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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ancestors, Ghosts, and Enemies in Prehistoric Baja California


Recent investigators have argued that the worship or veneration of lineage ancestors is a key to understanding the prehistoric archaeology of Baja California, and in particular the central peninsula's Great Mural rock art. However, a review of the ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and archaeological evidence favors a different interpretation—that prehistoric Baja Californians regarded the dead primarily as a source of danger to the living, to be avoided and forgotten rather than venerated, and that the human figures depicted in the Great Murals are more likely to have represented the painters' enemies than their ancestors.

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