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Small sedentary farming communities, with tribal organization.

1500 b.C – 300 b.C.


     The Sinancrá period corresponds to the beginning of village living, with sedentary, small, and disperse farming communities; possibly with a tribal organization level, egalitarian relations between individuals, and organized by kinship.      For this period there is evidence of ceramic utensils and stone tools aimed at agricultural work and food processing.

     The archaeological sites associated to this period are Curré, in the Térraba River valley and Ni Kira in the valley of Coto Colorado. For the zone of the Diquís Delta some sites in the mouth of the rivers Sierpe and Térraba, including Isla del Caño are accounted for.

Transition from the tribal to the chiefdom organization.

300 b.C. – 800 a.C.


     In the Aguas Buenas period there is a gradual change from tribal organization (based on family relations of kinship) to a chiefdom organization, with the presence of a chief, religious leaders, specialized artisans and family lineages, as well as hereditary power; with stronger territorial divisions and exchange networks.

     Sculptures are manufactured in this period, including stone cylinders, “barrels,” spheres and depiction of characters.

     Few archaeological sites with spheres have been found for this period; those recorded do not have intensive excavations or absolute dating. 

     Most of the settlements measure between one and two hectares. They are located in high flat terraces, in the vicinity of secondary rivers, streams or lagoons and generally have no structures, only ceramics and stone waste deposits around the domestic units of each village.

     The main sites for the Bolas and El Cholo period present constructions such as mounds with walls of round-edged boulders.

     Agriculture is regarded as mixed with the use of seeds and tubers; maize cultivation was already consolidated, having indirect evidence of it, as hand grinding and stone grinders.

Hierarchical society with large populations

800 – 1500 a.C


     From 800 A.D . and until the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century, the villages increased in size and complexity, and regional differences grew. The main chiefs would have controlled ample territories with subordinated chiefdoms.

     Important sites developed in the alluvial lands of the Térraba River and its main tributaries, reaching extensions of up to 30 hectares. The plains between Palmar Sur and Sierpe have continuous deposits of ceramic and lithic material over an approximate extension of 900 hectares that could mean an extended community or several related communities. The repeated flooding would have influenced their leaving behind, and occupying new areas.

     In different sectors of the delta there are structures built with round-edged boulders: circular plinths, pavements, circular and rectangular mounds with stone walls from the river, empty areas (plazas) and ramps that could reflect simultaneous or successive occupation centers. The groups of the zone sustained exchange activities with Costa Rica’s Northwest (Greater Nicoya) and the Central Region of Panama. At sub regional level, an entire communication system permitted the exchange of products, from the coast to the high lands between the different chiefdoms’ territories, using the Térraba River and its tributaries.

     Ceramic, bone, gold and stone objects were manufactured as expressions of power and status of the ruling groups, created by specialized artisans. Sculpture reached its greatest development during this period, featuring stone spheres placed in important zones of the villages, some of them forming assemblies or alignments in public plazas and located at the entrance of the ruling persons’ homes. The acquisition of exotic goods reinforced the power of religious and political leaders.

     Among the warrior practices was the practice of beheading enemies as trophy, as shown in the statuary and documented by the Spanish who reported a high degree of conflict among the chiefdoms in the sixteenth century.

Christopher Columbus arrives to Costa Rica



       At the moment the Spaniards arrived to Costa Rica in the sixteenth century there were approximately 400,000 indigenous persons in the territory. They were organized in chiefdoms with social hierarchies and the social specialization of labor. In the South Pacific the main chiefdoms were the one in Quepo between the rivers Naranjo and Savegre; the one in Coto in the Valley of Coto Brus and the Burica in Burica Point; mention was also made of Térraba and Turucaca.

       Some of these southern chiefdoms stood out before the Spaniards for the production of gold pieces and because they inhabited large dwellings called palenques; in 1563 the conquistador Juan Vázquez de Coronado described the palenque in Coto as an enclosed settlement amongst pejibaye palisades with two lifting doors, housing eighty-five large, round thatch cottages in its interior, sheltering some 400 persons. Such architecture was the outcome of the ongoing conflicts between the chiefdoms of the region.



