Are there lost pyramids in Bosnia? Probably not.

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 The permit was granted, but then it was revoked for fear the excavations could damage an existing archaeological site on the top of the hill.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

Python eats deer in Florida

It seems to me that no one wants to be around a 16 foot python in the wilderness, especially not if that python eats deer with one gulp, but everyone wants to see photos, watch videos, and, generally speaking, relish in the attractively discomforting news that a python swallowed a deer. So, this is what’s been happening in south Florida lately. The 139.1 pound snake weighed 215.4 with the deer in its stomach when it was contained in the Everglades. Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission killed the snake with a shotgun as to deter it from traveling north.

Native to Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons, such as this one, are popular pets in the United States. Snake owners sometimes aren’t prepared to deal with the Burmese’s rapid growth rate, which can cause a 20 inch snake to grow to 8 feet in just a year’s time. Oftentimes these surprised pet owners let their snake out into the wild when they can no longer cope with having them at home. And so, alas, check out some of the photos of the python at Huffington Post.

Man fined $65 for letting pet python crawl around Holiday Inn hallway

A 25 year old man from Mason City, IA has been fined $65 for letting his pet snake crawl uncontrolled through the hallways of the local Holiday Inn.

The man was a guest at the hotel, and apparently felt that his 5 year old pet python needed some exercise. What convinced him to let the snake loose in the hallway is a mystery, but the hotel manager says the man was apologetic about the incident.

Now, I’m not a pet owner myself, but I do understand people who love their pets a lot – but to let a python loose in a hotel hallway just boggles the mind.

The Holiday Inn manager did remind guests that the chain is pet friendly, but that their hospitality ends with cats and dogs. So, next time you take a trip, you may want to find a pet-sitter for your python.

Man uses snake as weapon in South Carolina motel dispute

Travelers face all kinds of nuisances at motels. Loud televisions, unsanitary room conditions and unexpected room charges all rank as typical inconveniences. But getting threatened with a four-foot long python typically isn’t a problem for guests – at least until now.

According to a BBC news report, a South Carolina man was threatened with a snake by another motel guest after a heated argument. Jeffrey Culp, the alleged victim, complained to his motel neighbor Tony Smith about loud music coming from his room. In retaliation Smith tracked down Culp, tapped him on the shoulder and thrust a four-foot long pet snake in his face, apparently leaving small scratches across the man’s lip. Mr. Culp, who told Smith he was deathly afraid of snakes earlier in the evening, was shaken up by the incident.

Mr. Smith, the snake aggressor, was arrested by police and charged with assault and battery. Future snake trouble-makers should take note: there’s a lesson to be learned. The next time you’re at a motel and wave your snake in someone’s face, don’t expect to get away with it.

North Korean film festival has begun!

If you just happen to be in Pyongyang for the next week, check out the city’s film festival. It opened yesterday at the People’s Palace of Culture, with the opening ceremony followed by a screening of “The Great Devotion (2009, the year of dramatic changes).” The festival’s fare is predictable in subject matter, but it will give you a leg up on the film junkies who brag about
Sundance and Cannes.

The festival, which begins on February 16, 2010, is set to last 10 days. According to a report by the Korea Central News Agency, North Korea’s official news outlet, those attending the film festival “will watch documentaries showing the undying feats of General Secretary Kim Jong Il making an endless forced march for field guidance, regarding President Kim Il Sung’s idea of believing in people as in Heaven as a maxim at cinemas and halls of culture in Pyongyang and various local areas.”

Some of the films being screened are “A White Gem,” “The Country I Saw” and “White Birch of Paektu,” as well as “other feature films dealing with mental power of the servicepersons and people of the DPRK creating a history of new great surge under the uplifted banner of devotedly defending the leader.”