Drawn from Prehistory- page 9 | Travel | Smithsonian
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Drawn from Prehistory

Deep within Mexico's Baja peninsula, nomadic painters left behind the largest trove of ancient art in the Americas

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Still, it is two more hard days of exploring before I confront anything to compete with Cueva Pintada. This is El Brinco, or The Leap. Human figures, at least 15 feet tall, painted in red and black, crowd the underside of this nearly inaccessible respaldo. Drawings of gigantic deer, Brobdingnagian rabbits and an enormous fish add to the panorama.


I am certain no solitary artist could have created paintings so extensive. The requisite scaffolding would surely have required several individuals—and pack animals too. How long must it have taken to produce the pigment for images this size? Months? Years? Why would anyone create these works, masterful, miraculous, in so inaccessible a place? As the light turns from gray to blue to clear, El Brinco’s murals seem to waver on the volcanic rock. The splash of a creek echoes below; quail coo from the underbrush.


At this instant, I join the ranks of the Great Mural converts: another human attempting to commune with anonymous artists, the ancient ones who forged works of genius transcending both time and distance.

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