The Bosnian Pyramids and Semir Osmanagic
Next to a small village in Bosnia there is what some believe is the world's oldest and largest pyramid. Sitting there forgotten for millennials until one man discovered them again. Or did he?
Hi, hello and välkommen to digging up ancient aliens. This is the podcast where we examine the TV-show Ancient Aliens. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist or are there better explanations out there?
I am your host Fredrik and this is episode 20! And it is really nice to be somewhat back after a little time off the air. I managed to lose my voice for a few days and I am still recovering but it is getting better. This will be a bit different episode than we usually have, due to vacations and to celebrate our 20 episodes I thought we would dive into what somewhat started this whole show. We will look deeper into the Bosnian pyramids and I hear you. I know it’s not really associated with Ancient Aliens but it builds a lot on the same ideas as Graham Hancock and his likes. The creator of the bosnian pyramids have also in the past claimed that maybe the Mayans were picked up by spaceships. So we have some light ancient alien connection here.
I also felt it could be interesting to dig into more recent claims that might have some archeology tied to it. To be honest we’ve not seen too much archeology in the latest episodes of Ancient Aliens.
Remember that you can find sources, resources and reading suggestions on our website, diggingupancientaliens.com. There you also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions. And if you like the podcast I would really appreciate it if you left one of those fancy five star reviews that I’ve heard so much about.
Enough of me jammering let’s see what a Bosnian Pyramid is and why you would even want one. .
Sources, resources and further reading suggestions
Where to start this story then? I believe it might be best to start with the creator of the legends, myth or claim. Whatever you want to call it. The claim is rather “new” in scare quotes, this does not stem from some Von Däniken, Sitchin or other 70’s writers. The claim is from 2005 to be quite precise, dreamt up by a Semir Osmanagic or Sam as he sometimes calls himself. Usually we tend to focus on the claims and not the person but in this case both of them are tied together. If we know Osmanagic we will be able to better understand the claims and how they came to be.
Semir was born 1960 in Zenicia, then part of Yugoslavia and today part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He seems to have been part of a family with at least one older brother, not much seems to be known about his family. Semirs father Muris Osmanagic had a doctorate in Geology and worked as a professor. The University is unknown but not that important to our story. But Semir in his biography want to stress that his father was the receiver of the AVNOJ Award or “The Award of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People's Liberation of Yugoslavia”. This award was given to people or organizations who had contributed to the development of Yugoslavia. Muris Osmanagic received this award in 1982 and from the look of things it seems as if they lived quite a comfortable life. Semir went on to complete a bachelor in political science. Semir also claims to have a MA in international economics. But his studies are not yet over but we’ll get back to them shortly.
Semir went on going to work for a for its era and location quite large company called United Metal Industry of Sarajevo and after that he founded his own import-export company. But a storm was brewing and in 1992 when the Bosnian War broke out Semir fled and emigrated to the United States. Ending up in Huston he came to work for an oil and gas company where he became the general manager.
Semir claims to have left the company due to unwillingness from the board to update the computer park in the company. Being told no was enough for Osmangic and he handed in his resignation. In a later interview he describes how he was down on his luck (somehow after being a GM for some time) so he loaned money from his friends and maxed out his credit cards to start a new business. The banks didn’t believe in him, they just wanted things like a three year financial plan and a lot of paperwork to give him a loan. Those bastards, Semir is a man who does things, not planning things. Anyhow he did start a business called Met Co. Inc. It seems to still be in business so it is not doing too bad, it’s been going for some 15 years plus. If it’s something Semir seems to be able to do is to run a company properly. If he would have focused more on this I would not have had any issues with Semir. But something you will learn about Semir Osmanagic is that he loves recognition and wanting to be famous. If you read about him he does not really go into his claims, he rather tells you about awards, titles and how many applauds he gets after a lecture. He enjoys being famous but that’s hard in the finance industry. Semir knows how to run a company good and proper but they are not going on the fortune 500 list anytime soon.
Maybe it is because of this he ventured into “pseudohistory” and “alternative science”. Semir does not go into how he came into these subjects but before he created the Bosnian pyramids he had written two books. “The World of Maya” in 2004, in it he talks about how advanced the Mayans were and that they might originate from atlantis. In the book he talks about the extra-terrestrial influence on the mayan so we have an ancient alien connection. The book isn’t that great, for example he claims there’s a pictograph named Ek Chuan or “star traveler”. Supposed to look like a disk with three legs. I can’t find this one and to be honest I think Semir mixes up Ek Chuaj, a quite well known god and the patron of Cacao.
