There and Back Again
Article published on 26 November 2012

by Abacus

A Troweller’s Tale [1]

The Truth is Way Out There

Anyone who has continued to follow the unfolding chronicle of the Bosnian ‘pyramids’ since their ‘discovery’ in 2006 will have noted that - apart from the discovery of a mysterious ‘structure’ in the Ravne tunnels [2], SBRG’s ultrasound investigations, and their proposal that the hill of Visoko is directing some kind of energy beam into outer space - things have been relatively quiet over the past 18 months or so… One event that did get commentators excited in the autumn of 2011, however, was the prospect of a documentary produced by the hugely popular National Geographic Channel.

As might have been expected, the prospect of a documentary that might give the pyramids project a much needed boost was enthusiastically welcomed - the more so as the proposed documentary was to form one of the Ancient X Files series. According to the Ancient X Files website description: “This exciting series follows scholars, archaeologists, and scientists as they investigate myths and legends to determine the truth behind some of history’s earliest stories. In this modern day Indiana Jones-style expeditions, travel the globe to unveil the mystery of the holy grail, the secrets of the dark arts, the philosopher’s lost stone, the lost ark, and more to unlock the Ancient X Files.”

So the question of whether there really were pyramids in Bosnia would obviously be a good subject for this sort of documentary. In line with the stated purpose of the series, two experts from England, an archaeologist and a geologist, had been lined up as presenters. And, given all the publicity that the documentary would generate, and the Foundation’s unshakable conviction that any archaeologist or geologist worth their salt would only have to set foot in Visoko to realize at once that the angular hills there could only be ancient pyramids built by man, what could possibly go wrong?

Some months later, in the summer of 2012, the documentary was duly broadcast. Responses, some from Mr. Osmanagic, some from others, soon began to appear on the Foundation website and elsewhere – although, disconcertingly, they fell rather short of the congratulatory sort that might have been hoped for.

This article from Danas (quoted and/or cited in several online forums) sets the tone. It begins by explaining that this is the second documentary from the National Geographic about the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids, but that, unlike a previous documentary from 2009, also by National Geographic, this latest one was very negative. Mr. Osmanagic himself complained, amongst other things, that: “Ova dvojica Engleza nemaju nikakvo iskustvo s piramidama, nisu napisali nijedan članak o njima, niti su vidjeli piramide u životu.” (“… the two Englishmen had no experience with the pyramids, they did not write any articles about them, nor did they see the pyramids in life.”)

A furious Mr. Osmanagic also said that the 30-minute documentary was a failed attempt to ridicule the pyramids in Visoko, and that it offered: “… nije ponudio niti jedan konkretan dokaz, potkrijepljen činjenicama, već kamaru trolanja, netačnih i nelogičnih navoda.” (“no concrete evidence, supported by facts, but a heap of trollish, inaccurate and illogical statements.”) Furthermore, Chapman, the archaeologist who co-presented the documentary, was primarily interested in ‘wetland sites’ (the implication being that this could have no connection with Visoko, which was not a wetland site). Mr. Osmanagic was quoted on a forum as also saying that his team had spent 300,000 hours on archaeological excavations; they had also analysed samples, and had arranged for radiocarbon dating tests to be performed.

This comment from a foreign forum voices another complaint: “The archaeologist and geologist (thorough skeptics prior to their arrival) had never been to Visoko before their 4 day visit, saw only a few locations and spent fairly little time at any of them. Camera crew, director, sound guys, Osmanagic, volunteers, tourists, all the hustle and bustle that surrounded them. It was like a circus when they came to the tunnels.”

One commentator remarked that, on Googling Henry Jerome Chapman, he could find not one reference to any archaeologist of that name.

If these criticisms are accurate, then the National Geographic production team clearly made a grave mistake in asking a couple of ignorant and incompetent Englishmen, apparently masquerading as scientists, to present the documentary. Perhaps, therefore, we should take a closer look to see exactly where the two presenters went wrong.

Unfortunately, interested readers can no longer view the documentary on YouTube, but the following is a description of the principal points of the documentary (which, contrary to statements on the Foundation website and elsewhere, in fact lasts for 45, not 30, minutes).

