Bosnian Town Cashing In on 'Pyramid' Mystery

Restaurants serving meals in triangle-shaped plates. Artisans crafting wooden key-chains in the shape of pyramids. Shopkeepers hawking T-shirts saying "I have a pyramid in my backyard."

Pyramid-mania has taken hold of this small Bosnian town as residents seek to cash in on claims by an archaeologist that it may host Europe's only ancient pyramid.

"Our expectation are high. This could be our oil well," Vehab Halilovic, who has started carving pyramids on wooden souvenirs like flutes and pipes.

No pyramids are known in Europe, and there are no records of any ancient civilization on the continent ever attempting to build one.

However, Bosnian archaeologist Semir Osmanagic — who has spent the last 15 years studying the pyramids of Latin America — claimed last year that there is evidence of one here in his Balkan homeland and conducted some research on the site.

He plans to carry out new excavations this week on a hill overlooking Visoko that may definitively prove or disprove his theory. Osmanagic says the hill has four perfectly shaped slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, a flat top and an entrance complex.

Under layers of dirt, Osmanagic found a paved entrance plateau, underground tunnels and stone blocks.

Osmanagic believes the hill was shaped by the Illyrian people, who inhabited the Balkan peninsula long before Slavic tribes conquered it around A.D. 600.

Little is known about the Illyrians, but Osmanagic thinks they were more sophisticated than many experts have suggested.

Halilovic, who has been making wooden souvenirs for 30 years, says his last big windfall came during the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo when he sold souvenirs with Olympic motifs.

After the 1992-95 Bosnian war, he started making souvenirs for NATO peacekeepers. As Bosnia stabilized, the number of soldiers decreased and Halilovic's market shrank.

Then came the pyramid theory.

"We are people who adapt fast," he said, after testing a few tones on a new flute.

Another resident, Esef Fatic, opened a souvenir shop two weeks ago and sells pyramids made of clay and wood and slippers displaying a pyramid.

"We already have buyers. Business is better since this pyramid story started. If scientists really confirm our hill is a pyramid, this place will become alive. People will come from all over the world," he said.

One local hotel called "Hollywood" has changed its name to "Motel Bosnian Sun Pyramid."

Its Web site boasts: "While enjoying your meal in our restaurant placed on the 6th floor, you have the opportunity to also enjoy a magnificent view of the Sun Pyramid. You too can be part of the mystery and the miracle occurring in our area."

Satellite images show two more pyramid-shaped hills with 45-degree angled slopes, indicating three possible pyramids around Visoko — which were quickly named the pyramids of the Sun, Moon and Dragon.

The possibility that the hills are not ancient pyramids is not even considered in Visoko.

"The question whether there is a pyramid or not is not being asked," Senad Hodovic, director of the local museum. "People here believe there is one, are excited about it."