There are few mysteriously formed stone balls known from around the globe. Where in the world did these spheres come from? Or did they even come from this world?
Ancient civilizations have endowed stone spheres with god-like characteristics. Many of the them have been elevated on plinths and worshipped as messengers from heaven. There have been several suggestions to attempt to explain the origin of the stone balls including ‘fell from heaven’ or formed in mysterious and possibly catastrophic natural events. If these object are manmade than why people were driven to produce stone balls on such a large scale ranging from symbols of wealth or status to geometric aids or because of their serene, harmonic beauty?
Here are few mysterious spheres from different parts of the world which became great archaeological enigma.
Picture ©Russian Arctic (Image Source)
Giant natural stone balls in Russia
Giant natural balls in the Franz Josef archipelago that leave scientists flummoxed. The huge stone balls up to two metres in height are found on appropriately-named Champ island above the polar circle. Perfectly spherical they are scattered all over this northern uninhabited outpost.
From the time they were first seen, visitors to this cosmic landscape named the round rocks ‘footballs of the Gods’, and at first it is hard to believe that they are natural and not made by man, or possibly giants. Yet the barren 374 km2 (144 sq miles) island was never inhabited and scientists are sure they are not artificial, even if they cannot agree how they were formed. Similar but smaller stone balls were found last year on Heiss island in the same archipelago.
Stone spheres in Costa Rica
Stone balls in the Terraba Plain. The Boruca region, Costa Rica. (Courtesy Doris Stone)
One of the strangest mysteries in archaeology was discovered in the Diquis Delta of Costa Rica. Since the 1930s, hundreds of stone balls have been documented, ranging in size from a few centimetres to over two meters in diameter. Some weigh 16 tons. Almost all of them are made of granodiorite, a hard, igneous stone. The stone balls of Costa Rica have been the object of numerous speculations regarding their origin, however scientist say these objects are monolithic sculptures made by human hands.
A Stone Sphere in Costa Rica © J. Stephen Conn
Stone balls are known from archaeological sites and buried strata hat have only pottery characteristic of the Aguas Buenas culture, whose dates range from ca. 200 BC to AD 800. Stone balls have reportedly been found in burials with gold ornaments whose style dates from after about AD 1000. The spheres number over 300. The large ones weigh many tons. Today, they decorate official buildings such as the Asamblea Legislativa, hospitals and schools. You can find them in museums. You can also find them as ubiquitous status symbols adorning the homes and gardens of the rich and powerful.
Carved stone balls from Scotland
Three Scottish examples, in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (Image Source)
Carved stone balls from Scotland are an enigmatic class of objects and they have been the subject of much speculation by scientists over the years.
Mysterious artefacts seem to date mainly to the Late Neolithic period (c. 3000 – 2500 BC), and are made of various stones ranging from sandstone to granite. They are all of a relative similar size and are decorated with carved evenly-spaced patterns of circular bosses or knobs around the surface of the sphere. The designs vary with the majority being based around a series of six bosses, but the number of bosses varies from 3-160. Some carved balls are more skilfully manufactured than others, and a rare few have additional decoration. All show an appreciation for symmetry in the design. Over 400 of these unique objects have been found, nearly all of them in the Scotland, with the majority found in Aberdeenshire, however, some samples were also discovered in Britain and Ireland.
Stone balls in Sierra de Ameca Jalisco, Mexico
Piedra Bola atop an earth pillar (Image Source)
In the middle of the forest surrounding the Piedra Bola mine a hundred strange stone balls can be found. They are almost perfectly spherical and range in diameter from about sixty cm to more than ten meters. These symmetrical boulders are unusually large. Some are buried, others partly or fully exposed. In some places, erosion of the surrounding rocks has left a sphere perched precariously atop narrow columns of softer rock, seemingly ready to topple in the next strong wind. These “hoodoos” or earth pillars have been formed as a result of water erosion and they may survive for centuries until the processes of sub-aerial weathering and erosion finally cause them to fall. The origin and purpose of the stone spheres is still unknown.
Stone sphere in Easter Island
Ahu Te Pito Kura, the world’s navel, a perfectly round stone considered the world’s navel by the Rapa Nuians. Photo © Bjarte Sorensen (Image Source)
There is a carved stone sphere on Easter Isle at the northern coastal area of the island, just north of the statue quarry at the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku. The site, “Te pito kura” was most likely a ritual centre for the earliest islanders to pray and divine.
The islanders have a legend that the statues were moved by the use of mana, or mind power, and according to one legend, use was made of a finely crafted stone sphere, 75 cm (2.5 ft) in diameter, called te pito kura (‘the golden navel’ or ‘the navel of light’), to focus the mana.
Petrospheres from Bosnia
Stone balls in Teočak (Image Source)
There have been several reporting’s of Petrospheres from Bosnia, a country which has been in the limelight following claims of the discovery an ancient pyramid complex near Visoko in Bosnia Hertzogovnia. Although this has fuelled the idea that the Bosnian petrospheres are carved, all such claims have been refuted by geologists.
The largest site in Bosnia known for stone balls is the County Zavidovici, approx. 100 km north of Sarajevo. It is the first place in Europe which has established an “Archaeological Park of Stone Balls”. This site contains approx. 40 stone balls of enormous size, all of which are recognised as natural ‘concretions’.
Located near the town of Zavidovici , the giant sphere — the largest of a group of such objects — is partially sticking out from the ground, and according to archaeologist Sam Semir Osmanagich, who discovered the stone, it may have a very high iron content and weigh over 30 tons.
Chinese stone spheres
Geological tests done on the region showed that it formed during the Cambrian period – about 500 million years ago. (Picture: AsiaWire) (Image Source)
A crew of road-builders unearthed the Chinese stone spheres, located in the Hunan Province, while digging the foundations for a new highway. The stones are of various sizes and are so numerous that the hill in which they were discovered was called a ‘stone egg mountain.’
The unusual mountain is located in the Gulu Zhai village, where the minority Shui People have lived for about 1,000 years. The ‘egg-laying cliff’, or ‘chan dan ya’ in Chinese, is an area measuring 20 metres long (66 feet) and six metres wide (20 feet) on an unnamed mountain in the village. ‘Stone eggs’ would reportedly grow from the cliff face and eventually drop to the ground.
Where did the Chinese ‘stone eggs’ come from? And why are they spherical? The difference in time it takes for each type of rock to erode has therefore been attributed to the appearance of the eggs, which comprise heavy sediment deposits, experts say. However, that still does not explain how the rocks appear in smooth round shapes, or how a half-a-billion-year-old geological region managed to contain a calcareous rock formation. Over the years, geologists in China have provided some possible explanations to the cause of the phenomenon. However, none official ones have been announced.
featured image ©Russian Arctic via Siberian Times