Ancient X Files: English scientists in Visoko

In the documentary, Jerram and Chapman investigate five factors that, so it has been claimed, form evidence supporting Semir Osmanagic’s theories. They begin by going in search of traces of the civilisation that allegedly built the pyramids 12,500 years ago, and look for evidence of the remains of tools and other artefacts that might have been left by these ancient builders. Next, they look at what Mr. Osmanagic claims are a series of manmade terraces; and, following that, they enter the Ravne tunnels. They then meet Mr. Osmanagic at the Pyramid of the Sun, which he believes is constructed with massive building blocks. Finally, they scrutinise the shape, and alignment, of the pyramids.

In search of traces of pyramid construction tools left behind in c. 10,500 BC, Chapman first visits the National Museum, Sarajevo. But all he is shown are small flint tools – not at all the sort of thing could have been used to build pyramids: although, as he is to find out later, Mr. Osmanagic has a theory that would explain why no artefacts have been found.

The next port of call for Chapman and Jerram is the so-called Pyramid of the Moon, 120 feet higher than the Great Pyramid in Egypt, where Mr. Osmanagic has found what he believes are manmade terraces. By way of example, he shows the pair a sandstone pavement which displays an apparently regular design that can surely only has been the result of human effort. Jerram, however, as an experienced geologist, realizes that it is much more likely to be the compressed remains of a coastal shore-line millions of years old. One important indication that the sandstone pavement is in fact a natural phenomenon is the presence of ripple-marks, whose contours, uninterrupted by breaks in the surface of the sandstone, form an exact match on either side of the cracks in the surface.

Nevertheless, Mr. Osmanagic is unimpressed by this geological argument, arguing – in the face of the geologist Jerram’s complete incredulity - that the ancient builders somehow cut out a rippled sandstone bed, transported it to the location of the Pyramid of the Moon, and set it in place in such a way that the ripples matched up exactly on either side.

Leaving the Pyramid of the Moon and its problematic rippled pavement, Jerram and Chapman turn their attention to the tunnels of Ravne. Because tunnels are found in the proximity of so many of the Egyptian pyramids, sometimes leading to chambers containing funerary remains, Mr. Osmanagic infers that the Ravne tunnels might also have some connection with the Bosnian pyramids. He argues that the latter were constructed about 12,000 years ago (c. 10,000 BC) by an advanced civilisation, before being cleared and filled in some 5,000 years later (7,000 years ago, c. 5,000 BC) by another civilisation. Mr. Osmanagic believes that the fact that the tunnels were supposedly cleared in c. 5,000 BC explains why there are no artefacts to be found – in other words, that absence of evidence is actually evidence of absence - whilst the fact that the tunnels were supposedly then filled in indicates that the people of the c. 5,000 BC civilization were anxious to conceal something “of global importance” left by the previous civilization. Given the six years spent working in the tunnels, and despite the poor lighting conditions, Mr. Osmanagic claims even to be able to distinguish what he calls filling material (left by the later civilization) from what he calls conglomerate left by the earlier civilization. With a rhetorical flourish, he asks Jerram and Chapman why the sand in the tunnels seems to miraculously stay in place all by itself, apparently defying gravity, without the help of any binding material. Jerram is rather less sanguine about the long-term stability of the roof, while Chapman, clearly unconvinced by Osmanagic’s claims to be able to differentiate between the various materials left by the two hypothetical ancient civilizations, has reservations about the archaeological methodology; in most tunnel excavations of this sort, archaeologists would be trying to identify differences in the textures of different layers, etc.

In any event, despite Mr. Osmanagic’s insistence on the gravity-defying nature of the sand in the tunnel, Jerram and Chapman, by this time extremely worried about their safety, call a halt to any further exploration, and lose no time in retracing their steps. Safely outside once more, Jerram comments on the instability of the tunnel walls. Chapman suspects that the present-day excavators have been misled by the looseness of the material into thinking that, by pulling it away, they are following the course of an ancient tunnel, when, in fact, all they are doing by dislodging the loose earth is digging new tunnels – tunnels, moreover, that could collapse on them at any moment.

The time has come for Mr. Osmanagic to play one of his remaining trump cards. He takes the sceptical pair to the Pyramid of the Sun (the hill of Visocica), which he believes is actually a huge pyramid made of massive building blocks, formed from material removed from the tunnels by the ancient builders. He points to what he claims are evidently four rows of these blocks. Jerram, however, is not convinced by these claims, explaining that there are many examples of similar rocks that – despite an apparently man-made appearance – have nevertheless been formed naturally. And a Bosnian geologist, Dr. Ramovic, shows Jerram a geological map of the region clearly indicating that these hills consist of layers of rock found throughout the area.