“Informing your Lordship of everything, from town to fort, required a lot of paper and space. E...

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Gil González Dávila explores Costa Rica’s Pacific



      After the reconnaissance trips to the Caribbean sea, a key objective was finding the “Doubtful Strait” to continue the route towards the Far East. It was in 1513 that the Pacific Ocean or “South Sea” was reached, when Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the isthmus of Panama. Shortly after, in 1519, the maritime journey of Juan de Castañeda and Hernán Ponce de León through the recently known American Pacific coast was completed.

      The first land journey in Costa Rica’s Pacific littoral was done by Gil González Dávila, between 1522 and 1523. With over 100 men they travelled from the Nicoya peninsula to the Burica point, where the Spaniards received collaboration from some indigenous chiefs, and various settlers were baptized.

The conquistador Juan Vázquez de Coronado travels the South Pacific



       Costa Rica’s conquest was a late process of long duration; the first phase was from the decade of the 1520’s when various indigenous persons of the North Pacific were sent to Panama and Peru as slaves for freight. The second phase starts in the decade of the 1560’s when the Spaniards settle down and distribute some indigenous villages as encomiendas in the Central Valley.

          In February of 1563 Juan Vázquez de Coronado headed to the South Pacific with 70 soldiers; 110 natives and the chiefs Accerri, Yurusti and Turrubara escorted. He was well received by chief Quepo, who gave him some gold objects, while the cotos showed some resistance at first.

         After Perafán de Rivera crossed Talamanca from the Caribbean he founded the ephemeral city “Nombre de Jesús” in 1571, on the banks of Grande Térraba River. Two years later the Portuguese captain Antonio Álvarez Pereyra also settles down briefly in the city he called “Nueva Cartago”. Founding cities was a way of appropriating the territory and guaranteeing access to labor and goods, although most of these attempts were destined to failure because of nature’s imperatives, the poor material conditions and indigenous resistance; the circumstances were similar in the South Pacific.



“…the chief Coctu [South Pacific] gave me a small eagle weighing up to fifteen pesos of fine ...

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Perafán de Rivera ditributes the indigenous people in encomiendas



         The reduction of native population in indigenous villages was key for the Spanish control and exploitation, process encouraged from 1569 by the first distribution of indigenous encomiendas done by Perafán de Rivera.

         At the end of the sixteenth century most of the indigenous villages entrusted were in the Central Valley. In the beginning there were the towns of Chome and Garabito in the Central Pacific. At the end of the sixteenth century the main indigenous villages in the Central and South Pacific were Quepo and Boruca, in charge of Franciscan friars. Quepo disappeared in the decade of the 1730’s and Térraba and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Cabagra were founded in those years. Boruca has been the largest town with greater continuity since the Colony, with 300 inhabitants by the year 1741.

Opening of Camino de Mulas to Panama



                Indigenous towns of the Pacific were important points in the mainland road (Tierra Firme) allowing the ground shipping of mules from Nicaragua to Panama. From 1570, Panama became the transit route for precious metals from South America to Spain due to its isthmic condition; they were mobilized from Peru to the Port of Panama and from there, transported to the port of San Felipe de Portobelo in the Caribbean by land on mules, where the fleet of galleons took them to Spain.

             In 1601 Governor Gonzalo Vázquez de Coronado officially opened the mules trail from Cartago to Panama, journey that was done in 25 days. The teams of mules came from Nicaragua, rested and gained weight in Barba, and followed their journey through the indigenous villages of Quepo, Boruca and Térraba, where travellers were supplied with food and indigenous muleteers. From Boruca towards the Grande de Térraba River travellers would pass though Paso Real; indigenous and Spanish archaeological goods were found intermingled in this place.



