Lectures  Contact: The no-longer excluded continent Pyramids in Europe Delivered at the Nexus Conference 2007, Brisbane, October 21 2007

Yes, there are pyramids in Europe. A decade ago, this statement may have been seen as a sign of idiocy, but today, there is a substantial body of evidence that there are pyramids in Europe. French pyramids Europe’s most famous pyramid is probably the glass pyramid that marks the entrance to the Louvre museum in the heart of Paris. Since the publication of Dan Brown’s international mega-bestseller “The Da Vinci Code”, it has become an enigmatic attraction – though the glass panels do not number 666, as Dan Brown hoped for; the Louvre guide lists it as 673 panels – it is close, but for symbolism to work, of course, it is either hit or miss. Still, the Louvre pyramid, despite its modern origins, has achieved an exalted status, claimed to be part of a series of esoteric works that Mitterrand performed in Paris to bring it line with certain “occult ambitions” – very much in line with ancient Egyptian town planning and alignments to solar phenomena.

Of interest is tha Brown makes the Louvre Pyramid the final resting place of Mary Magdalene – her tomb – and thus uses the archetypal imagery of the pyramid as a tomb and applies it to Mary Magdalene. It is such use of archetypal imagery that has greatly contributed to “The Dan Brown Phenomenon”. France has its own “proper” – old – pyramid, though it is little known, and small in size. The base of the pyramid varies between 5 to 6.5 metres and sits on the hillside above La Bastide, at the Aven des Ratapignata, to the northeast of Falicon, near the posh Mediterranean town of Nice. On detailed maps, the site is not marked as “pyramid”, but as “Grotte de Ratapignata”, for the pyramid does sit over a cave, known as the “Cave of the Bats” – the Batcave!

Despite its somewhat disappointingly minute size, for a very long time, it was considered to be one of the very rare pyramids to be found in Europe. As it is a pyramid, it almost seems to be an unwritten law that no simple answer can ever been given for its existence. There are various theories of its origins and some of course include an Egyptian connection: the grandson of the famous archaeologist John Ward-Perkins thought that it might have marked the tomb of an ancient chieftain, possibly an exiled Egyptian. I’ll classify that as “imaginative”, as for the moment it is totally unsupported by evidence – such as the absence of a tomb or inscriptions that would support that conclusion. While most of the upper section of the pyramid is now missing, the lower section is reasonably well-preserved; fortunately, photographs still exist of the time when the upper part was better preserved. They have allowed for an accurate reconstruction of the structure, which had an entrance in its south-eastern corner. The entrance was large enough to permit the passage of one person at a time, suggesting that this was intentional.

Today, the site is well-known to the local fire brigade, who often have to rescue people who have descended inside the cave. Though the descent is easy enough (for a somewhat experienced climber), the ascent is virtually impossible, as it involves conquering a horizontal ridge; the fire brigade’s winch clears it easily, but feet groping in the dark for footholds don’t. Even though the cave was documented in the early 19th century, it lasted until 1898 before a proper excavation occurred, carried out by Professor Jean-Robert Salifard. The end result was a report of 657 pages and 174 illustrations. From the main room, he identified three tunnels, one that continued for “a considerable distance”. But when the famous speleologist Jules Gavet visited the site in 1901, he found that these tunnels had been blocked.

What had happened between 1898 and 1901? Someone – and apparently not Salifard – had purposefully sealed the tunnels. Why? Was it purely for health and safety purposes, to make sure that no souls would wander inside and get lost? Or was it to protect something that was perhaps hidden deeper inside the network of tunnels? Falicon As to the pyramid’s purpose: in 1976, author Henri Broch argued that the land sat on former Knights Templar property. Could it be possible that the enigmatic Knights Templar had been pyramid builders? That possibility was also taken up by Maurice Guinguand. But neither author spoke of the work of Jean Carrond. The latter had access to family documents of a certain Baron de Raudie. The very old documents that he consulted spoke of a deposit that was of tremendous importance and which had been owned and protected by the ancestors of de Raudie. In some corners, it invited speculation that this deposit was part of the Templar treasure, secreted away at the time of their arrest in 1307.

However, Carrond and others have since discovered that the land on which the Falicon pyramid sits was actually not owned by the Templars, leaving us with the possibility that the potential treasure secret in the underground cave system might indeed “just” belong to the de Raudie family Still, it is clear that a Templar connection or even the hiding place of a treasure cannot have been its original purpose – the very building of a pyramid would identification of the treasure site rather too easy. Instead, it seems to have been a site where certain religious ceremonies were performed. The first subterranean chamber shows the best evidence that it was used and adapted for ritual use. There are seven steps, as well as a small platform that originally is believed to have held an altar. Speculation is that the nature of the cult that was practiced here, may have been the cult of Mithras, popular in Roman times. The cult of Mithras spread across Europe, hand in hand with the cult of Osiris and Isis; sanctuaries of both cults have been found as far north as the border territories of Scotland and England and stumbling upon a Mithras temple in southern France would be the norm rather than the exception. Mithraic sanctuaries were normally – ideally – underground and the cave underneath the Falicon pyramid thus qualifies – though it is by no means a perfect match if we were to compare it with a typical Mithras temple.

