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The World Around Us

The Mystery of Ancient Costa Rica’s Stone Spheres, Part 1 of 2

2022-01-07
Language:English,Spanish(Español)

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Across the Diquís Delta and on Isla del Caño of Costa Rica, one may find more than 300 stone balls of various sizes. These fascinating stone spheres, or “bolas de piedra” in Spanish, are commonly attributed to the extinct Diquís culture and are also sometimes referred to as the Diquís Spheres. However, their exact purpose and construction remain largely a mystery. In 2014, they were listed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List as the “Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquís.” To learn more about these remarkable stone spheres, we are honored to introduce Dr. Francisco Corrales Ulloa, an archaeologist from the History Anthropology Department of the National Museum of Costa Rica.

Dr. Corrales Ulloa tells how the stone spheres were shaped. “These spheres of stone are very, very particular artifacts that break away a bit from the logic of other artifacts. They are very clearly inspired by elements of nature in animals or in humans. This concept of the sphericity is new, or is different, and becomes a characteristic of its groups. There are various explanations that have been proposed for its meaning; however, the evidence is very limited. The stone spheres stand out in that region in several factors. One, the period in which they were made – that is more than 1,000 years ago. Another is the quantity. They were also made in different sizes.” “And the other important element that we have with the spheres is the diversity of contexts. There are spheres in other parts of the world – no, it was not exclusive. But no other society produced them in such a large number, in such contexts, and in such materials.”

Some of the spheres were arranged to form lines, circles, or triangles. Researchers ask themselves why the people would go through all the effort to create such elaborate and unique stonework. There are many theories: some people believe they came from Atlantis or were created by visiting extraterrestrials. Local legends hold that the rock was softened by the powerful magic of the ancient natives. “One of the most frequent questions is: How did they make them?”
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