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Costa Rica’s national archaeological heritage is comprised of movable and immovable property in public domain. Their protection and conservation lies with the National Museum of Costa Rica, as State institution accountable in that area.

This heritage is protected by laws approved by the Legislative Assembly at national and international level, as well as by the Executive Power’s decrees.

In the international context there is acknowledgement of the designation made for the archaeological sites of late chiefdoms with stone spheres in the Diquis Delta. To that end the nomination application file was prepared, and submitted to UNESCO’s consideration, for its declaration as Heritage of Humanity. The declaration is assigned when a series of conditions and obligations are complied with by the requesting State.

 Actions related to protection and conservation are necessary to guarantee the integrity and permanence of such sites.

Heritage of Chiefdom sites with stone spheres 

The tropical rainforest propitiated the development of a type of architecture whose construction system stands out for using stone and earth to shape and modify the space where diverse activities took place in the pre-Columbian era.

This type of architecture is called “stone and earth” or “dry stone” and was widely used on the archaeological sites located in the Atlantic watershed and Costa Rica’s southern region.

The special feature of chiefdom sites with stone spheres is they are composed of earth mound-shaped structures surrounded by rows of river stones, or else with semi-flat stones (limestone) as in masonry, work areas (landfill) and funerary areas.

Another special feature is the presence of aligned spheres in public spaces and on one of the large mounds access ramp’s entrance, such as Finca 6 site.

The largest sphere that has been located is found in the site called El Silencio; this was elaborated in stone (gabbro or granodiorite), with a diameter of 2.66 meters and is associated to a cobbled floor with river stones or boulders.

The other two sites, Batambal and Grijalba-2, are characterized by having the mounds and work areas at surface level, as opposed to the other two sites whose structures are buried, product of many years of sedimentation.


Sites declared World Heritage



The prevention actions and implementation of the corrective measures to offer heritage a greater and better protection increased in January of 1982, with the promulgation of the Act No. 6703, called “National archaeological heritage law”.

Starting in 1982, and after the resolution of motions of unconstitutionality and writ of habeas corpus that law was subject to since 1990, the creation and strengthening of controls has been propitiated more intensively and systematically, as well as training and coordination among the public institutions, to attend the diverse aspects related to movable and immovable archaeological property.

Among the measures taken related to archaeological heritage are:

  • Training of judicial officers, security at airport and Prosecutors of the Republic.
  • Handling the reports for destruction of archaeological sites, commerce and exports of objects
  • Follow-up and collaboration with the judicial authorities during trials
  • Record, listing, and storage of the assets
  • Remodeling of a building housing the Departments of Anthropology and History and Protection of Cultural Heritage of the National Museum since March of 2007 that count with adequate space for the conservation and protection of such heritage.

The experience in the application of the regulations has been successful, despite the deficiencies of the legislation regulating the archaeological heritage and the lack of a framework law protecting the totality of the cultural heritage, especially movable goods from the period after the contact with Hispanic culture, whose possession and commerce are not regulated.






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