Enquête sur les pyramides de Bosnie et quelques autres cas de pseudo-archéologie
Article published on 26 August 2008
After Dr. Barakat’s report in November 2007, a second report from Egypt about the "Bosnian pyramids" was published in March 2008 by the team of Mr. Osmanagic’s Foundation. This one is Dr. Nabil Swelim’s report (en), written in February 2008 following his visit to Bosnia from the 30th August to the 12th September 2007.
Dr. Swelim, a former Admiral come to egyptology after his retirement, is a respected scientist, having published several texts (en), and member of various institutions; he is also a part-time guide or lecturer (en) for various tours (en) in Egypt. So, he may not be one of the "world leading scientists for the pyramid studies" (bs), as he is described on the Foundation website, but he may claim genuine references, contrary to some of the "scientists" that Mr. Osmanagic previously invited. It is not surprising then that the Foundation greatly appreciated the support he gave to Mr. Osmanagic’s theories, nor that he has been made president (en) of the "First international scientific conference" on the "Bosnian pyramids" that is taking place these days in Sarajevo ; he is indeed quite proud of this presidence, and from now on he mentions it in his biography (en).
What is the content of this report written by Dr. Swelim after his visit to Bosnia? If I may, I’ll give here a few thoughts about this 52 pages text, beginning with some general comments.
Let’s forgive the author’s photographs on the first and last page; even if it is quite unusual in a scientific work, a touch of vanity and self-promotion is a venial sin... The author mentions on page 2 his stay in Bosnia and his "meetings with Authorities of the highest level, University Rectors, Scientists, Scholars, Ambassadors". One can have a look at his activities during the two weeks of his visit: if he actually met numerous and various politicians, one has however to note that Dr. Swelim had very few opportunities to discuss with local scientists. The single "meeting with scientists" that is mentioned in the local medias is a "round table with the Bosnian scientists" (bs), where the latters were in fact various members of the Foundation, among which were Mr. Osmanagic Senior, "finder" of the Bosnian proto-script, and Mr. Ahmed Bosnic, seller of talismans and other miraculous remedies. Not a single Bosnian archaeologist, nor geologist -except a "metallurgical engineer" who had to study a sample of sandstone from Pljesevica for one year before he could conclude that it was... sandstone!
If one has a look now at the bibliography given by Dr. Swelim in his report (p. 46), one may note that, except references to his own texts and to his Egyptian colleague Aly Barakat’s report, the given references are exclusively to documents published by Mr. Osmanagic or the Foundation: Mr. Osmanagic’s book "Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids" , "scientific evidence" (en) published in 2006 by the Foundation, "multidisciplinary project" (en) of the Foundation in 2007 (the complete text in Bosnian is here (bs)), various texts by Mr. Ivan Simatovic, one of the regular contributors to the "Iz mog ugla" part of the website. Evidently, the author did not read, nor consulted, any Bosnian book or article, neither in archaeology nor in geology. I wonder, what would Dr. Swelim say if I decided, never having read a book about ancient Egypt -except maybe
Christopher Dunn (en) or Larry Hunter (en) - and after a few hours strolling around Giza, to give him some lessons about the materials and techniques used for the building of the Great Pyramid of Kheops...
Dr. Swelim’s report sometimes lacks in precision in the references; for instance, apart from his own or the Foundation ones, most of the photographs lack a precise source, with only the mention "photo copied from the internet". More troubling, one of the most used bibliographical references, said to identify a text by M. Simatovic (p. 12) and mentioning the opinion of a Ibrahim Jasarevic about the supposed artificial origin of the slabs on Pljesevica, is presented in a way that prevents the reader from recognizing or finding the text: "Documents ...etc of Visoko-Sarajevo, September 01, 2007". In a scientific report, I deem it quite worrying to give, for such an important claim, such an unclear source -or an unpublished one.
Talking of sources and their reliability, I wonder whether Dr. Swelim was able to obtain a complete translation of each one of Mr. Ivan Simatovic’s texts on the Foundation website. Indeed, along with the geometric thoughts (bs) on the pyramids that Dr. Swelim used, Mr. Simatovic has also written numerous texts about the "energetic properties" of the pyramids, in the classical "pyramidiotic" manner, published in the "Iz mog ugla" (bs) part of the Foundation website. He is also the author, along with the Croatian ufologist Stjepan Gjurinek, of two books: "Homo X - tragom čovjeka i pradrevnih kultura" (about "most ancient" men and civilizations), of which the Foundation published extracts (bs); and Čovjek i NLO - "Dolazimo u miru!"" (men and UFOs), that the curious readers can download here (bs). As Mr. Simatovic is also a chairman of the "scientific conference" in Sarajevo, I guess Dr. Swelim will have numerous occasion to discuss with him, for instance about the flying objects (helicopter, hovercraft and other wondrous machines) that Mr. Simatovic and his co-author have identified in the temple of Seti I in Abydos (p. 71 and following in the previously mentioned book); or maybe Mr. Simatovic will explain to Dr. Swelim how he arrived to the conclusion that the ancient Egyptians did not build the Great Pyramid (bs), or that it is impossible that the pyramids in Giza were built as funerary monuments (idem (bs))...
