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An outstanding team of experts
Article published on 31 January 2011

by Irna

15 comments See the comments

"An outstanding team of experts"; that’s the phrase used by Mr. Osmanagic in an advertising magazine (en and de) [1], destined for the European "élite”, to introduce his new team. The reason why the team could hardly be anything other than new is because there aren’t all that many of the original project participants now left; it was not long before the line-up of scientists originally lured to the project by Mr. Osmanagic made themselves scarce (see here or here). Since the summer of 2008 and the departure of Andrew Lawler, who was something less than delighted with the treatment meted out to his scientific reports, the "Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation" has therefore found itself in the somewhat unenviable position of having to perform archaeological excavations in the absence of any actual site archaeologists.

So, to continue the excavations and supervise the international volunteer 2010 summer camp that is to be held again in 2011 [2], Mr. Osmanagic has had to assemble a new team. Who, then, are the "experts" assembled by the Foundation to shoulder the responsibility of supporting and supervising the "largest archaeological project of the century"?

From the end of 2009 to June 2010, Mr. Lawler’s successor as "archaeologist in charge of the site" was one Mislav Hollós. From December 8, 2009 (bs), Mr. Hollós appears in the Foundation News, in the following months is regularly mentioned as "leading archaeologist", in February 2010 signs a report (bs) [1] on some oddly shaped stones found in the Ravne tunnel, and then, after one last mention on 14th June (bs), vanishes completely from the website. An Italian forum (it) has a few snippets of information about the causes of this "disappearance"; we learn that, in late July 2010, he was "summarily sacked” for having "attempted to preserve as much as possible of the tunnel structure from contamination by tourists". One comment on this Italian blog (it) also adds that Mr. Hollos was dismissed because "Mr. Osmanagic realized that he was unable to carry out excavations that would allow scientists to demonstrate the existence of the pyramids."

The first thing to say is that, contrary to what was stated on the Foundation website, Mislav Hollos is not in fact an archaeologist. Although he has a degree in Art History and Archaeology from the University of Zagreb, his area of expertise is clearly not archaeology at all, for the subject of his thesis was the "Commedia Dell’Arte in the work of Jacques Callot” (hr). Mr. Hollos is an artist, musician and, most especially, a photographer and painter (hr). Among his favourite subjects are UFOs (hr), and especially what he calls "light beings" (hr) (in fact orbs such as those that can apparently be glimpsed in the Ravne Tunnel often enough to be photographed); and freaks of nature that he calls "natural artifacts". As far as the latter two phenomena are concerned, I imagine that he must have found the few months that he spent in Visoko to have been particularly useful: indeed, one cannot help but wonder if he did not participate in Mr. Osmanagic’s project for the sole purpose of obtaining material for his artwork. At any rate, in September 2010, in Zadar, Croatia, there was an exhibition (hr) of some of these "natural artifacts”, including one that was curiously reminiscent of the Liesegang Rings, of which there are numerous examples at Pljesevica:


Whatever we think of Mr. Hollos’ artistic works – and, personally, I’m quite a fan, even if I find his mystical mode of expression somewhat irritating - it is clear that his brief stint as "leading archaeologist" of the Foundation (a period of which he makes no mention at all in his biography) has left few traces apart from the report (bs) [1] mentioned above, where he painstakingly tries to demonstrate that the stones (described without any justification as "ceramic sculptures") found in the Ravne tunnel:


are in fact scale models of the Krstac hill:


No comment ...

So, barely has the door slammed shut behind Andrew Lawler when it slams shut again behind Mislav Hollos; the position of "leading archaeologist" of the Foundation is, so it appears, no sinecure. For her sake, I can only hope that Mr. Hollos’ replacement, Sara Acconci (it), realizes this. Miss Acconci is very young (26 years old (it)), having only just graduated (in November 2010 (it)) from the University of Milan with a Master’s Degree (laurea magistrale) in Archaeology. Most of her work seems to have been concerned principally with the Etruscans, as referenced by her choice of Web pseudonym (Nuzinaia, from an inscription on an Etruscan plate). So far, she doesn’t seem to have published anything, although, in 2008, at a session organized by Professor Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni (it) at the International Congress of Classical Archaeology in Rome, her name appeared alongside that of Veronica Duranti on a solitary communication (it) entitled: “Communication on ceramics from the site of Tarquinia”. But, whatever Miss Acconci’s other qualifications, it is clear that they can’t amount to anything like the level of the "outstanding expertise" claimed on her behalf by Mr. Osmanagic. What we have here is a novice archaeologist who makes no bones about admitting on her blog (it) that, with the difficulties facing young archaeology graduates in Italy, she had been on the hunt for any archaeological job whatsoever.

