In search of the lost reports
Article published on 30 January 2008

by Irna

This was the title of an article published on the 11th of January 2008, in the Bosnian magazine BHDani, by Vuk Bacanovic. It seems that the magazine was sent some interesting documents, ones that Mr. Osmanagic would probably have preferred never to be made public. Below appears a translation of the greater part of this article; the original text (bs) can be found in the online archives of the magazine, or, for non-subscribers, on Stultitia’s blog (bs).

At the very outset of the research on Visocica, what were the conclusions of geologist Stjepan Coric? What information was concealed in Nadija Nukic’s second report, or in the e-mails she sent to Semir Osmanagic? What were the conclusions of geologist Enes Ramovic in his report on Pljesevica? Why did archaeologists Sead Pilav, Silvana Cobanov and Nancy Gallou leave the "Bosnian pyramid of the Sun” Foundation? How did the "proto-alphabet" in the Ravne tunnel come to be discovered?

At the very beginning of the excavations, at a time when the pyramid hysteria was at its highest, the "Bosnian pyramid of the Sun" Foundation had on its payroll some relatively solid scientists who, on realizing what they were getting involved in, made good their departure one after another, aware that all they were doing was providing a smoke-screen for the pseudo-scientific machinations of their employer. Nevertheless, before they left, they wrote scientific reports that were presented both to Semir Osmanagic and also to the members of his foundation Board of Directors, although never published, either in journals or on the Web.

On 20th April 2006, as the "research" on Visocica was getting underway, the geologist Stjepan Coric [1] e-mailed Semir Osmanagic, explaining, amongst other things, that Visocica was formed of "Lasva series conglomerate and breccia (which can be found all over the Zenica region)", which "lay above fine-grained to medium-grained sandstones, sandy marls and so on, generally of brown and yellow colour... On the top (of the plateau), in a trench under the road, can be found sandstone of a thickness of some 25-30 cm (interpreted as a step). Overlying this same sandstone can be found further classic examples of the sort of layers that exist in this area. The same layer can also be seen near the road in a cutting, proof that its position is completely natural ... The conglomerates, containing roughly rounded elements, lie partly over the breccia and are of natural origin... The regular geometric form of some hills in these parts seems to be a natural feature that occurs quite frequently – a consequence of erosion ..."

The departure of Sead Pilav

In April 2006, therefore, Semir Osmanagic was already aware of the true geological nature of Visocica – and yet chose to carry on regardless with a propaganda campaign designed for a lay audience. Misinterpreting scientific terminology and breaching all scientific protocols, the campaign proclaimed the existence of the Visoko pyramids as an indisputable fact, established even before any archaeological work took place. Given thatMario Gerussi [2], who must also have known about the contents of this e-mail, was at the same declaring euphorically on TV that "there can be no doubt that this is indeed a pyramid", we can only suspect that, from the beginning, the public was being fed disinformation [...].

One of the first to join the "Bosnian pyramid of the Sun" Foundation was archaeologist Sead Pilav, under the impression that this was a research project that would observe basic scientific methodology [...] and eschew misrepresentation and trashy sensationalism, what he would later accurately term a Big Brother Show. His parting e-mail, dated 17th April 2006, provides a detailed insight into the beginnings of the "largest geo-archaeological project in the world": "Firm scientific conclusions are reached after detailed analysis, and consultation with numerous colleagues. As is the case with such excavations, it is impossible to publish press releases on a daily basis, without detailed and extensive study being undertaken by a cross-disciplinary team of numerous scientists and scholars."

From the beginning, Pilav saw through Osmanagic’s propaganda campaign of statements in press-conferences and newspaper articles, hammered home by means of lofty declarations. The scientists were being used for the sole purpose of rubber-stamping the conclusions of Messrs. Osmanagic Junior and Senior: "When we visited the tunnel, one of the team members [3]came up with the claim that it was of megalithic construction, resting on columns of the same material, and at least 13,000 years old. On leaving the tunnel, the same person intimated that I should make this claim public. The information would have created a media sensation. The individual did not wish to give it to the media himself! Why??? Late that evening, a Foundation spokesman rang me and asked whether I would make an announcement concerning this megalithic construction, but I categorically refused."

