before it's in the papers"
August 03, 2010
TO THE WORLD SCIENCE HOME PAGE
World’s media duped over “pyramid” find, experts claim
and World Science staff
The world’s newspapers and other media outlets have been duped into reporting claims that evidence of Europe’s first pyramid has turned up in Bosnia, a group of archaeologists says.
Last month, major newspapers and news agencies globally reported that archaeologists had unearthed stone slabs that they described as part of an ancient pyramid buried under a huge hill in Bosnia-Herzegovina. World Science also noted the claims in a brief article.
But a group of experts say they’re shocked that so many prominent news organizations have been duped.
They say the reports are nonsense; the project’s director is an amateur who compares himself to Indiana Jones and believes human ancestors inhabited a distant star cluster; and the excavation could damage real archaeological relics at or near the site.
The doubts are to be detailed in an article in the upcoming July/August issue of Archaeology magazine, a publication of the Boston-based Archaeological Institute of America.
The claim, “which is simply not possible, has been accepted as a major discovery,” the magazine’s editor Mark Rose, himself a trained archaeologist, wrote in the online edition of the magazine. “How could this happen?”
The answer, Rose wrote, may be that the reports seemed to fit a storyline that journalists and editors love: “amateur/maverick confounds establishment with great discovery.”
The project leader, Semir Osmanagić, declined to respond to emails requesting comment. But an associate of his remarked that anyone criticizing the project should first see the site personally, and that all visitors are welcome.
Rose and some other critics didn’t dispute that they had not, in fact, visited the site. But they argued that this was unnecessary, suggesting they felt the claim was so absurd as to be not worth the time and expense to check on it personally.
Osmanagic’s theory implies the presence of pyramids larger than the Egyptian pyramids during the late Stone Age, 12,000 years ago, Rose argued. This “would be the equivalent of finding a 747 airliner in a Roman period site,” he wrote in an email. “It doesn’t take a trip to Bosnia to know this is not going to happen.”
Other archaeologists who are blasting the project include Curtis Runnels of Boston University and Anthony Hardy, president of the European Association of Archaeologists. Hardy wrote in an email that he has “trusted colleagues” who did visit the site, but can’t name them because “experience suggests that they would come in for abuse” from supporters of project.
Although Osmanagić did not respond to a request to answer the criticisms, an associate of his who operates a website promoting the project, Meho Macić, wrote in an email that critics should take the time to see the site. “Everybody is welcome to come,” he added, and those experts that have done so have “confirmed that all work is being professionally done.”
Osmanagić declined to provide a list of these visitors, though, and two visitors that Macić named didn’t respond to emails.
Osmanagić isn’t without backers, though. One of the people that Macić identified, Senad Hodović, directs the Historic Heritage Museum of the town of Visoko, near the site. He has spoken publicly in support of Osmanagić. “The pyramids are obviously the work of man,” he was quoted saying in an Agence France-Presse article of last Oct. 31.
Rose said that Osmanagić also appears to have backers within the Bosnian and Sarejevo city government, although many Bosnians also oppose the project.
Osmanagić, who wears an Indiana Jones-style hat and is described at the website as “Bosnia’s Indiana Jones,” worked for years among Mayan ruins. Yet he’s a hobby archaeologist with no professional credentials, Rose wrote. And scrutiny of his writing turns up some bizarre claims, Rose added, including that Mayans descend from the legendary submerged city of Atlantis—and, before that, the Pleiades star cluster.
Websites promoting Osmanagić provide many photos of purported pyramid evidence, but critics remain unimpressed. They say the photos probably represent geological formations or other archaeological sites that are real, but have nothing to do with pyramids. “My understanding is that there is a Medieval village, and Illyrian and Roman sites” in the vicinity, Hardy wrote in an email.
Osmanagić “may, in fact, be destroying real sites,” Rose added.
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