Much more recently, in 1922, Etienne Gotteland settled near Falicon and founded a cult that incorporated the pyramid. He nevertheless also made some observations about the structure itself: using the precession of the equinox, he argued that the site of the pyramid (though not the pyramid itself) was 4335 years old, or 2413 BC – roughly contemporary with the Egyptian Pyramid Age. This is of course a controversial dating, and pushing the age of the site very far back. If it was indeed a Mithraic sanctuary and the pyramid were to date from that era, than the pyramid would date from ca. 200 BC to 300 AD. But in truth, we have no idea as to its age… Spanish pyramids In 1991, the renowned explorer Thor Heyerdahl spoke of pyramids on the Canary Islands. He had come across these monuments while he was trying to find further evidence of transoceanic contacts. Of course, many immediately jumped to a “logical” conclusion: pyramids in Egypt, pyramids in Mesoamerica, and now pyramids right in the middle, in the Canary Islands; connect the dots, and you have “clear evidence” of transoceanic contacts, in which the Old World apparently had told the New World to start building pyramids.

There are six step pyramids on the island of Tenerife, located near the town of Guimar, on the eastern shore, about 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The pyramids reach a maximum height of twelve metres. The Archaeology Department of La Laguna University carried out initial excavations and the Canary Islands’ Astrophysical Institute looked into possible ancient astronomical relationships. These studies revealed that the pyramids were aligned to the winter and summer solstices, once again underlining that many if not most if not all pyramids have an astronomical component. The pyramids are reported to line up with the sunset, which occurs in a distinctive spot on the mountainous horizon. Stairways ascend from a level plaza to the top of each pyramid, where there is a flat summit platform covered with gravel. The stairways are all on the western side, suggesting a ceremonial purpose, because someone ascending to the pyramids’ summits on the morning of the solstice would be “welcoming” the rising sun – a very religiously significant act. Of course, there was controversy. The “opposition” claimed that they were merely terraces or random piles of stone that had been cleared by the Spaniards. Others argued they were modern constructions, inspired – if not built – by or for or in support of Heyerdahl’s theories. But it were nonetheless archaeologists that discovered that they were in fact painstakingly built step-pyramids.

This “opposition” may have had very selfish economic reasons to say what it did: the land on which the pyramids stand had been earmarked for development in connection with a planned expansion in the upper part of the town and even in 1991, it was clear that archaeology and economic pursuits did not easily go hand in hand. Heyerdahl therefore persuaded the Norwegian ship owner Fred Olsen to buy the site, clean up the debris of centuries of disregard and construct a museum, marrying archaeology and tourism. This is now what is known as the “Pirámides de Güímar” Ethnographic Park. The park opened in April 1998 and is attracting 150,000 visitors per year. One of the ‘black’ pyramids has been restored. Recent excavations under one pyramid have yielded artefacts identified with the Guanches, the pre-Spanish inhabitants of Tenerife. Still, some refuse to admit that such impressive structures could have been built by the Guanche and suggest that they might have been constructed by the early Christian conquistadores as a time measuring device to know when to celebrate the Catholic festivities of St. John (which occur on June 24, close to the summer solstice).

Heyerdahl believed that these pyramids were remains from pre-European voyagers who sailed the Atlantic Ocean in ancient times. But following Dr. Heyerdahl’s express wishes, no theory is forced on the visitors to Guimar. In fact, the symbol of the exhibit is a question mark, asking each person to make up his own mind. Still, the most likely scenario seems to involve the Guanche themselves. If we let go off the idea that they “could not construct such structures” and embrace the possibility that they could, we may have the easiest, most logical and correct attribution as to who built these pyramids – though they are more platforms that pyramids. Furthermore, one interesting aspect is that it is known that the Guanche used the Chacona cave under one of the pyramids – indeed, yet another cave underneath a pyramid. Secondly, nearby Guimar was, until the Spanish conquest, the residence of one of the ten “menceys” (kings) of Tenerife, identifying the area as a capital. And as pyramids were often if not normally related to kingship, why not link the pyramids with Guanche kingship? Greek Pyramids Helleniko pyramid There are three pyramids in the Peloponnesus, the large peninsula in southern Greece. One pyramid is located approximately four kilometres from Argos, in the village of Helleniko; A second pyramid is located outside of the village of Ligouria, near Epidauros; the third pyramid is to be found in Dalamanara, located roughly half-way between the other two, and is, of all three, in the worst shape.