Mr. Osmanagic, however, continues to insist that there is one remaining factor that tips the balance in favour of his theory of ancient pyramids. His last card is not only the fact that the pyramid is covered with ‘natural concrete’, but also the supposed fact of its alleged perfect orientation to the cardinal directions, and its 45 degree slope.

Jerram decides that he and Chapman will put Mr. Osmanagic’s theory to the test. From the aeroplane which they have chartered to fly over the Visoko area, they see where the remorseless forces of geology have effectively formed the region’s hills into a series of flat, tilted slabs, their corners forming roughly triangular shapes, something like the edges of a series of large volumes - say, the Encyclopaedia Britannica - thrown in a heap and lying slant-wise against one another. This triangular characteristic is particularly noticeable in the face of the hill opposite Visoko, though less so in the case of the other sides of the hill, which just resemble other hills in the area. Indeed, the inclined angles of the dips – claimed by Mr. Osmanagic to be 45 degrees – turn out to be on average about 26 degrees, sometimes 30 degrees, but in some cases as little as 16 degrees. As for the alleged orientation to the cardinal directions, Jerram, with the help of a compass, discovers that, although some slopes could be said to face in a generally north direction, there are many others that are not north-facing at all.

At the end of their visit to Bosnia, therefore, the pair have no choice but to conclude that what they have been looking at are the remains of lake and river sediments deposited several million years ago. They have found no traces of any archaeology; what they have witnessed is the implementation of poor methodological practice that would effectively destroy any archaeological remains that did happen to be there.

Despite all Jerram and Chapman’s arguments, however, Mr. Osmanagic’s views remain firmly entrenched. “The pyramids are there, they have been there, and will be there after we are long gone.”

For their part, Jerram and Chapman suspect that the only evidence for the Bosnian pyramids lies in Mr. Osmanagic’s imagination.

Mistakes made by so-called “experts”

It cannot be denied that many other English-speaking authorities who have visited the Bosnian pyramids have come to conclusions similar to those of Jerram and Chapman. Were these experts wrong, too?

One of the earliest to visit the site in 2006 was the president of the European Association of Archaeologists, Anthony Harding, whose visit is described in “The great Bosnian pyramid scheme” [3]. He concluded that he could see: “… no sign of anything that looked like archaeology”. The Foundation complained that his conclusion was a matter of: “… jealousy or minds closed to new ideas”, and also argued (Bs) that, anyway, Harding had not spent enough time there to be able to come to an informed conclusion. (This complaint about not enough time being spent at the site was, of course, similar in nature to the one in 2012 about Jerram and Chapman having spent only a few days in the area).

But there were other English-speaking experts whose visits – at least initially – were warmly welcomed by the Foundation, experts such as the geologist Robert Schoch, celebrated in the alternative history community for his theory that the Sphinx of Giza was much older than commonly accepted, which meant that, although a recognized academic, he was considered as something of a maverick, not really part of mainstream academia. Surely, therefore, he would also take a similar non-mainstream view of the Visoko pyramids?

But, when Schoch and his colleague, Dr. Colette Dowell, revealed their findings, the Foundation found their hopes rudely dashed. (Schoch’s visit is described here, as well as in “The Bosnian Pyramid Phenomenon” [4], and also in “Pyramid No More” [5].) For, no matter what Schoch’s non-mainstream views on the question of the Sphinx, the Bosnian pyramids were, nevertheless, a completely different kettle of fish. As he looked at the Pyramid of the Sun, the only thing that his geologist’s eye revealed to him was a natural hill; and, equally, he saw that all the phenomena believed by the Foundation to be evidence of the work of a long lost civilization could in fact be explained simply as geological features. The Foundation changed its opinion of Schoch, and published several articles attacking him, for example, this one. The grounds on which it rejected Schoch’s geological findings were described as follows: “Some geologists have claimed that the Bosnian pyramids were created by ‘tectonic movements’. That claim should be based upon corresponding maps however the available maps of geological processes for the area clearly show that the orientation of the pyramid’s sides could not be created through the famous tectonic movements. This was a detail apparently overlooked by Dr. Robert Schoch.”

