The recent arrest of a group of suspects caught looting an archeological site and the finding of a new stone sphere illustrate the fact that Costa Rica is a nation that still possesses a rich heritage of material remains left by ancient cultures, and her treasures must be protected.
Suspected Huaqueros Caught Extracting Artifacts
The nefarious work of huaqueros (grave robbers, nighthawks) has deeply affected archeological research in Costa Rica for many years, and although a lot has been done to curb the illicit excavation of archeological materials for sale to collectors and black market fences, opportunistic looting of history still takes place.
A press release by Fuerza Publica indicates that four men were arrested this past Sunday afternoon by officers assigned to the Limon sector. Officers responded to a call that alerted them to the suspicious presence of a group of men who had trespassed private property owned by EARTH University, and who seemed to be engaged in vigorous digging.
The Fuerza Publica officers responding to the call sighted the suspects from afar and silently approached them undetected, using the thick vegetation for cover. They surprised the would-be tomb raiders and caught them in flagrante delicto of excavation and extraction of various artifacts that seem, at first sight, to belong to the archeological record.
The four men are residents of Siquirres; they were apprehended in possession of pottery artifacts, some of them of anthropomorphic shape. The artifacts were confiscated along with several excavation tools and kept as evidence. Archeologists from the National Museum in San Jose were called to the scene to secure the site; they took the antiquities for research and curation.
The press release from Fuerza Publica does not indicate the exact location of the incident, but part of the forest reserve owned by EARTH University in Guacimo extends to the vast archeological site of Las Mercedes, discovered by railroad and banana magnate Minor C. Keith in the early 1870s. Mr. Keith conducted a fair amount of tomb raiding with excavations all around Costa Rica, and while he gave various artifacts to museums, most of them ended up in his private collection and auctioned off as part of his estate.
Prosecutors in Limon ordered the four men detained until the artifacts can be ascertained to be part of the archeological record of Costa Rica. The men could be charged with violating Law Number 6703.
Stone Sphere Unearthed in New Archeological Site
A few weeks ago, workers from the Grupo Agroindustrial Siglo XXI were digging up secondary drainage canals for a banana plantation when they found a stone sphere in the Osa canton. The work immediately stopped and archeologists from the National Museum were notified. This new sphere is just as pretty and mysterious as the rest that are found around Costa Rica, and it measures 55 centimeters in diameter.
The official press release from the National Museum quotes archeologist Francisco Corrales and his explanation of the finding. While researchers arrange safe transportation of the newfound sphere to San Jose, archeologists are evaluating the site and finding pre-Columbian pottery and stone tools. This new site was a former rice field that had never before been excavated.
The delta of the Diquis River in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica is home to the largest collection of in situ stone spheres, the mysterious artifacts that are emblematic of our archeological record. The Park of the Stone Spheres in the Osa canton is a planned UNESCO World Heritage Site, and research into the provenance and precise purpose behind these magnificent artifacts is still being conducted.
A previous article in The Costa Rica Star indicated that the alignment of the stone spheres with the Sun might be a sign that they were used as an agricultural calendar, but this theory is still being formulated.