Looking now closer to the content of Dr. Swelim’s report, what may one say? The first surprising thing, I think, is the total lack of any archaeological element in this report - archaeology is not even mentioned among the "branches of science"  that he deems involved in the project (p. 2). Of course, an egyptologist is not necessarily an archaeologist, but one could have expected from the author a few comments about the various "artifacts" presented by the Foundation. A single sentence, in the conclusion p. 44, mentions "some archaeological material and some petro glyphic signs which were found in the vicinity". Why this total lack of interest for the artifacts that the team is so proud of? Didn’t Dr. Swelim tried to see them? or did he, on the contrary, see them, so that he preferred not to mention in his report the three-headed dragon, the shoe-mould, the face of a little girl, or the eyed brick?
The second surprising element, talking of a scientist, is the almost total lack of critical perspective towards his sources in Dr. Swelim. He considers as certain and proved some informations that he could not verify, that were never published in scientific papers, and that are often disputable and disputed; or unfounded claims coming from some members of the Foundation. For instance, in his forword (p. 4), the first sentence is "In Bosnia a historical blackout predates and almost covers Illyrian and Greco-Roman times". If the author had bothered to search for informations with Bosnian archaeologists or historians, he would maybe have been able to note that the "blackout" is not as total as he thinks. For instance, he could have visited the archaeologist Snjezana Vasilj, who is leading a fascinating excavation in an Illyrian site in Hutovo Blato, and who could have acquainted him with the state of scientific research in Bosnia. The idea that Bosnia is a "terra incognita" for ancient history comes from Mr. Osmanagic and other pseudo-historians, who need this darkness in order to develop their own "alternative history", but doesn’t necessarily square with the facts.
Similarly, Dr. Swelim blindly trusts the "scientific evidence" given by the Foundation as soon as 2006, for instance about the "perfect orientation" of the pyramids faces, or about the fact that three of the pyramids would form an equilateral triangle (see for instance p. 41); in both cases, the measurements made by the Geodetic Institute of Bosnia -or, rather, by one of its members, Enver Buza, who happens to be at the same time a faithful collaborator of the Foundation- were never confirmed by an independant institution, and seem to be quite easily contradicted by mere observation. Another instance of Dr. Swelim’s blind trust in his sources in the Foundation: he mentions as "important" and "interesting conclusions" (p. 26) the results of the geological drilling performed in 2005. But his source for these results is Mr. Osmanagic’s book, that is Mr. Osmanagic’s interpretation of these results; and this interpretation has been disputed by the former geologist of the team, who accuses Mr. Osmanagic of "inventing" anomalies where there are none - the same is also written in the report from the geologists of Tuzla University (en).
One could give numerous other examples: even if, sometimes, the author shows some caution ("If the tunnels [...] are indeed connected to the pyramid hill" p. 26, "the results hitherto achieved have to be confirmed" p. 45...), his report rests for a large part on the quite disputable elements given to him by the Foundation .
Apart from these elements, accepted without any critical analysis, Dr. Swelim’s report uses two scientific domains to support its argumentation in favour of Mr. Osmanagic’s hypothesis: geometry, and geology. In what concerns geometry, the author is evidently using some ambiguity, between the concept of geometrical pyramid, and the concept of pyramid as used by the archaeologists. Nobody denies that Visocica, along with other hills in the region of Visoko, has a roughly pyramidal shape, particularly when seen from the North or the North-East; it is of course not sufficient to claim it is a pyramid in the archaeological meaning. The classical argument, used by every pyramid supporter, "nature can not do this", is not a scientific argument: there are few limits to what nature can do, even in the domain of geometry, and it is up to the tenants of the non-natural hypothesis to prove a human intervention. And one cannot do that simply by showing a small part of a "perfect angle", carefully cleaned on a few meters by the Foundation, between the North and East faces (p. 28):
when other photographs of the same "angle", shot by other people, show something far from perfect...
and that as a matter of fact the "angle" is more probably the irregular edge of a dipping conglomerate layer cut by erosion. Similarly, one cannot use as argument a vague resemblance between a "hypothetical rectangular basis" of Visocica and the rectangular basis of the step pyramid in Saqqara (p. 22), nor the fact that some hills have a few "pyramid properties", to claim that they are pyramids in the archaeological meaning. As for playing with words in creating a new "category" of pyramids, an archaeological UFO called "Bosnian pyramid hills" (p. 39)... without any archaeological argument, I’m not sure it will permit much progress!
