Ancient Costa Rica Part I: Lost history in the land of the crossroads


13 Responses to “Ancient Costa Rica Part I: Lost history in the land of the crossroads”

  1. John Riley says:

    Readers of this article may find some of my work interesting (I hope!) I did some work for the National Museum’s website, making object-spin movies of artifacts in their collection, which allow you to rotate the artifacts and view them from all sides. You can find those at:

    I also made a large number of panoramas for the museum’s website. You can see these on my site at:

    I have collaborated on some research work and photography at Guayabo as well. I was able to have access to portions of the site that tourists can not get to. If you would like to see some of those, look at:

    I was not really happy with the results of most of the panoramas from Guayabo. Unfortunately, the weather was not so great, usually on the verge of raining, with ugly grey skies. My permissions were only for a specific set of dates, so I got what I could 8-)

    I hope you enjoy,

    John Riley
    Assoc. Prof. of Physics
    USC Upstate
    Spartanburg, SC

    and also proprietor of
    4Pi-VR Media Solutions

    johnriley at
    jriley at
    (replace “at” with @)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Try seeing the stone balls on Canos Island at Drake’s Bay, Costa Rica. About a 20 minute walk from the beach. There are many of them lying around in the woods, and it’s an interesting problem as to how someone transported them to the island.

  3. jeligula says:

    I was wondering when you would get to the archaeological aspect of your recent trip, Maggie. I sincerely hope Dr. Snarksis has some insight into the stone spheres. They have boggled my mind ever since I first heard about them several years ago. I have always wanted to go see for myself and hit a few hot springs while I’m there.

    • Maggie Koerth-Baker says:

      Those are fascinating, aren’t they? They’re amazing pieces of work, the result of countless hours of craftsmanship and the Chibchan understanding of geometry. And it’s hard to know a whole lot about them because almost all of them are completely lacking context–either rolled away from original sites or looted as lawn ornaments. I didn’t get a chance cover much on them while I was in Costa Rica. But my college professor, John Hoopes, who has also worked in Costa Rica, has a great big old Web site dedicated to them:

    • Maggie Koerth-Baker says:

      Jeligula, Dr. Snarskis emailed me and said that he’d like to send you the PDF of an article he wrote about the Stone Balls. His email link is in the story. If you send him a message and let him know you’re the guy who was interested in the Balls from Boing Boing, he’ll get you that extra information.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There’s a great book titled Atlantis in America (Erikson & Zapp) that puts forth a very interesting theory about the stone spheres of Costa Rica. The authors have matched the stones’ patterns on the ground to star constellations and believe that they were used to teach navigation to mariners who arrived from the South Pacific and didn’t know how to get home. I know it sounds far-fetched but there are several hundred pages of evidence to consider. They also have info on their website at

    If your interested in ancient maritime cultures in the Caribbean, visit to read about some amazing research near Bimini that’s about to rewrite the history of the “new” world.

  5. kyfho23 says:

    Thanks. I never knew this (one of my greatest compliments to give).
    Off topic: Try the coffee while you’re there. Costa Rica grows some great brew, and they make it closer to American style.

  6. Larry Lo says:

    Very excellent post. Can’t wait to read the next part. I used to live in Costa Rica and went to elementary and secondary school there. I remember history classes would skim over Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian cultures so quickly that if you snoozed you’d miss it. In fact I credit them with my obsession with the Maya because I think we spent more time on Mesoamerican (even getting homework in Maya math) and Andean cultures than with native Costa Rican ones.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you, but im still living here.

      What you said about the teaching in schools is completely true.

      Hope more people can read this very interesting article.

  7. Anonymous says:

    On the Indonesian island of Bali are many amazing stone works, by far the scariest one is a gigantic stone goblet laying on it’s side where the alien mothership dropped it % ) really, though, so big it had to’ve been moved there but there is no stone material like it in the vicinity. So why carve a massive stone goblet, then move it far from the quarry, what kind of gods banquet was it going to be?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hoy 25 Enero me acabo de enterar que el Sr. Michael J. Snarskis apareció muerto en su casa de habitacón. Es una perdida para nuestro país al perder tan grande Arqueólogo y Amigo. Paz a sus restos. At. Ulises Reyes

  9. revansatoda says:

    Stone sphere video. Here’s a link to a 20 minute video about Chibchan stone spheres. English and Spanish versions. About 16 minutes each in two 8 minute parts. Or download to your PC. There are lots more amateur archaeological photos, articles and videos by clicking on the double, left pointing triangles on the top right.

  10. dculberson says:

    Awesome, thank you for the cool post. I went to a lot of museums in Peru, and it’s like you said: there are a few that have context and really informative displays. Then others are a bunch of glass cases stuffed full of pottery.

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