Stone balls and related sites in Osa finally get U.N. recognition

The  U. N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has added four Costa Rican sites in the Municipalidad de Osa to its World Heritage List

These are sites most commonly recognized for the giant stone spheres, but they also contain unique burial sites and man-made mounds.

A committee halfway around the world in Qatar made the inclusion official Monday. To celebrate, President Luis Guillermo Solís visited the stone spheres on display at Museo Nacional. He said the sites’ adoption into the U.N. list reaffirms that these cultural treasures are crucial to Costa Rica’s identity.

“The cultural and archaeological heritage of a country is fundamental not just because it represents a defining time in its history, but also because of an undeniable importance for its memory – a mirror that we can look back in to see our past glory,” Solís said.

The inclusion of stone sphere sites to the list was basically a formality. The previous administration submitted candidacy for the spheres and visits from United Nations evaluators followed. Much of the excavation and application work was supervised by Francisco Corrales, museum archaeologist.

The tourism minister, Wilhelm von Breymann, was also on hand. He said Osa and the country’s southern sector should see a boost in tourism as a result of the addition to the list.

“With great pleasure we celebrate this important news for our country which will benefit the southern region,” von Breymann said. “This will have an impact on the positioning of this important region for tourism.”

The sites are deemed property of the global community, giving them a touristic allure. Museo Nacional representatives said a full-scale plan of preservation is already in place to protect the Deltas del Diquís sites.

A museum already has been constructed on Finca 6. The other three archaeological sites are Batambal, El Silencio, and Grijalba 2. They are near Palmar Sur.

This is the first group of cultural sites for the country. Costa Rica already has three sites located on The U.N. nature list: the Talamanca Range/La Amistad National Park, Parque Nacional Isla del Coco and Area de Conservación Guanacaste.

The U.N. agency said this about the sites:

The “Precolumbian chiefdom settlements with stone spheres of the Diquis includes four archaeological sites located in the Diquis Delta in southern Costa Rica, which are considered unique examples of the complex social, economic and political systems of the period between 500-1500 AD.

“They contain artificial mounds, paved areas, burial sites and, most significantly, a collection of stone spheres, between 0.7m and 2.57m in diameter, whose meaning, use and production remain largely a mystery.

“The spheres are distinctive for their perfection, their number, size

A stone ball remains in place surrounded by forest.

A stone ball remains in place surrounded by forest.

and density, and their placement in their original locations. Their preservation from the looting that befell the vast majority of archeological sites in Costa Rica has been attributed to the thick layers of sediment that kept them buried for centuries.”

World Heritage Sites are determined by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to have special cultural or natural significance and meet the criteria.

A total of 26 sites were added to the list Monday, including 21 cultural sites, four natural sites and one mixed site.

According to the U.N. agency, the total number of sites now on the list is 1,007. These include 779 cultural sites, 197 natural sites and 31 mixed sites.

Perhaps the most well-known new addition is the Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche, France, a cave that contains the earliest known examples of prehistoric cave art. The drawings, which are thought to be over 30,000 years old, include more than 1,000 depictions of mammoths, lions, bears, other animals and human hands

Other sites added by UNESCO span the globe and include the Pyu Ancient Cities, the first World Heritage site in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

China’s Grand Canal was also added to the list. Construction of the massive water system was started in the 5th century BC, and stretches from Beijing to Zhejiang province. The Grand Canal, which served as China’s inland transport system was the “most extensive civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution,” according to the agency.

The U.S. saw the addition of the ancient earthworks at Poverty Point, Louisiana, added to the list. The complex is made up of several mounds and ridges likely used in as living areas and for ceremonial purposes, according to the agency. The earthworks were built between 3,700 and 3,100 BC “by a society of hunter fisher-gatherers.”

Three natural properties were also added to the World Heritage list, including Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the Philippines, the Okavango delta in Botswana and the Stevns Klint geological site in Denmark. A full list is HERE!

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