As nobody from the Foundation saw fit to answer his e-mail, Sead Pilav wrote a new one on 9th May 2006, shorter and plainer still, that stated: "Calling the excavations on Visocica ’the largest-scale archaeological project’ in Europe in 2006 is completely ludicrous, given that there are only two field-archaeologists present on the site. It is for this reason that I wish my name, my photograph and my archaeology handbook to be removed from the official Foundation website until some later stage, i.e., such time as the work can be placed on a proper scientific basis." This never came about, and the remaining scientists were left, one after another, to follow in Pilav’s footsteps.

The case of Nadija Nukic

The reason why geologist Nadija Nukic left the Foundation was, in her own words, "because of unacceptable and unscientific work". In later studies, she was to change the position that she adopted in her first report about Visocica in October 2005. Contrary to the later findings of Dr. Stjepan Coric, the six members of the RGGF [4] team and Dr. Robert Schoch, Nukic’s October 2005 report stated that: "I can conclude that regular geometrical shape of this sort could not be created by nature alone", and that "after cleaning [...] we can see that the blocks display a definite geometry... that they lie one above the other," and "arranged like bricks in a man-made construction". But, during subsequent research, Nadija Nukic found evidence that caused her to make significant alterations to her previous position. This resulted in problems for her, as she describes in detail in her second report dated 1st September 2006. This report, referring to the work carried out at Visocica and Pljesevica, was never published on the Foundation website, and nor have the facts mentioned in it been brought to public attention.

One of the most interesting pieces of information is the back-filling of test pit S-7, the site of a possible hearth – hence possible organic remains that could have been dated using C14 - and of test pit SP18, containing the remains of marine fossils. Under no circumstances could the presence of marine fossils provide support for the theory that Visocica was "the largest pyramid in the world", and it is therefore neither surprising, nor coincidental, that the president of the Board of Directors, Semir Osmanagic, personally took the decision to have these test pits back-filled. Again without consulting the science team, Osmanagic ordered that work also be stopped on test pits opened up on the south side of Visocica - i.e., between Visocica on one side, and Cetnica and Cemerac on the other – which displayed evidence of landslide (plane slippage).

Another very interesting snippet of information in the report sent by Ms. Nukic to the Foundation Board pertains to the Ravne tunnel: "On one of the blocks, one or more unknown person(s) carved signs on the block (for instance, an arrow; the letters E and V; then, upon my last visit on 3rd August, there were new signs in the same place, such as the letter M and others)". This means that every member of the Board of Directors is answerable for maintaining the illusion presented to the public via these false findings, and it explains why the Zemaljski Museum Commission was not permitted to study this supposed "proto-alphabet" (permission for which was refused by Mario Gerussi). Earlier, Osmanagic, not satisfied with Nukic’s work (particularly when the geologist Robert Schoch, after his visit to Visocica and Pljesevica, reported that the latter were natural formations), stated that "Nukic failed in her primary task of providing to Dr. Schoch proof of the existence of the pyramids", and ordered her: "to consider herself banned pro tem from making public statements".

What Osmanagic appeared to have been most annoyed about was the fact that Ms. Nukic informed the American geologist that the signs in the Ravne tunnel, the letters "E" and "M", had been made by a worker during a rest-break. "Nadija’s statement has invalidated what could potentially have been the best proof of the existence of ancient symbols", declared Osmanagic in the e-mail he sent to all members of the Board of Directors. Nadija Nukic’s answer gives more information on the so-called proto-alphabet (Osmanagic was to claim later that this proto-alphabet was the one used to write the name "Rasim" [5]): "I entered the tunnel about half a dozen times. I was there whilst the sandstone blocks were being excavated by the miners. Take a look at the first photographs, which plainly show that there is nothing written on the blocks. Then cast a glance at the photographs taken when Ali (Barakat, author’s note) was there, which show letters and arrows on one side, and an arrow on the other side; and now look at the latest photographs, where, on the third side, you can see the figure 3, and the letter M, and something else. Why did you present the public with a lie, when you yourself knew that there was nothing inscribed on the blocks? It means that you were purposely seeking to deceive, not only the public, but also the scientists ... And, in the meantime, I have learned who was responsible for the writing on the blocks". Interestingly, the same warning was given by the archaeologist Silvana Cobanov to Semir Osmanagic in her own parting e-mail.

