April 13, 2013

Rock art from Baja California dates to c. 9,000 years ago, maybe even older

Catalan researchers from the IPHES have been studying the impressive rock art of the caves of Baja California Sur (Mexico) and concluded that some of the art is from c. 8-9,000 years ago. However contextual dates are sometimes older, of c. 10-11,000 years ago. 

Source: El Universal[es], which has many more photos.


For decades it was believed, following the pioneer work of Clement Meighan, that the art was from the 13th century CE. However in the 1980s the more in-depth research by Catalan scientists revealed that it is in fact from much older dates, at least 5,000 years ago. These days it has been revealed that they are even older in some cases. 

The rock art is distributed by many areas of Baja California Sur, very especially the Sierra de San Francisco, which alone hosts more than 250 sites. These sites were often occupied through millennia, until the 18th century CE in some cases. Even later they have been used as shelters for sheep, however nowadays they do enjoy state and UNESCO protection. 

The most outstanding cave, La Pintada (the painted one), appears to have indications of astronomical knowledge. In the words of Viñas Vallverdú:

In the particular case of La Pintada there are many markings of astronomical type, spots where it is indicated that the Sun illuminates in certain time of the year, signaling a date in their calendar. That way they knew that, when the Sun hit one of those marks, it was time to collect the pitahaya or that the rain period was nearing.

The research is part of an international project by IPHES and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) of Mexico, which is surveying the prehistory of the North American federation. 

The study will be published as the doctoral thesis of lead researcher Ramón Viñas Vallverdú (IPHES).

Source: El Universal[es] (includes a very beautiful photo-gallery).

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