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The Mysterious Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

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Stone spheres of Costa Rica

Stone spheres of Costa Rica

There are hundreds of stone spheres located in Costa Rica on the Isla del Cano. They are part of settlements located in the Diquis valley. These were PreColumbian Chiefdom settlements. The exact purpose of the circular stone spheres remains unknown. The area where the stone spheres are located has been added to the UNESCO’S World Heritage List.

PreColumbian History

It has been estimated that the stone spheres were first created during the year 600. Many believe most of them were made prior to the Spanish conquest reaching the area. Stratigraphy is the only known method for dating carved stones. Stratigraphy is the study of layers of soil. Most of the stones aren't in their original locations. After the Spanish conquest, the Diquis culture disappeared.

 Diquis Valley in Costa Rica

Diquis Valley in Costa Rica

Discovery

Workers from the United Fruit Company discovered the stone spheres during the 1930s. It occurred when they were clearing a new area for a banana plantation. This is also when the scientific study and detailed description of the stone spheres began. The first scholarly scientific writing concerning the stone spheres was published in 1943.

Creation

Each of the stone spheres appear to be almost perfectly round and are very smooth. It is believed the ancient people of the Diquis Valley made them by hand. Most of the stone spheres have been made from a very hard igneous rock found in the area known as gabbro. This is similar to basalt. Some of the stone spheres appear to be made from sand and some others seem to be made from limestone. Researchers speculate the stones were made from large boulders. People in the area may have used smaller rocks to shape them. It is believed some sections of the rocks could have been heated and then quickly cooled so outer rock layers could have been removed. The stone spheres could also have been polished with sand. The style of work and level of finishing vary significantly from one group of spheres to another. The Gabbro used to make the stone spheres came from nearby hills. This is a place where unfinished stone spheres are located.

Treatment of Stone Spheres

When the stone spheres were first discovered, workmen pushed them away with heavy equipment and bulldozers. There was a rumor that the stone spheres were filled with gold. This resulted in workmen drilling holes into the stone spheres or blowing them up with dynamite. Many of the spheres were destroyed. Authorities eventually put a stop to it. Some of the stone spheres that had been destroyed were reassembled. Many of them are being displayed at the National Museum of Costa Rica in San José. Several of the stone spheres have been used as lawn decorations for local citizens.

Doris Stone with Samuel Kirkland Lothrop team

Doris Stone with Samuel Kirkland Lothrop team

Scientific Analysis

Doris Stone was the daughter of a United Fruit executive. She is the first person to conduct a scientific investigation of the spheres. In 1943, her findings were published in the magazine American Antiquity. In 1948, Samuel Kirkland Lothrop of Harvard University's Peabody Museum was on an archeological dig in Costa Rica. Things became politically charged and he had to leave. Doris Stone met Lothrop and his team and suggested they go toward the Diquis Delta region. They conducted an archeological dig near the stone spheres. In 1963, Lothrop's findings were published in Archeology of the Diquís Delta, Costa Rica. John Hoopes is a researcher from the University of Kansas. In 2010, Hoopes visited the site of the stone spheres in Costa Rica. He determined it was eligible for protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

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Cultural Identity

In Costa Rica, the stone spheres are considered a national symbol as well as part of Costa Rican culture. They are often used as part of government buildings. A building for the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica had seven stone spheres installed in it. They were lent to the project by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.


 Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica with stone sphere in front

Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica with stone sphere in front

Myths

There are many myths and beliefs concerning the Costa Rican stone spheres. Some believe they could have been made by nature and others claim they may have come from the lost city of Atlantis. Legends by the local inhabitants involve a belief that those who made them had access to a special potion that made it possible to soften rock. Others claim they are “Tara's cannonballs.” Tara is the god of thunder. They believe the stone spheres were used by the god of thunder with a giant blowpipe. The stone spheres were shot at the gods of wind and hurricane to drive them away.

Purpose

There is a theory that claims the stone spheres could have been part of a mathematical game plan involving parallelograms, triangles, and lines. This can't be confirmed since the stone spheres are no longer in their original positions. Others claim the stone spheres could have been used as a type of galactic compass. Some believe the stone spheres were used to illustrate the status of prominent individuals. This is backed up by some of the large spheres being discovered on the highest points of hills.

Stone spheres at local home in Costa Rica

Stone spheres at local home in Costa Rica

It has never been conclusively proven who made the preColombian stone spheres in Costa Rica. It is known that hundreds of them were made to almost geometric perfection over 1,000 years ago. They are similar to Easter Island and Stonehenge. The stone spheres of Costa Rica have fascinated archeologists for decades and inspired their interest in working toward discovering the truth behind them.

Sources

Academia Tica

World Atlas

World Mysteries

Heritage Daily

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