      The archaeological site Paso Real (P-192-PR) was excavated by t...

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Pablo Presbere heads an indigenous uprising in great Talamanca



       Natives of the South Pacific were forced to give products to the friars for the “priest’s share,” render personal services and above all to dye cotton with a tint from the murex snail of the coast, a highly appreciated commercial good.

      The harsh economic exploitation and violent Spanish manners led many natives to rebel or flee from the villages, hence rebellious individuals were captured from the inland to repopulate extinguishing settlements. One of the most famous indigenous rebellions took place at Talamanca in 1709 under the leadership of Pablo Presbere, with the participation of natives from the Caribbean, also some of the Pacific. In 1761 the terbis of the South Pacific also challenged Spanish dominion and attacked the town of Cabagra and the parish friars.



“Most of our People cultivate two extra plots of maize and beans for said Father Priest, receiv...

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Chiricanos establish in Golfo Dulce



        The settlements of natives of colonial origin from the South Pacific witnessed the arrival of settlers by land or by sea from Chiriquí in Panama, as well as from the Central Valley and some from Nicaragua from the middle of the nineteenth century. These inhabitants started fishing or growing products for subsistence which were hard to commercialize due to the lack of terrestrial means of communication. The canton of Golfo Dulce was created in 1883, resulting from population growth, the first one in the South Pacific.

         By the beginning of the twentieth century such settlers whose numbers exceeded 2 thousand, traded with rice and cattle among other products long before the banana companies arrived to the South Pacific. Many of them lived in towns like Buenos Aires, Puerto Jiménez or Dios Primero or El Pozo, as was formerly known Ciudad Cortés.

        With the arrival of the large-scale banana plantations in the decade of the 1930’s came large numbers of settlers from different places; some from the Central Valley, where little by little the agricultural frontier was being exhausted. Others came from Guanacaste also fleeing poverty. Many came from Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras. Both foreigners and nationals were attracted by the comparatively higher salaries, than those of a coffee plantation or a cattle ranch worker.

First mention of Costa Rica’s stone spheres



      During all the colonial period and most of the nineteenth century, there is no mention of pre-Columbian stone spheres. The first record of a sphere dates back to the specimens shown at the first national exhibition in 1886; they indicate the existence of “three large stone balls and many small ones,” possibly from the collection of José Ramón Rojas Troyo, whose objects came mostly from Agua Caliente de Cartago.

     This national exhibition was the prelude of the creation of the National Museum of Costa Rica in 1887, which throughout its history has had the investigation and protection of the country’s natural, archaeological, and historical heritage as a priority. For that reason, it safeguards the main collections in these areas, developing dissemination actions by means of educational exhibits and activities, among other functions.

Henri Pittier conducts a scientific exploration in the South Pacific



     In the nineteenth century there are various summaries of visits to the South Pacific; notwithstanding there are two main sources giving us information and collections of noted scientific nature. Firstly there are the pastoral visits to the towns of Térraba, Boruca and Cabagra by Bernardo Augusto Thiel, bishop of Costa Rica between 1880 and 1901. Besides the descriptions of his travels to the region he brought back pre-Columbian goods to include in the episcopal museum.

    A deeper knowledge of the region was revealed by the Swiss scientist Henri Pittier from the Geographical Physical Institute, when making vast explorations in the region, with the purpose of drafting a map of Costa Rica. Product of these explorations were the natural collections and information on the boruca native languages, as well as a better geographical understanding of the region, among other contributions. The National Museum of Costa Rica conserves various specimens of the historical collection of plants.

Banana production begins in Costa Rica’s Atlantic and Creation of the United Fruit Company based in Boston, United States



       From the end of the nineteenth century the banana world in Costa Rica was part of a world trade chain in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, which was historically staged by the United Fruit Company (UFCO). When UFCO relocated to the Pacific it changed their name for Compañía Bananera de Costa Rica in order to protect themselves from the antitrust laws and later, in 1969, merged with other companies giving rise to United Brands (UB).