Ms. Acconci came to Visoko on 12th July 2010 to attend the Foundation summer camp. On 3rd August (it), Ms. Acconci is described as being in charge of excavations in the Ravne tunnel. But, on 6th August (it), following the shock departure of the official site archaeologist, she suddenly finds herself put in charge of all the excavations and of the team of volunteers, with a view to staying on in Visoko as archaeologist in charge of excavations (it) even after the summer camp is wound up. It is not hard to imagine Ms. Acconci’s delight at this proposal. Two years earlier, Mr. Lawler had reacted in much the same way; he, too, had been a junior archaeologist who, one minute faced with the bleak prospect of years of penurious drudgery and insecurity, suddenly found himself handed on a plate the kind of offer, to say nothing of the press and local television interviews (it), that he could hardly have imagined even in his wildest dreams. Nonetheless, this turnover of personnel is in itself an eloquent comment on the way the Foundation is managed.

It remains to be seen quite how Ms. Acconci will manage the excavations of which she is now in charge. She gives the impression of being very well-intentioned and enthusiastic, and determined to implement in the field the kind of scientific methodology that has hitherto been largely absent from the Foundation’s modus operandi (see, for example, her extensive comments (it) after this post (it)). At the moment, however, I find her still rather on the naïve side, as well as lacking the sort of critical thinking skills that are essential in a situation dogged by controversy like this one. Here are two examples. First, with no reservation or qualification, she puts on her blog a copy (it) of the pseudo-article from The European Union Times that I mentioned here; I find it extremely worrying, especially coming from someone who puts so much emphasis on scientific methodology, that she could think that this article is confirmation of the existence of the pyramids. The second example consists of the comments (it) on her blog about that very same article. To a poster who remarked (it) on the amateurishness of the excavations at Visoko during the time a few years earlier when he had been a volunteer there, she replied (it), first, by accusing him of lying, and then by stating that, until 2010, no excavations had ever been carried out by laymen, a fact about which she had received email confirmation from no less a person than Mr. Osmanagic himself. But Ms. Acconci had only to cast even the most fleeting glance at the Foundation website to ascertain the identity of the people who - just taking 2006 as an example – helped to notch up the total of "100,000 man hours” spent on the excavations. There were about twenty political science students, an Austrian psychologist and various volunteers from Finlandabout ten Srebrenik veteransan Italian designertwo Danish touriststhirty-one miners from Banovica student of journalism from Egypta Croatian engineera lawyer from Zagrebforty-one people from the city of Krupafifty-odd veteransvolunteers from the Kakanj Youth Forum ... And if this interminable inventory is not enough, how about this example, dating from the project’s very beginning, taken from a volunteer’s blog; in it, there appears a letter dated April 2006 from an employee of the Foundation responsible for organizing and recruiting volunteers ...

So, if I had any advice for Ms. Acconci – I don’t, of course, but here it is anyway :-) - it would be: 1) take everything that Osmanagic tells her with a grain of salt; 2) when she comes to deal with test results and other such documentation, insist on the utmost clarity, and not be afraid to request a second opinion; I’m anxious to know, for instance, whether she has been able to get sight of the famous Polytechnic Institute of Turin analysis ... 3) make an effort to contact some of the former employees of the Foundation, such as Mr. Lawler, in order to check their accounts of what happened against Mr. Osmanagic’s version ... Of course, such tactics would not necessarily make her very popular with Mr. Osmanagic, but the chances are that, on the day when her findings stop being in line with her employer’s theories, Ms Acconci, like others before her, will quickly find herself right up against the limits of his "open-mindedness" ...

