Buried Land

Lead Research Organisation: University of East London
Department Name: Humanities and Social Sciences


The chain of events surrounding the purported discovery of a Bosnian pyramid is harnessed by a chain video camera interweaving between the dig sites and the town below...

In 2006 CNN announced to the world the discovery of the largest and potentially oldest pyramid in the world. This was not in Egypt but Visoko, in central Bosnia. If the discovery turned out to be true it would change the way we understand history. And even if it wasn't, the mere idea of pyramids in Bosnia could change the fortunes of a small town struggling to recover from a decade of war.

For 1000s of years the locals noted the pyramidal shape of the great hill overlooking the town, but not with any thought it was real, until archaeologist Semir Osmanagich, the self-proclaimed 'Indiana Jones of Bosnia,' revealed its existence. He claims that Visoko is in fact a valley comprising of four pyramids, a temple, and a network of prehistoric tunnels stretching 2.5 km underground.

Visoko has become a Brigadoon, embracing the pyramid theory with gusto, transforming itself economically through new enterprise. The town now has an archaeological park and a burgeoning tourist agency based on the pyramids. To date some 50,000 tourists have visited the town and Pyramid sites. The Hotel Hollywood has been renamed The Pyramid of the Sun Hotel. Behind the Mayor's desk is a picture of a sphinx. You can eat Pyramid Pizzas in an Aztec styled restaurant. But the archaeological dig sites are constantly in a state of start and stop and there is no certainty that Visoko will retain world attention.

This research project does not set out to represent the discovery of the pyramids nor to prove or disprove their existence. The landscape itself seems beyond containment and any efforts to depict the pyramids fall short of the phenomena. The standard fact-finding format of TV news has failed to capture this faith-based narrative. The real story has yet to be told, not of the pyramids, but of Visoko, an ordinary town reinventing itself around an extraordinary set of events. Everything about Visoko invites reinvention. This is why Buried Land is concerned with multiple narratives and multiple truths.

A surreal situation requires a surreal approach, the meeting of visions with visions, and so I will encounter the imaginary head on, combining documentary and fiction techniques. The central concept for Buried Land is the construction of a human chain stretching around the town to the foothills and the summit of the pyramid. A camera is passed from hand to hand along this chain, recording a gigantic filmed take. The function of the chain is both to echo the enterprise and the conceit of the Pyramid Foundation and to provide an initial purpose for a film production, one which will increasingly be taken-up by the participants in the chain. Along with the principal investigator, members of the community will co-author filmed sequences that utilise reenactment and fictional elements, as well as images of actuality. Narratives retraced by the people of the town will tell the stories of key characters - the small and large players in the events - introducing visionary sequences, unearthing the town to find what lies beneath. All of the characters and situations hang from the chain like pendants on a necklace.

The chain and the resultant film is a reflection of the scale and scope of the event the film has as its subject: the pyramid. Like the pyramid, the chain is the enigma that motivates the camera to question and gather fragments. It prises open the stories of the town, moving with a domino effect, passing through windows, ignoring public and private boundaries. It interweaves between scenes conveying the cultural and political complexity of the pyramid claim, depositing the viewer at situations.

Buried Land enters the world of 'belief archaeology.' How will the camera chain illuminate the event of the pyramid? Is the emperor without clothes? What is under the hill?


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