Big Balls

topic posted Thu, February 17, 2005 - 5:13 AM by  Hoopes
Some of you may be familiar with a little website I created to dispell some of the myths about the giant balls of Costa Rica:

Parts of it were later reprinted here:

There is also another website by Edwin Quesada:

Unfortunately, even the supposed "experts" get it wrong sometimes:

These objects also suffer the indignity of being identified as "lawn ornaments":

The Landmarks Foundation, in cooperation with the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, is working to help preserve these objects:

Francisco Corrales (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) and Ifigenia Quintanilla (Universidad de Barcelona) recently presented some of the latest scholarship on these balls to an audience in Spain. I hope they'll update us on some of their conclusions and the latest on what's happening with the preservation of these objects.
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  • Re: Big Balls

    Mon, February 28, 2005 - 1:18 PM
    John Hoopes recommended to me the book _The Elder Brothers: A Lost South American People and Their Message about the Fate of the Earth_ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), about the Kogi of Colombia, a Chibchan speaking group. Their ancestors, the Tairona, did not make stone spheres like the Diquis Delta Chibchan speakers, but there is a passage in the book on page 189 that might speak to the "Big Balls of Diquis":

    "The physical layout of the town [of Aluako] also constitutes a spiritual geography. The ancient path through the town, which joins the two parts of the river, is also a path in *aluna* [the spirit world], a route into the spirit world for those who know how to work in *aluna*. There are patterns of large stones at the edge of the town; one such area marks out a centre of fertility, with an open circle of stones as a womb, and a single large stone sphere as a testicle. There are also groups of small standing stones among the houses, presences which protect and nurture the people."

    I would like to know others' thoughts on the layout of the Diquis spheres as in such a shape. With the Chibchan (and probably pan-American) idea of complementarity/duality (known in Quechua as hanan/hurin or kariwarmi), perhaps the round stone balls do relate to testicles. Males are usually associated with the sun and warmth, and the balls are round like the sun and absorb heat throughout the day and retain it (like a brick oven) into the night. The balls are also associated shapewise (3d to more 2d) with the round gold disks worn by (presumably) male chiefs and usekares and awas (?). But because of the necessary balance of male and female, earth and sun, etc. the balls can be placed in a womb shape? And the round shape of the stone balls can be associated also with the spherical earth, considered female? and with rocks, thought to be female-connected gifts of of the earth and particularly of volcanic mountains (i.e., as boulders in the rivers)? Recall too that the gold disks shows mountains/breasts in 3d, bringing these two forces of male and female together....

    Please let me know your thoughts on these ideas of Diquis art and particularly the big balls.
    • Re: Big Balls

      Mon, February 28, 2005 - 8:39 PM
      Unfortunately, the layouts of the spheres are still poorly understood because so few have been found in situ. I suspect we won't have good information on this until it is possible to find some in place, perhaps through a geophysical survey of the Diquis Delta where the balls are found.

      My first thoughts about balls and fertility runs to thoughts of eggs. Many insects and spiders lay eggs that have the shapes of balls. This is also true of the green sea turtles that are found in coastal regions of Costa Rica.

      Kogi cosmology includes many references to male fertility, including the use of semen-saturated threads that are wound onto spindles (but not, to my knowledge, into balls).

      I have also thought about the possible association with gold disks. Examples from the Sinu region of northern Colombia, especially, are embossed with large, round shapes that recall arrangments of balls. When they're in pairs they look like breasts, but they are also found in arrangments of four or six.

      Other balls that are found in archaeological contexts are the small clay balls that were used within hollow rattle supports. In her book "Ancient Panama," Mary Helms refers to the concept of "purba," a hidden but essential essence. I've long wondered whether the ball within a rattle woudn't be an example of its "purba," since the rattle wouldn't function without it. The "ball" within a testicle might have the same quality, as would perhaps the fetus within a pregnant woman's womb (which can also feel like an internal ball).