Despite these frustrations, the Foundation’s spirits were evidently raised by a later visitor in 2010 - not an alternative historian this time, but an eminent anthropologist, Ezra Zubrow, so a member of the very academic establishment that the Foundation affected to challenge and despise. Furthermore, Professor Zubrow made encouraging comments, as reported in this news ítem on the Foundation website dated 14 June 2010, and this one dated 29 June 2010. It was unfortunate, then, that later investigation by Tera Pruitt in connection with her Cambridge doctoral thesis revealed some problems with the portrayal of Professor Zubrow as an enthusiastic supporter of the Bosnian Pyramids project: “Zubrow felt that his visit was grossly misinterpreted and manipulated to read as ‘expert consensus’ and ‘proof’ of pyramids” [6].

Qualified experts?

If acknowledged experts have fallen so woefully short on the task of recognizing the existence of the Bosnian pyramids, it is hardly surprising that bungling and inept individuals such as Jerram and Chapman have made an equal hash of things. So what exactly are their credentials?

The reader might recall that one person had complained that they could not find one reference on the National Geographic site to an archaeologist named Henry Jerome Chapman (although there were three for Osmanagic). The same person also complained that a Google search for “Henry Jerome Chapman” came up with a list of results that referred only to the National Geographic documentary. So there was no such archaeologist… or was there?

A search on the National Geographic site does indeed reveal three entries for Osmanagic, although none for Messrs. Jerram and/or Chapman. However, given that the documentary has not yet been listed in the Ancient X Files available on DVD (dated 2010), this is hardly surprising.

There also appears to be some inexplicable confusion over Dr. Chapman’s name. He has confirmed that his name is “Henry Chapman”, that “Jerome” forms no part of his name, and that he has never used the name “Henry Jerome Chapman” [7]: consequently, any search for an archaeologist of that name is hardly likely to produce any results (apart from mistaken versions of his name in connection with the Bosnian Pyramids documentary). Nevertheless, Dr. Henry Chapman (sic) is a senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Birmingham; his professional qualifications (with full descriptions of his research and publications) are detailed here.

Henry Chapman

We may note that Chapman’s research interests centre on the later prehistoric period, and particularly the relationships between human activity and environmental change within past landscapes and focusing on wetland sites:

“I work in this boundary between trying to understand cultural questions about the past, but those sorts of questions that you can’t address unless you start reconstructing, start modelling and visualising past landscapes, objects and movement of people.”

The reader may also recall a complaint about the National Geographic documentary to the effect that the presenters were continually surrounded by technicians and camera crew, the implication being that this prevented them from giving their whole attention to the question of the pyramids and tunnels. However, both Chapman and Jerram have extensive broadcasting and media experience, and are obviously well used to working alongside production crews. Dougal Jerram’s details, for instance, include a long list of TV credits.

Chapman has also worked on the well known Channel 4 Time Team series; the description of this episode, for example, states that, after some confusion over whether two sets of ditches were linked or not: “Henry Chapman, our archaeological surveyor, stepped in to solve the mystery. His computer model of the landscape showed that the promontory edges had been artificially steepened; effectively creating an earthwork defence that surrounded the hill.” This interest in landscape formed a central part of Chapman’s PhD research (landscape archaeology and GIS), which was: “focused upon the possible applications of digital mapping and surveying methods for understanding archaeological landscapes.” Furthermore: “He has previously been employed as a landscape investigator/surveyor with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME), now part of English Heritage, and on a large-scale project based at Hull University investigating the archaeology of wetlands and preservation within wet environments.”

To cut a long story short: far from being an inept and incompetent impostor, Dr. Chapman in fact has an impressive array of archaeological qualifications and experience to his credit. If anyone can be relied on to know an artificially modelled ancient landscape when they see one, he can. Had he found an artificially modelled ancient landscape at Visoko, we can be sure that he would have said as much in fairly short order.

The trouble was: he hadn’t. So he couldn’t.

Dougal Jerram

Exactly the same goes for Dr. Jerram, who is neither superficial nor an ignoramus, but instead a highly qualified earth scientist who, for many years, was Senior Lecturer at the Earth Science Department of the University of Durham; his biographical details and professional qualifications are listed here and here. (Amongst other works, he has co-authored The Field Description of Igneous Rocks [8].) Like Henry Chapman, had he found an ancient landscape, one that could not be explained by the action of geological forces, and must therefore be artificial, we can be sure that he would have said as much.

The trouble was …

Geological Opinion

It seems that the findings of other geologists are generally in line with those of Robert Schoch and Dougal Jerram. These include:

 Stjepan ĆORIĆ (findings described in interview); email of findings described in article).

 Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim El Anbaawy [9].

