Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cueva de la Serpiente (Baja California, Mexico)

    “At Cueva de la Serpiente, can be found the most extraordinary composition in the Great Mural area. This 26-foot-long panel panel, apparently painted by one artist. No other site displays fanciful creatures like these deer-headed serpents, nor do others show large groups of interrelated figures like those clustering around the sinuous body of the snake-monster on the right. As if to heighten the mystery of this unique conception, the smaller figures do closely resemble the work of Painters at other sites. The photograph of the area between the serpents shows the rough surface on which this great work was rendered - and attests to the fidelity of Joanne Crosby's recreation of the entire panel.”
Sam Hicks leads Erle Stanley Gardner to the
Cave of the Serpent, Sierra San Francisco.
(Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he wrote numerous other novels and shorter pieces... Wikipedia)

In a research paper 'Cueva de la Serpiente: Interpretive Analysis of an Archaic Great Mural Rock Art Panel' by Roberto Martínez, Larissa Mendoza and Ramón Viñas (2012) the authors explain that snakes are very uncommon in the Great Mural imagery, which makes the case of the two a horned snakes with fish-like tails that preside the panel at Cueva de la Serpiente practically unique.

They offer several interpretations of this Great Mural rock art panel, found in Arroyo del Parral within the San Francisco Sierra. The panel composition, thematic, colour pallet, and site orientation, as well as ethnographical analogy and the contextual examination, are all important indicators for such interpretations. The motifs shown on the site's rock art are associated with concepts that refer to creation myths; death and the cyclical renewal of life and the seasons. The central figure of the horned serpent is present throughout the American continent and prevails in the worldview of several native cultures.
They conclude that the horned serpent is associated to water, abundance and fecundity. The two facing snakes at Cueva de la Serpiente seem to symbolize the opposition of youth - the early rain season and its wealth of resources in life - and old age - dry and sterile. Many Native American world views are based on duality and binary oppositions, which seem to constitute the panel's subject: the wet season generates life and, the dry season, death. Moreover, human and animal life is created, transformed and renewed. In this way, the equinox serpent of light and shadow might reflect the marking of a moment, when the dry season ends and new life begins. The horned serpents in the panel of Cueva de la Serpiente refer us to the seasonal transition from abundance to scarcity, as well as to the individual's personal transition through life, and the process of renewal and the creation of new life.

Two deer-headed serpents give Cueva de la Serpiente its name. The right-hand one is complete, with deer-like ears and antlers, long banded body, bifurcated tail. Only the head of the left one is preserved; the body was painted on a section of rock that fell away. The 26-foot-long mural also has more than 50 doll-like human and animal figures. (Photograph by Harry W. Crosby, courtesy Sunbelt Publications).

Harry W. Crosby discovering the Great Murals of an Unknown People
    ‘The Cochimi were the aboriginal inhabitants of the central and northern parts of the Baja California peninsula. Two other ethnic groups occupied the peninsula further south; the Guaycura and the Peric. Archaeological research suggests that the peninsula was inhabited up to 10,000 years ago….
The Unknown Painters of the Baja California Great Murals
    “The Cochimi were hunter-gatherers, leading a prehistoric existence without agriculture or metallurgy. Pottery was used and there is evidence of wooden drums or tablas. Ceremonies and shamanic practices were held. Perhaps their greatest cultural legacy is the cave paintings; the Great Murals of Baja California have been attributed to the Cochimi, although on-going research aims to confirm this assertion.
     It is hypothesized that the rock art was produced in the context of shamanic rituals. Indeed, the paintings are a significant statement of the cultural sophistication of a prehistoric people whose material culture was relatively minimal [Schaafsma 1997]…”

"The Cochimi Indians fished and lived off the land at the Wall as much as 15,000 years ago and the evidence is widespread. Around the sleeping rings and midden piles, we found bones, arrowheads and flakes left over from tool making."

The first recorded stone structure on Baja: "The woman took him to the stone corral that was her home (page 30)."

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