SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – A British archaeologist on Friday rejected claims that a hill in central Bosnia is a man-made structure that many local residents insist is a pyramid.
"Not any evidence at all has been found" to support the claim the site would be an archaeological site, he said.
No pyramids are known in Europe, and there are no records of any ancient civilization on the continent ever attempting to build one.
The pyramid theory was launched by an amateur researcher last year but it has been disputed by a number of local and international experts, who claim that at no time in Bosnia's history did the region have a civilization able to build monumental structures. They say the hill is simply a strange natural formation.
Nevertheless, Semir Osmanagic, the amateur Bosnian archaeologist who has been investigating Latin American pyramids for 15 years, organized excavations to Visocica, about 20 miles northwest of Sarajevo, in April.
His team — made up mostly of volunteers, found that the 2,120-foot hill has 45-degree slopes pointing toward the cardinal points and a flat top. Under layers of dirt, workers discovered a paved entrance plateau, entrances to tunnels and large stone blocks.
Egyptian geologist Aly Abd Alla Barakat, who arrived in May to check on Osmanagic's claims, said the structure is "man made" and worth investigating.
"My opinion is that this is a type of pyramid, probably a primitive pyramid," said Barakat, a geologist from the Egyptian Mineral Resource Authority.
However, Harding, who said he visited the site briefly on Thursday and looked at the same stone blocks Barakat said were man-made, said on Friday they were a natural formation.
"I've seen the site — in my opinion it is entirely natural," he told reporters in Sarajevo.
Harding did not visit other sites in the area which Osmanagic and Barakat say are further evidence of the existence of pyramids in Bosnia, such as a tunnel leading to the top of Visocica or a stone pavement made of geometrically regular shaped pieces.
Harding said that although he had not seen the stone pavement, by looking at photographs, "I would not believe it to be archaeological. It looks to me as a natural stone pavement."
He did not visit the tunnel either.
But Barakat, an expert in the stone blocks used to build ancient pyramids in Egypt, has recommended more experts visit the site. An archaeologist from Egypt is scheduled to visit the site this month.
The theory of a pyramid has sparked intense interest in Bosnia, with local residents seeking to cash in on the craze; restaurants serve meals in triangle-shaped plates, artisans make pyramid-shaped wooden key-chains, shopkeepers sell T-shirts saying "I have a pyramid in my backyard."
When asked to comment on Harding's statement, Mario Gerussi, the director of Osmanagic's team leading the excavations, said the team had not been informed of the timing of Harding's visit and that none of the staff at the site had seen him there.
Harding specializes in the European Bronze Age, and has led excavations in Poland and the Czech Republic as well as in Britain.