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The Saga of the Bosnian Pyramid

i-710d005c8660d36282911838843a792d-ClockWeb logo2.JPGYou may have heard about the crazy “discovery” of a pyramid in Bosnia, the scientific nonsense about it and the political heat it provoked. I have covered the story last winter and spring in a lot of detail (see my posts from December 07, 2005, January 30, 2006, April 17, 2006, April 22, 2006, April 29, 2006, May 02, 2006, May 07, 2006, May 13, 2006, May 16, 2006, June 02, 2006 and June 07, 2006), but have lost touch since then. And a lot of stuff happened in the meantime. The members of the Anti-Pyramid Webring have been pursuing the story with vigor and I’ll try to catch up with them and write a summary of the news and views within the next week or two (almosty all of their work is in one variant or another of Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian language so I’ll have to do some translating). In the meantime, to get you all up to speed, here are the re-posts of all of my earlier coverage – lots of links for your enjoyment:

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A Pyramid in Bosnia?

There is no resolution to this story as of today, but it will be interesting to watch as this story unfolds. For now, let me say I am a bit skeptical, and I invite the readers with expertise (archaeologists, for instance) to chime in.

From BBC, comes this (a couple of months ago):

Bosnia’s leading Muslim daily Dnevni Avaz writes excitedly about “a sensational discovery” of “the first European pyramid” in the central town of Visoko, just north of Sarajevo. Excavations at a hill site above the town have been going on for several months and initial analyses “have confirmed the original claim that this is Europe’s first pyramid and a monumental building, similar in dimensions to the Egyptian pyramids.”
“The pyramid is 100 metres high and there is evidence that it contains rooms and a monumental causeway … The plateau is built of stone blocks, which indicates the presence at the time of a highly developed civilisation,” the daily explains.
“Archaeological excavations near the surface have uncovered a part of a wall and fragments of steps,” it reveals.
“Visocica hill could not have been shaped like this by nature,” geologist Nada Nukic tells the daily. “This is already far too more than we have anticipated, but we expect a lot more from further analysis,” she concludes.

Note the wording “there is evidence” about the structures inside the hill. Also, note Nada’s Mt.Rushmore analogy. Also note that the name of the discoverer is not mentioned.
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UNJOURNALED blog adds Pyramid found – in the heart of Bosnia!!:

Near the city of Visoko, 30 km north of Sarajevo, there is a stone pyramid of monumental size, claims the Bosnian archeologist Semir Osmanagić, who lives and works in the USA. After several months of geological and archeological research, Mr. Osmanagić concluded that under the present hill of Visočica hides a stairs-like pyramid, about 12,000 years old. Osmanagić, who intensively researched on pyramids in Americas, Asia and Africa for the last 15 years and wrote several books on the subject, says he’s quite sure he found the first pyramid in Europe, which is quite similar to ones in the Southern America.
He believes that the project would completely change Bosnia’s significance in the world of archeology. On the top of “Bosnian pyramid of Sun” was a temple, built by pre-Illyrians, people who lived, according to Osmanagić, 27,000 years ago. Mr. Osmanagić thinks he will solve the “Bosnian pyramid of Sun” in the next five years, but also prove the existence of “Bosnian pyramid of Moon”, lying under the neighboring hill of Križ.

Note that Osmanagic is identified as an archaeologist. I could not find his institutional website or any other information apart from the articles on this fresh piece of news. Also note that he has published books about this (or other stuff?) already. How does the pyramid already have a name? Since when? Who gave it a name – Osmanagic? Why think there is a second one?
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BurakEldem answers one of the questions – Osmanagic has published a book on this particular pyramid and it appears that he gave it a name:

A US-based Bosnian independent researcher, Semir Osmanagic claims in his new published book “The Bosnian Sun Pyramid” that a 700 meters high hill near Sarajevo was actually the oldest known pyramid of the world. According to Osmanagic, archaeological researches has already revealed some sandstone slabs 5 meters below the surface. He recalls the German archaeologists’ latest findings of 7000 years old artifacts near the hill. He claims that the “Bosnian Pyramid” dated back 12 thousand years and had same characteristics of the famous Step Pyramid of Saccara. Another Bosnian scientist, Nada Nukic (a geologist) supported his claims by stating that the structure of the hill could hide some “man made” buildings.

