Reflections on the landscape in Visoko

Introduction

In this article, I am going to reflect the landscape of the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids. I am going to be supportive of the hypothesis that there are pyramids in Visoko, but I will try to reflect if it is possible for an ancient civilization to build pyramids at the location where the town of Visoko is right now. Before analyzing the landscape I am going to give some reflections if humans could have lived in the Balkans 30 000 years ago by pointing out research. Later I will analyze the landscape and point out four main points: water, materials for building, potential to live and natural barriers – that are important if someone was going to build structures like in Visoko. In some paragraphs, there will be some comparisons with other cultures and civilizations around the world with Visoko.

Reflections

In the last years, several researchers have concluded that humans were in Europe earlier than thought. Some years ago baby teeth from Italy were found and they were dated at 43 000 to 45 000 years old. Other researchers have found two fossils of an ape-like creature which had human-like teeth in Bulgaria and Greece, dating to 7,2 million years ago. This means that Europe was the birthplace of mankind and not Africa. Even though this still needs more research, we may say that there has been a lot of activity in Southern-Europe, which strengthen the hypothesis of the Bosnian Pyramids.

The reason why we do not find so many artefacts of these people could be because rising sea levels that have happened since the last ice age. Just as climate change is threatening historic sites around the world right now. Moreover, many of the artefacts could have been destroyed by nature with erosions. This perhaps the is reason why no other artefacts than the baby teeth were found in Italy. Additionally, many artefacts could have been destroyed by other cultures or civilizations in the last centuries – and therefore it is more difficult to give a correct history of mankind, especially prehistory. Nevertheless, we may say that there were people in the Balkans 30 000 years ago, but the question remains: Could they have built a pyramid considering the landscape in Visoko?

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Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun.

Rivers and water

One of the most important resources for every living being on our planet is water. Without water, there is no potential to live, ergo it is difficult for an advanced culture to develop. The oldest civilizations that developed were close by rivers. Euphrates and Tigris were the most important rivers for ancient cultures and civilizations in Mesopotamia. In Egypt, the river Nile was crucial for building the pyramids and survival of ancient Egyptians. In the Indus Valley, the river Indus was the most important river for cultures and civilizations which were first to develop agriculture. To this day, these rivers are still important. Therefore we see a pattern that the civilizations developed close by rivers.

Visoko has two rivers – Fojnica and Bosna. Now, we do not know how the rivers looked like 30 000 years ago, when the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun was apparently built. Some will point out that there were no rivers there, because of the ice age. However, the Balkan region was one of the only regions in Europe that did not have ice during the ice age. Therefore we may argue that the rivers Bosna and Fojnica existed 30 000 years ago. These rivers could have been used for transport of materials, for instance, clay or wood. Additionally, it could have been used for ancient agriculture.

the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids photo by Andre de Smet
The point where the rivers Fojnica and Bosna ”meet.” Photo by Andre De Smet.

Interestingly, there are a lot of underground water streams in Visoko and this is still present today. There are multiple locations where there is freshwater from the nearby mountains. For instance, there are freshwater stations at the Moon and Sun Pyramid. According to a number of researchers, there are a lot of underground water streams under for instance the Ravne tunnels. This has also been proved in 2012 when the volunteers tried to excavate a potential structure beneath the Ravne tunnels, and the whole hole flooded the next day.

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Freshwater at the Bosnian Sun Pyramid.
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Freshwater at the Bosnian Moon Pyramid.

These underground water streams are especially important because those who built the pyramids could have used them both for building the pyramid and for themselves. A good comparison is the Maya-culture, that had deep natural wells called ‘’cenotes,’’ which were important for their source of water. The same thing could have happened to the builders of the Bosnian Pyramids. These natural wells could have been eroded in later times and are yet to be discovered. Another thing the civilization could have done was to build manmade wells around where Visoko is today.

Even if the rivers Bosna and Fojnica did not exist 30 000 years ago, we may say that the rivers were not necessary for the builders of the pyramids, because they had many underground water streams they could have used. Teotihuacan does not have rivers nearby and the Mayans used the ‘’cenotes’’ instead and the result was one of the biggest ancient cities in history with many pyramids and structures. The underground water streams are therefore a crucial part for the builders of the pyramids. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina have rich water sources, compared to other European countries – which may reflect how it was 30 000 years ago.

Materials for building

If a culture is going to build structures, then they need to have materials for it, preferably close to the location they want to build the structures on. If we study the blocks of the Bosnian Sun Pyramid, then they consist of loose stones and clay combined, where clay was used as the binding material. Many have argued that the materials were found when the civilization who built the pyramids, dug the Ravne tunnels and used the loose sand and stones from the tunnels to build the Sun Pyramid.

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Materials from the Ravne tunnels.
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One of the blocks on the Bosnian Sun Pyramid.

However, while I support this hypothesis, I do not think that there were enough materials to build the whole Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun only from the Ravne tunnels. I think that they brought the loose sand and stones from other places in the region. I am not going to speculate where this location was, but the civilization which built the pyramids could have easily gotten the materials from somewhere nearby.

The other material, clay, could have been found in the nearby mountains, for instance, Osijela Hill. Osijela Hill is a weird hill and some point out that the half of the hill is missing, and that the materials from that hill were perhaps used by the civilization who built the Sun Pyramid. Same with the Moon Pyramid, which consists of clay and sandstone, could have been built by using materials from nearby.

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One part of the Osijela Hill. Photo by Jock Doubleday.
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Some blocks that may be found on the Bosnian Moon Pyramid, sonda 20.