      I doubt that the ancient Chibchan people knew that the earth was a sphere, but I wouldn't put it past them to have known that the Moon was one. The effects of light and shadow on a stone sphere would have duplicated the phases of the moon, which itself has close associations with female fertility.

      I wish I could find a photograph of the "large stone sphere" that Ereira mentions in Aluako, since it sounds a lot like the Diquis examples. It's hard to imagine that Reichel-Dolmatoff wouldn't have taken a picture of it. Does anyone know if one has been published?
  • Re: Big Balls

    Tue, March 1, 2005 - 6:25 PM
    Yikes! I've just learned that there will be an episode of "Investigating History," an otherwise reputable weekly series on the History Channel by Emmy-nominated producer Sharon Barrett, that focuses on the work of "anthropologist and author" George Erikson. This is the same writer who, together with Costa Rican architect Ivar Zapp, is the co-author of "Atlantis in America: Navigators of the Ancient World."

    I'm a bit aghast that this mainstream series will be featuring what is undoubtedly more egregious pseudoscience. Erikson presumably will be presenting "compelling evidence" of the existence of Atlantis based upon his "research" on the Yucatan Peninsula. A veritable latter-day Augustus LePlongeon!

    The show is scheduled to air on March 7 at 11 pm ET/PT, 10 pm CT, 9 MT. It will undoubtedly result in more publicity for Erikson's wild theories that the stone balls of Costa Rica are evidence for the lost continent of Atlantis.
    • Re: Big Balls

      Tue, March 1, 2005 - 6:44 PM
      By the way, the website for the "Investigating History" series is:
      • Re: Big Balls

        Thu, March 3, 2005 - 2:07 PM
        Regarding this show in History Channel next Monday here is what Erickson has placed in his website:

        I agree with Hoopes: why he keeps portraying himself as an Anthropologist????
        • Re: Big Balls

          Thu, March 3, 2005 - 6:49 PM
          It is somewhat bizarre that neither the reporter who wrote this story nor the producer of the "Investigating History" documentary seems to have been concerned with George Erikson's credentials. To my knowledge, he has no graduate degrees in anthropology and has never been employed as an anthropologist. If I recall correctly, he is a retired school teacher who now works mostly as a tour guide catering to New Age audiences.

          He claims to have made some "new" discoveries about Maya sites in the Yucatan, but his theories about Atlantis sound a lot like the late 19th century publications of the eccentric explorer Augustus Le Plongeon, who wrote "Vestiges of the Mayas, or, Facts tending to prove that communications and intimate relations must have existed, in very remote times, between the inhabitants of Mayab and those of Asia and Africa" (1881) and "Sacred mysteries among the Mayas and the Quiches, 11,500 years ago : their relation to the sacred mysteries of Egypt, Greece, Chaldea and India: (1886). He also seems to be cribbing from the work of Jose Arguelles, author of "The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology" (1987) and John Major Jenkins, author of "Maya cosmogenesis 2012 : the true meaning of the Maya calendar end-date" (1998). At least he's consistent in not acknowledging his sources, whether they're scholars such as Lothrop or other crackpot pseudoscientists! (It will be interesting to see those guys duke it out in competition over $$$ from the terminally gullible.)
        • Re: Big Balls

          Mon, March 7, 2005 - 9:21 PM
          Well, I just finished watching the "Lost Atlantis" episode featuring George Erikson. The only thing that I find more offensive than the repeated description of Erikson as an "anthropologist" (he is a retired high school teacher turned New Age tour guide) is his own perpetuation of the racist notion that Maya achievements are the actual work of some bearded race that was different from--and superior to--the indigenous people of the Americas.

          The program made no reference to the Costa Rican balls other than to show the cover of Erikson's "Atlantis in America" book and mention that it was co-authored by "Costa Rican professor" Ivar Zapp (a professor of architecture, not archaeology). Erikson presented nothing new at all, instead choosing to emphasize long-rejected "evidence" such as supposed representations in Maya art of elephants and men with beards. He claims Atlantis was located in the Caribbean and supposes that this ancient civilization was destroyed by a meteor impact about 11,500 years ago.