Ms. Acconci, of course, was far from being the only young person with an educational qualification to participate in the volunteers’ 2010 summer camp. Also on site was another young Italian "archaeologist", Riccardo Brett. Although described as "Dr. Ricardo Brett" [1] of the University of Venice, he does in fact have only a Bachelor’s degree (it) (laurea triennale), although, in Italy, this does give him the right to use the title "Dottore". But of more concern here is the fact that his degree was not even in archaeology: it was in Jewish history, his subject being "The birth of Hebrew culture and religion during the Babylonian captivity" (see the update of 20th February below). So, to be promoted to the rank of "archaeologist" at Visoko, it appears that the only qualification necessary is a first degree in history from University. Again, it is understandable that a young student looking for a job (in 2009, Mr. Brett applied (it) for a teaching post in London), given the prospect of spending part of the summer in Bosnia, with bed and board in what was doubtless a highly convivial atmosphere, would not ask too many questions. At any rate, the Foundation website proceeded to publish a "report" [1] on Pljesevica survey No. 20 written by this young man. It turns out to be something of a disappointment: a totally absurd reconstruction of the survey stratigraphy from which it becomes only too apparent: 1) that Mr. Brett would be well advised to read some books on sedimentology, and to consult a real geologist (see below): and 2) that, based on a totally false premise (in this case, the a priori conviction that the whole Pljesevica structure is artificial), the human mind seems capable of constructing an entire framework of logical reasoning from which, no matter how absurd the conclusion, it is unable to break free [3].

The Foundation publicises the presence at the 2010 international summer camp of many other "archaeologists", but they are usually designated simply by their first names: Francesco, Alfredo ... Only in the already mentioned report [1] by Mr. Brett in the No. 20 Survey do we finally obtain more precise information about these "archaeologists" [4]. Annapaola seems to have completed her secondary education in 2009, and is currently in her second year at the University of Venice (it)Alfredo Bertan (it), described as a "technician, specialising in ancient structures," claims on his Facebook profile only that he finished his technical training in 1977, and does not seem to be cited anywhere on the net in any archeological connection; Fantin Emanuele (it), also a technician, has completed a secondary catering course; Anela Podruga is in the first year of an archaeology course in London... Then we come to the Spanish "archaeologist”, Fernando Magdalena, who, on his return from Visoko, took part in a Spanish television show (es) (start of the second video). One tiny problem: it is absolutely impossible to find either any trace of, or any publication by, an archaeologist of this name. There is one Fernando Magdalena from Vigo in Spain, owner of a gallery; and another Fernando Magdalena, also a native of Vigo, who, in 2005, was responsible for setting up the "Psychobiophysical Research Centre” (es), as well as a UFO enthusiast (es) [5]: but no archaeologist ...

Any examination of this "outstanding team" of volunteers from the summer of 2010 cannot conclude without a mention of Mr. Richard Hoyle. Although sometimes described by the Foundation as a "geologist" (bs), sometimes as a "geology student" (bs), he does not really seem to have any advanced geological qualification. His myspace profile mentions only secondary education at a "sixth form college", and, despite a mention of his time at Leeds University (2nd year in 2007-2008), there is no indication of whether he ever graduated.

During the summer of 2010, Mr. Hoyle made several trips to Visoko, where he apparently acted as the Foundation "geologist of record", accompanying Mr. Osmanagic, for example, to a meeting (bs) with officials. He took part in the "Survey No. 20" excavation, and it was probably him who was responsible for the rather bizarre geological interpretations that we find in the report (mentioned above) by the Italian Riccardo Brett. It was him, for instance, who put into Mr Brett’s head (page 6 of this report [1]) the idea that the Pljesevica layers were artificial, claiming that in the case of natural formations, " the vertical divisions between the stones would continue through all the layers”, which is not the case in the No. 20 survey:

Sondage n°20

Yet not only is it easy enough to find examples of natural layers whose joints are not continuous, as in the examples below:


but, as if that were not enough, it is a well known geological fact that only very seldom do joints exhibit the same characteristics in all sedimentary layers. The density of joints depends on such factors as lithology, and, most importantly, on the thickness of the layer. It is a well known phenomenon: the thicker the layer, the fewer and further between are the joints. Conversely, the thinner the layer, the more numerous and closely spaced the joints [6]. So it is hardly surprising that the "vertical divisions" (fractures or joints) found at Pljesevica, with its alternating layers of different thicknesses, do not carry on up from one layer to the next. For more information, I refer the reader to the brief explanation of the phenomenon to be found in this document (section "Relationships of Joint Frequency to Bedding Thickness in Sedimentary Rocks" ), and to this bibliography, which reflects very extensive geological studies on the role and importance of rock fractures in geological applications (hydrogeology, petroleum geology, quarries ...). This particular area of geology, however, doesn’t seem to figure too largely in Mr. Hoyle’s researches ...