The pyramids have only recently become the topic of archaeological and historical research, and were immediately hailed by the researcheres as the “prototypes” for the Egyptian pyramids. Imagine: an obscure village near Argos in the Greek Peloponnesus could be the origin of the Egyptian Pyramid Age! Immediately, this headline-grabbing statement was also seen as evidence that contradicted “the misguided belief held by many that civilization proceeded from the East”. In short, the early headlines, based on the results of the Athens Academy and the University of Edinburgh, had made it “clear” that the “pyramid idea” had been transferred from Greece to Egypt. The pyramid was a European invention. What had happened that made these academic institutions arrive at such conclusions? On February 9, 1995, Pericles Theoharis, the then General Secretary of the Athens Academy, announced the results of a two year study of the Greek pyramids (which excluded the badly damaged Dalamanara structure). The results dated the Helleniko pyramid to 2720 BC, with a margin of error factor of plus or minus 580 years. The Ligouria pyramid, a structure originally measuring 14 by 12 metres, of which very little remains, was dated to 2100 BC, with a margin of error factor of plus or minus 600 years. For the Greeks, this was clear evidence that the Helleniko pyramid was a century older than the Egyptian step pyramid of Zoser (dated to 2620 BC), and 170 years older than the Great Pyramid.

But controversial claims receive controversial criticism. Hence the first line of attack: attack the methodology and the instruments used in arriving at the claim. As the scientists had used the “optical thermo-photo illumination” method rather than the more widely used carbon dating, criticism against this method soon took the format that this method was effective only for measuring ceramics and not on the kind of processed stone used for the construction of these pyramids. Unsurprisingly, Pericles Theoharis disagreed, writing that “this method has been successfully applied on geological substances such as lava, stalagmites, meteorites, cave deposits, and aeolic and oceanic residues” and that it was tested on the “block house” of Mycenae, which had already been dated using other methods.

To cut a long debate, which occasionally comes and goes, short: the dates seem to be correct enough, but since the debate commenced in 1995, the carbon dating of the Great Pyramid has made the “Out of Greece” hypothesis surplus to requirements once again, underlining that the Great Pyramid – and others – are older than the small Greek pyramids. However, I want to bypass this controversy, by suggesting that we try to see whether or not there were links between ancient Egypt and Greece at that time, and leave it aside for the moment who told whom what. First of all, there are ancient records about these Greek pyramids. The Helleniko pyramid was known to Pausanias (2nd century BC), who stated that it was built by Acrisius and his brother, Proetus; Acrisius was identified as the grandfather of Perseus, who was said to have been born and have spent his first childhood years near the pyramid, before visiting Africa and Ethiopia. To quote Pausanias: “On the way from Argos to Epidauria there is on the right a building made very like a pyramid… Here took place a fight for the throne between Proetus and Acrisius; the contest, they say, ended in a draw… For those that fell on either side was built here a common tomb.” So it seems that these pyramids were tombs… royal tombs – though another line of thinking goes that these pyramids were watchtowers and that, in fact, their upper structure was not made from stone, but wood. However, Greece has more than just these three pyramids. In 1997, author Richard Poe dedicated a chapter to the “Pyramid of Amphion” in “Black Spark, White Fire”, largely arguing that Greece was a child of Egypt – and not the other way around. The “Amphion Hill” or the “The Stepped Pyramid of Thebes” comes closest to being a “real Greek pyramid”. The story of this hill is directly linked with the foundation of the city of Thebes. Though some legends say it was Cadmus, others argue that the city’s founder was Amphion, the son of Antiope and Zeus. He and his brother Zethus were abandoned by their mother at birth, and reared by a shepherd – a clear analogy with the story of Romulus and Remus, founding brothers of Rome. Together, they, like Romulus and Remus in Rome, built a protective wall around the city that would later become known as Thebes (named after Zethus’ wife, Thebe). According to legend, Amphion drew the stones used for building the wall after him by playing magical music on his lyre. Theodoros Spyropoulos The founder of Thebes met with a tragic ending: Amphion’s whole family was struck by a plague, which was seen as punishment from the gods for a wrongful accusation made by Amphion of the Titaness Leto and her children, Apollo and Artemis. Zethus died of sorrow when his mother killed his son by mistake. Whereas in Rome, Remus and Romulus fought to the death, Romulus being victorious, in Thebes, the two brothers were buried in a common tomb north of Thebes, just outside the northern gates.

