June 15, 2006 at 10:48 PM ET
Rhetorical battle lines are being drawn in the strange case of the purported Bosnian pyramid - and in recent days, the skeptics have been shining a brighter spotlight on the murkier aspects of an amateur archaeologist's claims.
You have to admit there's a measure of romantic irresistibility about Bosnian-born Semir Osmanagic's contention that a forested hill in central Bosnia-Herzegovina is actually a buried Ice Age pyramid. The claim sounds a bit like the "Face on Mars" phenomenon - with the added appeal that you can actually dig around at the site.
The media momentum started building around the end of last year, when local scientists made surveys of Visocica hill. Last month, Osmanagic's claims got a big boost when an Egyptian geologist visited the mound and said it appeared to be human-made. Then the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said it would send its own team to Bosnia.
All this attention is worrisome to mainstream archaeologists, who are virtually certain the claims will turn out to be bogus. They worry that the misdirected excavation will end up damaging honest-to-goodness artifacts, and they're also bothered by some of Osmanagic's even farther-out ideas, such as the theory that the ancestors of the Maya came from outer space.
This week, Archaeology magazine's Mark Rose provides a withering update on the controversy:
"One might have thought that the Ice Age Bosnian pyramid story would collapse like a bad soufflé, but no. Mainstream media has become somewhat more critical of stories emanating from Visoko, but much of the real work in dissecting the claims has appeared on blogs and message boards, such as The Hall of Ma'at (see "Pseudoscience in Cyberspace"). Unfortunately, the mainstream folks haven't picked up on much of this."
Rose notes that a Bosnian group of experts judged the mound to be natural rather than human-made, and he points to last week's skeptical pronouncements from a visiting British archaeologist.
Should there be even more site visits and more digging, or should the Bosnian government heed the skeptics and call a halt to the project? Feel free to study the evidence and weigh in with your comments.