Note that Osmanagic is here refered to as “independent researcher”. While some of those are legitimate, usually this moniker indicates a person who cannot be employed by a serious institution, due to that person’s quakery. I am not saying anything about Semir yet, but we should be careful.
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Archaeoblog is reasonably skeptical:

We’re rather suspicious of this since the researcher is claiming the thing to be anywhere between 12-27k years old (hard to tell which from the text). Since this generally flies in the face of previous evidence, we predict it will probably blow over within a few months.

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A new article from AP came out yesterday: Scientist: Bosnian hill may have pyramid

Scientist: Bosnian hill may have pyramid
By Aida Cerkez-Robinson, Associated Press
VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — With eyes trained to recognize pyramids hidden in the hills of El Salvador, Mexico and Peru, Semir Osmanagic has been drawn to the mound overlooking this central Bosnian town.
“It has all the elements: four perfectly shaped slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, a flat top and an entrance complex,” he said, gazing at the hill and wondering what lies beneath.
No pyramids are known in Europe, and there is no evidence any ancient civilization there ever attempted to build one.
But Osmanagic, a Bosnian archaeologist who has spent the last 15 years studying the pyramids of Latin America, suspects there is one here in his Balkan homeland.
In this week’s story, Dan Vergano explains why it may have been better to be the hunted rather than the hunter for humanity’s ancestors.
“We have already dug out stone blocks which I believe are covering the pyramid,” he said. “We found a paved entrance plateau and discovered underground tunnels. You don’t have to be an expert to realize what this is.”

Here, he is again refered to as archaeologist. Archaeological News also notes this:

An earlier article called Semir Osmanagic an amateur archaeologist and adventurer. This one calls him a scientist and an archaeologist.

And he claims to have dug out the tunnels. He is personally financing this:

Osmanagic, 45, who now lives in Houston, is personally financing excavations at the Visocica hill, a 2,120-foot hump outside Visoko, a town about 20 miles northwest of the capital, Sarajevo.
He learned about the hill in April from Senad Hodovic, director of a museum devoted to the history of Visoko, which is rich in Bronze Age and medieval artifacts. Hodovic had attended a promotion of an Osmanagic book about ancient civilizations and thought he would like to see Visoko’s pyramid-shaped hill.
When the pair climbed the hill, the sweeping view revealed a second, smaller pyramid-shaped hill. It reminded Osmanagic of pairs of pyramids he has seen in Latin America that together create a gateway into a valley.
After obtaining a permit to research the site, which is protected by the state as a national monument, the first probes of the main hill were carried out this summer at six points. Nadja Nukic, a geologist involved in the research, said she found 15 anomalies suggesting that some layers of the hill were manmade.
“We found layers of what we call ‘bad concrete,’ a definitely unnatural mixture of gravel once used to form blocks with which this hill was covered,” Osmanagic said.

So, they are actually doing some work more than just walking up and down the hill. Interesting new twist – the hill itself is natural, but modified by humans:

“The hill was already there,” he added. “Some ancient civilization just shaped it and then coated it with this primitive concrete — and there you have a pyramid.”
Small-scale excavations continued until early November, when winter set in, with the work focusing on what Osmanagic theorizes may have been the entrance to a pyramid-shaped temple.

Osmanagic has big theories about this:

Osmanagic believes the hill was shaped by the Illyrian people, who inhabited the Balkan peninsula long before Slavic tribes conquered it around A.D. 600. Little is known about the Illyrians, but Osmanagic thinks they were more sophisticated than many experts have suggested.
Nukic, who has walked up and down the hill several times, said she noticed symmetrical platforms in the slopes — indentations that Osmanagic believes are steps built into the pyramid.
A local businessman who bought a lot at the foot of the hill and brought in a bulldozer to dig the foundation for a house, meanwhile, unearthed manmade sandstone plates that the archeologists think may have been paving stones.
Anthropologists say the Visoko valley already offers ample evidence of organized human settlements dating back 7,000 years. The town was Bosnia’s capital during the Middle Ages, and German archaeologists working the valley recently found 24,000 Neolithic artifacts just three feet below the surface.