The story was seen to be as nothing but a legend, until the Amphion hill was discovered to have an interior system of tunnels and chambers, in which one could have been the tomb of Amphion and Zethus. The excavations were done by archaeologist Theodoros Spyropoulos, between 1971 and 1973. Spiropoulos also concluded that the most important aspect about the tomb of Amphion was that it was the only structure in the Greek world in the shape of a stepped pyramid – in short, it was an anomaly. He dated the structure to 2500-2000 BC, coinciding once again with the Egyptian Pyramid Age. Furthermore, the pyramid contained four gold pendants shaped like lilies and topped with papyroid forms, which is classified as a typical Egyptian motif.

As to its construction: the pyramid had been constructed by moulding the sides of the Amphion hill in continuous cone-shaped banks, so that the whole structure became a stepped pyramid, made of four layers. But the true wonder lay inside, where Spyropoulos discovered a system of corridors, steps, passageways and drainage systems. He found a stone-lined chamber with two depressions in the floor. Were these spaces for two bodies? Those of Amphion and Zethus? Unfortunately, Spyropoulos found numerous signs of ancient grave robbing, even though, as mentioned, some fragments of gold jewellery remained. Near the location of the burial chamber is a horizontal tunnel that leads north. Further on, this horizontal tunnel meets a vertical chamber, which leads to another tunnel at a different (higher) level. This area remains to be further explored and may bring further discoveries.

Equally intriguing was the observation that the brick tomb at the top of the hill closely followed the construction of the pre-dynastic Egyptian mastabas. The unique characteristic of these mastabas is that their area is larger than the underground chambers they cover, something which is also true at Amphion. It was this specific correlation with ancient Egypt that made Richard Poe wonder whether the Amphion hill was the tomb of an Egyptian emigrant in Greece… Italian pyramids Rome has a pyramid; one of its subway stations is even named after it. It is the “Piramide Cestia”, the tomb of Caius Cestius, who died in 12 BC. Cestius spent time in Egypt and ordered that his slave should be freed upon his death, but not before they constructed his pyramid in the final 330 days of service to their master. The structure is 36 metres (120 ft) high and may be a familiar sight for anyone who has taken a taxi ride between the airport and the centre of Rome – the route normally taking you past this pyramid, which is illuminated by night. It is built of a very firm composition of mortar and small stones, faced with tablets of white marble. The original entrance was by means of an inclined shaft about halfway up the northern side of the Pyramid. This shaft (opened in the 7th century AD) led straight to the centre of the vault, covering the grave-chamber. The interior walls were decorated with stuccoes and fresco paintings divided in panels by means of painted candelabra that framed female figures. Impressive as it is and intriguing as it is to find a pyramid in the heart of Rome, unfortunately, the pyramid itself is not displayed to its full potential; part of it sits lower than street level and a wall has been built right onto two sides of the pyramid, to enclose the park area behind. Like the Louvre, many will consider the Cestius Pyramid not to be a “true” pyramid. In early 2003, the “pyramids of Montevecchia” (“Old Mountain”), ca. 30 miles from the Italian city of Milan, were discovered through the use of satellite and aerial imagery. These pyramids are now completely covered by ground and vegetation and appear to be natural hills, but the possibility of something more was enough for the Czech WM magazine and their editor in chief Georg Wojnar to visit the area. They arrived on May 8, 2003, in an effort to locate and survey the site. The team soon learned that discovering their location from the ground proved more difficult than imagined, with the team becoming “impressed” with the driving abilities required to negotiate the roads that lead towards the hills. After two days of failed attempts, they finally succeeded in locating the pyramids and carrying out an initial survey.

The team’s conclusion appeared in the June 2003 issue of WM. They had come to the conclusion that the first pyramid was estimated to have a base of 100 metres, with a height of fifty metres. In total, three potential pyramids were surveyed, with one pyramid showing clear signs of stones worked into the structure, close to the surface. A platform with an oblong superstructure with a size of 18 by 9 metres was also discovered. All three structures had an inclination of 42/43 degrees. The sides of all pyramids were aligned and were offset from the cardinal points by approximately 7 to 12 degrees northeast. The team wondered whether this was an error in design or a sign of something more intriguing. From the initial aerial surveys, there was speculation that their layout compared to the pyramids of the Gizeh plateau – and thus to the Belt of Orion. The Czech team stated that their on-site research had showed that the pyramids actually aligned with the passing of Orion at the sunrise of the summer solstice. The Czech team felt that the site should be known as “the Italian Gizeh”. After I wrote an article on the Italian and Bosnian pyramids for Nexus, Bill Ingle wrote to me, wondering whether I was familiar with the fact that he had been involved in an expedition (a somewhat grandiose term to use, but still) to the Montevecchia site. I was not. “The Great Coordination Point Expedition” had, like the Czech team, located and inspected the site during two Fall 2004 visits. Before Ingle’s arrival, he had discovered that the three hills were located in the Parco Regionale di Montevecchia e della Valle del Curone. I will quote from Ingle’s expedition notes: “We found Montevecchia without difficulty, then continued through Alto Montevecchia. […] The hills are immediately behind the villages of Monte and Cereda, a small parking lot carved out of the base of the first hill, ‘la collina dei cipressi’ (Hill of Cypresses).”