So the "geological" arguments are left, arguments that Dr. Swelim uses mostly to support his theory of pre-existing hills shaped by man, either by adding material (on Visocica), or on the contrary by "trimming" the geological layers (on Pljesevica). As Dr. Swelim is no geologist nor geomorphologist, he uses informations given either by the "alternative geologists" of the Foundation (who are in fact rather civil or material engineers) or by his Egyptian colleague Dr. Barakat, who is not a specialist in the local geology, nor even in sedimentary geology (he rather is a mineralogist). Dr. Swelim makes the same confusions or approximations that can be found in every document from the Foundation, and shows the same trend of accepting a priori, without any argumentation, as artificial, features that could as easily -and even with much more probability- be natural.
Beginning with Visocica (p. 23), he shows first the layers, particularly present on the "plateau" and the South and West faces, of what he calls "concrete like stone", and is rather the sandstones of the basis of the Lasva series (Middle/Upper Miocene). Why does he never use the word "sandstone", rather than this strange "concrete like stone"? He admits that the analysis could not show whether these sandstone layers "were manually processed and/or cut" (p. 23), but he continuously considers this human intervention as certain in his text ("the nucleus was shaped with that material", "areas paved with sloping beds of concrete-like-stone", and so on); indeed, the subtitle of this part of his report is not ambiguous: "Masonry" ... How can he reconcile this preconceived idea of a "masonry" with the fact that he identifies identical layers in distant locations like the roof of the KTK tunnel, or a natural wall above the Bosna river (p. 24)? He even asks the question: "Could they be extensions of the same stratum?" I have to admit that I have difficulties following his reasoning: how can one see in a same layer sometimes geological strata resulting from a natural sedimentation, and sometimes a "masonry" resulting from a human intervention?
Let’s forget the classical "connecting material" of Visocica conglomerates called a "mortar" (p. 25); he sees evidence of a human intervention on Visocica (p. 27) in the arguments used by Dr. Barakat  in his letter to Professor Vrabac mentioned above (see also this correspondence), arguments that can be summarized like this:
"White slabs are arranged on these two faces [North and East ones] following the general slope": not very surprising if, as is very probable, these faces of the "pyramid" are in fact dip slopes;
perfectly rectangular blocks of conglemerate are found on the "plateau": they are most probably remains of the medieval necropolis which, according to Pavao Andelic’s book, was located at the same place;
Pavao Andelic, in his book, says that "there are human activities which contributed to the shaping of the hill": that is not correct, this idea is likely the result of a very partial and oriented translation of one or two sentences isolated in Andelic’s book, see here my mail sent on the 21st January 2008 answering to Dr. Barakat.
The same confusion in the "geological" arguments is found about Pljesevica, which is presented as "showing thin beds of clay or terraces nicely paved with tiles" (p. 30). There Dr. Swelim is facing a difficulty, already noticed during his press conference in Sarajevo in 2007: he evidently thinks, as do every member of the Osmanagic team, that the slabs or "tiles" of sandstone are artificial (p. 30), and that the "pavements" were made by man. But then he has to admit at the same time that this makes impossible to explain the marls and clays, which form layers 50 cm to 1,50 m thick between these "pavements"; he understands that natural sedimentation needs many thousand or even millions years, and that it would make the building of the pyramid "out of historical proportion"; he also admits that the hypothesis of clay brought by men and placed in thin layers would be "farfetched" (p. 31). So, will he, as he should, deduce that the most simple explanation -and the most compliant with what is known of the local geology- is that these "pavements" are not artificial, but rather the result of a more or less orthogonal fracturation of natural sandstone layers, the like of which can be found worldwide? He won’t: this serious difficulty, which totally prevents from taking in consideration the hypothesis of a "building" of Pljesevica, will not be mentioned anymore in the following pages of the report, where he continuously describes "tiles carefully arranged" (p. 33) and "neatly arranged tiles" (p. 35).