          Erikson was featured along with a couple who have been trying to document "structures" such as the Bimini beach rock in the Bahamas, long known to be a natural geological formation. The usual pseudoscientific nonsense.

          Given what it takes to become a real anthropologist, I find Erikson's fraudulent identity to be a tremendous insult to students and others who have taken the trouble to pursue higher education in this field.
          • Re: Big Balls

            Thu, March 10, 2005 - 6:06 AM
            Pienso que John deberia producir un documental de television acerca de la arqueologia del area Chibcha. Esto ayudaria a educar al publico estadounidense que desconoce completamente acerca de la riqueza arqueologica de esta region y despejaria de una vez por todas las fantasias que alguna gente fabrica acerca de nuestro pasado.
            John es un arqueologo reconocido y no dudo que no tendria dificultad para encontrar respaldo/fondos para esta empresa. Tambien hay que considerar que hay material de sobra y ademas muy interesante.
            Ya es hora de que los profesionales nos informen con la verdad!
            • Re: Big Balls

              Wed, June 8, 2005 - 9:32 PM
              Pienso que John hacia un film de los Chibchas y las bolas es una buena idea, pero he visto ahorita el fin de un documental, "Debunked! Secrets of the Stone Spheres" en el canal Discovery con Alexei Vranich and Paul Harmon. Sembra que esta bien para los menos "el misterio" de las bolas, pero necesito ver en todo. Estara en aire tambien domingo 12 junio a la 1 en la tarde ET.

  • Re: Big Balls

    Fri, March 4, 2005 - 11:21 AM
    es muy interesante observar las distintas direcciones electrónicas en las cuales se trata de las esferas de Costa Rica, es increíble el poder observarlas in situ, he tenido la oportunidad de ver muchas de ellas ya que soy de Costa Rica y en giras de algunos cursos hemos podido observar muchas esferas y acompañar a Francisco Corrales e Ifigenia Quintanilla en algunas de sus giras y comentar acerca de varias teorías referentes a los usos y creaciones de las esferas.
    no obstante hace unos días una profesora nos informó que en Cuba se han encontrado esferas de piedra pequeñas pero que sí existen, sería posible que alguien de esta “tribe” supiese algo al respecto y me aclara la duda, Gracias.
    también es lamentable la idea de algunos pobladores de que las esferas en su interior poseían oro por lo que es común en algunos lugares observar esferas destruidas con el fin de la búsqueda del oro esto en muchos lugares como
    • Re: Big Balls

      Sat, March 5, 2005 - 7:54 PM
      Nunca he escuchado acerca de las esferas de Cuba. Lo primero que tiene que averiguarse es si son de origen natural. Tal es el caso de esferas encontradas en Nueva Zelanda, México, la Republica Checa y en Los Angeles, California.
      Hay que ver si estas esferas en Cuba estan asociadas con otros restos arqueologicos.
  • Re: Big Balls

    Wed, April 13, 2005 - 6:32 PM
    I just found out there is a new website about the stone balls:

    The site has no scientific references or any respect for publishing rights. There is a section for Souvenirs that makes me think that the whole purpose of this website is to make some profit out of the stone balls. Please check it out.
  • Re: Big Balls

    Fri, July 1, 2005 - 12:27 PM
    A new book on the stone balls of Costa Rica has just come to my attention:

    Thiemer-Sachse, Ursula (2005) Un asunto redondo: Reflexiones sobre las sociedades autóctonas en la región del Diquís / Costa Rica y Panamá durante los últimos siglos antes de la conquista española y la importancia de las famosas bolas de piedra. Berliner Lateinamerika-Forschungen 16. Frankfurt: Vervuert Verlag & Madrid: Iberoamericana.

    I have not yet had an opportunity to read it, but it looks quite thorough. (The book is dedicated to Wolfgang Haberland.)

    I'll be inviting the author to join our group.

