Peter (friend, guide, Sierpe guru) had told us that there were several of these large spheres that were found here in Sierpe in the early 1900’s – one of two places in the whole world. Well, this sounded very interesting. How did they get here? People from a long long time ago? Space aliens from a galaxy far far away? Well, the answers were actually not too far away – we soon found out that they have a museum in Finca (farm) 6 – which is where the most recent spheres were found.
So on our last day in Sierpe, on our way out of town, we stopped by the Archaeological Site Villa 6 Museum. Greg and I got in for $2 each with our residency/folio number paperwork (thanks to Peter vouching for us “Guys – these are my neighbors, they’re good people, trust me!”); otherwise cost would have been $12 per person.
The museum is new and modern (opened in December, 2011), and has oodles of information in both Spanish and English. We all did a lot of reading, and took a few pictures of non-sphere sculptures that were displayed inside.
We learned about the lifestyles of ancient people of Costa Rica who lived in the Diquis Delta, and who were descendants from the Maya people who came south from the upper regions of Mesoamerica. The spheres are believed to have been carved between 200 BC and 1500 AD, and there is some evidence that the spheres were for astronomical reasons, but this is not conclusive. So really, it is still a mystery.
In the early 1930’s, this area was dominated by banana plantations, mainly the Banana Company of Costa Rica (a subsidiary of United Fruit). In fact you can still see evidence in Finca 6 of the old banana hook & pulley system (looks like an miniature ski lift without the chairs):
At the end of the 1930’s, the banana plantations started leaving (cheaper labor was to be found in other countries), and these sites were cultivated leading to the discovery of pre-Columbian settlements, among which were the stone spheres.
The first actual documentation of the spheres was in 1940 by Doris Stone and then in 1948 by Samuel Lothrop in Fincas 4 and 5. This was great – because they documented the groupings and alignments of the sculptures and spheres in their original state. Later, unfortunately, they were altered and moved by agricultural activities and illegal excavations. Finca 6 was later discovered, and most of the spheres found there were in their originals locations.
Some of the groups of spheres were arranged in lines or triangles. Which of course leads to the question – WHY were they aligned? It is proposed that the spheres could represent constellations, or certain sunrises and sunsets in specific moments of the year. But no one really knows for sure.
It is also thought that the spheres were used as ranking symbols – for social and political status. The larger and more perfect the sphere, the greater the prestige of the village and its people.
That’s all for now folks!
Ciao! — Jen