Are there lost pyramids in Bosnia? Probably not.

pyramids in Bosnia, Visoko
For several years now, European archaeologists have been in a furor over a supposed lost civilization in Bosnia that built the biggest pyramids in the world. Scholars have dismissed the claims, made by Bosnian-American businessman Semir Osmanagic, as pseudoscience, yet he’s getting funding from the Bosnian government and was just granted permission to excavate over the objections of the country’s archaeological establishment.

Osmanagic is convinced a large hill overlooking the town of Visoko near the Bosnian capital Sarajevo is a pyramid from an lost civilization dating to about 12,000 years ago, when the region was experiencing the Ice Age. The hill is indeed roughly pyramid-shaped, at least the half that faces the town. The other half is a bit lumpy. In fact, if you look at it with Google Earth, it doesn’t look like a pyramid at all. Geologists say it’s a natural formation and that there are several like it in the region; Osmanagic says many of those hills are pyramids too.

To prove his point Osmanagic set up the “Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” and since 2005 has been fighting for permission to excavate. The permit was granted, but then it was revoked for fear the excavations could damage an existing archaeological site on the top of the hill. This is a medieval fort with Roman foundations built atop a Neolithic settlement. Now permission has been granted again and the work will continue.

A victory for independent science against the narrow vision of academia? Not necessarily.

Looking at the photos on Osmanagic’s website on the pyramids in Bosnia, I don’t see anything indicating there’s a pyramid there. Most of the supposedly worked stone looks like other natural formations I’ve seen, the so-called “secret tunnels” could be from any era, and the few examples of obviously worked stone could just as easily be medieval. In fact, Byzantine records say there was a town here in the Middle Ages and it has not been found. The Bosnian pyramid team may be destroying a real archaeological site in order to create a fake one.Some of Osmanagic’s actions seem a bit fishy too. He claimed to have assembled a team of experts to work on the site and give him advice, including famous Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, but many of them said they had never agreed to work on the site. Some of them said Osmanagic never even contacted them.

In an angry letter to Archaeology Magazine, Dr. Hawass wrote, “The discoverer of the “pyramid” in Bosnia, Semir Osmanagic, 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.”

The claim has certainly created a tourist industry in the previously sleepy town, and it’s sparking interest in Bosnia’s past. So where’s the harm?

In an article in Science, Bosnian archaeologists lamented that funding and attention were going to the fanciful pyramid theory while the nation’s real heritage remains underfunded and underprotected. Some have even reported being threatened for speaking out against the project. The Bosnian Pyramids have become a matter of national pride for a nation still feeling the wounds of the bitter war of the 1990s. Osmanagic has made Bosnia the cradle of civilization, or as he terms it, “supercivilization”.

This is the sort of nationalistic chest-thumping that got the Balkans into trouble in the first place. Osmanagic is playing with fire.

Top ten lake monsters (besides Nessie)

lake monstersHere at Gadling we’ve reported a lot of news about the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie gets so much media attention that one might think its Scottish loch is the only body of water haunted by a mysterious and almost certainly fictitious creature.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lake monsters are everywhere. Here are ten of the most interesting, most of which inhabit lakes that are easy to get to, so you can start your own investigation.

The Lough Ness Monster. A young English upstart in Loughborough, Leicestershire, recently tried to steal the limelight from its Scottish cousin by eating some ducks.

Nahuelito. This critter lives in Nahuel Huapi Lake, Patagonia, Argentina. As you can see from this alleged photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, it looks a bit like Nessie. Cryptozoologists, the people who study such things, say both may be plesiosaurs. These swimming dinosaurs supposedly died out 65 million years ago. Interestingly, a plesiosaur fossil was discovered at Loch Ness in 2003.

Isshii. Japan’s most famous lake monster lives in Lake Ikeda, where it has been spotted numerous times in the past thirty years. According to the website Pink Tentacle, it’s a super-fast swimmer and once had a run-in with the U.S. military. The story goes that in 1961, an American jet crashed in the vicinity of the lake. The military used sonar to look for it and spotted a large object moving under the water. Divers on the lake floor spotted the creature and said it nearly attacked them. Or so the story goes. Sounds to me like someone was drinking too much saké.

The Lake Tianchi Monster. In an alpine lake straddling the border of China and North Korea there supposedly lives a community of up to 20 lake monsters. The first recorded sighting dates to 1903, when something resembling a giant buffalo threatened three people by the lakeside. One guy shot it six times before it gave out a ear-splitting roar and returned to the water.

%Gallery-141876%The Brosno Dragon. This beastie lives in Lake Brosno, near Andreapol in western Russia. Some people dismiss the idea of a monster living in the lake and say it’s really a giant mutant beaver, as if this make more sense. Whatever it is, it’s a patriot. It once gobbled up an invasion force of Mongols, and in World War Two snatched a Luftwaffe plane right out of the air. Pravda wrote a long article about the Brosno Dragon, so it must exist.

