Archaeologist investigates huge balls

There are few occasions when you can get away with a headline like that, but my reference to the work that John Hoopes is doing couldn’t be more accurate.

John Hoopes, associate professor at the University of Kansas, recently returned from Costa Rica where he and colleagues have been helping UNESCO determine if more than 300 stone balls warrant World Heritage Status.

The spheres range in size from a few centimetres to over two metres in diameter, and weigh up to 16 tons. There are a dozen or so made from shell-rich limestone, and another dozen made from a sandstone but most are sculpted from gabbro.

Researchers believe the stones were first created around 600 A.D., with most dating between 1000 AD and the Spanish conquest.  The spheres are dated using radiocarbon dates associated with archeological deposits found with the stone spheres.

“One of the problems with this methodology is that it tells you the latest use of the sphere but it doesn’t tell you when it was made,” Hoopes said.  “These objects can be used for centuries and are still sitting where they are after a thousand years. So it’s very difficult to say exactly when they were made.”

Psuedoarchaeologists have had a field day with these spheres in the past citing the balls as having associations with everything, from the “lost” island of Atlantis, to Stonehenge, Easter Island, and alien visitors.  There is no evidence supports any of these claims.

“Myths are really based on a lot of very rampant speculation about imaginary ancient civilizations or visits from extraterrestrials,” Hoopes said.

Scientific work performed throughout the 1940s found the found the stone balls to be linked with pottery and materials typical of pre-Columbian cultures of southern Costa Rica.

Hoopes has a created a website to help correct some of the misconceptions about the spheres. He said the stones’ creation, while vague, certainly had nothing to do with lost cities or space ships.

You can check out Hoopes page here.


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