The Cave Paintings of Baja California

The Sierra de San Francisco

Page 2 of 10
This pair of deer (below left) from El Parral, provides an illustration of a paradox in the realism of the Painters' style: Outlines of these and most other figures were drawn as recognizable animal forms but then in-filled with arbitrary and fanciful patterns.
baja rock art paintings california

El Parral XIV

baja rock art paintings california

La Natividad

La Natividad rock shelter is five hundred feet long and one hundred feet high, and probably the largest painted rock shelter in Baja California. Late in the Painters' era, the continuing process of cave formation caused a great section of the back wall to collapse in giant fragments that still choke the west end of the sheltered area. The Painters decorated the freshly exposed surface with scattered figures of deer painted in a homogeneous style (above right). Other parts of the cave retain older works, now faded or fragmented, that were closely spaced and more varied in style and subject matter.
baja rock art paintings california

La Vuelta del Batequi

baja rock art paintings california

La Batequi

La Candelaria I

From the cave of El Batequi, this detail from the right end of the painted ceiling (above left) illustrates several of the Painters' conventions and techniques in four or five distinguishable layers of overpainting. White outlining is conspicuous, as are two examples of twisted perspective. Breasts on the woman at the upper left appear to issue from her armpits because they are depicted in double profile. The same distorted perspective causes dewclaws on the deer to appear unnaturally splayed, producing curious handlike hoofs.
Paleolithic cultures on every inhabited continent produced pit-and-groove rock engravings (above right), but even very similar works may have been done for different reasons. A creative act which was part of a puberty rite in one group may have been a shaman's means of divination in another. So, perhaps, with rock art. No matter how similar, works of different times and places may have had different inspirations. The media available to artists are far more limited than the range of ideas they attempt to express.
The art of El Batequi stands in the most marked contrast to that of El Parral. El Batequi has far fewer sites. No more than five or six truly separate locations can be counted, but four of these are major painting centers, each with over 100 figures. El Batequi is distinguished by many masterfully executed figures. More important, it shows an unprecedented degree of cooperation among its major artists. Painters unknown numbers of years or generations apart, not only respected but added to what they found; the product is a powerful composition. This attribute spotlights the place among the Painters' work because the norm is diametrically opposite - most assemblages of figures from different hands and times have resulted in disarray and chaos. In a land where overpainting was the rule, successive artists usually obliterated the works of their predecessors. The priceless mural at El Batequi shines down from its ceiling as a glorious exception.
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