Located in the Southern Pacific area of Costa Rica, The Diquis Delta is an expansive sedimentary plain which is created by the Terraba and Sierpe rivers. This region is very hot and humid most of the year, but also has a long rainy season. The day we visited with our friends Jose and Natalie it was a stifling 100 degrees outside, with no trace of a breeze.
This region is rich in history, culture, and archeology, as it was inhabited by numerous pre-Columbian societies for thousands of years. The indigenous communities of the Delta developed significantly between 800 A.D. and the arrival of the Spanish, changing from tribal societies based on family lineage to organizations led by a head chief. Nourished by the availability of fertile land for cultivation, and the management of surpluses, these societies developed quickly. Strengthened by power, these indigenous people were able to construct significant, symbolic infrastructures, such as the unique stone spheres that Finca 6 is famous for.
Surrounded by coastline, mangroves, and the Osa and Coastal Mountain Ranges, this special section of land contains diverse natural ecosystems, a unique geography and extremely fertile soil. Many species of flora and fauna flourish in this region, as recent studies have documented at least 1835 species of plants, fungi, birds, mammals, and butterflies in the area.
The rich and diverse nature that exists in this region provided the indigenous people with what was needed to survive, but also served as a source of inspiration for their beliefs. To this day the plants and animals constitute an indispensable element in the spiritual and physical life of the indigenous people, as food, raw material, and medicine.
These Diquis archeological sites are highlighted by the presence of many mysterious stone spheres. The existence of the spheres in large numbers in these villages is considered as evidence of relationships among communities who shared the symbolism and ideology of these spheres. The spheres are expressions of the power of leaders and were often clustered in open spaces near main dwellings. By their size, number, raw material and finishing, these magical spheres are considered to be extremely unique in the world.
At the end of the 1930’s extensive cultivation of banana plantations began in the Delta region, which is what led to the discovery of these pre-Columbian settlements and their unique cultural remains, specifically the previously unknown stone spheres. The spheres were first documented by archeologists in 1940, as they registered groupings and alignments of these sculptures in their original state. The National Museum began its important study, evaluation and excavation of this area in the late 1980’s.
The National Museum located at Finca 6 is very modern and was only recently completed. It costs $6 per foreigner, or $2 for a Costa Rican, which includes a 20 minute video and a tour around the museum and the grounds to view the spheres. The principal sector of Finca 6 has been property of the National Museum of Costa Rica since 2008. UNESCO, in 2014, declared this area as a World Heritage Site.
The settlement now known as Finca 6, was part of a large community established on the Delta plain. The unique stone spheres found in this area are cultural manifestations of the pre-Columbian era of Costa Rica. Used to show the hierarchy of villages and their inhabitants, the stone spheres represented wealth and rank. They were positioned in important places within the village settlements, usually forming groups or alignments as part of the main architectural structures that made up the village. Valued as exceptional archeological artifacts, these spheres were used as symbolism in public spaces to reinforce the prestige and power of a community leader and his position. The larger and more perfect the sphere, the greater the importance and prestige of the village and its inhabitants.
Finca 6 is special and unique, as it is one of the few archeological sites where these stone spheres can still be found in their original location. Architectural structures for burials and housing can be found at this site, in addition to two alignments of spheres, which to this day still remain in their original positions.
Actual construction of the stone spheres remains a bit of a mystery, although there are a range of theories. Some consider them as signs from aliens, or magnetic compasses for long-distance navigation, or remnants of a lost continent, or even protection from Gods against hurricanes. Some prefer a more logical, scientific explanation, such as they are simply historic objects manufactured by ancient indigenous populations that previously inhabited this area, using stone tools like hammer, chisels and pointers.
The sizes of the spheres vary from 2.5 meters in diameter, down to only a few centimeters. The heaviest sphere weighs around 24 tons. It is a further mystery how the indigenous people transported these massively heavy stone objects once constructed. Currently nearly 300 spheres have been discovered and recorded in this region.
Upon occasion the spheres were placed in alignment, prompting further debate and theories to emerge as to why. The alignment of the stone spheres could have been related to the movement of the sun or stars or other astronomical events, or they could have acted as some sort of basic calendar. The sphere clusters could represent constellations, or a relationship with sunrise and sunset at certain times of year. The location and alignment of the spheres could also be related to rituals or collective indigenous practices.
Amongst these indigenous communities, power and hierarchy were honored in death as well as life, with elaborate cemeteries and funeral ceremonies. Tombs often contained significant offerings of stone, gold, ceramics and in some cases even small stone spheres. The Finca 6 archeological site contains an ancient tomb and burial area. A rectangular mound with side walls made up of river stone was used for burials.
Joint efforts between the National Museum and the Osa community have preserved this lost piece of history and given the inhabitants of this region a part of their history back. Finca 6 is helping to create community awareness about the extreme importance of this heritage, and its conservation for future generations. With proper and respectful handling and research, this legacy can be an important symbol of social and economic progress in this region.
If you’re ever near the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, specifically Palmar Sur, Finca 6 is a unique and educational way to spend a few hours. Unlike the nearby countries of Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, Costa Rica is not known for its rich, ancient history. However, this site is the most archeological, historical and mysterious piece of Costa Rica, and is definitely worth a visit. I would recommend bringing cold water to drink, an umbrella for sun protection, sunscreen, and a camera. Happy learning and exploring, and pura vida!
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.