Bosnia's rich heritage
by Anthony Harding
Stories about hidden pyramids in deepest Bosnia being investigated by ‘hobby archaeologists’ (‘Indiana Jones of the Balkans’, 15 April), may appeal to those for whom the dry facts of archaeology hold little attraction, but they also do little to assist the cause of heritage protection in that beautiful but unlucky country. Professional archaeologists in the former Yugoslavia, and in international organizations such as the European Association of Archaeologists, have known about these claims for some time, and various ‘scientific’ reports are available in the public domain. In most countries of Europe those with wacky theories about ‘hidden mysteries’ on presumed archaeological sites are free to propound them but not to undertake excavation, which by its very nature destroys much of what it uncovers; let alone excavation by those unqualified in terms of training and experience. According to your report there are indeed archaeological sites on the hill in question - Illyrian (Iron Age), Roman and Mediaeval; yet the work underway or planned makes no mention of what steps will be taken to safeguard them, and other potential sites as yet undiscovered, from inappropriate earth-moving or other investigations.
The situation of professional heritage management in Bosnia-Herzegovina is, since the Bosnian war, in a poor state, with a tiny number of people trying to do what they can to protect their rich heritage from looting and unmonitored or unauthorized development. It adds insult to injury when rich outsiders can come in and spend large sums pursuing their absurd theories (the construction of a colossal pyramid so large that it dwarfs even those of Egypt or Mesoamerica? 12,000 years ago?), in ways that most other countries would never countenance, instead of devoting their cash to the preservation of the endangered genuine sites and monuments in which Bosnia-Herzegovina abounds.
Professor Anthony Harding,
President, European Association of Archaeologists
This letter appeared in The Times (London), 25 April 2006