       The first link of the global banana trade business were producing countries, followed by carriers, passing by ripeners –those distributing to the wholesalers in each country– and finally, through retailers, bananas arrived to consumers’ tables in the United States, Europe and Japan.

       The greatest profit from this business was obtained by the countries buying the fruit, over those producing and exporting. The large transnational company also produced bananas in other Central and South American countries. Costa Rica, and later Ecuador became the second banana producers in the world at times.

Independent banana producers in the Pacific region and Large scale banana activity is transferred from Costa Rica’s Caribbean to the Pacific



     Before the United Fruit Company (UFCO) relocated from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1936, there were independent small and medium-sized banana producers in Quepos and Parrita since the decade of the 1920’s. One of the most important was Agathon Lutz with Pirris Farm and Trading Company; most of the independent producers were displaced by the Company.

        Since those years the Company had performed feasibility studies in the South zone. Subsequently, covered under the banana contracts with the government of 1930, 1934, and 1938 it obtained the concession to build and control the railways and docks of Quepos and Golfito.

        The main divisions of the Company in the South Pacific were: Quepos −where banana was produced until 1956−, Golfito and Puerto González; this latter was managed under Panamanian standards, due to its borderline position, until the beginning of the decade of the 1950’s. The main districts of the Golfito Division were Palmar Sur, Coto and Esquinas. The Company started producing banana in Palmar Sur starting from 1938, production abandoned in 1956 and resumed in the middle of the decade of the 1960’s until 1985. Production in Coto and Esquinas began in the decade of the 1940’s, although Esquinas was abandoned two decades later.



       Quepos Division included farms such as Anita, Bartolo, Ca...

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        The Company not only designed how work was to be do...

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Conchita Turnbull & Jorge Lines conduct the first expedition to the Diquís delta and the first report about spheres



      Concepción “Conchita” Turnbull and Jorge Lines, archaeology amateurs, carried out an expedition to the zone of the Diquís delta. At Isla del Caño they observed small stone spheres, with diameters between 10 - 60 cm, manufactured in basalt and sandstone; they also reported of small spheres in tombs. Exploring many places in the delta, (El Gorrión, El Muñeco and Palmar) they reported of ceramic deposits, presence of spheres and large quantity of sculptures and metates in fragments.

Doris Stone publishes the first scientific article on spheres



     With the arrival of the banana companies at the South Pacific the great stone spheres came to light.

     The first article of scientific nature was published in 1943 on the “American Antiquity” magazine by the American researcher Doris Stone − daughter of the president of the United Fruit Company –UFCO-, Samuel Zemurray, also president of the Board of Directors of the National Museum for many years.

     Stone made her first travels to the zone between 1940 and 1941 and reviewed five sites, with details on the first sets of spheres and their association with architectural structures such as mounds. She also provided information on the spheres’ diameters, establishing that each set was unique; besides that she postulated that these alignments could have had a ceremonial function or be a type of calendar.

Samuel Lothrop performs stratigraphic excavations on sites with spheres



     Samuel K. Lothrop, Archaeologist of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography from Harvard University, came to Costa Rica in 1948 to follow-up on a previous archaeological work of the Nicoya Peninsula; but the political situation (civil war) forced him to change his plans. With the intervention of Doris Stone, he was invited to work in the United Fruit Company’ properties in the Delta zone.

     His assembly drawings of the stone spheres and association to artificial mounds and other structures, as well as detailed descriptions and observations of the ceramic and lithic materials, including statuary, are fundamental to understand the undisturbed context, prior to the impact of the activities related to banana plantations and extensive looting (huaquerismo).



“Why should hundreds of these perfectly formed spheres, whose diameters extend from a fe...

