Rock Art of Baja California
Jesuit missionaries reported their observations of peninsular California's
magnificent rock art, but their writings were overlooked in the turmoil
of their expulsion from all Spanish soil  and the worldwide
suppression of their order, the Society of Jesus, in 1773. In the
1890s, Leon Diguet, a French chemist employed by the mining company
in Santa Rosalía, rediscovered some examples and reported them
in a scholarly journal. The phenomenon reached a broad public through
a Life Magazine article in 1963 that was prompted by a report
from Baja California aficionado and mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner.
In 1975, my work, The Cave Paintings of Baja California,
raised the total reported sites from about 30 to over 200. Since then,
dozens of new sites have been discovered, mostly by local ranchers
who had seen or heard of the attention that the art was receiving
and the visitors that it attracted.
- Enrique Hambleton with petroglyphs, Sierra de San Francisco,
- Harry Crosby at Cueva Pintada, Sierra de San Francisco,
- Boca de San Julio, Sierra de San Francisco, 1977
- Prehistoric hunting blinds, 1973
Ancient hunters moved large chunks of basalt to form depressions
screened from the view of the deer that they drove through passes
in the rocky scape. Men armed with bows and arrows leapt up at the
opportune time and had close shots at their prey.
- Daunting view of the Sierra de la Giganta from
Chuenque on the Loreto Plain, 1990
After the Jesuits established themselves at Loreto, Sicilian Padre
Francisco María Piccolo yearned to found a California mission
of his own, but knew he would have to find a site with solid promise
for agriculture. He, Captain Tortolero, and eight soldiers headed
southward on the Monday following Christmas of 1698. They reached
Chuenque, then a rush-filled marsh back of the beach, and visited
nearby Puerto de Danzantes (soon thereafter named Puerto Escondido).
They found no large bands of people and no site for a mission. Moreover,
the sierra that blocked all routes from the Loreto Plain appeared
even more formidable as the party ventured south. Piccolo returned
to Loreto convinced that his best path westward lay in the great
arroyo that ascended directly from Loreto to a mountainous region
called Viggé by Loreto's recent converts.
de San Javier de Biaundó, Located in a Mountain Area Called
San Javier was
founded in 1699, the second mission created as the Society of Jesus
finally established a permanent Spanish presence in California. The
founder, Padre Francisco María Piccolo, led the exploration
that discovered the original site on which San Javier was founded,
but within a few years a lack of water and arable land forced a move
to the site pictured here, some five miles downstream from the original.
de San Javier seen from a high mesa to the east, 1967.
Beginning in 1744, Padre Miguel del Barco had a crew working at
San Javier on a magnificent church of cut stone, apparently of his
own design, and California's first to be capped by a vaulted roof.
This building was not dedicated until 1758, in part because it took
several years to obtain a maestro capable of supervising the delicate
craft of cutting porous stone, tezontle, a vesicular basalt, and
erecting vaults with crossing arches. In another more important
achievement, Barco wrote the most valuable and extensive eyewitness
account of Jesuit California, Historia natural y crónica
de la Antigua California, one of the cornerstones of my current
work, Antigua California.
of San Javier from the south slope of the arroyo, 1967.
view of Misión de San Javier, 1967
detail on the arch beneath the choir loft at Misión de San
from San Javier's belfry, 1967.