One of the most iconic movies in the history of cinematography has to be “Raiders of the Lost Arc”. Some say it the love child of Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. In the movie, the opening scene is something that looks like a science fiction, a giant stone sphere nearly crushes the main character, Indiana Jones. Believe it or not, but the giant stone sphere is not a science fiction at all.
Quite the contrary, 300 similar or exact stone spheres can be found in Costa Rica. Called also “The Balls” or Las Bolas, as well as Diquis Spheres, the 300 stone sculptures are what remains of the Isthmo-Colombian era. As such, they represent part of history. And all would be good if there weren’t countless of mysteries and conspiracy theories surrounding the stone spheres. In 2014, they were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. But let’s look back at the history and mysteries of the stones.
The stone spheres were first discovered in 1940. You might think that some archeologist found them, but it was a common situation as any. The stones were discovered by employees of a fruit company. While clearing the jungle for banana plantations, the workers discovered the stones.
And just like that, the stones became prized ornaments. At the time, few people understood their true archeological value. Because of that, many were broken, dynamited, or simple damaged during transportation.
At the moment, according to John Hoopes, there are 300 spheres known to exist. The largest among them weighs 15 tons and measures eight feet in diameter. The smallest stone, on the other hand, is no larger than a basketball.
The stones didn’t become a subject for archeological research for few years after they were discovered. But after few years, archeologists, and other history experts started doing research on the stones.
The first aspect of the mystery is the location where they were found and created. According to experts, the stones probably came from a quarry that is almost 50 miles away. The time in which they were created is also a mystery. Experts believe that the stones were made around 600 AD. And back then, metal tools were not invented yet. But Hoopes reminds everyone that it is difficult to say when they were created because they are still sitting at the place they were created a thousand of years ago.
And the biggest mystery of all? What were they used for? There are no written records. The culture of the people that probably created the stones is extinct, and became so just years after the Spanish conquest. Therefore, there are no stories, myths, or legends told by older people. One plausible theory is that the stones served as status symbols.
Regarding the technique, according to Hoopes, grinding and hammering with stones was the technique used to create the stones. The professor has found several spheres that have marks of the blows, most probably made from hammer stones.
Let’s take a page from another popular movie, “Ghostbusters”. You probably remember the line “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”
Which brings us to the alien and extraterrestrial theory. Two people are responsible for the theory, Erich von Daniken and David Hatcher Childress.
Daniken started the theory in the 70s, putting his work into the book “Chariots of the Gods”. Later, Childress addressed the matter as well. Some of his thoughts include:
- The Ancients (aliens or a race that precede the human race) used advanced engineering and power tools, similar to what we have today
- The balls were washed by tidal wave
- The indigenous people of Costa Rica attributed the stones to the gods. They found them in the jungle, and believed it is the work of the Gods.
Nowadays, every theory, no matter how crazy it sounds, always comes with a different scientific explanation. From the moment scientists explained that the Earth is round, the scientifically approach is much more plausible than gnostic theories, conspiracy theories and so on. That being said, how does science explains the spheres?
Before we go deep into how a sphere is made, we must point that not all stones are perfect in shape. They might appear so to the casual observer, but they are not perfectly smooth, and there is evidence of tools used to make them. The first measurements were done in the 1950s, by Lothrop. However, he was hampered by the different size of spheres, and he was faced with challenges to get a tape measure around the spheres.
The spheres are composite of “granodiorite”, which is a hard and igneous rock found in the Talamanca mountains. The science explanation states that the carvers choose that rock because it was round in shape in the first place.
The rock also tends to flake off in layers under temperature change. That being said, the theory is that the carvers carefully heated special sections with hot coals. After heating them up, the carvers chilled the section with cold water. This method was used for the general shape. After the general shape was achieved, the sculptors hammered the stones with smaller stones made out of the same rock. Sand and/or leather was used to smooth and polish the ground.
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