Fortress of Culture: Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

There's a Diquis Sphere inside of that large glass sphere.

June 2, 2015 — Sure, I was really only there for its impressive collection of ancient mysterious stone balls known as Diquis Spheres, but once I found myself in the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, I discovered all kinds of wonders of the non-spherical sort. From a dark chamber full of gold to the graffitied walls of the fortress prison cells to exhibits on obscure burial practices, the Museo Nacional was filled to its battlements with cool stuff.

The yellow castle of a building is called the Bellavista Fortress. When it was built in 1917, it was a military barracks. In 1948, it survived Costa Rica’s civil war. You can still see bullet marks from the war in its turrets and walls. In 1950, it became the museum it is today. I guess that's when people stopped firing at it.

The total area dedicated to public exhibits is relatively small. It’s basically a series of rooms around a central outdoor courtyard, with the prison below. Here are some of the treasures we found:

A gentle butterfly garden in this tough old fortress.

A packet burial, practiced by an indigenous population around 500 BC.
You wait for the flesh to decay, and then a few months later wrap up the bones with some offerings.

Metates are basically mortars for grinding grains and such. But they were also burial offerings.
These are sculpted from hardened lava and date back to between 500 BC and 300 AD.
They were buried on, under, or beside the deceased. 

Furniture of former president Leon Cortes, who held office form 1936-1940.

Prison cell.

The bathroom. Best part of this was the photos that showed this room
converted into a papal exhibit at one point.

One thing I didn't take a picture of that has stuck with me was a display of the contents found in the locked drawer of an antique desk or table. There were seashells and letters and glass eyes and just random stuff like you'd find in any junk drawer. Now I can't look at my own junk drawer without imaging it being on display in some museum in the future.