BY JOHN BOHANNON PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTIN FUCHS
An amateur archaeologist has sparked an international frenzy over a group of Bosnian
hills that just might be the world’s greatest pyramids—or not.
Believers say it is a discovery that will
rewrite the history of the world. The steep
hills outside the small Bosnian city of Visoko
have been climbed, poked, and scraped by
a small army of both trained and amateur
archaeologists for the past three years in
a quest to reveal a 12,000-year-old secret.
Each balmy summer brings a swarm of
volunteers, many wearing identical yellow
T-shirts, who strip away soil and vegetation from the hillside while throngs of tourists hover at the edges, eager for a glimpse
of what is said to lie beneath the dirt: the
world’s oldest and largest pyramids, more
vast and ancient than those in Egypt, built by
a mysterious and highly advanced civilization
that has been long forgotten—until now.
At the center of it all stands Sam Osmanagich, the charismatic head of the Bosnian
Pyramid of the Sun Foundation and the orig-
inator of this big dig. Widely popular among
Bosnians, he even hosts his own television
program—Search for the Lost Civilizations—
about archaeological mysteries. He is openly
backed by many at the highest levels of Bosnia’s political leadership, and promotional
offices in such places as the United States,
Germany, Norway, and Croatia publicize his
campaign around the globe.
“The Bosnian pyramid valley is the most
monumental construction complex ever
built on the face of the planet,” Osmanagich declared on a YouTube video. “It was
built by the unknown civilization so many
thousands of years ago… 12,000 years ago.
It was a very developed civilization, even
more advanced than we are.”
At a time when Bosnia’s postwar morale
is low, there is great appeal in Osmanagich’s message. According to his founda-
tion’s Web site, 400,000 people visited the
“pyramid valley” in 2007, although that figure is unverified. The pyramids provide the
national myth that Bosnians have always
lacked, plus an influx of money and an
exciting new chapter in archaeology.
Except for one thing: Numerous top
archaeologists and geologists point out that
the pyramids are hills and nothing more.
Who is Sam Osmanagich, how has he
become a national player in Bosnia’s heritage, and how have these pyramids—which
so many experts believe are not pyramids
at all—gained such a following?
Originally from Sarajevo, Osmanagich
left Bosnia shortly before the 1992–1995
war in search of economic opportunities
abroad. He ended up in Houston, changed
his first name from Semir to Sam, and