Archaeoblog comments succinctly:

Still needs work.

This passage is fine:

Osmanagic is taking a cautious approach about the hill.
“No fast conclusions, please. The evidence has to be firm, at least beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

But he does like his theory:

“Not that I don’t believe in a pyramid here,” he added. “This place was always called ‘Pyramid’ by the local population. But we have to prove that this is not a natural shape.”
He thinks, however, that the shape of the hill speaks for itself.
“God can make many things, but such perfectly geometrically formed slopes, pointing exactly toward the north, south, east and west — if he did that, well, that’s phenomenal itself.”

Mt.Rushmore versus New Hamshire’s Old Man again.
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You can see, if you are interested, more pictures and a video.

(Thanks to Katja for tipping me on this story)

Update: There is more information here, here and here.
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Update on the Pyramid in Bosnia

I have written before about the strange find of a Pyramid of Sun in Bosnia and how fishy the whole thing was. Now there is more information coming out that makes the whole thing even more fishy – my skepticism was, it appears, quite warranted. You can read more here.
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Even more on the Bosnian Pyramid

My Sitemeter is chockful of Google searches for the Bosnian pyramid, leading to this post and occasionally to this update.

Also, Alun of Archaeoastronomy does some online measurements which put to questions the claims about the Bosnian pyramid.

Apparently, with the arrival of spring, the Osmanagic team has just started digging there. I’ll keep you posted if something interesting comes up.
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Bosnian Pyramid, part 4

Saga continues.

They have started to dig.

I’d also like to pull up a comment an Anonymous reader left on my last post on the topic:

As a graduate with two degrees in archaeology, I am simultaneously saddened and outraged once again at the media’s (enabled by the public at large) willingness to promote and turn a blind eye to hucksterism, dubious claims, and incompetent scholarship in the name of a good story.

Anyone who has ever done serious archaeological research knows full well that the final conclusion of what a given site is is generally rendered after analysis of the excavation has been completed. It isn’t boldly announced before even preliminary surveys have been completed, which appears to be the case here.

I also have to take issue with the oft-held notion of the “amateur archaeologist”; while the role of amateurs in the research and completion of many contemorary excavations is absolutely essential, untrained individuals such as Mr. Osmanagic do untold harm to the discipline by continuing to promote the idea that “anyone” can do this. Anyone can’t; archaeology is an academic discipline that requires no less respect than medicine, law or engineering. Yet one never hears of an “amateur” medical doctor, or an “amateur” lawyer making a discovery or defending a star client in the media the same way that we periodically read about amateurs such as Mr. Osmanagic.

Ultimately, it takes 50 decent, trained, skilled and qualified archaeologists to undo the damage that a Schliemann, Evans, Von Daniken or Osmanagic does.

On a final note, I saw a photograph of Mr. Osmanagic’s “excavations” in a story on Yahoo and I can tell you that they are slipshod and poorly done; that alone tells me he has no business destroying a site that may have potentially valuable archaeological evidence.

Commenters on Alun’s article also bring up interesting points. For instance, Ron Zeno found Osmanagic’s Alternative History website, which shows clearly the guy is a hack. And Aydin wrote:

All the photographs show the same 2 sides of the “pyramid” from different orientations. Presumably, this is because from the other side the hill doesn’t look like a pyramid. The topo map doesn’t actually show a pyramid.

Emperor on Cabinet of Wonders also has some interesting thoughts.

Updates: There is now a Wikipedia page on this.

Here is an excellent article in The Art Newspaper.

Accidental Weblog has an excellent run-down.

There are several more links on YakimaGulag

Every now and then I get a comment that calls me a chetnik and a lover of Greater Serbia, etc. which shows that the person has not read my posts on the pyramid, even less anything else on my blog, for instance my posts about anti-Milosevic demonstrations I participated in, or my barely-hidden glee when Milosevic died, or on scientific skepticism in general.

No, you see on the top of the page that I am Serbian, and just assume that I want to kill poor Bosnians because, of course, every Serb only dreams of killing Bosnian Moslems! And every American is in love with Bush! And every Russian is a communist. And every African-American voted for Sharpton. And every German is a Nazi, and every Jew is a Christ-killer! Knee-jerk ethnic stereotyping of the worst kind! I see this attitude on forums, too, e.g., this one (but not this one).

