Monday, January 10, 2011

The Pyramids of Bosnia

A Guest Post from Mira Kolar-Brown

This week we’re happy to welcome Mira Kolar-Brown, the author of the Simon Grant Mystery Series.

Born in what used to be called Yugoslavia, Mira’s work brought her to the UK in 1977  – and she’s called the place home ever since.
Hiding the Elephant and Lock Up your Daughters are the first two books in her Simon Grant Mystery series. Both are available on Kindle. The third, For the Love of Honey, is in the works.

Mira lives near Manchester and has two grown-up daughters.

Leighton - Monday
Visoko is a small town located at the center of Bosnia.
Throughout the turbulent history of the country, Visoko’s only claim to fame had been the coronation of the Bosnian king Tvrtko Kotromanic in the 14th century.
After that, nothing of note in any shape or form. 
Until 2005, that is, when the shape turned up in the unlikely form of not just one but three enormous pyramids.
Dr. Semir Osmanagic, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a Houston based millionaire, detected the curiously regular shape of three out of many hills surrounding Visoko.
His curiosity was piqued, his explorer’s juices started flowing.
Now, in my humble status of a very ordinary person, I suspect that the ability and drive to turn an idle thought into a major international project must have something to do with being a millionaire. My own curiosity leads me to waste hours upon hours on the Internet searching for answers to whimsical questions.
Osmanagic simply secured a permit to remove thousands upon thousands of tons of top soil to see what’s underneath.
What he found were concrete slabs…
Or, so he said.
He claimed he'd discovered the first European pyramids and that they were built some 12,000 ago in the late Upper Palaeolithic era.
His claims, predictably, were met with suspicion, incredulity, ridicule and downright hostility in some quarters. Semir persevered.
Over time, dedicated teams and the growing army of volunteers, 
have dug up long tunnels
and paved paths.

All that in spite of the Bosnian government’s reluctance to issue the required permits or offer any sort of support.
At one point the Minister for Heritage turned up in person ordering the Project to close down because of the risks for the neighbouring mediaeval historical sites.
The established archaeology experts kept away too. That came as a surprise to me. I wouldn’t expect anyone to endorse a project like that out of hand, but how did so many of them manage to curb that most wonderful of all human traits – curiosity?

For Semir and his project it was a case of beg, steal and borrow and that’s what he was doing until one by one they came, they looked, they tested and they succumbed. Some of them, anyhow.

Arguments against validity of the Bosnian Valley of Pyramids:

  1. Dr. Semir Osmanagic is not an archaeologist.
  2. Dr. Semir Osmanagic is an unashamed dreamer with self-confessed Druid-like beliefs.
  3. There is no evidence that anyone in the world was building anything bigger than a shack in the late Upper Palaeolithic. 
  4. There are too few artefacts or articles in common use found in the excavations.
  5. The tunnels/corridors could have been dug up though the hill at a much later date.

Arguments in favour of the Bosnian Valley of Pyramids:
  1. About ten different artifacts have been discovered so far.
 including forged glass 

and a mould for  casting metal.

  1. Electromagnetic and ultrasound tests indicate that the building work took place as long as 12,000 years ago
  2. Tests confirm that the building material used was, beyond any doubt, manufactured, not produced by nature.
  3. Quite independently from the work on the pyramids, a Bosnian writer found a great concentration of stone balls along The River Bosnia, the largest of them being 1.7 m high and 5.3 m in circumference.  An Egyptian archaeologist confirmed that they were man-made and of a similar age as the pyramids. The presence of the Bosnian stone balls was only established after an earthquake in the late ’90 but similar objects are commonly found in some numbers in South America.

If anyone wants more information and detail, or wishes to join the project as a volunteer, please go here:

or watch Osmanagic’s video on YouTube:

Granted, whichever camp you’re in, there are still far more questions than answers. But it’s an incredibly intriguing, fascinating enterprise, very much worthy of attention.

The mystery to me is the noncommittal attitude of the Bosnian government.
They have spread responsibility for the project over five different departments, which makes it five times harder to obtain further permits and make way through the maze of red tape. 
Bosnia’s economy is in tatters with high unemployment and low average income. A properly supported and promoted discovery of that magnitude, no matter what it turns out to be in the end, has a potential of bringing in tourists to the country as a whole, not just the area of Visoko.

Back in 1981 the first reporters from Medjugorje ( talked about a handful of modest houses in the village and not a single public toilet.  Haven’t the Bosnian potentates learned from that phenomenon how much revenue there is to be had from miracles?


