Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

(Author’s note: some links, mainly Professor Hoopes’ are broken. Sad, I know, but you can go to the Wayback http://archive.org/web/web.php and plug in any of the links to his site there and see them quite nicely.)

 

“You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”

- Peter Venkman, “Ghostbusters”

In “Ghostbusters,” Ray sees a stack of books and is excited because he thinks he has found proof of paranormal activity. To him, it’s obvious that a ghost stacked the books. Peter, wisely, awaits further evidence before jumping to the same conclusion. Probably because finding something unusual doesn’t always mean that it requires an unusual origin.

Like in the real world, sometimes strange things can have a good explanation. Or at least don’t necessitate a weird one, regardless of how mind boggling it seems at first.

220px-Stone_sphereThe stone spheres of Costa Rica are one such item. They are unusual in their own way and serve no obvious purpose. The stones are made of lava stone, and many have been found, moved, or destroyed. There are many of them, and they required obvious skill to manufacture.

So because they are ancient and out of the ordinary, with no obvious purpose, the usual rogue’s gallery of relic manufacturers compete for the credit of making them. Various “researchers” have claimed that the spheres were made by:  aliens, Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, the Olmecs, or some other ancient highly technological society.

The alien/ET theory seems to have originated with Erich von Daniken. Though Jason Colavito has thoroughly picked apart many of von Daniken’s theories here and here, thus casting all of von Daniken’s credibility into doubt, it is worth mentioning his theory of alien origin for the spheres. This was rumored to have been divulged in “Chariots of the gods” some time in the 70’s, and it’s not really clear if anyone still believes that today.

David Hatcher Childress, who is usually an ancient high technology proponent, claimed in a video available on UFOTV that the spheres were made with power tools, and were only possible through this means. In this video, he seems to lean most heavily towards the Atlantean viewpoint to explain the origin of the spheres.

Here are a few of Childress’ claims, paraphrased as close to the exact quote as I could get:

  • How were they made? The ancients had some kind of power tools and engineering capabilities, much like what we have today. In fact, the machining of these perfectly spherical stone balls is something that is so difficult it could only be done with power tools.”
  • “No idea for the purpose of the balls or even how they were constructed.

The mystery of their construction, is something he brings up multiple times, because if he can sell the fact that high technology is the only way, one has to then buy into the subsequent parts of his theories, namely that the indigenous people could not possibly have done it, therefore, Atlantis.

  • The stone balls found in the tombs were put there by people who found them and didn’t know what they were for.
  • They were washed up by some tidal wave that hit the southwest coast. And the balls were deposited in mountain jungles…
  • The indigenous people of Costa Rica didn’t actually build or machine these, they found them in the jungle and attributed them to the gods.
  • Who made the balls? We haven’t figured it out. The people who built other megaliths. Maybe the Olmecs, who had machine tools. They were part of an elaborate map system for transoceanic society, but that doesn’t explain the really large balls.

He further claims in his speculation on Atlantis (a topic for another day), that Atlantis was a global, maritime civilization and that they had a presence on all the continents. He also claims that one of the mysteries of Atlantis is these giant stone balls and other giant balls in the world are often associated with Atlantis, presumably because they were found on many continents, and because other civilizations made stone balls, they must have been from the same civilization.

Because it certainly isn’t logical to assume that other indigenous peoples could conceive of spherical shapes, they certainly never would have seen the sun or the moon or rolled clay around in their hands…

As you can see there are a number of claims, pretty much all of which have been explained by a real scholar, anthropologist Professor John Hoopes. Hoopes has not only examined the Costa Rican giant stone balls, he has a Website explaining them and the errors in many of the claims. He also wants to preserve them as an UNESCO site to protect them.

First, not a single power tool was needed in the creation of the balls. There certainly is no evidence that the Olmecs were even involved with these spheres. There’s also no evidence that they, or any other ancient civilization possessed power tools of any sort. The “Ancient Aliens Debunked” movie (on the main page of this site) does an excellent job of giving good explanations as to how things were done without power tools. Since there is no proof of ancient power tools, some other method of making them must have been used. In direct opposition to Childress’ theory of power tools, Hoopes explains (emphasis added):

“We think the main technique that was used was pecking and grinding and hammering with stones,” said Hoopes. “There are some spheres that have been found that still have the marks of the blows on them from hammer stones. We think that that’s how they were formed, by hammering on big rocks and sculpting them into a spherical shape.”

