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There is a new sign hanging above Visoko's shabby hotel. From now, guests will be staying at the Pyramid of the Sun. Across the road at the local restaurant the hungry can tuck into pyramid pizza. It is served, of course, on triangular wooden platters.

And for those who have yet to get the point, the local market is offering allegedly home-made brandy. It comes in pyramid-shaped bottles.

Up until a few weeks ago, most Bosniaks would have been hard placed to locate Visoko on the map' it was "somewhere outside Sarajevo." No more. It is now home to Europe's only pyramid, or at least that is what one Bosnian archaeologist would have us believe. Whether the 45-year-old Semir Osmanagic is right or not, he has certainly started a craze.

At the filling-station heading north out of Sarajevo there is pyramid fever as well as petrol fumes in the air. There was no fooling the pump attendant. "Oh, you're going to see the pyramid," he said. "Visoko is famous now. You can't miss it, it's above the town."

He was right. Visoko sits In the brooding shadow of Visocica hill, towering 2,050ft over this previously anonymous hamlet. Mr Osmanagic - whose main qualification is a decade and a half spent studying the pyramids of Latin America - is convinced that sitting underneath the hill is a giant step pyramid, which would be the first found in Europe. He thinks it is 772ft high, one-third taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

At the open-air market, the traditional focal point of any small Balkan town, there are predictably few pyramid sceptics. T-shirts with the imaginary pyramid are sold in the streets. Esref Fatic, 45, the owner of a small souvenir shop, is ready to herald the dawn of a golden age.

"The good times are finally arriving to Visoko," he said surrounded by a clutter of handmade wooden clocks with the inscription "Visoko" on them above a hastily carved pyramid looming from the background.

Mr Fatic firmly believes "something will be found under the hill". He added: "Any kind of discovery means a lot after so many years of nothing." He pointed at key chains with small pyramids and traditional Bosnian slippers, now with pyramid design. "People will come here and spend money and that would mean our youth has something to do."

Excitement reached a fever pitch last week when researchers unearthed geometrically cut stone slabs from the hillside that they claim formed part of the sliding slope of the ancient pyramid. For Mr Osmanagic it was the final vindication of what has been obvious to him since he first visited the site.

"I'm certain that there is a colossal artificial object under that hill," he said. "All the satellite images, thermal and radar researches so far have shown there are man-made structures under the hill. I came to the idea that the mounds around Visoko hide the old, man-made pyramids last summer, when I was invited to visit."

After studying the pyramids in Peru, Mexico and the rest of Latin America for 15 years, he could not, in his words "mistake the regular geometrical structure" of the hills around Visoko.

On the slopes of the hill, renamed the "pyramid of Sun plateau" by Mr Osmanagic, dozens of volunteers have dug up rectangular shaped sandstone plates. They are on display for the thousands of people who have descended on the site in the past few weeks.

The man now known as the Balkan Indiana Jones believes there are pyramids of Moon and Dragon as well, under two nearby hills. "Nature does not make such shapes and they have to be man-made."

So far, 10 teams are digging in the shafts as several spots on the slopes to see if they will run into stone blocks below the slopes of the hill. The work will last nearly seven months, with volunteers working eight-hour daily shifts. Experts from Egypt are expected to join the project within weeks.

Measurements by the Geological Institute of Bosnia-Herzegovina have shown that the Visocica hill has 1,120ft-long sides, forming triangles of 60 degrees on each of its four slopes. Geological surveys show that the alleged tips of the three form a 60-degrees regular triangle of their own.

"That is the so-called sacral geometry of all ancient pyramids," Mr Osmanagic said. He has lived in the United States for the past 15 years and claims to be working on a doctoral thesis on the Mayans. He believes the Visocica pyramid was made according to the Latin American model, but with a few key differences. "The huge blocks were put on top of each other, with half a metre distance into the slope. The slopes run for 30 metres up to the 2.5-metre wide terraces. The process is repeated up to the top. This pyramid combines the method of ancient Egyptian and Mexican pyramids. We have yet to establish if this is the mother of all the pyramids."

But Bosnia's freshly fted adventurer is a good deal more evasive when it comes to dating his findings. "We have yet to find any organic remains, bones, wood or coal," Mr Osmanagic said. "The analysis would help us establish the age of the structure."

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