GALLERY
OF
ARCHAEOLOGY
 

NOTE:

    DUE TO THE NEED FOR SEVERAL MAINTENANCE PROJECTS HERE, I WILL NOT BE ACCEPTING ORDERS BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 15. I SHOULD HAVE THINGS FINISHED AND BE TAKING ORDERS AGAIN ABOUT NOVEMBER 1. Pete Bostrom

   THIS MONTH---THE STONE SPHERES OF COSTA RICA PLUS A CAST OF A NORTHERN SIDE-NOTCHED POINT FROM THE DeMoss SITE IN IDAHO.

Removing a mastodon tusk from clear Florida waters.
PICTURE CREDITS
FLORIDA DEPT. OF STATE BUREAU OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH,DR. JIM DUNBAR &
ARCHAEOLOGICAL LABORATORY, CENTER FOR WESTERN STUDIES, AUGUSTANA COLLEGE

    Beginning in the early 1970's I've seen and handled a large number of prehistoric stone artifacts from all over the world through various casting and photographic projects. Some of them have stood out as being especially important, or exhibiting a high degree of the craftsmen's skill or they may have shown some type of special uniqueness. In the "Gallery Of Archaeology" I will illustrate some of the things that keep me interested in this subject---------------The Stone Age lasted for millions of years which represents almost all the time that humans have been using tools. It's literally a technology that has shaped the world!

Peter A. Bostrom

Oldowan flake tool.
IT ALL STARTED
WITH A SIMPLE FLAKE!

THIS EXAMPLE FROM OLDUVAI GORGE, TANZANIA
MADE BY HOMO HABILIS 2 MILLION YEARS AGO

UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, DEPT. OF ANTHROPOLOGY COLLECTION

PAGE 1
STONE SPHERES OF
COSTA RICA
est.
A.D. 400 TO A.D. 800
COPYRIGHT AUGUST 31, 2014 PETER A. BOSTROM

STONE SPHERES ABSTRACT IMAGE

ABSTRACT
STONE SPHERES OF

COSTA RICA
est. A.D. 400 TO A.D. 800

    This article illustrates and describes several examples of stone spheres that were made by a pre-Columbian people living in the Diquis Delta region of southwestern Costa Rica. Some of the stones were found in association with ceramic material that dates to the late Aguas Buenas Phase, sometime between 1600 and 1200 years ago. Their purpose is similar to other types of stone sculptures found in Mesoamerica that were used to mark important locations connected with elite burials and ceremonial sites.

    "The outstanding feature of the Terraba plain (In southwestern Costa Rica) consists of sites of solid stone balls of various sizes."--------1943, Doris Stone, "A Preliminary Investigation Of The Flood Plain Of The Rio Grande De Terraba, Costa Rica" American Antiquity, A Quarterly Review Of American Archaeology, Vol. 9, No.1, p. 75.
    "The stone balls of Costa Rica are the most distinct form of monumental sculpture in southern Central America."
--------2003, Patricia Fernandez and Ifigenia Quintanilla, "Metallurgy, Balls, And Stone Statuary In The Diquis Delta, Costa Rica: Local Production Of Power Symbols," Gold And Power In Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, And Columbia, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 9 and 10 October 1999, p. 215.
    "To date, stone balls have been reported in thirty-four archaeological sites in Costa Rica and one in Panama, at Paso Canoas, near the border."
--------2003, Patricia Fernandez and Ifigenia Quintanilla, "Metallurgy, Balls, And Stone Statuary In The Diquis Delta, Costa Rica: Local Production Of Power Symbols," Gold And Power In Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, And Columbia, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 9 and 10 October 1999, p. 215.
    "In Costa Rica, stone spheres from the Diquis Delta and other locations, in some instances associated with cobble-faced mounds, suggest a large investment of labor in ceremonial activities. The largest of these granite spheres measure over 2 m (6.56 feet) in diameter and weigh as much as 15,000 kg (33,069 lbs)."--------1996, John W, Hoopes, "Settlement, Subsistence, And The Origins Of Social Complexity In Greater Chiriqui, A Reappraisal Of The Aguas Buenas Tradition," Paths To Central American Prehistory p. 37.
    "Large granite balls, found in the Diquis Valley sites, represent an innovative artistic achievement during the last phase of this (Formative) period. These enormous spheres, which proliferate in popularity and production during the next period, must have taken considerable time to manufacture----."--------1992, Robert P. Drolet, "The House And The Territory: The Organizational Structure For Chiefdom Art In The Diquis Subregion Of Greater Chiriqui," Wealth And Hierarchy In The Intermediate Area, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 10th and 11th October 1987, p. 222.
    "It is highly probable that this representation (
of the stone balls roundness) relates to the worldview, cosmology, or astronomical knowledge of the balls' makers. The balls' locations in public areas and their associations with habitational and ceremonial sites point toward their use as symbols of power and as ethnic identifiers."--------2003, Patricia Fernandez and Ifigenia Quintanilla, "Metallurgy, Balls, And Stone Statuary In The Diquis Delta, Costa Rica: Local Production Of Power Symbols," Gold And Power In Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, And Columbia, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 9 and 10 October 1999, p. 229.
    "Many stone balls have been removed from their archaeological contexts to grace the lawns of private homes and public places in modern Costa Rica."
--------2004, Jeffrey Quilter, "Cobble Circles And Standing Stones, Archaeology At The Rivas Site, Costa Rica" p. 140.
    "Pillars (standing stones), like the famous stone balls farther south in the Diquis Delta, have commonly been thought to be cemetery markers. Buenos Aires (in Costa Rica) appears to be the point south and east of which stone balls were popular and north and (perhaps) west of which pillars were employed in sacred places."------2004, Jeffrey Quilter, "Cobble Circles And Standing Stones, Archaeology At The Rivas Site, Costa Rica" p. 140.