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Boruca-Térraba is declared as the first indigenous territory of Costa Rica



         The South Pacific is characterized by the presence of population from the boruca, teribe, cabécar, bribri and ngöbe ethnicities, congregated mainly in the indigenous territories established by the Indigenous Act of 1977. Notwithstanding, the first indigenous territory was officially established prior to this law, with the creation of the Boruca-Térraba Reserve in 1956.

         Later other indigenous territories were created in the region, such as Abrojos Montezuma, Coto Brus, Conte Burica, Ujarrás, Salitre, Cabagra, Osa, Curré, Boruca, China-Kichá and Altos de San Antonio.

     Even though indigenous communities are found in conditions of greater social and economic vulnerability, they have not abandoned their struggle for recognition and preservation of their heritage, as is the language, the belief systems and some artisan and cultural traditions, one of the most salient the “Baile de los Diablitos” of the borucas.

Introduction of the “Valery” banana variety and beginning of the packing system

Decade of the 1960’s


        From Boston, United States, where the Company manager was, came a very elaborate administrative organization, ruling the daily life in Costa Rica’s Pacific at the banana plantations. At the head of the divisions in each country was a general manager followed by superintendents by area, and managers assisted by the “time keeper”.

        The manager planned the general farm work program giving the respective orders to the “foreman,” who the following morning had to distribute the daily chores between crews of workers. The cutting order for the local plantation was communicated from Boston, generally at the end of the week; it specified the quantity of bunches to be cut, their destination, and the moment of shipping.

       A great change came in the banana plantations work with the introduction of the variety Valery and the development of packers. The banana variety Gros Michel (Musa acuminata) had been cultivated until the end of the decade of the 1950’s, appreciated for its large, sweet fruit, hard skin and even ripening, which was commercialized in whole bunches; nevertheless its great height made it fragile by the action of wind and above all, it was quite susceptible to the disease Mal de Panama (wilt).

Developing of packing plants took place in the decade of the 1960’s when the Valery (or Robusta) of the Cavendish subgroup was sown. Its fruit was smaller and the plant not as high; it was cut more easily and could be sown with higher density per hectare; it was more resistant to the Mal de Panama disease although vulnerable to Sigatoka. Nonetheless, Valery bananas had a delicate skin, susceptible to spots and showed greater variation in the size of the units in the hands, so it had to be sold packed in boxes.


Decade of the 1960’s

    To start the banana plantation the first thing to do was cutting down the f...

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Decade of the 1960’s

     Banana being a large-scale monoculture is more vulnerable to diseases...

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Decade of the 1960’s

    The order of cutting the bananas for export was organized according to the ...

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Decade of the 1960’s

    The Banana Company’s success depended largely on controlling not only...

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Inauguration of the bridge over the Térraba River



      The traditional routes of transport of people were transformed when in 1961, the bridge over the Térraba River built by the American company Foster William Bros. was inaugurated which was the country’s largest until not so long ago. Said bridge was part of the great Pan American Highway Project communicating the American continent by land from Alaska to Argentina (except for the Tapón del Darién in Panama).

       The construction of this bridge established direct communication with the Central Valley by means of the Inter-American Highway, having an important cultural change in the region and giving a final blow to the rafters who until then had dominated the Díquis River, indigenous name for the Gran Térraba. The great river, 160 Km-long comes from the Macizo de la Muerte and flows into the Pacific Ocean through six mouths one of the best known being Sierpe.

Mathew & Marion Stirling report on spheres affected by agricultural work



     Mathew and Marion Stirling report an assembly of 11 spheres in a sector of Finca 7 which was being cleared for agricultural labors. They were located in a radius of 90 meters and were completely buried. The spheres measured from 1.50 to 2.40 meters average, made of granodiorite and their surface was polished.

Creation of Corcovado National Park



     The Corcovado National Park was created on October 24 of 1975. It extends over 42.570 hectares of land, including the cantons of Osa and Golfito, in the province of Puntarenas. The park protects a variety of ecosystems including forests, beaches, coral reefs, mangroves, and freshwater swamps.

Creation of Isla del Caño Biological Reserve.