Nadija Nukic’s report also mentions other curious questions, in particular, that of the Pljesevica excavations. Besides the use of a mechanical excavator, "which destroyed potential archaeological evidence", forty-five Cenozoic-era nummulite fossils, found in test pit SM-12, "disappeared without trace". Nadija Nukic concludes by summarising the reasons that made her finally decide to leave the project: "Because permission to conduct investigative work is being granted to people who are not scientists; and because of the lack of consultation with scientists (archaeologists and geologists), displaced by a preference for consultation with non-scientists, including labourers, which demonstrates an absence of respect for me and for the other professionals.". The real situation at the heart of the project was revealed by Osmanagic himself, in the e-mail, mentioned previously, that he sent to the members of the Foundation Board, when he forbade Ms. Nukic to publicise facts "contrary to the project hypothesis ... without prior consultation with the project manager or the Board of Directors". The question is: what kind of science is it when a scientist is forbidden to speak publicly?

The geologist Enes Ramovic

The geologist Enes Ramovic, director of the company GEO ETA, is probably one of the most interesting people to review the "preliminary evidence" for Osmanagic’s project. As the manager in charge of "mechanical excavations" on Pljesevica, he was one of the principal causes for the departure of his colleague, Nadija Nukic. However, Mr. Ramovic also went to the trouble of producing a report, classifying it as OFFICIAL! CONFIDENTIAL!, so that the information within could be made public "only by authorized Foundation representatives". In other words - so that the Foundation could keep back any unpalatable information, of which Ramovic’s report contains several instances, starting with the fact that Pljesevica is "entirely composed of geological material with rather poor physico-mechanical and geo-mechanical characteristics".

The question, therefore, is one of rocks: "sandstones, marls, clays and transitions between them". At the conclusion of this "confidential" report appears the statement: "The layers of slab-like sandstone, containing regular geometrical arrangements of blocks, particularly on the south-west part of the terrain at the foot of the Pyramid of the Moon, and the regular disposition and extension of the joints between the rows of sandstone slabs, are interstratified with layers of marl and clay. This means that, above and underneath them lie concordant layers of marl and clay - normally deposited one above the other. Because of this, it will be immediately evident, as it was to the author of this report, that these layers of horizontal sandstone were not placed during construction of the pyramid, but are rather the normal product of lacustrine sedimentation; and that the joints were created during the process of sandstone lithification; in other words, they represent contraction joints".

Mr. Ramovic likewise soon left the Osmanagic Foundation, and his "confidential" report became the best example of Osmanagic’s hypocrisy about the alleged refusal by "élite scientists" to part with information, and the supposed openness of his Foundation.

The archaeologists’ findings

Since the departure of Sead Pilav, responsibility for the "largest geo-archaeological project in the world" has devolved on two archaeologists - Silvana Cobanov, and Nancy Gallou from Greece. It goes without saying that the pair could not manage to visit every test pit, which, as explained in the other, unpublished, report by Nadija Nukic, were opened up wherever someone happened to "see a rock" and decided that "I’ll excavate here". The following statement by Ms. Nukic is very revealing: "On the Pyramid of the Moon, I still do not know how many test pits were opened up. The reason for this is the way in which, not only the President of the Board of Directors, but also the person currently responsible for these operations, are managing the work. Even if, during the meeting of the science team, it has been agreed that no new test-pit should be opened up without consultation with the leading archaeologist and leading geologist, this way of going about things has become common practice".

In this respect, parts of the farewell email sent on 14th November 2006 by Silvana Cobanov to the members of the Osmanagic Foundation Board are of particular interest: "It was difficult to admit, first to myself and then to others, that I was simply a nonentity on the site. The works on Pljesevica were under the control of Goran Cakic (graduate mechanical engineer, author’s note [6]). My efforts to alter this situation were to no avail, despite speaking to the Project Director on several occasions, arguing with Goran Cakic, and warning him that it was essential that he write up his observations and conclusions in his own private journal, categorically protesting about the fact that Amir Susa Zombi [7] was apparently allowed to plot, dig and excavate, here a bit, there a bit, wherever the fancy took him ..."