 
STONE SPHERES OF
COSTA RICA

est. A.D. 400 TO A.D. 800

     For many years now, Costa Rica's stone spheres have been a wonderful subject for writers of the strange and mysterious. They really do have a mystical look about them and bring to mind props left over from a sci-fi movie set. Written accounts of their strange and baffling qualities far outnumber all the scientific reports that's been written. But actually, quite a lot has been learned about the round balls since Doris Stone's description of them in 1943. The first discoveries of stone spheres appear in the late 1930's in southern Costa Rica. Land clearing activities by the United Fruit Company for a banana plantation began to uncover large numbers of them. Stone (1943) reported fourteen stone balls associated with one mound. They have been referred to as stone spheres, stone balls, petro-spheres, and locally as los bolas.


PHOTO CREDIT LITHIC CASTING LAB'S COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL IMAGES
STONE SPHERE
COSTA RICA

    This picture of a stone sphere was taken somewhere in Costa Rica. It appears to be located in a yard or garden. At least 300 stone spheres have been recorded to date, but it's believed many more remain in the ground. The majority have been moved to locations all over Costa Rica and to other countries, which has made it all the more difficult to identify their cultural frame of reference. Their image has become an icon of Costa Rica and a desirable artifact for landscaping and tourist attractions.

    Stone spheres have been discovered on thirty-four archaeological sites in Costa Rica and one in Panama, at Paso Canoas, near the border (Fernandez 2003). They were not manufactured in one place but in several neighboring locations. At least 300 stone spheres have been recorded, but it's believed many more remain in the ground. Most of them have been moved to locations all over Costa Rica and to other countries, which has made it all the more difficult to identify their cultural frame of reference. Their image has become an icon of Costa Rica and a desirable artifact for landscaping and tourist attractions.


PHOTO CREDIT LITHIC CASTING LAB'S COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL IMAGES
COMPUTER ALTERED IMAGE

STONE SPHERES
COSTA RICA---MUSEUM

    Both of these pictures were taken in a museum in Costa Rica. They show a display of seven stone spheres that seem to range in size from one that might fit in the palm of the hand to one that appears to be about a foot and a half in diameter. They were made in a wide assortment of different sizes. Their measurements vary from less than a foot to at least 8.4 feet (2.57 m) in diameter.
    The stone sphere on the left in this picture is broken in two. Many of the stones are reported to have been damaged from the effects of natural weathering, manmade fires, agricultural and other earth moving machinery and even from treasure hunters.

     Stone spheres were made in a wide assortment of different sizes. Their measurements vary from less than a foot to at least 8.4 feet (2.57 m) in diameter. The largest stone ball is located at El Silencio. They were made by skilled craftsmen using stone tools, in a similar way the giant moai on Easter Island and the colossal Olmec stone heads were made. The stone was shaped with the use of hammerstones by pecking and hammering away the surface. The process then involved grinding to varying degrees of smoothness with stone or grit and water. Most of the spheres were made from either gabbro (chemically equivalent to plutonic basalt), granodiorite (similar to granite), and limestone.