Ingle and team explored the area and the site, but after three days on site, felt disappointed. A second visit occurred in November 2004, at the end of which Ingle came away with the feeling that “for anyone wondering whether actual stone pyramids will be found lurking within the hills, I suggest this is not the case. In my opinion these are natural hills that were shaped and augmented long ago, but only archaeological spadework will provide a definitive answer.”

Despite this initial on-site investigation, several questions remain, including whether these are man-made, natural or artificially elaborated structures. Amongst the other outstanding questions are the questions who and when these were built – if built they were. To try and provide an answer, the Czech team asked the Italian archaeologist professor Gregoria for his input. He provisionally dated the structures to 3000 BC, making them largely contemporary with the Egyptian pyramid building age. But no remains in the vicinity have been found that can shed any further light on these structures and there is no known civilisation in the region that built similar structures at the time. As a consequence and despite the findings by the Czech team, some have argued that the Montevecchia structures may be nothing more than a terraced hill with stone supports. Bosnian pyramids With the exception of the Italian pyramids, all of these pyramids are relatively small in size. None of them match the grandeur of the Egyptian pyramids. All – except the Italian pyramids – are also undoubtedly man-made structures. Then, in late October 2005, an emigrated Bosnian explorer Semir “Sam” Osmanagich believed that he could announce the first ancient and large pyramid in Europe – it also appeared to be the oldest and the biggest.

During Sam Osmanagic’s promotional lecture tour for his book on Mayan pyramids, the director of the Visoko Historic Heritage museum, Senad Hodovic, invited him to look at an enigmatic mountain that loomed over the town. He – and anyone else who sees this mountain – agreed it looked like a pyramid. So why did no-one suggest it was a pyramid? Because if it was a man-made pyramid, it was one of the biggest pyramids ever constructed. That was the problem – or the challenge. Pyramid of the Moon Preliminary exploration work was carried out that same year, using geologist Nadja Nukic. She was puzzled by three layers of brown polished stone that were positioned at equal distances from each other and suggested further exploration was undertaken.

Early excavation work began in 2006, amidst press conferences and the world media’s attention; academics, alternative writers and local and other tourists came to visit too. Unsurprisingly, controversy broke out, with some arguing that the pyramid was 12,000 years old, and some arguing it was a freak of nature. Controversy once again reigned in piramidology and fights, in newspapers, magazines and especially the Internet broke out, with insults still flying around from camp to camp. Today, the “Pyramid of the Sun Foundation”, established to explore whether these structures are man-made or not, is in its second year of excavation. Since 2005, more than one site has been highlighted as potentially man-made and part of a “pyramid complex” based in this “Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids”.

The first – obvious – target for excavation was the mountain above Visoko, which was soon nicknamed “Pyramid of the Sun” – hence the official name of the foundation that runs the excavations.

The structure does not merely look man-made, at 220 metres high, it has four equal-sized bases of 365 metres each. Each side is furthermore perfectly aligned to the cardinal points. It is hence much larger than the Great Pyramid and if man-made, would be the largest pyramid on Earth. On first impression, the hill seems to be a mixture between the much smaller Chinese pyramids and the Mexican pyramid of Cholula. Osmanagic too felt that the site resembled Cholula. But rather than having a church on top, Visoko, a place-name that means “the high town”, was actually named after the first location of the town: on the very top of the mountain/pyramid. And the meagre ruins of this medieval town were used as the first hammer to strike the team with.

When the excavation project was announced, 21 experts from different towns signed a petition to stop the excavations at the Pyramid of the Sun, arguing that the medieval town of Visoki was in danger because of the excavations. Read: why were “amateurs” put in charge of something academics felt was solely their bailiwick. Their “plea” was heard by Western archaeologists who decided to enter the debate, for there was a rumour that Osmanagic had claimed that the pyramid was 12,000 years old. Some, including Anthony Harding, seemed to feel such delusions had to be stopped, at all cost. Today, these two camps have solidified their existence, largely waging battle on the internet. The first camp consists of critics who use every element that goes against the man-made possibility as further proof that it is all a hoax. Most have never visited the sites, or did so very quickly. The other camp vociferously attacks those speaking out against the pyramids, largely attacking the credentials of those experts that speak out in favour of the man-made nature of the structures.