The Belgrade archaeologist, Aleksandra Andelkovic, who was also temporarily employed by the Osmanagic Foundation, noted the presence of several items of interest in Goran Cakic’s journal entry under 29th October 2006: "As the findings show the presence of objects, they (the scientists, author’s note) will have to issue statements about the use of existing natural objects to enhance the hill", "I will forbid access to all members of the science team who refuse to co-operate" and "Zombi is opening up a test pit in an undisclosed location". In her own report, Nancy Gallou explained how she was treated as if she were the "village idiot", and how, on 27th June 2006, "the man responsible for the Pyramid of the Moon had been excavating away all morning", without consulting her. What he was actually doing was removing layers from the rectangular construction at the base of Plesevica, which, for propoganda purposes, had been dubbed the "entrance to the pyramid", "mastaba" or "tomb".

In her farewell email, Silvana Cobanov told Osmanagic what it really was: a construction of recent date with "very unstable drystone walls". Evidence for this late date was provided by the bricks from which it was constructed, and by the nails, which were also recent [...]. "I have protested that one should not be talking about a tomb, or entrance to a pyramid, or a military post ... Expressing such unfounded suppositions to visitors is, in my opinion, disingenuous. So, to conclude: we didn’t find a single archaeological artifact on Pljesevica, and, in my opinion, as far as archaeology is concerned, the place is sterile".

The same conclusion also appeared in the report by the archaeologist Nancy Gallou, who, in an e-mail sent to Dani, wrote that she would "be happy, as a scientist, to sign any petition against the terrible destruction of the hills around Visoko". In her report, Silvana Cobanov mentions that she sought a face to face meeting with Osmanagic to discuss all these matters, to which he agreed, "but he never found the time". Realizing that, as far as Osmanagic and his disciples were concerned, her opinion was "inconsequential and of minor importance", and bearing in mind the "impossibility of changing anything", Silvana Cobanov decided that she "did not wish to, and, in all conscience, could not be, part of this project".

The geologist Ali Barakat and the pyramid formed by a modified hill

The geologist Ali Barakat created a veritable stir in Bosnia when, shortly after his arrival, he asserted that the "connective material" in the rock at Visocica was identical to that found at the Egyptian pyramids! To this day, the Osmanagic Foundation still makes use of the statements made during his stay in the area. However, the conclusions in the report that Barakat wrote more than a year later, consisting of four pages without any geological map or sketch, are very different [8]. He confirmed its conclusions in an e-mail to the publishers of Dani: "The Pyramid of the Sun is a natural hill from the geological period of the Miocene (20 million years ago), modified by human intervention in the relatively recent past (probably during the Bronze Age, the Illyrian era, or the Roman epoch) into a pyramidal shape. The other pyramids are most probably totally natural. I will be honest with you: the situation is complicated and there needs to be further investigation".

However, the blocks mentioned in the report are recognized geological phenomena. Readers of the relevant geological literature, in particular the science publication Geology of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Book 3, Cenezoic Era, by various authors – Oslobodenje, Sarajevo, 1977, pages 20 and 21, will find information to the effect that: "almost every sandstone outcrop, from Ugljevicki Potok to Karavlaska Maoca, contains omnipresent jointing dividing the surface of the layers into cubic and rectangular blocks". The notice attached to the geological map - Sarajevo sheet – makes clear that what Dr. Barakat calls "artificial pavement" extends over about 250 square kilometers, ample demonstration of the tenuous nature of his thesis. Dani also received confirmation on this point from the geologist Sejfudin Vrabac of RGGF in Tuzla: "acking as a consequence of tectonic movements. These layers have dips of 10/26 and 358/24 degrees. On the other slopes of Visocica are found successive interposed layers of various clastic rocks (sandstone, marl, clay, conglomerate), generally inclined toward the north. Polymictic conglomerates could not have been used as construction material, because of their low grade character (uneven composition and structure, pronounced physico-mechanical anisotropy, sensibility to selective erosion, difficulty of processing, etc.) The phenomenon of the stone blocks on Visocica, which our colleague Barakat associates with human intervention, is something that can be found, not only throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also worldwide, and has no connection at all with human intervention. Examples of rocks fractured in blocks exist also in Maglaj, on Papuk, in the Alps, in Northern Ireland, and so on".