In 2003 he released “Alternativna povijest – tragovima Atlantide” that contains claims that’s not new to us such as Hitler escaped to an underworld on Antarctica and fought Rychard Byrd in 1946. We did talk about other claims surrounding this back in episode 12 with Dr. Bill Farley. There’s other new age claims in there but nothing new or exciting.
I did find it a bit amusing that Osmanagic wrote on one of his websites for the books that “The author has no illusions that he "possesses knowledge.”. He then adds that he is basically just asking questions.
But let’s talk about the “discovery” that put Semir Osmangaic in the limelight. Located in the Zenica-Doboj Canton in Bosnia is a small village named Visoko. It is home to some 40 000 people and is 30 minutes by car or an hour by train from Sarajevo. Here lies the Visočica hill, measuring some 213 meters it towers over the nearby village. Looking at the hill from a specific angle and at a distance you can see that two sides of it look quite pyramid shaped. The two triangular sides also seem to have a square base adding to the appearance. It’s not hard to see how someone might look at this hill and go “wow, this somewhat looks like a pyramid”. But these formations are not that rare in nature and in Colorado you have the Flatirons and in Russia near Vladivostok there’s two formations known as the Russian Twin Pyramids. Interesting tie in here is that Phillip Coppens believed that these hills were man made pyramids. Coppens, who did appear on a lot of episodes of Ancient Aliens, was known to dabble in these types of claims.
But in 2005 Osmanagic was in the village to promote his two books. He noted the form of the pyramid and upon looking at a compass he determined that the sides lined up with the cardinal points in a way that nature can’t produce. How does he know that? It seems kinda as if we need to just accept this as is. A closer explanation isn’t really given.
So this is the origin of the Bosnian pyramids. Visočica hill, or “Pyramid of the Sun” as it’s known by its believers, is just one of several pyramids in the valley. If you go to the other side of Visočica you will find what Semir believes is the oldest step pyramid called “Pyramid of the Moon”. Please don’t mix these up with the pyramids with the same name in Teotihuacan.
But while on the other side of Visočica make sure to not look back since it would disrupt the illusion of a pyramid. The other hills claimed to be pyramids do not really resemble a pyramid either.
But Europe isn’t really famous for its pyramids. You have for example the Falicon pyramid in France, built by different size stones and resembles more a cairn than a pyramid. But some speculated that this would be part of a shrine from Roman legionaries in an Egyptian cult. But more recent excavation seems to indicate it was built between 1803 to 1812, most likely by soldiers returning from Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. Some older other examples would be the pyramid of Hellinikon, one of two in Greece that still stand. Then we have the Pyramid of Cestius, built between 18-12 BCE as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. The pyramid measures a whopping 125 roman feet tall (or roughly 39 meter) and 100 roman feet wide (or as we today would say almost 30 meter). The Greek and the Roman pyramids were actually new to me and now I have a new reason to go back to Rome. The Roman pyramid was created as a grave with a chamber but the Greek ones we are not entirely sure what the main purpose was. But all of these were built long after the Egyptian pyramids and to be honest Europeeans were more into dolmens and tumili than pyramids. The necessary infrastructure was not there in Europe until really late and by then the fashion was not giant “rob me please” grave markers.
But with this little side step in mind, how old are the pyramids? Semir has suggested different dates, first he claims that the Pyramids were built by Illyrians who occupied the area (according to Osmanagic) between 12000 BCE to 500 BCE. Recently Semir moved the construction date back to 35 000 BCE, making it the largest and earliest construction of this type. But why this date? Well Semir claims to have found a fossilized leaf somewhere in a tunnel beneath the pyramid. There’s different ways to date a fossil, if it’s young enough you can do a c14 dating on it and if it’s older you can use relative dating. The issue here is that we don’t know where it was found, how it was dated and how it was calibrated. This is something we see again and again with Semir Osmanagic claims, the claims are not published in any type of journal. No peer-review or even a journal mill that publishes anything if you just pay them enough. The website isn’t of much help either. He spends more time on “health testimonies”, the amount of visitors to his lectures and how much applause he gets than on information about the pyramids. I’ve really tried to dig down into the information available in multiple languages but there’s not much.