The group of anti-pyramid opponents, like Blagoje Govedarica, Zilka Kujundzic, Svetozar Pudaric, Mirko Babic, Gavrilo Grahovac, Ivan and Dubravko Lovrenovic, are working hard to debunk the pyramid research project, arguing that the entire endeavour is about putting Bosnia on the map; they argue it’s the Muslim answer to Medjugorje, a site where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared and which is now a major tourist magnet. They argue Visoko has now become a local tourist trap, based on a lie, or rather, a hallucination. What is remarkable, is that these archaeologists have sought refuge in a rather elaborate conspiracy theory to explain away what is going on.

As a consequence, Visoko has become the modern Glozel and Osmanagic the new Emile Fradin. One American historian working for the foundation states how the vitriolic attacks from the archaeological and geological communities have taken her by surprise. And the problem is larger than just that establishment: there are also politicians in the mix, each of whom wants some form of notoriety, no matter what, or how. Pyramid of the Moon On approach to Visoko, it is hard to believe that it took until 2005 before someone seriously pondered the notion that the hill could be a pyramid. The bottom of the hill has been built upon and the streets are more than steep. Early on, Osmanagic was told that several of these homes wanted, but could not have, a cellar, because of a cement-like layer hiding approximately one metre below the surface.

Not far up the “mountain”, you park and begin a steep series of sandy mixed with gravel steps, of recent addition, to allow visitors to see the site that was explored in 2006. The incline, from the streets of Visoko to here, is a staggering sixty degrees – and continues to the very top of this flat-topped pyramid.

The excavation site (about one third up the hill) has revealed large blocks of stone and looks relatively unimpressive. The “blocks” are a mixture of small stones that were sculpted by water, held together by sand/cement. Similar excavations have occurred on the other sides of the pyramid; in each case, just below the surface, a layer of this cement has been found.

When geologists studied this site, some labelled it natural, some artificial. Fair enough. But today, the site is no longer an isolated occurrence. Further to the right, the layer of earth that has covered this “cement” – which some see as the original coating of the pyramid – has been removed. Here, you can walk about 20 metres upwards, on the sixty degrees slope, noting how wherever the team dug, this cement layer was present just below ground level; though it is obviously very old, it is perhaps best described as if someone fifty years ago has put a cement road here, now in need of repairs. In 2007, a limited amount of work has been carried out at the Pyramid of the Sun. One site where work is ni progress, is the so-called “Pyramid of the Moon”, on the other side of the river Bosna, the river that runs through Visoko. “Only” 190 metres high, and situated lower in the valley, the foot of this pyramid has become a second showcase of the foundation’s work. Excavations have shown a type of “floor” lying on sandstone, followed by a second layer, in approximately one metre high steps.

Nearby, the team wanted to probe where two faces of the pyramid would meet and found a stone structure, which looks like a well. It is but one fortuitous discovery in a series of findings. Much harder to reach is the excavation at the top of the pyramid, where stretches of earth have once again been moved aside to uncover what lies beneath – like the Pyramid of the Sun, at a depth of roughly one metre.

This site is typical of how discoveries have been made: local people, when they heard that people were testing to see whether these mountains were artificial, came to talk to the team members (several of the work force are local too), talking about locations where they and/or others had taken or found enigmatic stones or formations. In this case, the landlord was trying to dig a well, but after less than a metre, stumbled upon enigmatic rocks – quite similar to the “flooring” found at the bottom of the pyramid. Since, the excavation team has made the well much deeper, in an effort to see whether something is hiding below. Work, of course, is arduous and progress is slow.

Nearby, top soil has also been removed and below, the same type of flooring has been discovered. Archaeologists are showing how you have a layer of top soil, and below natural layers of sandstone; but separating both is a thin layer of rectangular stone blocks that look, in size, similar to modern paving slabs. In substance, they look as if they have been poured, and laid side by side. Interestingly, some are broken, but these fractures are always random; their “original shape” is always rectangular. 2006 excavations on northern face of Pyramid of the Sun Locals pointing out anomalies is also what brought the team to Gornja Vratnica, some four kilometres from the pyramid site and situated in a different valley. This is not a pyramid; it is a stone shrine, situated on top of a small hill known as Toprakalia, named after the Turkish soldier whose grave sits on top. That the team take great care in their work is on display here, with his tomb carefully marked as off-limits.

When team members came here to carry out an initial survey, it was found that the magnetic north seemed to move on a daily basis. The first excavation on one side of the mountain seems natural. However, the team then moved slightly upward, and this time found a layer of massive stone blocks, some weighing in at 20 tonnes, which look anything but natural. They are rectangular, and positioned side by side. The best comparison is probably with the huge building blocks used by the ancient Egyptians for their temple – and pyramid – construction.

