Talking Stone Rock Art Coso America USA Documentary Film

The Cave Paintings of Baja California

The Sierra de San Francisco

Page 9 of 10


At its mouth, the cave of La Candelaria is about 100 feet wide and 40 feet high and its interior is complex in form. The opening faces west and the northern part of the cave is quite shallow with a nearly vertical back wall. The southern portion is much deeper, running back 50 feet or so from the entry. Between these dissimilar areas is a structure unique to La Candelaria: A sort of natural staircase leads from the central part of the cave up to a point quite close to the ceiling and near the center of the back wall.

This ready-made scaffolding was not wasted by the Painters. Exactly at its top, we found the supremely beautiful deer of La Candelaria, its antler-crowned head thrown back as if in the agony of the chase. This image, in spite of its damaged condition, asserts itself in any company as an expressive work of art.

There was a bond between artist and animal. Whatever their motives for decorating caves, the Painters displayed an affinity for the creatures they pictured. Deer are shown impaled by arrows or spears; with legs broken by throwing sticks; or gasping, open-mouthed, perhaps run down in a chase. Nevertheless, the grace and symmetry of the animals shine through. These animals were not merely pieces of meat on the hoof; they were given spirits.

baja rock art paintings california

La Candelaria I

baja rock art paintings california

La Candelaria I


Elsewhere, as well, the cave proved to be a treasure house. Much, much art has been irrevocably lost to erosion, but the surviving works include a high percentage of rare and beautiful images. The last major figure at the north end depicts a berrendo (above right) in the Painters' best bicolored tradition. This and the all-red berrendo at La Palma are among the few representations of this animal found in peninsular art, and this is the finest of the lot. The drawing and execution are exemplary and the image apparently includes a rare example of the Painters' techniques for suggesting animation; in this case the animal was given two pairs of forelegs, one thrust down and the other forward. Laid over the antelope's body is the painting of a slim arrow with a well-defined point. Abstract, semi-geometric figures occupy wall spaces adjacent to the antelope image. Above the antelope is a shield-shaped white outline filled in with a carefully painted checkerboard in alternating hues of black and ochre-yellow. Below the antelope is another prominent checkerboard done all in ochre. Only three painted images that can confidently be identified as antelope. This example shows the long neck and short body common to all three.


Introduction to the Cave Paintings of Baja California
Harry W. Crosby - About the Author
The Sierra de San Francisco | Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
Baja Rock Paintings Style Table |

American Rock Art Archive |

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