What’s big and round and hangs out in the ground?
Frankly, no one is quite sure, but about 300 of them have been found and date back to 400 B.C.E. The mysterious (and strangely alluring) stone spheres of Costa Rica have been uncovered primarily in the southern Diquis Delta, with some found as far afield as the Isla Del Cano.
Made of a granite-like rock called granodiorite and topping out at two meters in diameter and 16 tons, these giant marvels raise more questions about ancient native cultures than their discovery has answered. Who made them? How were they made so precisely (some are 96% perfectly spherical) with what must have been rudimentary tools? How were they moved 25 to 30 miles from the sites where the rock was quarried? And the number one question – why were they made?
There’s no shortage of theories about the spheres. Local legends suggest that the makers had a potion that softened the rock, and that each sphere houses a single coffee bean. If you’ve ever had Costa Rican coffee, that might seem like a fitting tribute, or perhaps an obsessive level of attention to freshness. More recently, archeologists have noted the stones’ proximity to burial sites and theorized a memorial or spiritual significance.
Workers employed by the United Fruit Company were among the first in the modern era to discover the spheres as they cleared land for banana plantations, and those fellas were convinced the spheres were full of gold. Solution? Drill holes and blow the spheres to the heavens with dynamite. So much for treading lightly on the land. Some of the reconstituted victims of their handiwork can be seen at the National Museums in San Jose. Other people believed that the spheres made excellent garden ornaments (the sizes vary from a grapefruit to the behemoths already described), so an actual count of all of the stones has never been made, and preservation has been a struggle.
We’re fascinated by these monumental marbles, and we hope to draw attention to the work being done to study and protect the spheres in their original settings. GreenSpot.travel trips have included stops at a major excavation site with tours led by the archeologists leading the effort to understand the role (and the roll) of these uniquely Costa Rican wonders. Call or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to learn more about including the spheres in your travel itinerary.
See GreenSpot.travel and the mysterious spheres in Conde Nast List of 32 Dream Trips