The Cave Paintings of Baja California

The Sierra de San Francisco

Page 7 of 10
San Gregorio, lies at about the geographic center of the area's rock art locations. San Gregorio I, consists of a low cave about 100 feet long located at the base of a formidable respaldo. The ceiling of the shallow cave is heavily painted with large and small figures of nearly every sort found in the Great Mural area. Most of these are in reasonably good condition and this assemblage alone would constitute a major example of the Painters' range and skills. However, on the respaldo outside and above this ceiling exhibit there is a procession of men and beasts surpassed only by El Batequi in artistry and composition - and by no other in power and thrust. As at El Batequi, the effect was fostered by a tacit cooperation among the artists who painted different areas or repainted those already used. It is noteworthy that the flow of running, pressing animals here is from right to left, the reverse of El Batequi. In further comparison, San Gregorio has a harder, rougher rock and its colors are the more vivid as a result. The drawings at El Batequi seem finer and surer. In balance, both these grand canvases are profoundly impressive: San Gregorio the more immediately striking, El Batequi the more sophisticated expression.
baja rock art paintings california

San Gregorio I

The Phoenix of San Gregorio

This 60-foot-wide "mural" at San Gregorio (above left) is, in fact, a progression of many dozens of interlaced human and animal forms painted at different times and partially overlapped. As this parade developed, each artist may have been concerned only with adding his new figure, but a modern viewer finds it easy to synthesize the separate images into a meaningful work of art.
Whereas the grand exterior panel displays a parade of large figures, the roof of the inner space is painted and overpainted with a complex assortment of smaller images - small mammals, birds, snakes, and fish - rich in colors and forms, but difficult to isolate and appreciate (below left).
baja rock art paintings california

San Gregorio I

baja rock art paintings california

San Gregorio II

Bighorn Sheep

A stranded whale or great ray would have attracted much attention since it could supply a whole band with an unprecedented cache of protein. This painting (above middle) seems to show a whale broaching, an event the artist could have seen at Scammon's Lagoon; but the strange rear appendages lead some viewers to identify this figure as a pinniped - either a sea lion or an elephant seal.
baja rock art paintings california

San Gregorio

baja rock art paintings california

San Gregorio

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