 Amer Smailbegovic (downloadable PDF report available here). [10]

 Dr. Sejfudin Vrabac (scroll down; downloadable PDF report).

 Paul Heinrich described in article (he has also published various Web articles on the subject, including this 2007 letter to the journal "Science", "Pseudoscience in Bosnia").

 Dr. Gorazd Žibret [11] in his “Geological report of the brief geological inspection in the Visoko area, focused on the Vicočica hill” (as cited here – scroll down): “The shape of the Visočica hill is from geomorphologic point of view very unusual. From the geological point of view it is undoubtedly that the whole hill is of natural origin.”

 The last paragraph of Dr. E. Nunzia Croce’s geological report for the SBRG: “As regards the constituent materials and their stratification, the so-called Pyramid of the Sun is the result of continental Miocene clastic-terrigenous sedimentation; the shape of the hill, the tilt of the strata and their dislocation, as well as the cracking that gives the various layers their pseudo-pavement form, are due to post-Miocene geomorphological modelling, together with local and global tectonic phenomena.”

So nine geological opinions (not including those of Irna herself [12], who has a background in geomorphology) are in broad agreement on this question.

And yet, even in the face of all these opposing opinions, the Foundation continues to resolutely insist that these Bosnian hills are man-made pyramids of non-geological origin.

North, south, east and west

As we have seen, one of the cruxes of their refutation of these arguments was the claim that the sides of the Pyramid of the Sun are oriented to the cardinal directions. By way of a later rebuttal to Dr. Jerram’s objections on this point [13], Mr. Osmanagic said: “The geometry and orientation of the pyramid are determined by relevant institutions. This was done by the Geodetic Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that concluded that “the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun is an imperfect pyramid with three well preserved sides, and the sides are perfectly aligned to cardinal directions of the world (NSEW)”. Deviation from cosmic north is only zero degrees, zero minutes and 12 seconds (0°0’12”), which is more perfect than the Pyramid of Cheops (deviation zero degrees, 2 minutes).”

Given that the Foundation don’t seem to have too many other scientific arguments at their disposal, it might be worth looking closely at this claim to see whether it stands up. A detailed discussion by Irna appears here:

In Mr. Osmanagic’s book (bs) it is said to be a pyramid with four faces oriented toward the cardinal points, this fact being confirmed by a not yet published (but partially used in the document "Naucni argumenti") report by the "Institute of Geodesy of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (of which one member, Mr. Enver Buza, is "adviser" for the Foundation [14]); the same document adds that the North face is oriented "toward the celestial North" … [But] claiming that the North face of Visocica is oriented toward the "cosmic North" doesn’t make a lot of sense scientifically [15]. Mr. Osmanagic and his team sometimes claim that Visocica is "oriented toward the North star" (or Polaris) [16]. However, because of the Precession of the equinoxes (en), the celestial poles are slowly moving. If, today, Polaris approximatively marks the place of the North celestial pole, it was not the case 12,000 years ago (proclaimed age of the pyramid). At that time, the North celestial pole was very near to Vega (see this map showing the slow rotation of the North celestial pole during a period of about 25,000 years). The fact that Visocica is "oriented toward Polaris" is nothing more than a coincidence. But let’s admit that they just wanted to say, quite awkwardly, that the North face of Visocica is exactly oriented toward the North: it seems to me that the "exactitude" of this orientation is far from perfect!

The article continues with more detailed discussion; and, accompanying it are several maps [17] and images demonstrating this argument, which, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, has never yet been addressed, let alone refuted, by the Foundation.

If all that the Foundation have to offer by way of argument is simply to continue to repeat the same contention in 2012 as in 2006, refusing to face the objections raised by Irna, Jerram and others, it effectively means that one important support for the theory that the pyramids are man-made simply collapses.

And that just leaves little more support than Mr. Osmanagic’s imagination – admittedly, a fairly vivid and powerful one, as a cursory examination of some of the books and documents that he has written quickly reveals.

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will have noted that the title of the present article – which refers primarily to Jerram and Chapman’s journey to Visoko and back - also recalls the secondary title of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, a work of inspired fantasy set in the mythical land of Middle Earth. Interestingly, attempts to superimpose Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth over modern Europe produce an image of hills (Emyn Arnen) in a location that might loosely approximate to Visoko …

The one thing missing from “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, of course, is any mention of pyramids. Not even Tolkien’s imagination could stretch that far…

The Silberhorn, inspiration for Tolkien’s Celebdil