Further information on construction can be found at his Website.

With how they were made out of the way, it becomes easy to see that anyone could have made them. Since anyone could have done it, Atlanteans, aliens or other fantastic beings/tools don’t even have to enter the picture, because plain old indigenous people, could very well have done it. Logically then, the balls were made by the Indians native to the area, not found by them and used later. Hoopes speculates that relatives of nearby tribes were the makers of the stone balls.

“The balls were most likely made by the ancestors of native peoples who lived in the region at the time of the Spanish conquest.  These people spoke Chibchan languages, related to those of indigenous peoples from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia.  Their modern descendants include the Boruca, Téribe, and Guaymí.”

Another claim that Hoopes refutes is Childress’ claims that the spheres are “perfect,” a claim shared with other Atlantis theorists. Professor Hoopes reveals that many of the spheres were never properly measured, and the ones that have been measured were not perfect, exceeding the “2mm” variation cited as proof of perfection.

Now that it’s plain that the balls weren’t made with power tools, weren’t made by Atlanti-aliens, and aren’t “perfect,” it’s also a good time to note that they aren’t even as old as Ancient Atlanti-alien theorists cite. The dating of the balls, according to Childress, falls into 10,000 BC range. Other Atlantis proponents go back a couple more millennia, but none of them reveal where they got this number from, nor do they explain how they got around the problems most scholars face in dating the balls. One of the biggest difficulties in dating the balls would be that many of them have been moved from their original location, and thus contain no nearby artifacts that can be carbon dated. Even so, a few of the stones have been dated, and they aren’t as old as you would think.

“In the soil immediately beneath this ball he found the broken head of a painted human figurine of the Buenos Aires Polychrome type, dated to AD 1000-1500 (examples have reportedly been found associated with iron tools).  This suggests the ball was made sometime between AD 600 and 1500.”

There’s little point in looking at this last claim, as it’s more incidental. That is Childress’ claim that the balls were washed up in a huge tidal wave. Hoopes doesn’t address it, but there is no evidence to support such a claim. Even so, a little logic goes a long way.

First, many of the stones are heavy. A tidal wave depositing them in the mountain jungle would take a lot of energy, not to mention probably a much higher sea level than we have today. Even taking into account the possibility of a global flood, what force would be stirring these balls and depositing them all over the globe and especially in the high mountains the Childress claims? Second, why and how would a wave deposit them in more than spot around the world? Third, if the presence of stone balls around the world is evidence of a global civilization (because they appear on multiple continents) why would a wave be needed in the first place? Why not just say the ancients placed them everywhere, if they made them originally? I would speculate that they could be used as evidence for one or the other, but attributing them to an advanced global civilization and a tidal wave is just unnecessary. Pick one or the other. In any case, there does not seem to be any evidence that this happened, and until there is, there’s little point to debunk it. Especially given that the local Indians have been made the chief suspect in their construction.

Looking back, the claims that Childress and others make citing the Costa Rican stone balls as proof of aliens, Atlanteans, or other ancient high technology are all easily debunked. John Hoopes, an actual anthropologist has examined them and seeks to have them recognized as a UNESCO site, and his examination demonstrates that they have rather mundane origins. If they were proof of ancient high technology, he’d probably be the loudest voice supporting the theory if only to have a reason to preserve them and receive more grant money. His scholarly-ness and refutation of the high technology angle speaks volumes on its own.

 

Further reading:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322143217.htm

http://naturalhistorymag.com/picks-from-the-past/191353/prehistoric-stone-balls-a-mystery

http://web.ku.edu/~hoopes/balls/

http://web.ku.edu/~hoopes/balls/intro.htm

http://web.ku.edu/~hoopes/balls/errors.htm

web.ku.edu/~hoopes/balls/faq.htm


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