The geophysical (satellite) analysis - [Le site d'Irna]

The geophysical (satellite) analysis

Article published on 26 July 2006

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A study of the "pyramids", using various remote sensing techniques, has been made during the winter 2005-2006. The scientific report, dated from February 2006, can be downloaded (en) on the Foundation website, and is also available below (English pdf file):

Analyse Géophysique
Geophysical Analysis - Source

There also are, on the Foundation website, two documents in Bosnian (doc files), with the title "Satellite and radar imagery analysis" (bs) [1], and "Satellite and thermal imagery analysis" (bs) [1], but these two documents are a "re-writing" by the Foundation of the scientific report, and the single complete report is the one in English above.

The author of this report is Dr Amer Smailbegovic, a Bosnian American and Geophysics PhD (Nevada University). The study was made "pro-bono" at the request of the Foundation; incidentally, Mr. Smailbegovic used to be a Foundation member, and his name, until 2006 July 11th, appeared on the Foundation website as coordinator for the "geophysic and remote sensing committee" [2].

This geophysical analysis is, in my opinion, the most scientific of all the documents provided by the Foundation. The report provides the data, and the limits of this kind of remote analysis are clearly shown. First a panchromatic image and a digital topographic model have been used to find the "anomalies", i.e. the hills whose morphology shows one or more triangular side(s); the possibility that these triangular sides could be triangular facets of fault planes (which often occur when a fault plane is subject to erosion) is discussed - and rejected because of the lack of observed fault strikes at the foot of these hills [3]. I do not perfectly understand the LINANAL detector technology, but the result shown in the report shows nothing more than a confirmation of a fact that nobody contested: Visocica actually has a more or less pyramidal shape, at least when you look at the North and East faces.

Mr. Smailbegovic then notes that the satellital imagery is of little use for the geological study of the region, because of the abundant vegetation and the deep soils. The only really interesting result comes from the thermal analysis, made by comparing two sets of day and night scenes provided by the ASTER system (en); the analysis has been difficult, because of the few number of available images, of the low resolution (60 meters), and of the lack of data about the thermal inertia of the local rock layers. However, the author gives the below "apparent thermal inertia map" of Visoko region:

Inertie thermique apparente
Apparent thermal inertia - Source

The blue and grey areas have a "low apparent thermal inertia": that means that these areas are cooling faster at night than the surrounding areas (and of course are warming up faster during the day). How can this phenomenon be explained? according to the author, these areas could "be composed of less consolidated material", and he points to the fact that it would be consistent with "what would be expected from an artificial or artificially modified structure", with low density material or internal cavities.

One can note here the author’s prudence, that is quite justified. Indeed, while the "geometrical anomalies" existing in the region are all actually in "low thermal inertia" areas, the contrary is false: all the low inertia areas are not "anomalies". In fact, when looking at the above image, it seems that almost all the hill tops and ridges in the region do have a lower thermal inertia. In my opinion, the first step should have been to compare this thermal image with a detailed geological map of the region, so as to validate or invalidate the most simple hypothesis, i.e. the existence of a correlation between low thermal inertia and a particular geological layer (for instance the Miocene conglomerates which, according to the Tuzla geologists, are stratigraphically above the other layers). Mr. Smailbegovic doesn’t seem to have made this verification, at least the report doesn’t mention it.

With all the above mentioned elements, Mr. Smaibegovic concludes his report by stressing that the anomalies in Visocica and Pljesevica may be caused by "some degree of anthropogenic activity", and recommends "that the area should be ground-truthed for possible evidence of anthropogenic activities". The author is, logically, very prudent; when asked, for instance, on the forum (bs) where he used to be a moderator [4], about the way he managed the influence of vegetation in his thermal analysis, he acknowledged that he didn’t have sufficiently precise data on the exact type of vegetation (and so had to use general data for temperate climate vegetation), and that he waited for more precise local data for a more accurate work. So, this study in no way can be used as a "proof" for the existence of pyramids or whichever monumental artificial objects.