As elsewhere, there are nevertheless several “layers” of stone floors below and above. One level has small openings between the blocks (a few centimetres wide) that lead inside the hill. One member of the team explains how one morning, he used to blow cigarette smoke into the opening, to see what would happen. About an hour later, working nearby, he observed that it seemed as if the pyramid was breathing out that smoke. So he repeated his little experiment, with the same result. But, he says, it only seems to work in the morning. It is but one reason why the team plan on continuing to penetrate deeper into the hill, in search of hidden cavities. The team have identified other potential sites of interest in the valley. One is the Pyramid of the Dragon, which together with that of the Moon and the Sun makes an almost perfect triangle, which each side ca. 2200 metres long. No work has been carried out on this third potential pyramid, nor on the “Temple of Earth”, situated on the line between the Pyramid of the Dragon and the Moon or the “Pyramid of Love”, between the Sun and the Moon Pyramid, though not on their connecting line. For the 2007 season, the entire team consisted of sixty people. It is small – too small – to cover the enormous area that needs to be covered. Hundreds more are required for the excavation project to make faster progress. When the excavation of the Great Pyramid started, dynamite was the explorers’ favourite technique to penetrate into the dark and mysterious interior of this artificial stone mountain as fast as possible. Visoko’s pyramids have tunnels too; several, but no dynamite is used here. Again, when stories about tunnels that seemed to lead into, or at least in the direction of, one or more pyramids, were heard, one local noted that when he constructed his factory, right next to the river, six tunnel entrances were filled in with cement. Some tunnel entrances, however, were not blocked up. One sits on the grounds of the KTK factory. What is most impressive about this site, is its location: the entrance to the system is immediately next to the river Bosna, and the system has not one but at least two entrances, almost next to each other. Work here only began in October 2006, with a small team.

Further along the river, and further from the pyramids (ca. two kilometres from the Pyramid of the Sun), is Ravne, another tunnel system that so far has been explored to a depth of almost 200 metres. Here, the main tunnel has various offshoots, sometimes running at 45 or 90 degrees angles. In the past, these side-tunnels have been blocked off with a carefully positioned series of stones. It appears they were blocked because they either lead to other tunnels, or something was placed there; human burials come to mind, but exploration of these side-tunnels has hardly begun, and only in August 2007 did one team of archaeologist begin work on one small section of one side-tunnel. Meanwhile, an expert team of miners is digging its way further along the often filled-in tunnel, wondering where it will lead to.

Where the tunnels end, you can see in what state the team find the tunnel before it is cleared and studded: some parts filled in, with sand that is easily removed by the team; because of the nature of the work and the need not to miss or break any major findings, it is nevertheless time-consuming. Some major discoveries have already been made: one side-tunnel has been left as is, for it was a location where stalactites were formed. Geologists concluded that it would have taken 3000 years to form; it means that the tunnel is at least from 1000 BC – and most likely older. The main tunnels themselves, in Rave and KTK, have also revealed enigmatic rocks, including one (broken) stone “wheel” and rocks carrying inscriptions. In 2006, a limited amount of work had been carried out, and I can understand why some geologists – those without an agenda or an axe to grind – spoke out for the natural origins of the site. But more recent visitors – tourists and experts alike – are confronted with an ever growing body of evidence, which is stretching the possibility of everything being “freaks of nature” to and beyond the breaking point. Hence, the Russian academic and geophysicist Prof. Dr. Oleg Khavroshkin is typical of those who now come and conclude that “the structures in Visoko are not natural formations”.

It is also why on July 9, 2007, members of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, headed by Premier Nedzad Brankovic, paid a visit to the various sites and unanimously gave their full support to the foundation and its research project. It means that from 2008 onwards, the foundation will be allowed access to state funding; so far, the work has been largely carried out by private donations and sponsorship – and good will. As if the area covered is not substantial enough, the team is reaching further afield too. Early on, Osmanagic’s attention was drawn to Zavidovici, a town some forty kilometres from Visoko, where a series of stone spheres were discovered. The preliminary report about the mineralogical composition of the stone spheres confirmed that they were composed of sedimentary rock and not the product of volcanic eruptions as some geologists had theorised. Their uniform and enigmatic appearance has provided additional evidence that this region at one point may have had expert stoneworkers.

Which brings most to the all intriguing questions: when and how old are these pyramids? Some people speak of that magical date of 12,000 years old. In my opinion, I doubt it is that old. But I would say it is old – even very old. And if I was willing to put money on a specific date, I would say between 6000 and 3000 BC.

