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 The permit was granted, but then it was revoked for fear the excavations could damage an existing archaeological site on the top of the hill.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.

Nazca lines face threats from elements, negligence

Nazca lines
The Nazca lines are some of the world’s most mysterious ancient monuments. Giant images of people, animals, plants, and geometric shapes scratched onto the surface of the Peruvian desert by three different cultures from 500 BC to 500 AD, they’ve made generations of researchers scratch their heads over their purpose and meaning.

Now it turns out these unique figures aren’t so unique after all. They’re among the many ancient wonders under threat from the natural and man-made causes. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has been listed in the World Monuments Fund’s 2012 Watch because of threats from flooding and tourism. As you can see from these pictures, roads actually cut through some of the images.

Popular Archaeology has reported that trash has accumulated at the site and that tourism facilities are crowding the area. Some mudslides and flooding nearby didn’t seriously hurt the designs, but serve as a warning of what could happen. The regional government is working on a plan to save the situation. The region makes a good deal of money from tourism, so they have every reason to preserve these enigmatic figures for the next generation.Nazca linesSadly, there’s another threat to the Nazca lines–the threat of ignorance. Most of what you see about the lines in the media is New Age pseudoarchaeology about Atlantis and aliens. I’ve written before about how the ancient astronaut theory is racist, being implicitly based on the assumption that cultures with dark skin couldn’t possibly have scratched out designs in the dirt without help from beings from another planet.

Yes, they’re so big they can only be seen from the air, but all you have to do is make a smaller drawing you can see easily and then expand the dimensions to create your final product. There’s also a theory that the builders had hot air balloons, although there is no direct evidence of this. There’s no direct evidence that they were UFO runways either, like Erich von Däniken would have us believe. While I’m not sure I buy the balloon theory, that’s no reason to immediately jump to the least plausible explanation.

[Condor image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Monkey image courtesy Maria Reiche]

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.

Glastonbury hippies claim local WiFi network is damaging their “ley lines”

In something that sounds like it came right out of a South Park episode, a local group of hippies is complaining that a recently installed WiFi mesh network in the UK village of Glastonbury is causing all kinds of health problems.

The new-age residents descended upon the village several years ago because they believe in its powerful healing abilities.

To combat the signals from the Wi-Fi hotspots, the hippies have placed orgone generators around the antennae, but so far without any success.

This might have to do with the fact that orgone generators look like they are just bundt pans with some tin foil pieces.

Speaking of tin foil, despite 100’s of research studies, nobody has ever found any links between WiFi signals and health issues, and the village of Glastonbury has been blanketed in mobile phone signals since the late 80’s without anyone feeling ill from the “radiation”.

(Via: The Inquirer)