Costa Rica is home to some of the world’s most diverse wildlife, and some of its most beautiful unspoiled landscapes. However, the country is not without its archaeological wonders. While Costa Rica has historically been minimally populated, there are a few fascinating sites that tell an interesting tale of its past. One of these sites is the Stone Spheres.
Known locally as “Las Bolas,” meaning simply “the Balls,” these fascinating monolithic sculptures range from just a few inches around to over 6 feet in size, and can weigh up to 15 tons. They are made from native basalt, sandstone, and are strewn across the Diquís delta in Costa Rica’s southern region.
Like Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues, the Stone Spheres have presented the world with a mystery that is as fascinating as it is vexing. Who made them, and why? How were they made? How were the heaviest ones transported so far from the material source? Are they the work of aliens? Or perhaps a lost civilization?
The Stone Spheres were first found by workers from the United Fruit Company in 1940, as they cleared land for agricultural purposes. There were estimated to have been hundreds of spheres at the initial discovery; since then some have been broken by farming equipment or blown up by those searching for gold. Meanwhile, others have been dispersed across the country, and now grace museums, important historical sites, and even the lawns of well-to-do Costa Ricans. Very few are still in their original spots.
While much myth and speculation have arisen around these spheres, their existence likely has a simple, if not entirely satisfying explanation. They were made by human hands, by natives who lived in the area before the Spanish arrived. Unfortunately, the identity and history of this culture appears to have been lost to the ages.
The stones were discovered in the Térraba River delta, but they have been found as far north as the Estrella Valley, as far south as the Coto Colorado River mouth, and across the Isla del Caño. The sculptures are believed to date back to somewhere around the year 600, but proper dating has been difficult, as it requires seeing the stones in their original spots.
No one is exactly sure how the spheres were made, but some experts believe that the crafters honed boulders into spherical shapes, possibly using a system of hot coals and cold water baths. It was believed that many of them were perfectly spherical – a virtual impossibility with pre-Colombian technology. However, erosion and faulty measuring techniques have made these claims dubious.
Of course, where there are mysteries, myths abound. Some people believe that aliens placed the sculptures, while others believe they are from the lost city of Atlantis. Still others believe that they were created using a special potion that dissolves rock.
However they came to be, the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica are worth seeing, and make a fascinating stop on a tour of the country.