What does this all have to do with politics? Why is it so important for Bosnian national identity to have a pyramid? Why is everyone who doubts it an enemy? What frustrations are bolstered if this is indeed a pyramid?

Can’t we just look at the actual site, check out Osmanagic’s credentials, see what the experts have to say about it, wait until more stuff is dug up, then make a conclusion. All we are doing is detective work, with no particular goal – we do not have a special wish for it to be or not be a pyramid. Perhaps it is a pyramid, perhaps it is not. More the time passes, less likely it seems that it is a pyramid, because more and more facts and analyses are coming out, not because one political faction is winning a PR war over another.

But the jury is still out. It has nothing to do with national, ethnic or religious conscience. Evaluate the facts, people, don’t just jump to conclusions out of your personal emotional needs.

Will Bosnia be any less beautiful if this pretty mountain is not a pyramid? Don’t think so. Will Bosnian people be in any way demoted if this is not a pyramid? Don’t think so. Will everyone laugh in the end at those Bosnians who uncriticially swallow this story bait, hook and sinker? You betcha! Will anyone laugh at skeptics if this indeed is a pyramid? No – a skeptical attitude is rational, and if the data show this is a pyramid, skeptics, unlike fanatics, will readily change their minds. That is what mature people do.
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Bosnian Pyramid, part 5

Alun makes additional measurements and calculations and points to a good new article on Archaeology Magazine.

Katja posted a trailer for the documentary movie on the pyramid.

Update:
BigHeathenMike chimes in with his take and a revealing excerpt from Osmanagic’s book.
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Bosnian Pyramid, Part 6

More measurements by Alun and an excellent analysis (in Bosnian variant of the Serbo-Croatian language) by Edhem OSMANOVIĆ.

Update: Osmanovic has also started a new blog devoted to the debunking of the myth of the Bosnian pyramid).

Here is another blog devoted to the debunking of myths related to the Bosnian pyramid.

Update 2: And here is yet another blog skeptical of the pyramid.

The above three blogs (in Bosnian language, or whatever you want to call it) are starting a Web-ring devoted to this topic. You can find the home-blog of the Web-ring here. Blogs written in all languages are welcome to join, so, if you are interested and have written about the topic, consider joining. The page lists the blogs that are currently members of teh Web-ring. If you want to join, just send an e-mail to one of the members – the e-mail addresses are listed right there.

Update 3: And here is yet another blog joining the ring.
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Quick pyramid update

Too busy these days to pay this story much attention, but others do…

The folks belonging to the Anti-Pyramid Web-ring have uncovered quite a lot of interesting stuff lately, unfortunately mostly not in English, about Osmanagic and the pyramid project. If you can read the language (Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian – whatever you want to call it), check out their posts and links:

Bosanska Piramida Zablude
Piramidalna Prevara
R
Stultitia

Apparently, Osmanagic believes in Aliens, Atlantis, the Myth of the Hitler Double and every other piece of nonsense that the gullible really like. Also, apparently his website is as honest as the Creationists’ websites: deleting stuff when it gets too hot, listing “supporters” from the scientific community who either do not exist, or are quite the opposite of supporters, etc.

For English speakers, there is not that much, but you may want to read these:

It’s either one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of our time, or man has made a giant pyramid out of a molehill

Debunking the Bosnian ‘Pyramid’

Controversial dig sparks pyramid mania

Bosnia’s rich heritage

The Bosnia-Atlantis Connection

Also, several good posts on the pyramid appeared in the last issue of the Skeptic’s Circle

Update: Hot Cup Of Joe has a new post on the pyramid.
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Eh, the Bosnian Pyramid….

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National Geographic News came out swinging, and explaining nicely what happened in Bosnia, why so many locals there are so strongly wed to the idea, why the “science” behind it is bogus, and how media swallowed the story bait, hook and sinker:

Pyramid in Bosnia — Huge Hoax or Colossal Find?

