The controversial claims that pyramids had been discovered in Bosnia began in 2005 when Semir Osmanagic (Sam Osmanagich), a Bosnian businessman, publicly claimed that a series of hills in central Bosnia-Herzegovina were in fact man-made pyramids. The claim drew attention because, if true, these would be the first pyramids ever discovered in Europe.
The central site of Osmanagic's assertion is Visocica hill, roughly 18 miles northwest of Sarajevo. Visocica hill, nearly 700 feet high, is very obviously shaped like a pyramid (Figure 1). The area has yielded Neolithic artifacts, but nothing that establishes the presence of an ancient complex society.
While he has proposed other pyramids in the area, Osmanagic eventually dubbed Visocica hill “the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun,” making it the centerpiece of his theory. Pljesevica Hill, at 350 feet, became “the Pyramid of the Moon.”
In 2006 Osmanagic and an amateur team (volunteers and some hired workers) began drilling wells into the hill, a project that resulted in the discovery of a network of tunnels allegedly constructed with ancient mortar and sandstone blocks (Figure 2). Osmanagic went on to further claim that the pyramid is 2,500 years old. More recently, Osmanagic pushed the date back to 34,000 years and said the pyramid was proof of alien interaction with humanity (Astin, 2017).
Not surprisingly, the claims of a pyramid have been a boon to the local economy. “Over 400,000 people have visited the sites since October 2005” (Woodard, 2006).
The Bosnian Pyramids: Reaction and Evaluation
Osmanagic’s claims were almost immediately met with denunciation and charges of quackery and pseudo-science. Professional Bosnian archaeologists decried the digging and drilling, fearing destruction of legitimate archaeological remains. Anthony Harding, president of the Czech Republic-based European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) called the theory "wacky" and "absurd” (Harding, 2006).
Seven prominent European archaeologists issued a joint declaration condemning the project and the claims. The declaration reads in part:
We, the undersigned professional archaeologists from all parts of Europe, wish to protest strongly at the continuing support by the Bosnian authorities for the so-called “pyramid” project being conducted on hills at and near Visoko. This scheme is a cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public and has no place in the world of genuine science… (Bohannon, 2006)
In an apparent effort to bolster the credibility of Osmanagic’s claims, “the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation commissioned a geological team from the University of Tuzla to investigate Visočica” (Wikipedia). The effort backfired, as the team members concluded the hill was a natural formation, “made of clastic sediments of layered composition and varying thickness, and that its shape is a consequence of endodynamical and exodynamical processes in the post-Miocene era” (Wikipedia, translation of Bosnian language sources).
The fact that Osmanagic believes the hills of Bosnia are proof of ancient aliens is not a caricature. He has vocally defended his ideas, which are in essence a hodge-podge of fringe theories and occult theosophical speculation (see Blavatasky). A reporter who interview Osmanagic noted:
His views of world history—described in his books published in Bosnia—are unconventional. In The World of the Maya, which was reprinted in English in the United States, he writes that “Mayan hieroglyphics tell us that their ancestors came from the Pleiades....first arriving at Atlantis where they created an advanced civilization.” He speculates that when a 26,000-year cycle of the Maya calendar is completed in 2012, humankind might be raised to a higher level by vibrations that will “overcome the age of darkness which has been oppressing us.” In another work, Alternative History, he argues that Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders escaped to a secret underground base in Antarctica from which they did battle with Adm. Richard Byrd’s 1946 Antarctic expedition.
Obviously, nothing of the sort happened in 2012. Osmanagic also apparently doesn’t realize that the Byrd-UFO Antarctica story, originally based on an interview given to a Spanish-speaking newspaper El Mercurio, is the result of a (deliberate?) mistranslation of what Byrd said (see Summerhayes, 17; see Jordan, Godwin, and Fritze on the Atlantis myth).
Jon Austin, " 'Ancient pyramid' discovery key to Nikola Tesla's communication with aliens, says expert,” The Daily Express (March 1, 2017).
Colin Woodard, “The Mystery of Bosnia’s Ancient Pyramids,” Smithsonian Magazine (December 2009)
Declaration from the European Association of Archaeologists (Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, 11 Dec 2006)
John Bohannon, “Researchers Helpless as Bosnian Pyramid Bandwagon Gathers Pace,” Science 22 Dec 2006: Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1862
Anthony Harding, “Bosnia's rich heritage,” Times Online (25 April 2006)
“Bosnian Pyramid,” Wikipedia
“The Pyramids That Are Not: The Bosnian Pyramids,” Archaeological Fantasies Podcast, Episode 29 (Feb 22, 2016)