Nevertheless, Mr. Hoyle’s time in Bosnia saw him become very active in other areas. Posting on three forums under the pseudonym "Truthseeker512", he seems to have been on a self-imposed mission to preach the Bosnian "pyramids" gospel. Although posting mainly on the David Icke forum, where he contributes to a very long thread on the topic of the pyramids, he also posts on two other "alternative" forums, Avalon Project, and The Cydonia Institute. These threads, especially the one on the David Icke forum, have provided Mr. Hoyle with the opportunity to let fall some priceless pseudo-geological howlers. He says, for instance, that it is impossible to find naturally occurring asymmetric ripple-marks in layers of clay; or to find layers of clay between two layers of hard rock; reveals that he can’t imagine the possibility of slotted layers consisting of joints (therefore, without any movement of blocks in relation to one another) rather than faults (see also above, on the subject of Survey Report No. 20); and announces that the conical Chocolate Hills in the Philippines are actually tumuli ... Despite a sprinkling of geological terms, it seems that Mr. Hoyle’s expertise on the subject falls somewhat short, although he doesn’t appear in any hurry to remedy the situation. When another participant in the thread, under the pseudonym "moving finger", points out his errors, (here on the ripple-marks, there on clays and faults, or there on the Chocolate Hills), Mr. Hoyle avoids any discussion and frequently contents himself with merely hurling the term "shill" [7] at his interlocutor.

Generally, despite the fact that he makes great play of his scientific education, Mr. Hoyle reveals himself on these forums as a believer in all sorts of way-out theories, whether "pyramid"-related or on other subjects: the connection between Mars and Bosniaconstruction of the pyramids by extraterrestrialsthe existence of giantsa conspiracy to prevent discovery of the pyramids by using minescrop circlespyramids in Scotlandthe use of laser technology at TiwanakuNASA and U.S. Government plotsBosnian UFOsorbs ... In short, Mr. Hoyle is without doubt just the geologist to suit Mr. Osmanagic’s requirements: perhaps not all that much of a geological "expert", but an expert in "alternative history" and other truths covered up by "orthodox science” !

A "remarkable team of experts": these are the people who Mr. Osmanagic is apparently relying on to fuel the charm offensive that he’s preparing to launch at the public in general, and at German investors in particular: publication (en and de) [1] in the "Tirage limité" magazine, organization of conferences with Graham HancockChris Dunn and Joseph Davidovits in four German cities in February 2011, forming a company (de) [8] in Switzerland and Germany for the purpose of fostering relationships with potential wealthy investors ... 

Will such investors be naïve enough to fund a project based on the "scientific expertise" of gullible students and supporters of the Great Conspiracy? ...

Update - 20th February 2011

I received today an email from Mr. Riccardo Brett, who draws my attention to certain points in the above article:
- He wishes to make known that his name is "Riccardo", with two c, rather than "Ricardo"; I readily made the necessary corrections, except when it was a citation from the Foundation web site, where his name is always written "Ricardo".
- He informs me that his Bachelor’s degree is in Archaeology and not in History; I stand corrected on this point. However, I maintain that a first university degree, even in archaeology, doesn’t seem very adequate for a qualification as "expert"; and that the subject of his Bachelor’s thesis ("The birth of Hebrew culture and religion before, during and after the Babylonian captivity"), which I still think is closer to cultural history than to archeology, absolutely doesn’t qualify him to provide any expertise on the prehistory of the Balkans...
- Finally, he says that he has a "regular job", and that his stay in Bosnia was not, as I wrongly assumed, the result of "a young student looking for a job", but of a personal choice related to his interest in the subject. I am very happy about this for him, but am not quite sure, however, that this "experience" will be very useful in his career - at least if it is actually in the field of archeology that Mr. Brett intends to pursue this career. I also note that, beside this "regular job", Mr. Brett is presented on the Foundation website as a member of the "permanent core of the Foundation’s team".

For the rest, despite threats of legal action from Mr. Brett, I stand totally by my appreciation of the report he published on the survey n°20, see footnote 3 below.

Revue "Tirage Limité" sur les pyramides
Téléchargé le 12 décembre 2010
Rapport de Mislav Hollos
Téléchargé le 22 février 2010
Rapport de Riccardo Brett
Téléchargé le 2 novembre 2010