Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco
Rock Paintings Of The Sierra De San Francisco
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean State: Lower California Sud Municipality

The Sierra de San Francisco region contains the most important concentration of pre-Hispanic rock art in the Baja California peninsula. It is of exceptional quality at both the national and the international scale, for its high quality, its extent, the variety and originality of human and animal representations, its remarkable colours, and its excellent state of preservation.

The prehistoric rock art of the region was first reported by the Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero in a publication in Rome in 1789. Further studies were carried out by the Dutch scholar ten Kate in 1874 and the French scholar Diguet (1889-1905). In the present century investigations have been carried out by Georges Enguerrand, Barbro Dahlgren, Stanley Gardner, Harry Crosby and Javier Romero. Some 400 sites have so far been registered, the most important of them within the reserve, near San Francisco and Mulege, over 250 in all.

The most highly developed pre-Hispanic group in the region was that of the Guachimis, whose territory extended from San Javier and La Purisima in the south of the reserve to the extreme northern end of the Baja California peninsula. Little is known about this group, apart from the fact that they came from further north.

The paintings are found on both the walls and roofs of rock shelters in the sides of ravines that are difficult of access. Those in the San Francisco area are divided into four main groups - Guadalupe, Santa Teresa, San Gregorio and Cerritos. The most important sites are Cueva del Batequì, Cueva de la Navidad, Cerro de Santa Marta, Cueva de la Soledad, Cueva de las Flechas and Grutas del Brinco.

The motifs are very varied, and include people (men, women and children) and many animal species, including rabbit, puma, lynx, deer, wild goat/sheep, whale, turtle, tuna, sardine, octopus, eagle and pelican;there are also abstract elements of various forms. The frequent depiction of weapons, in association with both human and animal figures, testifies to hunting and warfare. The range of colours covers the entire spectrum, as do the representational techniques used (flat colour, silhouette, shading, etc.). This rock art has been the subject of detailed analysis in recent years, resulting in important insights being gained into the social and religious organization of the prehistoric peoples of the area as well as their dietary habits. Obsidian dating of associated objects from excavated deposits shows them to vary in age from 1100 BC to AD 1300, and close analogies have been observed between this corpus of rock art and that from the south-west of the modern United States.