    The book can be purchased online at the following URLs:
    • Re: Big Balls

      Mon, October 30, 2006 - 9:49 AM
      The most recent publication on the balls is an attractive, informative pamphlet published by the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica with support from UNESCO:

      "El paisaje cultural Delta del Diquís" by Francisco Corrales U. and Adrián Badilla C. (2005).

      Although it is just 12 pages long (including a one page bibliography), it provides current information and photographs of El Silencio. Batambal, Grijalba, and Finca 6, sites with stone balls in situ that are being considered for World Heritage designation by UNESCO. This includes sites with impressive alignments of balls, including one pair at Finca 6 that appear to align with the vernal equinox sunrise.
  • Re: Big Balls

    Sun, March 16, 2008 - 8:10 AM
    A beautiful new bilingual and copiously illustrated book on the stone balls of Costa Rica was published in Costa Rica in early January:

    Quintanilla Jiménez, María Ifigenia
    2007 Esferas precolombinas de Costa Rica/Pre-Columbian Spheres of Costa Rica. San José: Funcación Museos de Banco Central.
    ISBN 978-9968-530-00-2

    The book is currently available in the bookstore of the Museo del Oro in San José. I do not think it is being sold online, but it may be possible to place an order through the foundation that published it:

    Fundación Museos Banco Central de Costa Rica
    Apartado 12388-1000
    San José, Costa Rica
    (+506) 243-4202
    (+506) 243-4220 fax

    The price is 20,000 colones (about US$40).

    This book is currently the defnititive source on the context, technology, geology, and archaeology of these enigmatic objects, written by the world's leading expert on the balls. Ifigenia Quintanilla has been working on the archaeology of southern Costa Rica since the early 1980s, with a specific concentration on the contexts of the stone balls since about 1990. Her book presents almost two decades of careful research based on a comprehensive study of the stone balls and their cultural contexts. It is a lavish publication, with full color illustrations and photographs in a large-format, "coffee-table"-style presentation in an attractive slipcover.
  • Re: Big Balls

    Sun, March 16, 2008 - 8:30 AM
    Jeff Frost notes that the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine features a photograph of designer Calvin Klein's home in Miami Beach, which shows a stone ball in a courtyard. Klein apparently owns at least two of these: One in Miami and one in Southampton. (However, it's not clear whether these are originals or copies.)

    Jeff and I have compared notes on stone balls in the States. We know of four others: One next to the Peabody Museum on the campus of Harvard University, one in New Orleans (at Tulane?), one in front of the Costa Rican embassy in Washington, D.C. and two in the International Sculpture Garden at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. The ones at Harvard and Tulane (?) were brought to the U.S. by Doris Stone, while the ones in Washington and Philadelphia were sent by the Costa Rican government.

    Here's a link to the website of the International Sculpture Garden, which features a photo of one ball:

    It would be good to have additional information about other balls in private or public collections around the world. I was told last year that a copy of a ball made from local materials had been commissioned from an artisan in Palmar Sur by a museum in Jerusalem. Additional information would be greatly appreciated!
  • Re: Big Balls

    Mon, March 31, 2008 - 10:29 AM
    Independent researcher Robert Evans has made available a wonderful collection of hundreds of images of Costa Rica's stone spheres on his website:

    I should also mention there is a relevant Wikipedia entry:
    • Re: Big Balls

      Wed, September 3, 2008 - 5:37 PM
      Mark Bonta, who work at Delta State University, send me some interesting photos from Dos Quebradas, in Central Olancho, Honduras. Dos Quebradas is a big mounded site, that was visited by William Duncan Strong on 1930'. The site have a little acropolis, circa 10 meters tall, and many other tall mounds. On the main plaza, there are four fallen slabs. The site was discovered again by Bonta some years ago, and when he visited it, he notices that the owners of the plot founded some little precolumbian stone balls, not as big as the Costa Rican ones. If you want, I can write to Bonta to get his permission to sent you a photo of the stone balls from Dos Quebradas.

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