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Ancient pyramids discovered in Bosnia

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El Reg: But you weren't convinced?

Professor Parker: Well, no, because I'd seen this kind of thing before. It is a perfect example of a fossilised beach, essentially little mud ripples on a beach which then becomes fossilised. What they were doing was cutting into the hillside to expose this beautiful raised beach.

As you looked at the profile that they had cut you saw the layers above it and every time they came to a slightly harder layer that showed that phenomenon, so they exposed it back. They were cutting the side of the hill into a series of steps, each one about a metre and a half or two meters. Hence the Pyramid of the Moon is described a stepped pyramid, as opposed to the Pyramid of the Sun where the sides are flat.

El Reg: So, what about the "concrete" on the Pyramid of the Sun?

Professor Parker: It is a natural material. When you looked at the whole site there was a very turbulent river which came down (and they are really turbulent in Bosnia) which had cut a deep valley through the mainly limestone area in which we found ourselves. However, the river rises in the mountains to the West which are mainly acidic. So the "concrete" is made of the embedded stones that were washed down from the acidic mountains deposited in an alkaline substrate.

El Reg: What about the marks of the shuttering?

Professor Parker: As the conglomerate formed and then subsequently cracked, the cracks were filled in with calcite which would be crystallised from the calcium carbonate and dolomite which makes up the matrix. If you looked at the cracks between the slabs carefully – and this is what told me straight away that it was natural – you could see that individual stones that were embedded in the matrix were shattered through.

In other words, you regularly find single stones, embedded in two slabs, cut neatly through by the "shuttering" lines. It seems highly unlikely that human beings would split stones and place the two halves neatly on either side of a piece of shuttering. But natural cracks will run through both the stones and the matrix. So the cracks are clearly a post-construction phenomenon, not a pre-construction one.

El Reg: Ok, that explains the materials found on the two hills, but how did it get there in the first place?

Professor Parker: Remember that turbulent river. You've got the aggregate which came from the acidic mountains and it came down into a calcareous lake where the big stones had settled out with the calcareous substrate to make the aggregate on one side of the valley. That explains the "concrete". On the other side of the valley the mud was left and was depositing out as beaches which were obviously a drying lake surface and I should think alternately wetting and drying. It was quite obvious that it was part of one kind of system, probably a delta type system.

Geologically it was absolutely fascinating. I've never seen a better example of this. At the same time one of my colleagues, Dr Mary Edmunds, found the most perfect fossils in the material they'd excavated on the Pyramid of the Moon. They were simply beautiful – you broke open every piece of this supposedly man-made material and inside were things like pine seeds perfectly preserved with their wings so you could even identify the species of pine – Pinus nigra that grows there still – and also birch leaves: it was full of just wonderful sub-fossil material. That alone told us that it was clearly a post-glacial phenomenon, relatively recent – less than 12,000 years old.

El Reg: So, if the "concrete" is natural, and formed in a lake, why is it now at such an angle, forming the sloping sides of a hill?

Professor Parker: The way I was thinking about the conglomerate – why it looked like a triangle – was that if you think about the river constantly undermining soft substrate with a hard crust it becomes rather like a crème brulée. As soon as you take away the cream from below there's nothing to hold the upper material and it will collapse, and of course it will tend to shatter, if it is a flat plate, into triangular slabs. I think what you'd got is this material shattered into one of these triangular slabs which gives you the triangular shape and when you excavate it of course the conglomerate is now facing down the hill.

El Reg: So, the site is worthless?

Professor Parker: Absolutely not. I spent considerable time looking at the fossils because I've never seen any so good from a post-glacial site. It's very sad because you could have got the most detailed and intimate knowledge of the changes in vegetation patterns from the post-glacial era. It is so clearly a natural phenomenon that it should be investigated as a natural phenomenon rather than being shrouded in all this magic and mystery.

I am worried about it because the Bosnian people deserve better than this. They are a wonderful people who have suffered so much. In this site they have a fabulous natural phenomenon and the danger is that the people and the country could become a laughing stock if the site continues to be interpreted in this way. ®

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