Jock Doubleday: How many tourists have visited the Bosnian pyramids, and Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth, which winds beneath them, in the nearly 10 years since you discovered the pyramid complex in Visoko, Bosnia in April 2005?
Dr. Semir Osmanagić: We don’t have precise numbers, especially because no one registered all the visitors the first few years. However, the projected number for the last 10 years is around 450,000 visitors. We would have 5,000 to 8,000 visitors a day during 2006, in the April-October period. During the weekends, that number would go up to 15,000 a day. Only when we started charging for tickets in 2011 did we get a more precise number for daily visits.
JD: Can you give us a breakdown of estimated visitors year by year?
Dr. Osmanagić: Yes.
2005 - 200,000
2006 - 80,000
2007 - 10,000
2008 - 10,000
2009 - 15,000
2010 - 20,000
2011 - 20,000
2012 - 30,000
2013 - 40,000
2014 - 25,000
JD: Why do you think tourism numbers dipped so low in 2007?
Dr. Osmanagić: Pressure coming from the Bosnian cultural establishment in 2007 resulted in the government limiting the area where we could work, cuts in funds and sponsorships, negative publicity, a media boycott of positive events, etc. So, people started coming less and less in 2006 and 2007 to visit the Bosnian pyramids.
JD: Tourism numbers rose steadily after 2008 — going from 10,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2013. Why do you think tourism numbers dipped again, from 40,000 to only 25,000 in 2014?
Dr. Osmanagić: The Archaeological Park Foundation has made a large effort promoting the site and inviting visitors, volunteers, tourists, researchers, and media. It resulted in strong numbers of tourists in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, Bosnia was hit with devastating floods in May 2014, and images of the flooding went all over the world and caused lot of tourist cancellations in 2014. However, long term, we will see more and more people coming to this exciting site.
JD: How much are ticket prices to see archaeological excavation sites on the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, the Bosnian Pyramid of the Moon, and Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth?
Dr. Osmanagić: The two main attractions, a prehistoric tunnel called Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth, and the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, cost 5 Euros each, with official Foundation guide included. Other sites like the Bosnian Pyramid of the Moon, Vratnica Tumulus, and KTK Tunnel, cost 2.5 Euros per person.
JD: Can people also see archaeological excavation sites on the Bosnian Pyramid of the Dragon, the Bosnian Pyramid of Love, and the Temple of Mother Earth? What are the ticket prices?
Dr. Osmanagić: All sites are accessible. At this point we don’t charge for visits to the Bosnian Pyramid of the Dragon, the Bosnian Pyramid of Love, and the Temple of Mother Earth structures, due to the very limited amount of work we’ve done there. But those places are special to visit. The views and energies are just right.
JD: You also discovered three ancient tumuli at the northern and southern ends of the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids — Vratnica Tumulus and Dolovi Tumulus, and Ginje Tumulus, respectively — which makes a total of ten ancient structures in the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids (the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, the Bosnian Pyramid of the Moon, the Bosnian Pyramid of Love, the Bosnian Pyramid of the Dragon, the Temple of Mother Earth, Vratnica Tumulus (at the northern end of the complex), Dolovi Tumulus (right next to Vratnica) Ginje Tumulus (at the southern end of the complex), KTK Tunnel, and Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth). Can people visit archaeological excavation sites on these two tumuli, as well? Do they buy tickets, or how does it work?
Dr. Osmanagić: The best way is to meet with our official guides, a total of 12 of them in Visoko. They’ll be happy to show visitors all locations and to inform them about cost.
JD: Is there a specific organization that tourist money from ticket sales goes to?
Dr. Osmanagić: In November 2005, I registered the nonprofit organization Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Foundation with the State Ministry of Justice, for cultural heritage protection and the promotion of archaeological tourism. The Foundation collects the money from the tickets and uses it for archaeological excavation, paying for experts (archaeologists, geologists, anthropologists, etc.) to study the sites, laboratory analysis, sample testing, radiocarbon dating, tools, mechanical equipment like diggers, labor, electricity bills in the tunnels, maintenance on locations, etc. Archaeology is very expensive.
JD: Have you personally made money from your discovery of ancient pyramids in Bosnia?
Dr. Osmanagić: Since day one, I’ve been the biggest donator to the project. Even today, 10 years after the discovery, I still spend my own money. The first priority is international promotion. The second priority is to cover Foundation employees' payroll during the winter months when there is no tourist money coming in. Fortunately, I have my own manufacturing business in Houston, Texas, with 70 employees, and that’s the source of my income.
JD: Presumably the Bosnian government is happy to have tourists coming to visit the pyramids. What has been the official reaction of Bosnian government officials in the last ten years to an estimated 450,000 foreigners traveling to Bosnia to see pyramids?
Dr. Osmanagić: Some politicians have appreciated our work very much. Some have not seemed to care.
JD: Two Wikipedia pages claim that the Bosnian pyramids are "natural hills," and Yale geologist Dr. Robert Schoch agrees. Have any of the estimated 450,000 tourists who have visited the Foundation's archaeological sites in the Bosnian Pyramid Complex asked for their money back, saying that these archaeological sites are not pyramids but simply natural hills?
Dr. Osmanagić: I haven’t heard of cases of visitors asking for their money back. However, I’ve heard so many times people congratulating us, supporting us, and wishing all the best in our project. They know that something history-changing is hidden here in the heart of Bosnia.
JD: Robert Schoch states that Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth, which winds for tens of kilometers beneath the Bosnian Pyramid Complex, is a "military" tunnel, not a prehistoric tunnel built at the same time as the pyramid complex an estimated 34,000 years ago. Have any of the tourists visiting Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth asked for their money back, saying that Ravne does not look prehistoric?
Dr. Osmanagić: Unscientific opinions from people like Robert Schoch are irrelevant in science. Only scientific arguments are relevant. Schoch hasn’t done a single analysis, or asked for laboratory analysis results, of the samples and organic materials we have found in Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth. Schoch came in 2006 when there was very little to see. Tourists today can see that the tunnel, with its many megaliths and dry-stack stone walls and water channels, is prehistoric, and we have the science to prove it.
JD: What are your predictions for future tourism in the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramids?
Dr. Osmanagić: This site will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The Bosnian pyramids and Ravne Tunnel Labyrinth offer spiritual and healing aspects that are not found elsewhere. This project both changes our view of the ancient past and has the potential to change our future for the better.
JD: Thank you.
Dr. Osmanagić: Thank you.