This page 31, where is exposed such an enormous difficulty, immediately forgotten in the next page, is also offering the opportunity to note that Dr. Swelim should maybe rather stay in his area of expertise, that is definitely not sedimentology. Indeed, he shows this photograph:
and clearly considers that the sediment was deposited like this, following the undulations of a previously deformed surface: "they have accumulated on a rough plain which is not level, thus in beds, parallel to the irregular plain surface, following its ups and downs", p. 31. I think that a first year student in geology could explain him that the sediments are always deposited horizontally at the bottom of the water, and that the deformation seen here has affected all the layers at the same time (including the "tiles" of which he thinks that they have been "arranged artificially") after the sedimentation. This has no actual influence on the question of whether Pljesevica was modified by man or not; however, this kind of basic error, coming from someone whose reference in geology seems to be a "Penguin Dictionary of Geology" published in 1972, is not really appropriate for a scientific report.
In the following pages about Pljesevica, Dr. Swelim tries to explain how the "builders" of the pyramids could have shaped Pljesevica, not constructing it, but "trimming" it, intervening on the edges of the sedimentary layers. That’s the most funny part of the report for me, as he uses for that two sketches (p. 32) I had made (one is here and the other there) in order to explain the look of the "pyramids" to the layman. I do not know whether he took these drawings on my website, or obtained them from Dr. Barakat (to whom I had sent them by mail); however, if he correctly identified the author as myself, he did not give their originating URL; what is more, Dr. Swelim evidently did not understand them, nor joined the captions...
The first sketch is this one:
Its aim was to show how, from a natural sedimentary hill, the Foundation is creating slowly "terraces" or steps by removing the marl and clay layers from above the sandstone layers. The dotted line shows the natural slope of the hill before the intervention of the Foundation, and this natural slope is not the result of any human intervention, but rather of erosion and colluviation.
The second sketch:
which Dr. Swelim completed with a caption of his own saying "the latter appears to be cased with some regular material", doesn’t correspond with any existing structure, neither on Visocica nor on Pljesevica. I had drawn it, in answer to Dr. Barakat’s report which seemed to claim that the conglomerate slabs on Visocica were laid by man, in order to show the look that Visocica structure could have had if it had been a pyramid built above an existing hill. I was arguing that, in that case, one could find places on Visocica with this kind of structure, with natural sedimentary layers and, above them, slabs laid with a different dip. However the kind of structure was found nowhere, not on Visocica where the superimposed layers have all the same dip (so that it’s the entire hill that was deformed and tilted), nor on Pljesevica where, on the contrary, all the layers are subhorizontal, without any trace of a "casing".
I will add a last comment about geology, by thanking Dr. Swelim for showing us, p. 36 of his report, this magnificent photograph of "ripple-marks":
which offers the best argument against the idea of an "artificial pavement", as one can perfectly see how the ripples, made during the sedimentation by waves or currents, are in exact continuity across each "tile". We clearly have here a sedimentary layer in situ, orthogonally fractured by at least two different tectonical phases after the sedimentation and the lithification -unless Dr. Swelim imagines quarrymen carefully cutting sandstone slabs, transporting them on Pljesevica, then replacing them exactly in their original position, respecting the "pattern" made by the ripple-marks...
Just a few words about Dr. Swelim’s conclusion: "Geologists agree that the hills date to the Miocene geological era. The Pleistocene era and the following tectonics roughly shaped the hills. Human intervention brought them as much as possible to perfection. However, one must determine who was responsible for the intervention and over what time period it occurred." (p. 44) Surprisingly, I guess that I can totally agree with Dr. Swelim’s conclusions: yes, there has been a human intervention in order to shape the hills and make them pyramids. I can even say that I’m more advanced than he is, as I think I have a good idea of who was responsible for this intervention; it even appears to me that it is still in progress... Indeed, Dr. Swelim’s description perfectly agrees with some of the ongoing works: there actually are some people who "removed thin layers of shale exposing a white and smooth hard face" on Visocica, and who "shaped [the faces of Pljesevica] by receding terraces of tiled clay" (p. 40)...
