Imagen de Perfil

Create an account


What is a World Heritage Site?

A World Heritage Site is a cultural or natural place that is considered to have exceptional universal value and is declared that it should be protected and conserved to maintain this value over time. Its importance transcends borders and is crucial to the understanding of the history of humanity. There is a shared responsibility to enjoy them, care for them and respect them.

The source of the international endeavors began in the 1950s and 1960s with the efforts to save the monuments of Nubia, in Egypt, that were being flooded by the Asuán Dam. This led to most of the countries and their leaders to become aware of the conservation of cultural sites of outstanding importance.

The conservation movements of cultural sites and the conservation of nature converged in the text of the “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” approved by the UNESCO General Conference on November 16, 1972, in Paris. From that moment, 191 countries have ratified the convention.

The World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 representatives of states part of the convention, revise the nominations for registration on the List of World Heritage sites every year. The list is based on criteria of exceptional universal value and investigation, conservation and management requirements..

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) is the advisory body that evaluates the nominated cultural sites. UICN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) evaluates natural sites. The sites can be registered on the List of World Heritage in Danger if they are threatened and lose their status if the outstanding universal value is lost.

The declaration also promotes heritage to be seen as a resource and not as an obstacle to the development of countries. The countries acquire international prestige and promotion, but they also gain the responsibility to watch over the integrity of the sites.

With the sites registered in 2014, the list includes 1007 sites in 161 countries, 779 cultural, 197 natural and 31 mixed.

Declaration of Outstanding Universal Value

The outstanding universal value is based on established criteria by the World Heritage Committee, six for cultural sites and four for natural sites. These criteria establish the relevance of the places to the present and future generations. The value also is justified with concepts of integrity, authenticity and management of the property.

The four archeological sites included in the nomination: Finca 6, Batambal, El Silencio and Grijabla-2 are found in the Diquís Delta and the foothills of the Cordillera Costeña in the south of Costa Rica. The plain is crossed by the Térraba and Sierpe Rivers, which form an extensive mangrove zone before draining into various mouths in the Pacific Ocean.

The sites are associated with chiefdom or ranked societies that between A.D. 300 and 1500 built villages with structures that include artificial mounds, cobblestone and places of burial, as well as stone spheres.

The distinctive stone spheres are rare in their perfection and variety of sizes (from 2.57m in diameter), but also distinctive in their number and original location within residential areas.





Registration Criteria 


The “Pre-Columbian chiefdom settlements with stone spheres of the Diquís” was registered on the List of World Heritage Sites based on Criteria III, “to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared”

The sites with stone spheres of the Diquís were nominated to represent the physical evidence of the complex political, social, and productive structures of the ancient societies that inhabited the tropical forests of southern Central America. These Pre-Columbian chiefdoms created hierarchical settlements that express the division of the different levels of the centers of power, presented by different components of the series.

Similarly, the stone spheres, which are still under investigation on the method and tools of production, represent an exceptional testimony to the artistic traditions and craft skills of these societies.


The integrity in the case of cultural sites refers to, “…the physical fabric of the property and/or its significant features should be in good condition, and the impact of deterioration processes controlled. A significant proportion of the elements necessary to convey the totality of the value conveyed by the property should be included.…” (WHC 2008).

The sites of the spheres show different grades of negative impact of agricultural development and looting. However, the evidence that remained preserved is sufficient to express the different significant aspects of its outstanding universal value.

The excavations have shown that in the delta plain, many structures and archaeological contexts are well preserved underneath thick layers of sediment that has been deposited by flooding for the past 500 years. For their part, the sites located in the foothills survived vandalism and agricultural work. In each site the necessary elements are conserved to transmit all of the archaeological value.

Also, the four sites registered contributed specific elements that allow for understanding of the chiefdoms and their environment. Finca 6 is the only site that conserved stone spheres arranged in lines, Batambal stands out because of its strategic position and visibility of the landscape.  El Silencio contains the biggest stone sphere that has been found, and Grijalba-2 is unique for its use of limestone and its distinct characteristics as a subordinated center, in comparison with Finca 6, which was probably a principal center.


The authenticity implies that “the value attributed to the heritage depends on the degree to which information sources about this value may be understood as credible or truthful.”  It is necessary “to understand information, in relation to original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage, and their meaning…” (WHC 2008).

The authenticity of the Pre-Colombian settlements with stone spheres is based on the proven results of the archaeological investigation. The excavations and other studies have permitted documentation of the contexts and stratigraphic positions of the structures and materials, thus establishing credible hypothesis about the chiefdom societies in southern Central America.

The physical and written resources allow knowledge of the significance and history of these settlements, which because the nature of remains constitute an authentic testimony of the ancient history.

Equally, the use of materials and substances such as gold, ceramics, stone and bone in tombs and dwellings corresponds to a period before the introduction of other materials by the Europeans in the 16th century. Their form and design have only been recorded during the Pre-Colombian era; the variations in style are associated with various periods of occupation.

Furthermore, the radiocarbon dates available permit the determination of a chronological framework drawn from the materials and structures that established an age before or during the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

Protection and Management

The protection and management of the properties declared World Heritage should guarantee that the outstanding universal value and the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity in the moment of registration on the list are maintained or improved in the future. For this, there must be mechanisms of protections, conservation and management to ensure their long-term preservation.

Costa Rican law grants the State exclusive authority over the archeological sites of the state. The four sites are protected under the law No.6703 on the National Archeological Heritage, the best legal protection established. Additionally, their candidacy was declared of public interest through the Presidential Decree 36825-C.

Similarly, to ensure the juridical protection of the buffer zones as well, their integration in the new Regulatory Plan for the Osa canton was proposed.

The management of the four sites is supervised and coordinated by the National Museum of Costa Rica. The management assumes research, conservation, attention to the visitors and the relations with the surrounding communities.

The management involves also impact assessments of various (natural, development projects, etc.) factors that may affect the validity of the outstanding universal value of the sites.




MUSEO NACIONAL DE COSTA RICA ®     2024 Todos los derechos reservados