(Hat-tip: Afarensis)
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Pyramid in the NYTimes, and commentary

New York Times chimes in on the Bosnian Pyramid today: Some See a ‘Pyramid’ to Hone Bosnia’s Image. Others See a Big Hill.

It is not too bad, though Pat Hayes and Christopher O’Brien correctly note that there is no such thing as an “amateur archeologist”, either you are a pro, or you are nothing.

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Bosnian Pyramid – Update n+1

Not much time to follow the Bosnian pyramid story these days, though you can check out the stuff I have written before.

In the meantime, Skephick wrote a couple of good posts: Pyramidiocy and More Pyramidiocy

On Research on Intelligent Design: The Intelligent Design… Of Mound Mountains With Pyramids Inside

From Northstate Science: Noah’s Ark or Bosnian Pyramids?

On Gog’s Blog: Of Bosnia and Comets

Over on History News Network, Alun Salt wrote an excellent overview of the whole thing: Bosnian Pyramids: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Atlantis, and back on his own blog, he wrote a post with a key question: Is reality the second best option? which is a Must Read post on the topic (and provides even more links).

Of course, if you speak Bosnian and related languages, you can follow the story in far greater detail, and I mean FAR GREATER DETAIL, on the blogs that are members of the Anti-pyramid Web-ring.

Comments

  1. #1 afarensis
    November 14, 2006

    Darn! I didn’t know there was an anti-pyramid web ring or I would have joined…

  2. #2 coturnix
    November 14, 2006

    You can. Just apply (info on the front page) There is a need for people writing in non-local languages like English.

  3. #3 afarensis
    November 14, 2006

    It says to email a member if you want to join. So can you sign me up?

  4. #4 coturnix
    November 14, 2006

    I’ll e-mail the “boss”.

  5. #5 afarensis
    November 14, 2006

    Thanks!

  6. #6 cfeagans
    November 14, 2006

    Sign me up! :)

    Anyway, I just wanted to plug this post: Pseudoarchaeology: ABC’s Nightline Demonstrates Journalistic Gullibility

    I look at some of the geology around the hill.

  7. #7 Daniel Gannon
    November 14, 2006

    These “Bosnian pyramids are just quackery” claims have already been disproven. Rather than start the whole debate over again, please see the material I posted in this blog page’s comments:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=80

    Here is a recent video, a news spot showing some of the manmade structures at the dig sites:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2612981

    For those who remain skeptical, please refrain from the personal attacks. The issue is, whether there are manmade pyramidal structures there, or not. There remains a LOT of digging to be done, so please, hold those poisoned tongues.

  8. #8 brad
    November 14, 2006

    Thanks for the updates. Your brother (at least I think he said brother – maybe friend?) here in Alberta gave me your blog address over the summer while I was writing a paper on Visocica Hill. I’ve posted the paper on my blog (http://bradleyrichert.com/2006/10/15/visocica-hill-a-verifiable-hoax) which might be helpful for some English speakers that are interested.

  9. #9 coturnix
    November 14, 2006

    Hey, it did not take too long for the gullible to come crawling out of the woodwork, did it?

  10. #10 cfeagans
    November 15, 2006

    The issue is, whether there are manmade pyramidal structures there, or not. There remains a LOT of digging to be done, so please, hold those poisoned tongues.

    There aren’t, and the geology is not consistent with “manmade pyramidal structures.” Nor is the the archaeological record. Moreover, the structures and material remains that are present are legitimate, but unrelated, sites that are being systematically destroyed by a loony, unqualified significance-junkie that has fantasies about being an archaeologist. The tongues needn’t be held, they need to speak out against the tragedy that is being committed against a real cultural resource.

    Osmanagic is a kook. That he’s been allowed to carry on this much is tragic. There is absolutely NO DIGGING that he should be permitted to do because he is NOT QUALIFIED and is destroying legitimate cultural resources.

  11. #11 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    Strange, my last post, of yesterday, hasn’t appeared, yet.

  12. #12 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    So, are the Egyptians also kooks? They have already announced (but not yet published) their conclusions that the materials (including the concrete) are manmade, and that the structures represent manmade pyramidal structures of a crude/early design.

  13. #13 cfeagans
    November 16, 2006

    The entire nation of Egypt has concluded they are “manmade?” Or a single Egyptian? There has been no evidence that anything “manmade” can be concluded about the hill that significance-junkies call a pyramid. There is ample evidence that it is natural.