  1. Mira,
    This is a fascinating article in many respects. It does seem that in many endeavors one has to be a 'name' to be heard. But even in the explorations for Troy the experts still have a lot to discuss.

  2. Mira,

    Sounds to me as if there is an extraordinary plot hatching within those mounds (of ground and politics). Too bad it's north of my guy's jurisdiction, otherwise I'd be tempted to send him to investigate.:) Thank you for the great piece.

  3. Mira, there are two theories of history regarding how civilizations develop.

    The first explanation is that someone from a less developed culture travels and sees something in use in a more advanced culture or society. The idea is brought back by the traveler and it is copied and then adapted in the best way for that society. That was a well regarded theory until it became possible to date civilizations and the things they manufactured. Then it could be shown that so much or the advancement in culture was concurrent.

    That led to the second theory, that societies advance when they have the building blocks that are the platform for development and creativity. It wasn't just one caveman who realized that something that rolls would make life much easier than something that had to be pulled or pushed.

    History is endlessly fascinating. The discovery of the pyramids in an area of the world so different in every way from Egypt or Central America and Mexico moves the question away from "what made them different?" to "what did they have in common."

    The biggest difference between the native cultures of Mexico and Central America and the native cultures of North America was climate. With long growing seasons, cultures grew faster when people settled in one place to cultivate the land. In most of North America the growing season was too short so the native peoples became hunters and gatherers instead of farmers.

    The example of Medjugorje is interesting. Might it have something to do with the monolith that is the Catholic Church. Once the Church was willing to accept the visions as a manifestation of faith, they took over. Political and economic groups don't have a mutual vision; each wants a bigger slice of the pie. Medjugorje was the whole pie jealously guarded by the Vatican. The throngs of people who made pilgrimages certainly made a difference in the lives of the people who lived in the area. Miracles have wide ranging benefits.


  4. Mira and Beth,

    What I'm about to share with you is inappropriate on so many levels, but so perfect for this subject that I had to share it. Almost immediately after reading Beth's comment I received the following email from a buddy I grew up with in Pittsburgh, PA. Enough said, here's the story titled, "Proud to be from Pennsylvania."

    After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York archeologists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more
 than 100 years ago.

    Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in the LA Times read: "California archaeologists, finding traces
 of 200 year old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network 100 years earlier than 
the New Yorkers."

    One week later, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a local newspaper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reported the following:

"After digging as deep as 30 feet in his back yard, a self-taught Pittsburgh archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely 
nothing and has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Pennsylvania had already gone wireless."

    Just makes me proud to be from PA.

  5. Mira--

    Thank you--very interesting post. This is indeed "an incredibly intriguing, fascinating enterprise." I hope someone funds a serious excavation.

    I have some doubts about Dr. Osmanagic's rigor, however. Calling these mounds "pyramids" is a cute publicity ploy. A pyramid is an impressive engineering feat. A mound is a pile of dirt.

    Many early cultures marked sacred spots by heaping up dirt and rocks, sometimes of great size and with distinctive shapes.

    But equating a mound with a pyramid is equating a sled with a locomotive.

    As far as the artifacts--let's assume they're genuine and the site wasn't salted, a practice not exactly unheard of by both professional and amateur archaeologists.

    Is there evidence they were made by the same culture at the same time? And I would be loathe to accept Osmanagic's estimate of their age until it was confirmed by carbon-dating by an established outside laboratory.

    What does ring instantly true is the Bosnian government's concern with immediate short-term economic concerns, and with bureaucratic territoriality. Five permits means five power bases and five bribes.

    A situation hardly exclusive to the Balkans. I live in Los Angeles County, where opening even a modest business means navigating a permitting maze whose complexity and multiplicity is something a rinky-dink Third World dictator would be proud of.

    Though of course we don't refer to the payments as bribes; they are lobbyist fees and campaign donations. Without which it somehow takes approximately 12,000 years for anything to get licensed.


  6. "Concern with concerns?"

    Oh, I grow old...


  7. Jeff and Lenny, together. I've been sitting here laughing with no one but the dogs trying to figure out why it is quiet, then she starts making strange noised, then it is quiet, and she starts again.

    Mira, the glories of history are in the lies. It is the story of people written by people who want to slant the story to make themselves look good.

    History is all about mystery which is probably why my readiing interests are limited to each. The questions in researching history are the same as those for journalists: who, what, when, where, how, why, (and one I added for my students) so what? It is the why and the so what that makes it so interesting.

    Salting a site has been going on since man figured out it made for a good scam.

    Lenny, don't we all.


