Stone spheres in San Jose

Archaeological Spheres of Costa Rica

The Stone Spheres, a National Mystery

Pre-Columbian granite sphere in a garden.
Garden Pre-Columbian Granite Sphere

Along our walking tour of San Jose, we will encounter some of Costa Rica’s trademark archaeological artifacts, the indigenously made stone spheres. The stone spheres of Costa Rica were discovered by modern Ticos under the fallen jungles of the Diquis Delta Valley. The first discoveries occurred while this Southern Pacific region was being prepared to make room for banana plantations back in the 1930s. Over 200 rock spheres have been found exclusively in this region ever since.

Monument to the Pope John Paul II.
Spherical monument of Pope John Paul II.

The spheres of Costa Rica may be the country’s biggest archaeological mystery. They have fascinated modern Costa Ricans to the extent that we try included them, or representations of them, in everything we design. We will see the original pre-Columbian spheres scattered throughout the city, in front of government buildings and old homes, in parks and public areas; they seem to be everywhere. The spheres are also embedded in our sculptures, stained glass windows, architecture, and other artistic expressions.

The indigenous spheres of Costa Rica come in diameters ranging between 0.4 to 2.5 meters and are made of granodiorite, gabbro, and limestone. A great majority of the stone spheres were moved from their original places by modern Costa Ricans many years ago in order to adorn gardens and lawns throughout the country. That was unfortunate.

Garden granite sphere in Costa Rica's National Museum.
A pre-Columbian sphere at the National Museum.

Today four archaeological sites in Costa Rica are dedicated to the pre-Columbian stone spheres. These sites have been declared as Cultural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Costa Rica’s National Museum is the organization responsible for preserving precious pre-Columbian rock art. Outside the entrance of the museum, a sphere has been encased in a metal sphere for the public to examine. Our walking tour will briefly visit this sphere for a closer inspection. We’ll try to make our own conclusions as to why the spheres of Costa Rica were originally crafted.

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