However, it can be noted that the Foundation and Mr. Osmanagic have themselves not always used this report with the same prudence. The home page (en) for the English version of the Foundation website lists, for instance, among the "proofs" of the existence of the pyramids, the "analysis of satellite images" and the "analysis of satellite thermal images which suggests the characteristics of artificial construction". On this other webpage (en) [5], Mr. Osmanagic writes: "The analysis of satellite thermal snapshots (satellite Aster) shows that all five elevations in the Bosnian Valley of Pyramids do not cool with the expected celerity of natural hills, and show celerity characteristic of artificial structures which contain cavernous building material, orifices/corridors, rooms, tunnels, etc.". One of the press releases (bs) of the Foundation, about the analysis by Mr. Smailbegovic, is headed "Additional proof of the hypothesis that Visocica and Plesevica are colossal stone structures", and this press release claims that Mr. Smailbegovic said: "Some of the analysis we have done already give us the clear impression that it is a matter of pyramids". It is not surprising, then, that the local newspapers claimed that: "Geophysicists confim that Visocica hill is the work of man, not of nature"...

Avaz, 04-03-2006

Another contribution by Mr. Smailbegovic is, on the Bosnian version of the Foundation website, a "Handbook for recognizing Pyramids" (bs), where the author compares a few "natural" pyramid-shaped mountains with Visocica, taking into account various aspects (number of triangular faces, symmetry, drainage network). The method could be of interest, but in this case it is, in my opinion, disputable, as the author compares hills or mountains of different age, different structure (volcanic/sedimentary) and in different climates (for instance the difference in the organisation of drainage networks is not a valuable argument when one compares a desertic area with no vegetation and a temperate one where the abundant vegetation limits the fluvial erosion). This comparative method would make sense only in similar conditions, that is by comparing with other pyramid-shaped hills, known to be natural, with the same structural and geomorphological history in the same climate.

Update, 2006 July 18th

Another instance of Amer Smailbegovic’s prudence can be found on the Bosnian forum where he used to be moderator: when asked what does he think about Pljesevica hill, he answers (bs):

"What you can see on Pljesevica (the slabs) is what we call orthogonal fissures made by the stress of the geomechanic accomodation. [...] Even if there are some rare places which are really anthropogenic, there are very well founded indications that the entire hill of Pljesevica is nothing else than an anticline. Maybe on the summit or on the bottom will be found some constructions, but I have not seen any."

In the same post, Dr Smailbegovic seems to be disagreeing with Mr. Osmanagic and at least part of his ideas (see this article about these ideas): "I think that for now it’s almost surely excluded that any serious scientist will participate in anything around Visoko. [...] Sam has, in one way or the other, made that in the scientific world exists a serious prejudice and stigma on anything linked with Visoko."

What is, in my opinion, a pity, is that, even aware that his analysis of the satellite images has been used as "scientific guarantee" by the Foundation and Mr. Osmanagic, Dr Smailbegovic has never seen fit to publicly protest (except, as seen above, very discreetly on his own forum) against this use, and particularly against the documents, published on the Foundation website, that make him assert things that maybe he doesn’t actually think...

Update - 2011

This analysis of the satellite images was actually followed by a field work by Mr. Smailbegovic. The second report, which was given to Mr. Osmanagic in 2006, has never been published, neither by its author nor by the Foundation. The interested reader will find this report (Smailbegovic Amer, Ground follow-up to remote sensing survey of potential sites of archaeological interest in Visoko Valley, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10.07.2006) on this page.

Analyse satellite et imagerie radar
Satellite and radar imagery analysis - 12 décembre 2005
Analyse satellite et imagerie thermique
Satellite and thermal imagery analysis - 14 décembre 2005
Notes :

[1Most of the reports have disappeared from the Foundation site - whether deliberately, or simply by accident, it is not known; so that I join a copy below the article for the interested reader.

[2On the 12th of July, every mention of Mr. Smailbegovic disappeared, and the webpage for the "geophysic and remote sensing committee" mentions only an american remote sensing society, TeraElement (en); one can however note that this society is based in Reno, where Mr. Smailbegovic lives, and that a "whois" on the domain name (en) shows that it is owned by a "Amer Smailbeg"...

[3In my humble opinion, this point needs to be confirmed by a detailed terrain study, the intense tectonic activity in this region since the Tertiary Era having most probably created numerous faults that can be hidden by recent sediments and alluvium.

[4Today, in February 2007, it appears that Mr. Smailbegovic left this forum and erased all of his posts...

[5The English page has disappeared from the Foundation website, leaving only the Bosnian text: "Analiza satelitskih termalnih snimaka (satelit Aster) potvrdila je da se ukupno pet uzvišenja u Bosanskoj dolini piramida ne hladi brzinom očekivanom od prirodnih brda, već da pokazuju izrazite karakteristike hlađenja za vještačke strukure koje sadrže porozni građevni materijal, prolaze, prostorije, tunele i slično."

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