I will myself conclude with a few thoughts, not about the report, but about some of Dr. Swelim’s attitudes; he easily preaches tolerance and openmindness, and condemns the "condescending and insulting statements" (p. 44); one cannot but agree with this. However, what exactly does he call "condescending and insulting statements"? As far as I know, except maybe an anonymous on a forum, nobody "insulted" Dr Swelim among the Bosnian personalities who oppose Mr. Osmanagic’s project. Is Dr. Swelim perfectly sure that the translations provided by the Foundation, apparently by Ms Merima Bojic, are correct? I’m for instance very surprised by the tone of the answer (en) he made to an article by Professor Govedarica published in the medias: this answer is quite aggressive, and out of proportion with the said article, where the professor is just explaining why he won’t be present at the Sarajevo "scientific conference", and not even mentions Dr. Swelim’s name. On the other hand, Dr. Swelim must surely expect that his position on the "Bosnian pyramids" will be fiercely criticized; after all, if he is an expert on pyramids, he clearly doesn’t know much about Bosnian archaeology or geology. He is perfectly right when he protests against the fact that people who went as tourist on various pyramids could deem themselves experts in pyramids; so that he should admit that his position, quite feebly argumented, without any terrain work and any research in bibliography, on the "Bosnian pyramidal hills", is and will be fiercely criticized by the local experts...
I must also say that one cannot but agree when Dr. Swelim advises moderation to Mr. Osmanagic and his supporters, advising them to "refrain from pseudoscientific, supernatural and romantic explanations" (p. 44); I encourage him to say this loud and clear to his fellow "scientists" who will participate in the conference he is presiding in Sarajevo these days: for instance to M. Simatovic, ufologist and pyramidologist, to Mr. Philip Coppens (en), to Mr. Paulo Stekel, "hierolinguist" and "glozelian", to Mr. Muris Osmanagic, and, of course, to the Foundation Director, Mr. Ahmed Bosnic (bs)...
Finally, I’m very glad to see that Dr. Swelim is fiercely defending the scientific method; as he stresses it in his report: "in scientific research, negative evidence is no evidence" (p. 44). No one has to prove that the "Bosnian pyramids" do not exist, because no one can prove that they do not exist: it is up to those who claim their existence, the existence of a human intervention -other than that of Mr. Osmanagic, of course- in order to shape these hills in pyramids, to do the proving. Unfortunately, the fact that Dr. Swelim feels entitled to tell this simple evidence, not to Mr. Osmanagic or to himself, but to his opponents, makes me somehow doubt that he perfectly understands its meaning. And I doubt even more when I read this account of the press conference (bs) he just gave, along with Mr. Osmanagic, before the beginning of the "scientific conference": "The existence of the pyramids is undisputable and unquestionable"; then: "If someone denies the existence of the pyramids, then he must have a valid scientific argumentation. Anything else is unacceptable, and rejecting a priori the idea of pyramids in Bosnia is unscientific". So that I would like to ask Dr. Swelim, who seems to have strange ideas about the scientific debate and the burden of the proof, two questions:
if the existence of the pyramids in Bosnia is "unquestionable", why did he invite "opponents" to his conference? Why, in the same press conference (bs), does he seem to regret their absence and does he state that "to refuse the scientific debate is not acceptable"? Who, tell me, refuses the discussion by claiming the pyramids "undisputable"?
and what if Dr. Swelim tried to reformulate his sentence like this: "If someone claims the existence of the pyramids, then he must have a valid scientific argumentation"?...
 This book, contrary to Mr. Osmanagic’s previous one "The Bosnian pyramid of the Sun" (bs), is not available online, however it seems, according to the informations that Dr. Swelim found in it, that there are numerous similarities with the previous one, summarized here.
 "Branches of science" where he largely mixes objects (artifacts, petroglyphs), proper sciences (geology, geophysics), and techniques (satellite images, mining)...
 As was also doing the Egyptian Aly Barakat’s report, or the letter Dr. Barakat sent to Professor Vrabac mentioned p. 27 of Dr. Swelim’s report; Mr. Barakat was also blindly accepting the very partial translation of Dr. Pavao Andelic’s book that the Foundation provided, or the idea that the "perfect rectangular blocks of hard conglomerate" found on the "access plateau" behind Visocica were, as Mr. Osmanagic is claiming, stone blocks "rolled from the top of the pyramid" (en), rather than the steles ("stecci") from the medieval necropolis which is known to have existed precisely at this location...
 It’s quite curious that Dr. Barakat, a geologist, uses mostly archaeological and historical arguments, and Dr. Swelim, an egyptologist, mostly geological arguments... it is as if each was unable to find solid arguments in his own area of expertise...
This text was sent to Dr. Swelim, by way of the email provided by the "International scientific conference" website, and received no answer.
Update (15 march 2001): "Visocica in the balance" is a supplement written in 2010 by Dr. Swelim to his report, which shows that his position has apparently undergone a considerable change since 2008.