These spheres were first discovered by The United Fruit Company in the 1930’s in Costa Rica where they were creating a banana plantation. Workmen pushed them aside with bulldozers and heavy equipment, damaging some spheres. Additionally, inspired by stories of hidden gold, workmen began to drill holes into the spheres and blow them open with sticks of dynamite. Several of the spheres were destroyed before authorities intervened. Some of the dynamited spheres have been reassembled and are currently on display at the National Museum of Costa Rica in San José.
The stone spheres (or stone balls) of Costa Rica are an assortment of over three hundred petrospheres in Costa Rica, located on the Diquís Delta and on Isla del Caño. Locally, they are known as Las Bolas (literally The Balls).
The spheres are commonly attributed to the extinct Diquís culture and are sometimes referred to as the Diquís Spheres. They are the best-known stone sculptures of the Isthmo-Colombian area. They are thought to have been placed in lines along with the approach to the houses of chiefs, but their exact significance remains uncertain.
The Palmar Sur Archeological Excavations are a series of excavations of a site located in the southern portion of Costa Rica, known as the Diquís Delta. The excavations have centered on a site known as “Farm 6”, dating back to the Aguas Buenas Period (300–800 CE) and Chiriquí Period (800–1550 CE). In June 2014, the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements with Stone Spheres of the Diquis was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Doris Zemurray Stone :
The first scientific investigation of the spheres was undertaken shortly after their discovery by Doris Zemurray Stone (November 19, 1909 – October 21, 1994) a prominent archaeologist and ethnographer, specializing in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, focusing specifically on the prehistory and ethnology of Honduras and Costa Rica. She was the daughter of a Cuyamel Fruit Company executive Samuel Zemurray (January 18, 1877 – November 30, 1961).
Her father, Samuel Zemurray, founded the Cuyamel Fruit Company just a year after Doris was born. In 1917, the family moved to a 3 story mansion on St. Charles Ave facing Tulane University. This would be the family home for the next 40 years (In the 1960s the home was transferred to Tulane and became the residence of the university presidents).
Doris attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts majoring in Anthropology then graduate school in archaeology. Her studies were not without obstacles as women were not encouraged to seek graduate studies and were not always allowed in certain buildings on campus. Doris went on to join the Department of Middle American Research at Tulane soon after graduation.
Samuel Kirkland Lothrop :
Doris Zemurray Stone’s findings were published in 1943 in American Antiquity, attracting the attention of Samuel Kirkland Lothrop (1892–1965). He was an archaeologist and anthropologist who specialized in Central and South American Studies. His work, Pottery of Costa Rica and Nicaragua (2 vols., 1926), based on his doctoral dissertation in anthropology at Harvard University, is regarded as a pioneering study. Lothrop was a longtime research associate of Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and made many contributions based on fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and evaluations of private and public collections that focused on Central and South America.
He is known for archaeological excavations in Argentina and Chile as well as investigations of the archaeological contexts for the stone spheres of Costa Rica. Lothrop is also known for his research on goldwork and other artifacts from Costa Rica, the Veraguas Province of Panama, and the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico.
Lothrop was born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 6, 1892, to William and Alice Lothrop. His childhood was split between Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. Lothrop’s interest in Latin America may have been sparked in his childhood as a result of his having spent time in Puerto Rico, where his father was a banker with interests in the sugarcane industry.
Theories About These Sphere :
According to Karl Kahler of The Tico Times, “these creations were a triumph of artisanship and organization, and to be able to produce them in large numbers demonstrated a chief’s power over his subjects and one village’s dominance over another. They were status symbols, indicators of power and wealth.” and he continued by saying “that it’s no coincidence the spheres are round like the sun and moon, heavenly bodies that were the object of worship throughout the ancient world. I think sculpting these orbs could have been seen as a way of reproducing the heavenly pantheon here on earth.”
According to John Hoopes, of the University of Kansas, who visited the stones in an effort to have them protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, “the making and moving of the balls was probably an important social activity, perhaps more important than the possession of the finished product. We believe that the balls may have sat in front of the houses of prominent people, perhaps as a display of power, of esoteric knowledge, or of control over labor.” There are records indicating that some spheres were found on the tops of mounds which might validate the idea that they were to be displayed as symbols of great status.