     Isla del Caño was initially included as an extension of Corcovado National Park in September of 1976, and was legally established as biological reserve in March of 1978.

     It is an important center of tourist attention due to the diversity of flora and fauna and its history of pre-Columbian occupation. The zone is characterized by the richness in coral reefs, and is well-liked for the practice of recreational diving.

     Isla del Caño is found far from the continental shelf of the Pacific in Costa Rica, 16 Km from Osa Peninsula, Puntarenas.

Students of Palmar Norte’s high-school prevent two spheres from being taken away from the locality



    Ever since the spheres were discovered in the South Pacific, the region has seen how they were extracted from their place of origin throughout many decades, and transported abroad or to the Central Valley, to become part of the garden in houses and public institutions. That was seemingly the fate of two large spheres of 2.10 meters of diameter which managed to leave Finca 4, which were being taken to the Central Bank Museum and the National Museum.

    When the spheres were on their way, mounted on dollies through the Inter-American Highway, students from the Technical High-School in Osa, Palmar Norte, blocked the street so the spheres could not leave the community. With police presence and the corresponding coverage of the media, relocation was abandoned and decision was made of placing them in the garden of the same high-school where they are conserved until today, as a memory of how a community treasures and defends its heritage.

Robert Drolet conducts archaeological studies on the basin of Térraba River. Térraba – Coto Brus Project



     In 1983, the National Museum resumed the Boruca project, renamed Térraba – Coto Brus project, under the direction of Robert Drolet, and extended its outreach to the entire Térraba River Basin. From an ecological-cultural perspective, the project was oriented to a continuation of the previous project’s sampling, the search of sites of hunters-gatherers and determining a cultural chronology based on Carbon 14- dating and excavation of selected sites to obtain evidence of housing, sets of domestic artifacts and organic materials related to subsistence.




In 1980 the National Museum of Costa Rica with the financial support of Instituto Costarricens...

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Great banana workers’ strike in the South Pacific



                The South Pacific was an environment with huge social differences generating complex conflicts in that area; it was also a region moving to the rhythm of a transnational whose ways of operating in tropical countries originated the ironical surname of “Banana Republic”.

                In the beginning workers had no labor rights; later the Company had to comply with − even if partly− the provisions within the Social Guarantees and the Labor Code of the decade of the 1940’s. The South Pacific was one of the main strongholds of the trade union movement in Costa Rica, where organizations as FETRABA, FOBA, FUTRA or UTG stood out. The reasons for social demonstrations were conflicts about the salaries, disrespect for workers’ rights and bad life conditions. Some banana workers experienced great physical exhaustion generated by grueling work time of up to 13 hours; some working under contract were fired within three months, before they acquired any labor rights.

                Strong strike movements ensued in the Banana Company, where there was no absence of dead people and repression, especially during the decade of the 1950’s and 1970’s. Strikes undergone like in 1952 when the occupational risks insurance was conquered; the one in 1955, was the only one declared as legal; the Christmas bonus in 1959, when the Company refused to pay it; or in 1971, when the first Collective Labor Convention was signed. Another strike was in 1984, 72- days movement that legitimated the Company’s abandonment of banana production in the region.

Crisis due to cease of banana activities in the region



                The Banana Company repeated in the South Pacific in 1985 what it had done in the Atlantic fifty years back: leaving a region and its inhabitants in neglect. By the middle of the decade of the 1970’s the Company began decreasing banana production and increasing the number of hectares planted with African palm, whose first crops date back to the decade of the 1940’s in Quepos. Oil is produced under the name PALMATICA which is the raw material for the NUMAR company. What is relevant of this activity is it needed only one third of the labor as compared to the one necessary in banana plantations.

                Likewise, since 1956 the Company witnessed how competition increased when banana production returned to the Atlantic with the Standard Fruit Company and later, with BANDECO and COBAL by the middle of the decade of the sixties. This firm, unlike the Company, focused in commercialization, leaving great part of the production in the hands of local producers.

