There are hundreds of pyramid-shaped hills distributed in and around central Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet one in particular has achieved worldwide attention over the last decade. Found in the small town of Visoko, located about 30 kilometres northwest from Sarajevo, the hill is the tallest point in a landscape of tremendous historical importance for the country. The region has been occupied from prehistoric times. Rich in natural resources, the area was extensively quarried for metal ore and stone over many periods. In the medieval period (12th to 15th centuries CE), this area became the center of the Kingdom of Bosnia. It was here that the first king of Bosnia, Tvrtko I, was crowned in 1377 CE. During this time the large hill became known as Visočica, and a fortress was constructed upon its summit. From 1463, the Ottomans controlled them, and under their rule, many towns were founded, including Visoko which experienced a surge of economic development and cultural activity and became one of the richest towns in Bosnia. The town was of key importance in Bosnia's modern history, serving as a stronghold for Bosniak forces during conflict in the 1990s.
However, it is not for these reasons that the hill of Visočica is so well-known today. Instead, the focus of attention has been on the controversial claim that it is the largest and oldest man-made pyramid to be found, not only in Europe, but the world. Since 2005, the Bosnian-born American businessman and self-proclaimed archaeologist Semir Osmanagich has promoted a controversial narrative of how - and why - the hill exists. He maintains that Visočica is not a natural feature, but was made by an ancient Bosniak civilization during the last Ice Age, between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Its substructure is allegedly filled with an intricate network of passageways that connect it to other structures in the surrounding landscape built during the same time. If true, the scale of these "pyramids" would have required the largest construction works to have ever been performed in prehistory.
But this theory has been fiercely criticized by archaeologists, geologists, pyramid experts, journalists, and countless other academics and non-academics. Many scientific specialists and laypersons have gone to Visoko to see the site with their own eyes, and reported that there is little evidence to suggest the validity of Semir's claims. Furthermore, some of the claims made of the pyramid are borderline science fiction, featuring everything from aliens to the mythical civilization of Atlantis.
Through the use of popular and journalistic media, rather than academic channels, Mr. Osmanagich has garnered the attention of many hundreds of volunteers that come to Visoko each year. Conflicting accounts testify to what takes place. Is legitimate archaeology being carried out, or the creation of a money-making theme park for tourists? Can the Bosnian pyramid be considered genuine, or is this but one example of widespread and pseudoscientific "pyramid-mania" that occurs across the globe? Why do people believe in the fantastic stories woven around the Pyramid of the Sun, and why is the academic community so critical of this phenomenon? And who, exactly, is Semir Osmanagich, without whom this story would not exist?
©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors