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Entrance of Winter Illuminates Rock Painting in Baja California Archaeological Site
The astronomical phenomenon of the Winter solstice that takes place every December 21st was observed at El Vallecito Archaeological Zone. Photo: INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- On the morning of December 21, a sunray entered a rocky shelter and illuminated the rock painting known as “El Diablito”

The astronomical phenomenon of the Winter solstice that takes place every December 21st was observed at El Vallecito Archaeological Zone, Baja California, where during the first hours of the morning, sunlight entered the rocky shelter named El Diablito, marking up the change of seasons.

The event took place at the rocky conjunct that lodges cave paintings created by Kumiai, a semi-nomad group that dwelled this area, building huts, manufacturing tools, processing food and capturing diverse aspects of their life and cosmogony.

In a wall of the space known as El Diablito (the Little Devil), considered the most relevant at the site, a 20 centimeters-high anthropomorphic figure with extensions that look like antennas, painted in red, can be appreciated. Geometric figures painted in white and black are found next to it.

The Winter solstice is marked up at the place between 7:00 and 7:30 hours, when the sunlight enters and slowly illuminates the figure from its feet to its head, and then backwards. This event marked a special date in the Kumiai calendar, the beginning of the cold season and the time to abandon the site temporarily.

The group moved to the coasts and valleys and gave up gathering nuts and hunting in order to consume mollusks and other kind of vegetables, explained archaeologist Fernando Oviedo Garcia, from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

El Vallecito cave paintings are distributed over an approximately 2 kilometers circuit; they were painted nearly 500 years ago, according to stylistic studies, but it is calculated that the first incursion of groups to the mountain must have been 1,500 years ago, at the beginning of the period known as Late Prehistory.

Paintings stand out due to their simple strokes and their small scale. They represent human figures, animals and suns, as well as geometric figures such as circles, rectangles, squares and horizontal lines. Red, white and black were commonly used to paint them.

Archaeologist Antonio Porcayo, a specialist from Baja California INAH Center, considers that due to the importance of El Vallecito as an astronomical marker, it can be compared with other sites in Mesoamerica.

“In Mexico we have marveled by the way Mesoamerican groups built and oriented their great structures towards the different directions of the universe, with the objective of predicting and capturing the most important moments regarding time measurement”.

The specialist commented that in the case of gatherer and hunter semi-nomadic groups of Northern Mexico and Baja California, it is thought that star observation was not common, because their world vision was simpler.

Nevertheless, declared Porcayo, cultural testimonies at the site contradict such idea, demonstrating the careful selection of a unique, natural and sacred space, where stars and Earth coincide in rock motives, used by ancient dwellers to locate themselves in time and give sense to their existence.

With the aim of knowing more about the life of these ancient dwellers, the INAH has conducted diverse works that include research, as well as conservation and maintenance since 2001, in charge of archaeologist Fernando Oviedo Garcia.

The archaeological site is located on the 67.5 kilometer of the Mexicali-Tijuana highway; there, turn right and ride one kilometer. Other alternative is riding the Tijuana-Mexicali federal highway, before reaching La Rumorosa town, turn left, cross the highway and ride one kilometer.

The entrance fee is 35 MXP, but children under 13, students and teachers with valid ID and people with Inapam ID do not pay.

During the Christmas holidays guided visits will be available and a zone will be conditioned for camping.

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