                The Company was also facing problems of soil exhaustion, the high cost of fighting diseases and the elevated social charges as compared to Ecuador, where labor was much cheaper. Also, because the Company’s main market was the pacific coast of the United States, where it could only place 10 of the 14 million boxes produced per year; the rest, commercialized by the Atlantic, had a high cost of transport.

                The strike of 1984, poorly administrated by the unions, resulted in millions of dollars in losses to the Company; it was also a timely excuse for them to quit the banana activity in the region. Unemployment in the zone doubled the average in the country; poverty was everywhere; many migrated searching for jobs, some towns remained with no communication as the Company removed the railways. To address this, the government took some measures, such as the creation of the Depósito Libre in Golfito and promoted peasant settlements managed by IDA and productive projects, some through Cooperatives, which were not very successful. And to make things worse, the region was affected by large floods from hurricane Juana in 1988.



“…banana exports finished, Golfito eliminated. No more vessels ar...

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Creation of Marino Ballena National Park



     Marino Ballena National park is located in the district of Bahía Ballena, in the canton of Osa, Puntarenas. It was created on February 06 of 1989. It is the first national marine park in the country and extends over an area of 5,375 marine hectares and 171 land hectares.

     The park’s protection includes coastal ecosystems and environments such as rocky and sandy beaches, cliffs, islands, rocky and organic coral reefs and el Tómbolo de Punta Uvita, among others.

Claude Baudez leads records and excavations in the Palmar-Sierpe plains



     A French team headed by Claude Baudez conducted a prospection and stratigraphic excavations on the Palmar-Sierpe plains. Using cuts made for the draining system of banana plantations, they established the continuity of archaeological deposits in an area of 900 hectares, connecting zones excavated by Stone and Lothrop.



     In 1990, John Hoopes began the Golfito Archaeological Project. A stud...

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Ifigenia Quintanilla directs project “Man and Environment in the Sierpe - Térraba Delta”

1991 - 1998


     At the beginning of 1990, Ifigenia Quintanilla from the National Museum of Costa Rica directed the archaeological project “Man and Environment in the Sierpe - Térraba Delta” oriented to document settlement patterns and sequence of occupation. Forty-eight (48) archaeological sites were recorded, some with spheres and executed evaluations in sites such as Finca 6 and Grijalba-2. The studies served as base for the maintenance, protection and investigation activities in various sites with stone spheres.

Creation of the Térraba Sierpe National Wetland



     The Térraba-Sierpe National Wetland was created in December of 1994. In 1995 it was designated Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. It’s located on the Diquís delta, in the South Pacific coast, in the confluence of the mouths of the Grande de Térraba and Sierpe rivers, in the district of Sierpe, Canton of Osa, Puntarenas. It constitutes the largest wetland found in Costa Rica, covering around 24, 730.5 hectares.

Adrián Badilla performs excavations at Finca 4



     Adrián Badilla from the National Museum performed excavations at Finca 4, finding an access ramp to a mound with two associated spheres. He also excavated a rectangular structure of 10 x 14 meters, with stone walls 1.4 meters-high. This information along with the one supplied by Lothrop, suggests Finca 4 was the most complex sector of occupation in the delta.

Spheres return policy begins in the South Pacific



    The conceptions on how heritage is to be managed have changed throughout history. What initially began as a policy of extracting spheres from their place of origin was reoriented to making spheres return to the region where they were elaborated, to the extent possible.

    In 1998 a first great step is made when the National Museum transfers seven spheres from the Central Valley to the Municipality of Osa and the Park of Palmar Sur, action endorsed by the Municipality who facilitated the machines for their transport.

     From then on, the National Museum has transported spheres to public spaces in the region so they can be appreciated by anyone. They have been located in parks, municipalities, schools and indigenous communities. The last notable transfer was two large spheres, one for the Indigenous Museum and one for the College of Curré. In Finca 6 several spheres have also been transported for their conservation or exhibition, so that persons may closely observe their finish, material and size.

