The Primeval San Carlos

As you stand on the point and look back at the rolling hills and majestic mesa, you see a beautiful coastal desert with scattered dry arroyos.  65 million years ago much of Baja including the San Carlos area was under the sea.  As you view the coastal cliff areas you can see the remains of sea creature fossils.

More recent - Thousands of years ago up until the close of the Ice Age  this landscape looked very different.

Imagine a pine forest with flowering vegetation and running streams emptying out into the Pacific Ocean.  Animal life was much more diverse as well.  Mammoth remains have been found in El Rosario and San Quintin indicating that they may have been as far down as the San Carlos area.

As you turn towards the south (your mind tells you west) you can see a faint discoloration in the water of a submerged point of land extending out about a half mile. This was once a more pronounced point of land that has been hammered by thousands of years of south swells and tides. The triangle of land is now a blunted trapezoid shape we know as the Beachbreak.  A better view of this topography can be seen by hiking to the top of the mesa. (as evidenced in the photo)

Erosion in San Carlos is severe.  In the twenty years visitors have frequented the area there is noticeable erosion at the Point and Beachbreak.   The soft sandstone composition is no match to torrential rain, ocean swells and tides.

On the San Carlos Mesa there is  evidence of massive volcanic activity.  Much of this area is composed of basalt and other volcanic material.  The reddish hue of the mesa at sunset is from the patina or red varnish on the basalt from years of exposure to the sun and chemical reactions to the elements  The petroglyphs of the area were made by chipping away at this varnish exposing the lighter natural color of the rocks.

At low tide in periods of less sand. there is evidence of lava flows into the sea.  There are many examples of geology in the coastal cliffs and arroyos including ancient fossils embedded in the cliff walls.

For more information on Baja Geology follow the link     Baja Geology

The Presence of Early Man

Although at this point in time there is no definitive scientific evidence of exactly when man first inhabited the region, there are clues that if may have been at the close of the Ice Age.  Speculation suggests that perhaps the Pericues a non-native American people may have migrated up the west coast, eventually. settling in western Baja.  Very little is known about the orgin of these people.  There is also speculation that people arrived in lower Baja by boat.

 Padres settling the lower Baja area in the 18th & 19th centuries interviewed the local native inhabitants for a historical insight.  They were told stories of giants that created elaborate cave paintings and petroglyphs.  One padre asked if there were any remains of these people.  He was shown skeletal pieces that measured over eleven feet tall.  Fact or fiction?  This event is chronicled in a journal by the padre.  Other documentation of the period and as late as 1906 are consistent in the view by the local native American peoples that these creators of rock art were giants and not related to them.

Native American People

There is documented evidence by interaction from the Spanish padres that the Cochimi and Guaycura Indians inhabited the area.  Thru a crude census it is speculated that about ten thousand Indian inhabited a wide area encompassing San Carlos in the late 1700's.  These people existed on a diet of seafood - a abundant food source easily obtained without the aid of watercraft. They were in the classic sense, hunter-gatherers. In the winter periods the tribes would migrate to the area behind the mesa to hunt for game.   There are remnants of their dwellings and many shell middens (trash dumps) near the coast and winter villages on the mesa. There does not seem to be the development of pottery however these people may have utilized abalone and other shells for plates and bowls.  The Padres classified the Cochimi as peaceful, spiritual and very industrious.  The Guaycura were more hedonistic minimalists.

Modern Anthropology has been re-evaluating the migrations of early man to Baja with the recent discoveries of skeletal remains that do not resemble the native American or Amerindians.  Newer theories suggest arrivals by sea in addition to the established land migration theories.

For more information regarding these people follow the link

Baja Anthropology- 1 
Baja Anthropology- 2

Baja Anthropology- 3

Next page - the wreck of the S.S. Sacramento


Note:  Because of the historical value of the San Carlos area, it is classified as a national treasure by the Mexican government.  Excavations and other forms of amateur archeology are strictly prohibited.  This area is being preserved for future scientific research.  Defacing or removal of rock art and artifacts is considered a crime.  Disinterring burial  sites is considered grave robbing.  While enjoying these historical areas, please show respect and treat the area as you would any other national park or monument.

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