To make the blocks, you need a high temperature, which is made of fire. And in order to make the fire, you need materials for it. The main material people used to make a fire before the industrial revolution was wood. The whole Balkan-region, especially northern Bosnia and Herzegovina is filled with forests. One of the last primeval forests in Europe today is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We may only imagine how the whole region was filled with forests 30 000 years ago. Those who built the pyramids had enough materials to produce big fires. How they produced it with so high temperatures is still researched. The most important thing is that the region has the materials to build the structures that can be found in Visoko.

Potential to live

In order for one culture to build structures like in Visoko, one needs enough food. One of the most important resources is fish. When the northern part of Europa was covered by ice, many fish moved to the southern part of the world, for instance, the Mediterranean. Just as climate change today is pushing the fish further north because it is warmer there than before. This means that for instance Norway and Iceland will have more fish than before in the future.

We can imagine that the same situation happened 30 000 years ago in the Mediterranean. Because there is a reason why the baby teeth, which were dated to 43 000 to 45 000 years old, were found in southern parts of the continent and not in the northern parts. This is because there was better potential for humans to live in the southern parts of Europe because of the warmer climate than in the north. Furthermore, warmer climate gives more resources and fish is one of those resources.

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Fish important since the beginning of mankind.

In addition to fish, we may say that there was a lot of forest in the region like we argued before. The forests are important because one may find a lot of animals to hunt and pet. Deers, wild boars and bears are still common today. The region could have had even more animals because the climate was warmer in the southern than northern Europe. Other animals, which do not exist today because of climate change and human activity, could have existed before, like the mammoth. And because of the forest, Bosnia and Herzegovina probably had a lot of animals one could eat.

Because of so many forests, the people who built the pyramids could also have started with some agriculture – especially with slash-and-burn. This is a farming method were one cuts and burn forests of woodland to create a field for agriculture. We already know that the Mayan culture used this technique. However, this alone cannot feed a whole population that is capable of building so colossal structures like the Bosnian Pyramids. Therefore we also may say that the builders of the pyramids could have used the rivers in Bosnia or the underground water streams for farming. Therefore those who built the Bosnian Pyramids could have settled in the area because of all the resources they could have found there.

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An example of slash and burn in Thailand.

There is already evidence of agricultural cultures around Visoko that are dating to 5200-4500 BCE. This was the Butmir culture. Even though there is no evidence yet of social stratification, the culture lived out of einkorn, cattle and emmer. Additionally, they hunted for food. The important point here is that people were living in the same region where the pyramids were built 5200 BCE. Even though the Sun pyramid is 25 000 years older, it just shows how important this region was for cultures and the potential to live there. We may say that those who built the Bosnian Pyramids also were similar to the Butmir culture.

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A Butmir culture vase.

However, if someone is going to build the colossal structures like the Bosnian Pyramids, one needs to have a social stratification. We are not going to discuss this in this article, but every culture that has built colossal structures – like Mayan, Egyptian, Sumerian etc., has had social stratification and therefore we also may say that the Bosnian Pyramids have had it too. However, this still needs more research, but the important thing here is that if the Butmir culture could have lived in the area 5200 BCE, then it is also possible that another culture or civilization could have lived at the same place 30 000 years ago.

Natural barriers

One important factor for ancient civilizations were natural barriers. Natural barriers are important to keep invaders out. The Chinese had the Himalayas, Pacific Ocean and dense jungles as natural barriers – which made them isolated from invaders from Europe and the Middle East for centuries. The Maya civilization was surrounded by the ocean. Egypt had the Mediterranean Sea in the north, Nile River in the east and the massive Sahara Desert in the west and south.

In the case of the Bosnian Pyramids and Visoko, there are some important natural barriers that may keep invaders out. The Dinaric Alps are in my opinion important natural barriers for the civilization that could have developed in Visoko. The Dinaric Alps are protecting Visoko from the south and west. If we look at a map of Visoko, we will also see that the town is surrounded by hills. The only part where potential invaders could have invaded was probably from the north because the mountains are not that dense like in for example the south. However, it would have been easy to spot them and defend the pyramids because they would not have attacked from different flanks.

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The brownish colour are the Dinaric Alps.
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Visoko surrounded with mountains.

It makes sense of why the civilization would have built pyramids at the location where Visoko today is, namely because the civilization or culture would have been protected from invaders by nature. Just as the greatest civilizations were developed in areas where they were protected by natural barriers.

However, this means that there were more culture or civilizations at the same time when the Bosnian Pyramids were built. It would have been illogical if our planet had pyramid builders 30 000 years ago in the Balkan-region, while there were no humans other places. Like I wrote before, baby teeth have been discovered in Italy which are 45 000 years old. This means that the people who built the pyramids had potential enemies and that it was smart to build pyramids where Visoko is today, rather than for example in Beograd where one has open fields, where everyone can attack you.

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The top of the Bosnian Sun Pyramid and the medieval town of Visoki.

In summary

In this article, I have given my reflections on the landscape where the pyramids were built in Visoko and if there was potential to even build them at that location. By giving four arguments, water, the potential for materials, potential to live and natural barriers, I discussed that there was potential to live in the region where the pyramids are standing today. Furthermore, I have strengthened my arguments by giving examples from other civilizations and cultures. Nevertheless, this subject still needs more research.

Other sources:

Wiesner-Hanks, M.E., Ebrey Buckley, P., Beck, R.B., Davila, J., Crowston C.H. and McKay,
J.P. (2017) A History of World Societies. Boston: Beford/St. Martin’s

* * *

Djani Behram studies history at the University of Bergen. He is the ambassador of the Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation since 2012.

Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/DrSemirOsmanagich

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