  8. Where the hell is Bosnia? I remember Yugoslavia when it was Yugoslavia. I've been within shouting distance of Medjugorje and was a travel agent when the pilgrimages began so I know where it is. When I saw the post about "Bosnian pyramids" my mind jumped to Alexander The Great and ruins I saw in Greek Macedonia. I remembered standing with a tour group at the border, looking across a field at the part of Macedonia claimed by someplace in Yugoslavia. Could that be where the alleged pyramids are? Now I will have to Google Yugoslavia and paw through any old travel articles I wrote. For now, all I know about Bosnia is that American troops were stationed there, and for all I know, they are still there. Such a world!

    Pat Browning

  9. Condorena,
    I think you're right, once something like this starts, there's no end to theories. But, that's a good thing, isn't it?

  10. Good morning Jeffrey,

    Sorry I'm late answering. Had to figure it out first.
    Anyway, you're right about political aspects of the problem. Everyone's got an agenda and it shows. Can we issue some sort of a special licence to your chap? :-)

  11. Good morning, Beth
    Nice to talk to you again.
    I completely agree that climate is crucial to development of a culture. My notions are a little bit more simplistic than yours. To me, the climate determines motivation. Go to the extreme north sheer survival requires so much effort that there's nothing left to invest in future. Go as far south as you can and nature supplies enough to survive, and there's no particular reason to worry about tomorrow. It's only in moderate climates that there's both the need and the opportunity to build, accumulate and develop.
    As I say, a very simplistic theory. :-)
    Medjugorje - yes, a staunchly RC area, historically very much under the influence of Franciscan monks. The most popular theory among the sceptics is that the monks conditioned the children into trance. It's supported by the fact that after those initial 6-8 children, no one else had the same experience. Vatican was actually very reluctant to acknowledge the miracle and only gave in after a lot of pressure and their own tests. According to the Times, one of the first tests was to stick a knife into the back of one of the kids while she was in conversation with the apparition. The child didn't even flinch. The Times reporter was less concerned with the lack of reaction that the fact that the knife may have injured a nerve or a tendon and that it wasn't sterilised.
    But, as you say, miracles work in a miraculous ways and this one brought prosperity to the once very poor area. That's what I want for Bosnia.

  12. Love your mobile phone story, Jeffrey. Going off the principle that no one can prove a negative, who knows, there could be something in it. :-)

  13. Hi Lenny,
    Nice to meet you.
    You've got the government side of things worked out. Greasing the palms is a way of life there.

    One thing about Osmanagic - he genuinely believes in his find, that much is certain. Doesn't mean that he's right, of course, but he is not out to deceive. Not only that he's shelling out a lot of money on tests himself, he's begging anyone interested to do their own tests of anything that they've found so far. Another important point is that, again so far, there's nothing to contradict his theory. So, it's a case of wait and see.
    I'm terrified of becoming too enthusiastic or having too high expectations. Not because I'm worried about being shown up as a credulous idiot, but because I don't want to end up too disappointed. But, there's no reason not to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Don't you agree?

  14. Hi Pat

    If you remember Yugoslavia of old, Bosnia & Herzegovina was the one in the very centre of it.

    Visoko is a little to the north west from Sarajevo.

    On that map you'll also see Macedonia - another one of the newly independent states. They call themselves FYRM - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia these days, a totally silly name for a country, but apparently Greeks objected to it being simply Macedonia because of their own claims to the territory.

    Some light-hearted statistics: Ex-Yugoslavia bordered with 7 countries - Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. Jumbled up the anagram spelled - TROUBLES. :-)

  15. Beth,

    >>Mira, the glories of history are in the lies. It is the story of people written by people who want to slant the story to make themselves look good. <<

    True. We think that we invented spin doctors. I rather think that the profession was born around the fires in the caves.

  16. Mira--

    Oh yeah. I hope the good doctor keeps digging and keeps finding things. And is joined by full-time scholars, with adequate funding.

    Somebody, in some century, created those mounds. And, as you point out, they could eventually attract a valuable tourist trade.

    By the way--it isn't a exactly a mystery or crime fiction, but Scott Simon wrote a terrific novel called PRETTY BIRDS, set in Sarajevo during the siege. He covered it as a reporter and writes about it with great passion, empathy and wit.


  17. Lenny,

    My head is about to explode with frustration. Someone's recently mentioned Pretty Birds to me and I can't remember who or in what context. That's sooooo annoying.
    Oh why oh why have I ever abandoned my trusted lists?
    Anyway, thanks for reminding me. I'll look it up.