  14. #14 coturnix
    November 16, 2006

    Daniel, your comment was eaten by the junk filter. Seeing how you hijacked that thread over on Skepchick, I decided not to rescue any more comments of yours from the junk filter. This is a science blog and I will not provide a forum for dissemination of pseudoscience, quackery, wishful thinking, nationalism, etc. Start your own blog if you feel a need to write.

  15. #15 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    cfeagans,

    The Egyptian government sent a qualified Egyptian geologist to determine if the structures were manmade, and and further, if they are manmade pyramids. He and his team determined that they are manmade.

    coturnix,

    I have no idea what you are talking about.

  16. #16 coturnix
    November 16, 2006

    Eh, you don’t?

  17. #17 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    Your mudslinging does not merit my response. Are you slinging mud at the Egyptian government, too?

  18. #18 ivan
    November 16, 2006

    OK, so the whole issue is “come on, people, you cant disprove that there are pyramids under that hill, cant you?”. even if you dig out the whole hill in the process and find nothing, you still didnt disprove that there are pyramids 5 miles deeper, didnt you? eventually you need to dig out the whole universe in the process of unmasking so obvious quackery. but these mental trajectories you can sell to some local tabloids, not to the scientists. and i almost forgot, when the egyptian pyramids were constructed, massive slave labour force was employed to transport 30-tons blocks through the desert. which stone age civilization in the balkans was capable of amassing so massive labour force to transport the blocks through the bosnian rigged terrain? of course, that should be just one more proof that these “pyramids” are actually built by the extraterrestrials.

  19. #19 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    ivan,

    That is a straw man argument. Manmade materials consistent with pyramid components have already been verified (unless you think the geologist the Egyptians sent, and others, are totally incompetent, or a part of some conspiracy.) As for which civilization might have built them, and when, who knows? Paleoanthropology, or human prehistory, is full of holes. In fact, it’s mostly holes (question marks; lack of knowledge.) That’s why new discoveries so often drastically shake the field up. As for extraterrestrials, I prefer to apply Occham’s Razor. It seems more likely, and a simpler explanation, that prehistoric man built them.

  20. #20 ivan
    November 16, 2006

    You are again mentioning “Egyptians”, I hope you are not including Ramzes or Tutankamon under that label, or it might be that they have also participated in sending the experts to Bosnia. As for your wise man argument, do you think that the most prominent bosnian, european and world experts in archeology are totally incompetent, or a part of some conspiracy? Again, sell it to the local tabloid. Or better go search for the circles in the crop field, they are much easier to fabricate than the whole pyramid.

  21. #21 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    > You are again mentioning “Egyptians”, I hope you are not including Ramzes or Tutankamon under that label, or it might be that they have also participated in sending the experts to Bosnia.

    Ridiculous.

    > As for your wise man argument, do you think that the most prominent bosnian, european and world experts in archeology are totally incompetent, or a part of some conspiracy?

    I did not mention a “wise man.” I mentioned that the Egyptian government selected and assigned an appropriately qualified person to investigate, and that person concluded that the materials are manmade, and that manmade pyramidal structures are present, of an early or primitive design.

    Photos and other details of some of these materials and structures, including (but not limited to) the concrete blocks and worked stone, have already been made available. Have you been ignoring all of that? Of course, more is to come, including the publication of the Egyptian geologist’s report. These things take time.

    Combative, ridiculous statements coming in the aftermath of a significant or controversial discovery do not, apparently, require any sort of conspiracy. There is no lack of human error. Remember the Neanderthals being merely “Cossacks with rickets.” As P.T. Barnum said…

  22. #22 Daniel Gannon
    November 16, 2006

    P.S., let us not forget, there are personal, professional and political motivations at play, which influences what some people and organizations do and say. Of course those who weren’t “invited the party” are grumpy about it. But why should they let that cloud their vision?

  23. #23 ivan
    November 17, 2006

    If anything is rediculous, that is making a pyramid of a “man-made stones”, even if that story of egyptian govt-assigned geologist is more credible than other Osmanagics fantasies.

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