A Bosnian Pyramid, Or Just a Very Big Hill?

Said Sefo’s 2011 documentary tracks an investigation that could rewrite ancient world history and Bosnia’s present

The mystery surrounding this elevation has polarised the scientific world | Photo: Philipp Coppens

In 2005, historian and businessman Semir Osmanagi began an investigation of Visocica hill in the Visoko valley, a 30-minute drive north-west of Sarajevo. Then he wrote a book, claiming that the 220-metre-high hill was the remains of an ancient “Pyramid of the Sun”, one of several colossal stone structures in the vicinity, now overgrown with vegetation that he believes conceal an extensive pre-historical underground tunnel network.

Whilst some experts see pyramids, others see a hoax, convinced that the forms in the valley are nothing more than natural geological formations. Either way, “Sam” Osmanagic is an advocate of “alternative history,” who claims that the story of ancient times would need to be retold to account for the first pyramid discovered in the European continent.

Osmanagic named these structures The Bosnian Pyramids and established a charitable foundation, the Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun to fund the promotion and investigation of the site. His theories have come under considerable criticism since he came to prominence, as has his credibility, sparking a heated debate and media battle that is not over yet. In a quest for viewers to establish their own truth, Said Sefo’s intriguing and accessible documentary The Pyramid: Finding The Truth follows developments over the last four years and highlights the passionate and polarized positions of the main players.

Whether in Bosnia or the U.S., with scientific experts, business connections or at a support centre for children with special needs, the documentary shows Osmanagic as a relentless and persistent promoter of the pyramid theory. Dubbed as the Bosnian Indiana Jones, Osmanagic is a popular and charismatic figure, enjoying a semi-celebrity/rock star status with the locals in Visoko and well-respected by other expat Bosnians in Houston. He emigrated to America in 1993 and started a successful metalworking business he still owns today. Osmanagic claims to have no political ambition but claims that this ‘magnificent pyramid project’ has put Bosnia on a positive course and is the best way to promote the country. Indeed, the pyramid site in Visoko has become a tourist attraction and promoted local businesses, including souvenir sales of pyramid ornaments and t-shirts and the Bosnian Pyramids have become a matter of national pride.

The documentary intersects to other experts and “evidence” for or against the pyramid theory. A team of German archaeologists from Kiel University have been working in the area since 2002 conducting excavations on the Neolithic Butmir settlement. Dr. Johannes Muller outlines what has been discovered about the Butmir culture from the digs, including sophisticated forms of pottery and stylistic ornaments that are indications of high-level development and prosperity. The physical location of the settlement would have linked other centers of innovation in Europe, and would have indicated a significant size, with organized rule of some form, religious determination, political and economic power. The pyramid-shaped artifact in the area indicates a familiarity with or reverence for the form. Along with the commentary from the Sarajevo museum, the Butmir culture is thought to support the theory of the pyramid, that they may have been sun worshipers and been capable of building the structures.

At Boston University, we encounter Robert Schock, one of the pyramid theory’s key detractors. Where Osmanagic sees concrete blocks and human intervention, Schock sees perfectly natural sandstones and conglomerates that have broken into larger or smaller blocks due both to tectonic stresses and gravity slumping. Schock believes that the real treasure of Visoko may be fossils just waiting to be uncovered, not some imaginary pyramids. He believes Osmanagic’s claim of pyramids is not just a mistake, but a cruel hoax campaign that has now crossed the boundary into fraud and has gotten to the point that no one can back down. Dr. Blagoje Govedarica from the Archaelogical Institute Berlin is another detractor very concerned by Osmanagic’s methodology and argues that the forms are natural geology.

However, the pyramid theory has found support with several prominent and well-respected Egyptian experts; Dr Aly Bakarat sees the forms as ancient primitive pyramids and Dr. Nabil Swelim adds that it is a conceptual mistake to link pyramids only with ancient Egypt. Swelim, interviewed in Bosnia and Egypt against a backdrop of enticing views of the pyramids in Cairo, is convinced that it is the purpose and properties of pyramids that need to be considered – as tombs, as sacred grounds, as geometrical forms. From what Swelim has witnessed himself at the site in Visoko he believes it is possible that the forms in the valley are ancient pyramids. Scientific tests on ancient cement also seem to confirm Osmanagic’s position that the substance has been man-made.

All in all, Sefo’s documentary is an interesting expose on a fascinating and appealing subject, that would surely supply the next premise for narrative intrigue in a Dan Brown novel turned Hollywood movie. After years of battling the bureaucracy, Osmanagic has recently been given a permit to excavate at the site. What the grounds gives up may at last prove that the ancient world was not what we thought. Because, history is never final until there is nothing more to learn.


The Pyramid: Finding the Truth
Distributed by EXIT Production Sefo GbR

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