Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco

The Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco are prehistoric rock art pictographs found in the Sierra de San Francisco mountain range in Mulegé Municipality of the northern region of Baja California Sur state, in Mexico.[1][2][3]

Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco
Antropología - Museo Nacional de Antropología ovedc wikimania 070
Replica of rock paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco at the Museo Nacional de Antropología
LocationSierra de San Francisco, Mulegé Municipality, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Coordinates27°39′20″N 112°54′58″W / 27.6555611°N 112.91611°WCoordinates: 27°39′20″N 112°54′58″W / 27.6555611°N 112.91611°W
Official name: Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco
Criteriai, iii
Designated1993 (17th session)
Reference no.714
State PartyMexico
RegionLatin America and the Caribbean
Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco is located in Mexico
Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco
Location of Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco in Mexico


The pictographs are likely the artistic products of the Cochimi people in the Baja California peninsula. This group became culturally extinct in the nineteenth century but is comparatively well known through the writings of eighteenth-century Jesuit missionaries. These paintings on the roofs and walls of rock shelters in the Sierra de San Francisco were first discovered by Europeans in the eighteenth century by the Mexican Jesuit missionary José Mariano Rotea.[4][5]

According to some native beliefs recorded by the Jesuits and others, the paintings were drawn by a race of giants—a supposition that has been discarded by scientific investigators since the late nineteenth century.[6] This belief may have been suggested by the larger-than-life size of many of the human (as well as animal) figures. Some observers have speculated that the paintings had meanings relating to hunting magic, religious practices, or ancestor worship, but there is no consensus on these interpretations. Animal species including deer, wild sheep, rabbit, puma, lynx, whale, turtle, fish, and birds are depicted. There are also abstract elements of various forms. A growing body of radiocarbon dates relating to the paintings has suggested ages from as early as 5500 BCE to as late as European contact in the eighteenth century.


The pictographs are at around 250 sites, which are located east of the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. Access to the paintings is difficult due to the isolated location, which also has helped to minimize vandalism and destruction of the out cropping.


The area has one of the most important concentration of Pre-Columbian art on the Baja California Peninsula. It is of exceptional quality at both national and international standards: for the high quality, extent, variety and originality of human and animal representations, remarkable colors, and excellent state of preservation.

In 1989 the rock paintings of Sierra de San Francisco were nominated for, and in 1993 became, a World Heritage Site.

See also


  1. ^ Harry W. Crosby. 1997. The cave paintings of Baja California: discovering the great murals of an unknown people. Rev. and expanded ed. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego.
  2. ^ María de la Luz Gutiérrez and Justin R. Hyland. 2002. Arqueología de la sierra de San Francisco: dos décadas de investigación del fenómeno Gran Mural. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.
  3. ^ Danny Palmerlee. 2007. Baja California and Los Cabos, 308 pages
  4. ^ Francisco Javier Clavijero. 1789. Storia della California. 2 vols. Appresso Modesto Penzo, Venice.
  5. ^ Miguel del Barco. 1973. Historia natural y crónica de la antigua California. Edited by Miguel León-Portilla. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  6. ^ Don Laylander. 2014. "The beginnings of prehistoric archaeology in Baja California, 1732-1913". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 50(1&2):1-32.

External links

Getty Conservation Institute

The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), located in Los Angeles, California, is a program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It is headquartered at the Getty Center but also has facilities at the Getty Villa, and commenced operation in 1985. The GCI is a private international research institution dedicated to advancing conservation practice through the creation and delivery of knowledge. It "serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field" and "adheres to the principles that guide the work of the Getty Trust: service, philanthropy, teaching, and access." GCI has activities in both art conservation and architectural conservation.GCI conducts scientific research related to art conservation. It offers formal education and training programs, and it has published a number of scholarly books. GCI has supported field projects around the world to preserve cultural heritage.

Great Mural Rock Art

Great Mural Rock Art consists of prehistoric paintings of humans and other animals, often larger than life-size, on the walls and ceilings of natural rock shelters in the mountains of northern Baja California Sur and southern Baja California, Mexico. This group of monuments comprises the site Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco, which is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Rock art

In archaeology, rock art is human-made markings placed on natural stone; it is largely synonymous with parietal art. A global phenomenon, rock art is found in many culturally diverse regions of the world. It has been produced in many contexts throughout human history, although the majority of rock art that has been ethnographically recorded has been produced as a part of ritual. Such artworks are often divided into three forms: petroglyphs, which are carved into the rock surface, pictographs, which are painted onto the surface, and earth figures, formed on the ground. The oldest known rock art dates from the Upper Palaeolithic period, having been found in Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Archaeologists studying these artworks believe that they likely had magico-religious significance.

The archaeological sub-discipline of rock art studies first developed in the late-19th century among Francophone scholars studying the Upper Palaeolithic rock art found in the cave systems of Western Europe. Rock art continues to be of importance to indigenous peoples in various parts of the world, who view them as both sacred items and significant components of their cultural patrimony. Such archaeological sites are also significant sources of cultural tourism, and have been utilised in popular culture for their aesthetic qualities.Normally found in literate cultures, a rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture carved on solid or "living rock" such as a cliff, rather than a detached piece of stone. They are a category of rock art, and sometimes found in conjunction with rock-cut architecture. However, they tend to be omitted in most works on rock art, which concentrate on engravings and paintings by prehistoric peoples. A few such works exploit the natural contours of the rock and use them to define an image, but they do not amount to man-made reliefs. Rock reliefs have been made in many cultures, and were especially important in the art of the Ancient Near East. Rock reliefs are generally fairly large, as they need to be to make an impact in the open air. Most have figures that are over life-size, and in many the figures are multiples of life-size.

Stylistically they normally relate to other types of sculpture from the culture and period concerned, and except for Hittite and Persian examples they are generally discussed as part of that wider subject. The vertical relief is most common, but reliefs on essentially horizontal surfaces are also found. The term typically excludes relief carvings inside caves, whether natural or themselves man-made, which are especially found in India. Natural rock formations made into statues or other sculpture in the round, most famously at the Great Sphinx of Giza, are also usually excluded. Reliefs on large boulders left in their natural location, like the Hittite İmamkullu relief, are likely to be included, but smaller boulders may be called stelae or carved orthostats.

Sierra de San Francisco

The Sierra de San Francisco is a mountain range in Mulegé Municipality of the northern region of Baja California Sur state, in northwestern Mexico.

North West
North Central
South West
South Central
South East

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