Costa Rica has been most influenced by the Spanish Conquest and therefore there has relatively few signs of this culture left. The different Mexican and Northern Central American Cultures like the Mayas and Aztecs never reached as far down as Costa Rica. the people that did exist in Costa Rica were few in number and relatively poorly organized. they offered slight resistance to the Spanish. They had no written language and left little archaeological monuments.
If you happen to visit the museum of Jade and Oro in San José, and see the more or less 2000 pieces in exhibition, you will realize and surprised that these people were quite civilized. Unfortunately not much is known about there cultures.
There are several archaeological studies going on the Nicoya Peninsula all way up to the border with Nicaragua. This area is still noteworthy for its pottery and workers have found a wealth of ceramics, stonework and jade, which has provided excellent insights into the lives of the pre-Columbian peoples who lived there.
Also it is almost certain that people were living in Central America prior to 20,000 BC, the first evidence (in the form of ceramics) is dated about 2000 BC which corresponds to what is called "Period III" by archaeologists. "Period IV", from 1000 BC to AD 500, was characterized by the establishment of villages and social hierarchies and the development of jade production, Ceramics and jade from Mayan areas indicate the influence of other peoples through trade. Skill in making pottery improved during Period V (AD 500 - 1000), and by the Period VI (AD 1000-1520) society had developed into a number of settlements, some with populations of about 20,000 ruled by a chief.
Most of these settlements were quickly destroyed by the Spanish conquest and its aftermath. today the few remaining Indian groups are often known by the name of their last chief, as noted by the Spanish chroniclers. Particularly important in the Greater Nicoyan area are the Chorotegas.
The Nicoya area had a dry season and a wet season; this led to a greater development in ceramics there compared to the Caribbean side, were water was easier to obtain and rarely had to be transported or stored. In addition, the many bays and safe anchorages of the Peninsula of Nicoya area fostered trading, so it is not surprising that the greater Nicoya area has left archaeologists with more artefacts than has the Caribbean Coast.
The most important archaeological site in Costa Rica is the Monumento Nacional Guayabo, about 85km east of San José. Guayabo is currently under investigation and is thought to have been inhabited from about 1000 BC to AD 1400. Streets aqueducts and causeways can bee seen, though most of the buildings have collapsed and have not yet been restored. Gold and stone artefacts have been discovered there. Archaeologists believe Guayabo was an important religious and cultural centre, although minor compared to Aztec, Inca or Maya sites.
Stone Spheres of the Diquis
Of all the excisting remnants of pre-Columbian culture, none are more mysterious than the stone spheres of the Diquis region, which covers the southern half of Costa Rica. Dotted throughaout the area are perfectly shaped spheres of granite, some as tall as a person and others as small as a grapefruit. they can be seen in the Museo Nacional and various parks and gardens in San José, as well as throughout the Diquis region. Some undisturbed for centuries, have been found on Isla del Caño, 20 km west of the the southern Pacific coast. Who carved theses enigmatic orbs? What was their purpose? How did they get to the Isla del Caño?. No one has the answers to these questions. The puzzling granite spheres of southern Costa Rica underscore how little we know of the regions pre-Columbian cultures.
Pictures by ICT Instituto Costarricense de Tourismo. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
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