The Varberg Fortress Moat Monster. The 13th century castle at Varberg reportedly has a monster in its moat. It hasn’t been seen much, despite the castle being a major tourist attraction and home to a youth hostel. Some lucky visitors did get to see it in 2006, however, and described it as brown, furless, and with a 16-inch tail. It was summertime, so perhaps it came out of hibernation to check out the sights at the nearby nudist beach.

The Lagarfljóts Worm. Iceland is a land filled with legends. Many Icelanders still believe in trolls and other supernatural creatures, so it’s no surprise they have a lake monster too. In the glacial lake of Lagarfljót dwells a strange creature said to be more than 300 feet long. According to the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the worm was first mentioned in the Icelandic Annals of 1345 and sighting its hump rising out of the water was a sign that good news was sure to follow.

Chipekwe or Emela-ntouka. Called by many names in many African languages, this monster of Central Africa is known as the “killer of elephants” by the pygmies, who are the people who have the most legends about it. The creature dwells in swamps, lakes, and rivers, anywhere the water is shallow, and looks a bit like a rhino. Several pith-helmeted white explorers have gone out to hunt for it, but never found anything. Some say it’s really a spirit instead of a monster, but until someone blasts it with an elephant gun, we’ll never know.

Bunyip. The Australian Aborigines say the bunyip can be found all over Australia. It dwells in all types of water, not just lakes, so you better be careful. Unlike most of the critters on our list, the bunyip can be downright aggressive. Descriptions of the bunyip vary from a big canine to a giant starfish. Like the Chipekwe, it seems to be more of a spirit than an actual living monster, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Its booming voice is a signal to run, lest you get eaten like the poor fellow shown in the image gallery.

Ogopogo. Native Americans say this “lake demon” has been around a long time. It lives in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada, and looks much like Nessie. Like the Scottish monster, it’s created an entire tourism industry around it, along with groups that study it. Your typical serpent with wavy humps coming out of the water, it’s said to be about 50 feet long. A recent video of the creature went viral on the Internet and can be seen here. To me it looks like a pair of logs stuck close to shore. Perhaps Ogopogo likes to play fetch.

And yes, I didn’t mention the Lake Champlain Monster. I wanted to focus on the less famous critters. Heck, I once saw someone wearing a Lake Champlain Monster t-shirt in Ethiopia.

New Age archaeology tours rooted in racism

Last week’s discovery of some tombs of the pyramid builders in Egypt left me a bit confused. The archaeologists triumphantly claimed the tombs prove the builders were hired workmen, not slaves. Slaves wouldn’t have been buried in proper tombs right next to the Pyramids, the resting place of the pharaohs.

I used to be an archaeologist and couldn’t understand what they were crowing about. Archaeologists have long known that hired labor built Egypt’s temples and monuments. During the annual flooding of the Nile the farmers didn’t have much to do because their fields were underwater, so the pharaoh hired them to keep them out of trouble and glorify himself. In fact, a similar set of tombs was discovered in 1990. So what’s the big deal?

Then I remembered. If archaeologists don’t keep repeating the facts, the BS will bury the truth.

I’ve been to a lot of ancient sites, and even more annoying than the touts trying to sell me cheap trinkets are the “spiritual travelers” spouting gibberish about ancient astronauts and Atlantis. You’ve heard the theories. The local people couldn’t possibly have built these impressive remains so they got a helping hand from aliens. Another spin is that all the great archaeological sites are survivals of an ancient civilization. It doesn’t matter that there’s not a shred of real evidence to back these claims; these First World fantasies are much more alluring than the simple truth–dark people speaking strange languages built the most impressive monuments in human history.

These ideas aren’t new. Fingerprints of the Gods, Chariots of the Gods, America B.C., The Lost Continent of Mu, all recycle the same old half-truths, out-of-context “facts”, and outright inventions in their quest to peddle nonsense to a public that should have been given a better education in the first place. New Age archaeology tours have become big business. There’s nothing more annoying than having to elbow your way through one of these wide-eyed herds when in the presence of something truly great like Machu Picchu or Giza.

What many New Agers would be shocked to realize is that their ideas are rooted in colonial racism. Early European explorers and scholars couldn’t believe that “natives” were capable of building the great monuments in places like Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Peru and explained them away by thinking up lost white civilizations or wandering tribes of Europeans. Some modern writers have replaced Aryans with aliens, but the Great White Civilization idea still persists. Do a Google image search on “Atlanteans” and you’ll see what I mean.

So please, throw away the crystals and read some real archaeology books. The archaeologists don’t have all the answers, but at least they’re trying. And I can tell you from ten years in the business that despite what New Agers say, archaeologists aren’t conspiring to hide the truth. Repeat: there is no grand conspiracy.

But I would say that, wouldn’t I? Got to go, Venus is calling.