone to do. Osmanagić could have got a lot of people fund raising for him and experts in to provide regular news stories and tourist attractions. Archaeologists do work with the fringe on occasion, especially if they’re occasions with money. If NYU is willing to take money from Shelby White then dozens would be happy to get money with an amiable eccentric. Osmanagić could have been Mr Bosnia were it not for his outright hostility to archaeological remains because scraping to bedrock with a bulldozer really isn’t a substitute for painstakingly brushing dirt of human remains. Now no credible archaeologist will want to associated with him.

It’s not the bizarre pyramid theories that’s the major problem. It’s simply the ignorant destruction of Bosnian heritage that bothers academics.

The Pyramids have really bad names

You would have thought someone with an Indiana Jones fixation would have spotted this, but the pyramids are really stupidly named. Search for Pyramid of the Sun and you’ll find a pyramid in Mexico. If I were naming the pyramid I would have looked at its brooding shape and named it the Pyramid of Doom, inventing a myth explaining the name if I had to. You’d make exposing the secrets of the Pyramid of Doom a spiritual journey which is the sort of market Osmanagić is trying to appeal to. The next pyramid would be the Pyramid of Life and the third pyramid, when the market is getting fatigued would the Pyramid of Gold which is said** to guard an ancient treasure from beyond the dawn of time.

Naming a site is a skill. I know of one Inca site named something like Qebinhirca. I don’t remember the exact name but I remember the translation is “Kevin’s fort”. You can work out the first name of one of the directors. Around the same time I was looking at megalithic tombs, but people don’t tend to appreciate having a tomb named after them. It’s not the sort of thing you can sell to help fund research. The “Buy a star for your loved one” scam is kind of romantic. “Buy a tomb for your wife/husband” is just sinister.

Perhaps when I finally buy Why Truth Matters I’ll be inspired to take it more seriously. It’s in my Amazon basket, but I don’t have anything to add to it to get the free deilvery.

* Dredge almost anywhere in the Mediterranean and you’ll eventually find archaeological artefacts.

+ Slight exaggeration.

** Said by me just now.