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These two spheres, some of the few that were documented in situ, were found were found one at each side at the top of a wide stone ramp that led up to the top of a large mound. The mound itself almost certainly was mostly covered by a circular building that may have been a home or a public gathering place, but the point here is that the spheres were not in the middle of the mound but outside flanking the top of the ramp. They were not found in the middle of a mound which would indicate that they were kept indoors; they were in a prominent exterior place what we would interpret today as public art. We can’t be sure if they were public art, religious symbols, status or territorial markers, or something else, but we can safely surmise that they were produced by a group of people, for public consumption.

Estas dos esferas fueron unas de las pocas documentadas in situ, al lado de la rampa de acceso a un montículo grande. En el montículo hubiera un “palenque” redondo inmenso que podrá haber sido una casa de alguien muy importante, o una casa comunal o religiosa. Lo importante aquí es que no estaban adentro, estaban expuestos al exterior como lo que hoy llamaríamos arte público.

Another interesting thing about these two spheres is that they are a pair of the few spheres that were made of limestone, and they appear to be severely weathered. On this sphere for instance one could speculate that most of the sphere was buried but part of it was subjected to heavy rain. They are nicely rounded on one half while the other is mis-shapen. The Costa Rican archaeologist Ifigenia Quintanilla explained to me that the part one would assume was the worn part was actually found underneath, not exposed on the top. They were originally placed with spherical part showing and the rough part buried. In other words, the sphere was made that way in deliberately. Why? Why not make a perfect yet smaller sphere? We’ve already seen that the shell-rich limestone presents particular challenges. With these two spheres seems the people who made them pursued the aesthetic of large roundness over perfect sphericity. They could have made a smaller perfectly round sphere, but for some reason they chose to maximize the size of the sphere by sacrificing it’s wholeness.

Otra cosa interesante de estas dos esferas es que son de las pocas que fueron hechas de caliza, y como se tiende a ver con las de caliza, parecen ser muy erosionadas. A primera vista uno supondría que la parte de arriba fue erosionada por el agua, mientras la parte de abajo al estar protegida, pudo mantener su forma original. Pero la arqueóloga Costarricense Ifigenia Quintanilla me explicó que se encontraron con la parte “erosionada” abajo, o sea que la esfera lo hicieron así. ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué no hacer una esfera perfecta pero más pequeña? Ya hemos visto lo difícil que es encontrar materia prima suficientemente solida para hacer una esfera con la caliza llena de conchas. Podrían haber hecho una esfera más pequeña, pero perfectamente redonda. En este caso escogieron maximizar el tamaño de la esfera pero sacrificando su redondez.

Although the Costa Rican Indians did not build temples or other buildings out of stone, they did make many other stone objects with unprecedented precision. There are stone carvings that are unique to the Costa Rica such as the intricately carved four legged metates. The metals that the pre-Columbians used, such as gold and copper were far too soft to use for carving stone. Alberto Sibaja, a Costa Rican authority on pre-Columbian issues runs a workshop where he makes reproductions of pre-Columbian stone items. He says that even with modern day power tools, he’s been unable to emulate some of the stone carvings. As in other parts of America, rumors persist that Shamans concocted a special mixture of herbs and roots that was used to melt stone.

Mientras los indios de Costa Rica no hicieron templos u otros edificios de piedra, si hicieron muchos otros objetos de piedra con una precisión sin igual. Hay tallados de piedra que únicamente se encuentran en Costa Rica como los metates de cuatro patas. Por supuesto que los indios tenían metales como el oro y cobre, pero son metales demasiado suaves para utilizarlos tallando piedra. Alberto Sibaja , un experto en temas pre-columbinas de Costa Rica, dirige un taller donde manufacturan réplicas de artefactos de piedra pre-Colombinas. Él dice que aún con herramientas modernas, taladros eléctricos, brocas de diamante, que no ha podido emular algunos de los tallados de piedra. Como en otras partes de América, persisten rumores de que los Chamanes hacían mesclas especiales que usaban para derretir la piedra.