So the age is a bit unclear but they have excavated the site so there should be solid proof of building blocks right? Yes, if you ask Semir there is. In fact the pyramids are built of on site poured concrete. In fact it’s even of better quality than what we can make today. But again he does not cite or give any document we can read. Just mentions a “Institutes for materials from Bosnia-Herzegovina” and in the Bosnian version of the site (also Serbian and Croatian) it’s literary only “analysis in Bosnia Herzegovina” (prema analizama bosanskohercegovačkih). There’s no institute in Bosnia Herzegovina with this name.
So what do other people have to say about this? An interesting thing I found was a quote from Robert Scoch, a frequent flier in Ancient Alien circles and not new to strange claims. Scoch is supposed to have called the pyramids "It's completely straightforward and mundane", I mean if you can’t convince Dr. Scoch. The hill consists of what all the hills in the area consist of, alternating layers of conglomerates (no not companies but a sedimentary type of rock), sandstone and clay. Nothing too fancy and the geologists in Bosnia are not really surprised with what Semir has found or too impressed with his claims.
So the dating is unclear, the building blocks are unclear. Does Semir offer any more scientific evidence? He did in fact work with Dr. Amer Smailbegovic to study the valley with the help of thermal imaging. Dr. Smailbegovic claims that with thermal imaging he can detect pyramids with the help of imergia. Or what point cools the fastest in the night and gets hot fastest in the morning. Smailbegovic does not state how this would only affect manmade structures and on closer inspection it seems that imergia affects all tall things such as hilltops, mountains and even pyramids. So the claim here is not really great again.
Semir Osmanagic also claims that there’s tunnels beneath the pyramids connecting them. But again these claims are just as mundane as anything else. There’s tunnels but they can be natural caves and what’s not mentioned is that there was extensive mining in the area before. So he could be in mineshafts and videos that were circulating before came from a tunnel some 3 kilometers away from the pyramids. But the precise location is rarely given for the tunnels.
Osmanagic also took in Henry Oldfield who used a special camera that with the help of crystals is replacing colors in the picture. This way the camera can see what psychics can see and detect in nature. But how this is true seems to be only known to Henry himself and I feel that we don’t need to delve into this claim until Henry has some more concrete evidence that the camera can do what he claims. But Henry Oldfields explanations for why this is a pyramid is the same old energy collection and that it can harvest energy and electricity. Nothing we haven’t heard before.
What do the archeological community have to say about all of this? Already in 2006 the European Society of Archeologists released the following statement:
“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. It is a waste of scarce resources that would be much better used in protecting the genuine archaeological heritage and is diverting attention from the pressing problems that are affecting professional archaeologists in Bosnia-Herzegovina on a daily basis.”
But reading the Bosnian media would give you another picture. In fact there are few reporters and media outlets who critically report on the pyramids. To criticize the monuments can lead to harassment and being silenced. Zilka Kujundzic-Vejzagic one of Balkans most respected archaeologists debated against Osmanagic and would after this be described as an “enemy of Bosnia” by people on the tram and receive other threats by phone. The same has been described among staff at the University of Sarajevo.
It’s with this background he started his pHD at the University of Sarajevo. Because if there’s something you will learn about Semir is that he has a pHD and he writes this anywhere. So you think he has a doctorate in archeology, anthropology or maybe history? Well, do you remember that political science degree we mentioned before? Yes, he has a doctorate in political science and that by itself is nothing wrong but this thesis looks weird. The title of the dissertation is “Non-technological Civilization of MAYAS versus Modern TECHNOLOGICAL CIVILIZATIONS” which I guess could fit into political science if you wanted to. But the abstract does not give us any information about the aim of the research, method, main results or really the conclusion. He spends more time defending how the thesis qualifies as a dissertation and that in the end he will prove known history wrong. We do not really get any clear research questions or objectives. The person Semir points out as a mentor is a sociology professor that later turned to teach criminology named Hidajet Repovac.
But in his dissertation Semir argues that scholars do not classify Mayan as a civilization. I’m not sure if he is mixing up empire with civilization but I’ve not really encountered someone denying maya to be a civilization. Alright what more then? Moving on we learn that Maya culture is older than Olmec and Zapotec and that the crystal skulls are evidence of the advanced technology the Mayans had.