PHOTO CREDIT LITHIC CASTING LAB'S COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL IMAGES
STONE SPHERE
COSTA RICA

    This picture was taken somewhere in Costa Rica. It shows one of the larger sized stone spheres that can be as much as eight and a half feet in diameter. This one seems to be situated on a recently constructed mound of earth in a well trimmed park.

     Much has been written about the uncanny symmetry of the stones. But there is a considerable difference in their level of quality and craftsmanship. Hoopes has written that no one has made the effort, which would be considerable, to measure the stones more accurately than to the centimeter. He also mentions that Lothrop's measurements, that are calculated in meters to four decimal points, are mathematically calculated estimates and not direct measurements, which may be confusing some authors. Stone spheres that measure between two and three feet can be as much as two inches out of round. Many of the stones are also damaged from natural and manmade fires and from agricultural and other earth moving machinery.


PHOTO CREDIT LITHIC CASTING LAB'S COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL IMAGES
STONE SPHERE
COSTA RICA

    This picture was taken somewhere in Costa Rica. It shows a fairly large size stone ball and three or four more in the back ground. The stones seem to be part of the a courtyard decoration.

    The original meaning of the stone spheres has been lost in time. But images of circles and representations of spheres have been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years to represent important cultural ideas. One basic concept is that the image of a circle can represent a sphere and a sphere can represent many two dimensional planes of a circle. Both circle and sphere have their sacred center. These round images sometimes connect with cosmological and ancestral ideas rather than representing the earth as a globe.  For example, they can be seen on old coins in areas where a spherical earth was unknown. Spherical concepts often represent the earth as the center, around which all celestial bodies rotate. Another perspective is related in a Lakota Indian story. It describes the delivery of the sacred pipe by the wakan holy woman. She takes from the bundle a pipe but also a small round stone that she says represents the earth, grandmother and mother. In Black Elk's account of the sacred pipe, he says, " This round rock, which is made of the same red stone as the bowl of the pipe, your Father Wakan-Tanka (the Great Spirit) has also given to you. It is the Earth, your Grandmother and Mother, and is where you will live and increase."


PHOTO CREDIT LITHIC CASTING LAB'S COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL IMAGES
NATURAL BOULDERS
COSTA RICA

    This picture was taken in Costa Rica from a train's passenger car. The scene shows large boulders along the bank of a river far below.

     The spheres of Costa Rica are simple in form and their eloquent shape is impressive to look at. The considerable effort it took to make them suggests they were meant to convey an important cultural idea. Probably in the form of a mythic story. They may be symbols of the cosmic universe and the sacred center or even representations of ancestral lineage. But it's likely that their true meaning may never be known and authors will still be writing about their strange and baffling qualities for many years to come.

"REFERENCES"

1943, Stone, Doris, "A Preliminary Investigation Of The Flood Plain Of The Rio Grande De Terraba, Costa Rica" American Antiquity, A Quarterly Review Of American Archaeology, Vol. 9, No.1.
1989, Black Elk & editor Brown, Joseph Epes, "The Sacred Pipe."
1992, Drolet, Robert P., "The House And The Territory: The Organizational Structure For Chiefdom Art In The Diquis Subregion Of Greater Chiriqui," Wealth And Hierarchy In The Intermediate Area, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 10th and 11th October 1987
1996, Hoopes, John W, "Settlement, Subsistence, And The Origins Of Social Complexity In Greater Chiriqui, A Reappraisal Of The Aguas Buenas Tradition," Paths To Central American Prehistory.
2003, Fernandez, Patricia and Quintanilla, Ifigenia, "Metallurgy, Balls, And Stone Statuary In The Diquis Delta, Costa Rica: Local Production Of Power Symbols," Gold And Power In Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, And Columbia, A Symposium At Dumbarton Oaks 9 and 10 October 1999.
2004, Jeffrey Quilter, "Cobble Circles And Standing Stones, Archaeology At The Rivas Site, Costa Rica."
2012, Burley, Paul D., "The Sacred Sphere, Exploring Sacred Concepts And Cosmic Consciousness Through Universal Symbolism."

RECENT LISTINGS    HOME    ORDERING