Remove modern borders and this region sits within what Marija Gimbutas labelled “Old Europe”. It was a culture that existed from ca. 6000 BC onwards, and which had its major sites – the first European civilisation – in and around this general area. This culture was – granted – not known as a pyramid building culture, but neither were the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, even though a millennium before, those of the 4th Dynasty created the Great Pyramid. But even if it is not “Old Europe”, Osmanagic sums up the new paradigm: “One ancient civilization in prehistory definitely lived in this area, and the entire history of the world will be rewritten.” In the end, whether 3000 or 10000 BC, at present, it is too early to tell, and it doesn’t really matter. In “The New Pyramid Age”, I spoke about a certain “pyramid template” that seems to have been applied, with some modifications, to the design of all pyramids. For the Bosnian pyramids, it is too early to speculate on such level. However.

In ancient Egypt, access to the pyramids was normally by boat, to a Valley Temple, from where a causeway started that led the visitor towards the pyramid. The name “causeway” is something of a misnomer, for in origin, it was an artificially constructed tunnel, sitting above ground, yet engineered to give the impression one was walking underground. In Visoko, the entrances to the tunnel are most if not all situated near or next to the river Bosna; the tunnels lead in the direction of one or more pyramids. Should we draw a comparison between Bosnian and Egyptian pyramids on this instance?

Speaking of Egypt: apart from one off the cuff remark that typify Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Ministry of Culture, led by Farouk Hosny and Gaber Asfour, the General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Culture of Egypt, have also given their support to the Bosnian foundation.

Their help was based on visits in 2006 by Egyptologist Dr. Prof. Mohammed Ibrahim Aly, who visited the site and stated that further research was necessary in order to figure out who the original architects of these colossal structures in Visoko were, as well as what their purpose was. That same year, geologist Aly Barakat spent 42 days on site, stating that the blocks found on the Pyramid of the Sun were man-made, dating back thousands of years. Barakat also stated that the complex of tunnels was the work of human hands, if only because he personally found evidence of stone tools in these Ravne tunnels. 2006 excavations on the Pyramid of the Moon Two years in, a lot – most – of the work still needs to be carried out. Calls as early as August 2006 for “scientific papers” to be produced were at best premature and largely aimed to try to taint the foundation’s image, implying they went about their work unprofessionally. But the work is also multi-disciplinary and does not merely involve geologists and archaeologists. Dr. Sulejman Red?ic, for example, discovered that vegetation on the Pyramid of the Sun and Gornja Vratnica, found only on those locations, should actually not be found in these regions at all; its presence is normally only much further south, in warmer climates. He therefore wondered who brought it here, and why it was found only on these two sites.

He also underlined another aspect that is often neglected: the Pyramid of the Sun is currently covered with trees. But during the excavation work on the north side of the Pyramid of the Sun, it became clear that the pine trees’ roots hit the cement layer about one metre below the surface. Rather than penetrate through the rock, they went sideways. As Red?ic pointed out: pine trees can easily grow roots through natural rock, but their very inability to penetrate this rock layer, shows that the layer of apparent cement is just that. A week after my departure from Sarajevo, a team of Egyptian archaeologists arrived on site for a detailed inspection of the work carried out so far. At a press conference on September 3, Dr. Pr. Nabil Mohamed Abdel Swelim stated that “the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pyramid ever witnessed; it is an amazing structure of a great importance for the entire world.” Swelim is the holder of three PhDs in archaeology and Egyptology and discovered four pyramids in Egypt.

He echoed my observations, that “this is an amazing discovery and it is going to take us a lot of time to figure all this out, meaning how these fascinating structures were built.” Accompanying Swelin are Pr. Dr. Mona Fouad Aly, the Chair of the Restoration Department, Archaeological University, Cairo and her colleague, professor/Dr. Suleiman Hamed El Haweli, an expert on Pharaonic Period Egypt at Archaeological University, Cairo and Dr. of Geology Aly Barakat, who works at the Mineralogy Resource Institute in Cairo, and who spent a considerable amount of time on site last year. ”Everything that we have seen so far tells us that human hands built these structures a long time ago. Of course, a lot more research is needed, including laboratory analyses in order to conclude how these structures were made, and most importantly, we need to know their purpose; why they were built, and who built them. I took a variety of samples from the locations in question which will be analyzed in our labs in Cairo, and the Foundation will be given our results,” Pr. Fouad stated.

“We came here with many doubts, but after seeing everything, there is no more room for any doubts,” concluded Dr. Swelim. Professor/Dr. El Haveli stated that the pyramids of the Moon and Sun partially originated by the work of nature and were later modified by human hands. When you leave Visoko, the same questions pose themselves as with the Great Pyramid: why? It is too premature to speculate on that. But the specific thought here is also how long it would have taken to construct these pyramids… and how long it will take to clear them and an answer to the enigma can be suggested. For the foundation, a mammoth task lies ahead. An important prize may await them, for it would indeed totally change the pyramid debate, and put Europe firmly on the pyramid map.