Felipe Sol conducts prospecting at Fila Grisera



     In 2003 Felipe Sol, conducted a prospection at Fila Grisera, part of the Coastal Range, considered as source of the raw material for manufacturing spheres. Among the sites recorded noteworthy are Cansot site with one sphere and considered a possible spheres’ workshop due to the presence of gabbro rocks, and the Brisháˇcra site presenting two spheres associated to artificial mounds and structures of round-edged boulders, similar to the ones reported for the alluvial plain, as well as funerary sectors.

Francisco Corrales & Adrián Badilla implement a research project of Chiefdom Sites with stone spheres



Francisco Corrales and Adrián Badilla from the National Museum carried out a project in the delta, focused on the excavation of selected sites to document association of spheres to their contexts.  

During 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011 field excavations were made in Finca 6. The results have permitted the exploration of residential structures and associated them to spheres and other site sections. A funerary zone was also excavated. Other excavations have been done on the Batambal (2010, 2011) and El Silencio sites (2012); also, an initial evaluation at Brisháˇcra, Finca 4, and Finca 6.

Record and documentation of the spheres has served as basis for the articulation of a protection plan for stone spheres, especially at Finca 6, El Silencio, Grijalba-2 and Batambal.

With the support of SURCOOP, IDA donates 10 hectares of Finca 6 to the National Museum of Costa Rica



      The idea of on site management began with the interest of creating a spheres’ theme park that evolved into assessment of the archaeological sites themselves. In search of land, Finca 6 became one of the best options; SURCOOP in Palmar Sur supported the decision that the Agrarian Development Institute (IDA-Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario) segregates 10 hectares of the lands it would receive from said cooperative and transfer them to the National Museum. This cooperative, the Municipality and ICT have been the organizations − among others−, backing the protection and dissemination of this cultural heritage.

     Communities have also been an active part of the process. This is the case of the Batambal site, another one declared as world heritage. When lands were being assigned to settlers by IDA, the community’s leaders endorsed the idea of conserving the archaeological site and put it under the custody of the National Museum for its investigation and protection. Terrains of El Silencio and Grijalba were acquired under the legal figure of expropriation, although always with the owners’ consent.

First Festival of the Spheres



     The first Festival of Spheres was held on April 22 of 2006, with the inauguration of an exhibit about the delta’s history, from the pre-Columbian era to the banana company. The exhibition took place at an ancient banana plantation house in the town of Finca 6 -11.

    After 2006, 11 festivals have taken place, manifesting the relevance of the cultural and natural heritage of the zone, as well as joint work between the community, the National Museum of Costa Rica and diverse institutions. The cultural, educational, recreational and tourist activities included by the festival take place in different places in the canton of Osa. Efforts have enabled making the zone famous as a tourist destination, creating greater awareness of their resources and conservation, and bringing different kinds of cultural activities to the settlers of the region. Diverse social sectors participate in the festival, so it is a referent at the tourist and cultural

The pre-Columbian sites in the South Pacific Batambal, El Silencio, Finca 6 & Grijalba 2 are declared Heritage of Humanity



     Pre-Columbian chiefdom settlements with stone spheres of Diquís -Finca 6, El Silencio, Batambal and Grijalba-2- were inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, at the meeting of the World Heritage Committee, celebrated in Doha, Catar, in June of 2014. These four archaeological sites form part of a select list of goods with exceptional universal value.

     Despite the history of looting and destruction experienced at the delta zone, the four sites preserve elements in their original state, making it possible to appreciate the pre-Columbian chiefdom organization in the Southern part of Central America.

     Finca 6 is the sole conserving stone spheres in alignments. Batambal stands out for its strategic position and visibility of the landscape. El Silencio contains the largest stone sphere ever found, and Grijalba-2 is distinguished by the use of limestone in the construction of its architectural structures.

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