The Bradshaw Foundation, in conjunction with Harry W. Crosby, presents this documentary film (running time 57 minutes) on the Great Murals rock art paintings of the Baja California peninsula of northern Mexico.
1976 marked the beginning of an odyssey in Baja California; the photographer Harry W. Crosby was commissioned to provide photographs for a publication to commemorate California's bicentennial. He was given the task of following the route of the 1769 Portolá Serra expedition. One expedition led to many, and over the next few years Harry W. Crosby and his team would ride more than 1,000 miles in Baja California, on mule-back and on trails far from the road, to its remotest areas where he would encounter the spectacular rock art of this region. Over-shadowed by the more famous Upper Palaeolithic cave art of Europe such as Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira, the Great Murals of Baja California, as they are now known, rival their European counterparts in terms of antiquity, diversity, sophistication, and symbolism. Baja California’s Great Murals represent one of the largest concentrations of rock art in the Americas, with some of the largest rock art panels the world has yet discovered, its individual painted pictograph figures of humans and animals on a scale almost unparalleled, defining it as a treasure house of world rock art.
Recognized by UNESCO with World Heritage status, the Sierra de San Francisco region on the Baja California peninsula contains the largest cache of rock art, and at its heart lies the most painted part of the entire range of the Great Murals; the two caves that define the focus of this painted phenomenon - La Cueva Pintada and Cueva de las Flechas - sit opposite each other in long shallow caves hundreds of feet above the Arroyo de San Pablo. Most of the walls and ceilings exhibit well-preserved cave paintings, or pictographs, of women, men, beasts, birds and sea mammals. La Cueva Pintada is indeed 'The Painted Cave'.
The Bradshaw Foundation has carefully restored the original 1970’s cine film footage which has remained unseen for over 40 years. The documentary film provides a rare opportunity to follow Harry Crosby and his companions as they rode over 600 miles crisscrossing Baja California’s vast landscape of mountains, deserts and arroyos.
Available on DVD and as a digital download, the documentary film BAJA CALIFORNIA: In Search of Painted Caves provides a cinematic window into the America’s pre-Columbian past.
The Great Murals of Baja California - A Message to my fellow Americans
"For the splendors of world class rock art you are no longer required to journey to Europe but can view rock art with antiquity, diversity, sophistication, and symbolism in the Americas. High among the best of the America’s are the great murals of Baja California, the subject of the Bradshaw Foundation Film. Although we may never fully understand it, by stepping through that painted veil we can begin to reflect on the art, its artists, and the people for whom they painted and our imagination should be as unlimited as theirs must have been.
These great Baja Murals shed light on the prehistoric and pre-Columbian occupation of the Americas. So, if our cultures define us, it can be said that our rock art is the very bedrock of those cultures. Enjoy it, treasure it, and protect it”.
Robert A. Hefner III
Bradshaw Foundation President
Harry W. Crosby - The Great Murals of Baja California
Harry W. Crosby's explorations, studies, and writings establish him as one of the foremost authorities on Baja California's colorful past.
Crosby was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1926, then moved with his family to La Jolla, California in 1935. He graduated from La Jolla Junior-Senior High School in 1944 when there was a little more than a year left in World War II. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy and attended Occidental College in Los Angeles as a pre-medical student. In 1947, while working at a salmon cannery in Alaska, Crosby was accepted into U.S.C. medical school but did not accept it. Instead, having married, he then became a science teacher for the next 12 years.
Following his teaching career, Crosby decided to become a photographer, working extensively in Mexico. One of his first photo assignments came from a magazine that hired him in 1964 to photograph Tijuana for a special issue entirely devoted to that topic. Seventy of these photographs illustrate 'Tijuana 1964', a recent binational publication.
In 1967, he was commissioned as photographer for 'The Call to California', a book to commemorate California's bicentennial. He was given the task of following the route of the Portola/Serra expedition of 1769 to make photos to illustrate a text derived from diaries of the trekkers who soon founded San Diego as a base for Spain's claim to what is today the state of California.
He rode 600 miles in Baja California, on mule-back and on trails far from the then-wheel track road, to the remotest areas of Baja California. Since completing that first work, he has logged over a thousand miles in the saddle over harsh and barren terrain to interview the Baja peninsula's isolated ranchers and discover its amazing prehistoric art and cave paintings. In his book 'The Cave Paintings of Baja California: Discovering the Great Murals of an Unknown People', he documents the expeditions that revealed over 200 previously undiscovered rock art sites.
Harry W. Crosby's other books include 'The King's Highway in Baja California', 'The Story of El Camino Real; Last of the Californios', 'Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697-1768', 'Gateway to Alta California: a history of the 1769 Portola Expedition', and 'Portrait of Paloma', a novel.