So as you notice it’s hard to understand how the dissertation was able to pass. Sure having a committee not familiar with the material might have helped but still. They should have denied the dissertation much earlier, but we will talk a bit more about the university later that might add some more depth here. But to be frank this does not show the university of Sarajevo in a good light. Even using the crystal skulls, a known hoax, in the thesis should have if not failed it at least raised a few red flags.
We could go into more details here but I feel it would be basically to be punching down at this point. But again it’s important to note that Semir is not stupid, again he seems to be a good buissnessman. But he seems to enjoy being in the center and being famous.
In the past to gain some extra credence written that scientists that have nothing to do with the project had leading roles in it. Royce Richards is one of them, another is Chris Mundigler and the list can be longer. Sometimes the people and connection to Osmanagic’s project can be real but he inflates their role. Such as Dr. Ali Barakat who was described as a pyramid expert “sent out by Cairo” to assist the project. Archeology Magazine did reach out to the Supreme Council for Antiquities in Egypt about this Dr. Zahi Hawass (then Ministry of State of Antiquities) replied:
“The discoverer of the “pyramid” in Bosnia, Semir Osmanagić, who claims that a hill near the Bosnia River is a man-made structure built before the end of the last Ice Age, is not a specialist on pyramids. His previous claim that the Maya are from the Pleiades and Atlantis should be enough for any educated reader. This “pyramid” is actually a sloping hill near a village. /../ Mr. Barakat, the Egyptian geologist working with Mr. Osmanagić, knows nothing about Egyptian pyramids. He was not sent by the SCA, and we do not support or concur with his statements.”
But this has not stopped the Pyramid project to become a theme park in Visoko. The government has even given the pyramid foundation a lot of money to proceed with the project. It sounds strange when the National Museum is searching for money to repair damages from the Bosnian war. On the subject of the Bosnian war it is maybe not strange that ´Visoko have opened their arms toward Osmanagic. The town was hit hard during the war, most of its industry was destroyed and the village never really recovered. But Osmanagic’s project and park have brought in tourists and money. I think we have some explanations for the success here. Due to the war the poverty rate can be up to 20% in the countryside and 50% of the population is at risk of becoming poor. With Osmanagics claims and parks they can get more tourists and with it more money.
The monument has also become a symbol for the Bozniacs, nationalists who have their seat in Visoko. They see the monument as a proof of the greatness of Bosnia and what once was will come again.
So this is the story of the pyramids of Bosnia. Are the pyramids real? No it seems to have been invented by one man and sold to a war torn nation desperate for a monument of greatness.
Next time we should be back with the normal episodes as usual. I hope all of you have a great summer and that you have some good time off work too.
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Until next time, keep shoveling that science!
Sources, resources and further reading suggestions
Beachy, D. (2008). ‘Forging ahead: Met Co. Inc.’, Houston Business Journal, Dec 8 2008. Bizjournals.com. Web. https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2008/12/08/smallb1.html
Dunning, B. (2009). "The Bosnian Pyramids." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 10 Feb 2009. Web. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4140
Woodard, C. (2009). ‘The Mystery of Bosnia’s Ancient Pyramids’. Smithsonian Magazine. Web. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-mystery-of-bosnias-ancient-pyramids-148990462/
Austin, J. (2017). ‘‘Ancient pyramid’ discovery key to Nikola Tesla’s communication with aliens, says expert’. Express. Web. https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/773789/Bosnian-Pyramid-Nikola-Tesla-standing-waves-aliens
Khey, C. (2015). Pyramids exist in Bosnia: Archaeologist The Straits Times. Web. https://www.straitstimes.com/world/pyramids-exist-in-bosnia-archaeologist
Peppe, D. (2013). ‘Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods’. Nature. Web. https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/dating-rocks-and-fossils-using-geologic-methods-107924044/
Harding, A et al. (2006). ‘EAA Declaration about the Bosnian Pyramids’. Web.
Inc., A.S.I. (n.d.). European Association of Archeologists. www.e-a-a.org. Web. https://www.e-a-a.org/
Rose, M. (2006). Bosnian ‘Pyramids’ Update. Archaeology Magazine. Web. https://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/osmanagic/update.html
Osmanagic, S. (2009). Non-technological Civilization of MAYAS versus Modern TECHNOLOGICAL CIVILIZATIONS. Download thesis here.
“Now we ride” by Alexander Nakarada (serpentsoundstudios.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons BY Attribution 4.0 License
“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv