Archaeological Information on ‘The Baja’

fossilsHere is a bit of information on the fossil fields and exploring the archaeological areas of Baja California.
Though this article is a bit technical in it’s writing, it should provide the reader with some notable value of the significance of the Baja California Sur’s archaeological significance and value.
And who knows what you’ll find when you visit the fossil fields during your stay at the Inn at Rincon.

The state of Baja California Sur is located in the northwest of Mexico, occupying half of the peninsula of Baja California. It includes 73,922 km² representing 3.8% of the country’s surface and it has 2,705 km of coastline, which represents the 23.33% of the national total (SEMARNAT, 2006). It is located within a semiarid coastal area that is regionally acknowledged for its geographical isolation, low-density population and scenic beauty. It consists of a diverse territory formed by open and varied spaces, which possess, among others, an extraordinary cultural and scientific value and interest represented by a rich natural heritage: its geology and paleontology. This heritage furthermore constitutes a valuable history of the geologic evolution of the territory that occupies the state.

Geologically the state stands out for the presence of diverse types of rocks, fossils and forms of terrestrial and coastal relief that provides evidence of a geologic evolution of a unique and complex nature. Numerous places exist in which, due to the semiarid climate factor that prevails, real natural monuments have been preserved, that give shape to the physical landscape.

In reference to the paleontology heritage, a federal law exists to ensure the preservation of fossils and fossil deposits. This heritage is, by the same law, property of the nation and as such is considered a communal heritage. The institutional responsibility of the conservation and custody of this heritage is circumscribed by Mexican legislation in Article 28 of the Law on “Monumentos y Zonas Arqueológicas, Artísticas e Históricas”, and its execution is under the jurisdiction of the Secretaría de Educación Pública through the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) (Diario Oficial de la Federación, 1986); nonetheless, the active participation of the different sectors of the population in the work of protection and conservation of the geological and paleontological sites is fundamental. International and national examples exist of the effectiveness of these actions where the community, in a manner consistent with protection, uses these spaces for cultural and/or scientific purposes or economically makes the best of it through sustainable tourism programs. Among many other examples is the European Network of GeoParks, the Global Network of GeoParks assisted by the UNESCO, the National Park System in Europe, United States of America, Canada and Mexico.

The diverse types of rocks and fossils, as well as the different forms of terrestrial relief that nowadays dominate the territory of Baja California Sur, the peninsula of Baja California and the Gulf of California, demonstrate evidence of a long and complex geological evolution that spans chronologically from the Mesozoic to the Recent, through an approximate time of 160 million years. Geologically, the entity stands out in an exceptionally way for constituting a region where sedimentary, tectonic and erosive processes are intimately connected with the development that gave origin to the peninsula and the Gulf of California. Its evolution, documented in the sedimentary rocks and deposits as well as the geological structures and shape of the terrain, reflect multiple paleoenvironmental phases, marine sedimentation as well as continental, besides the characteristic tectonic forces that were the cause of the immersion, emersion and deformation of the continental crust related to the development that culminated with the opening of the Gulf of California. The Baja California peninsula and the Gulf of California are important and relevant ## The geological peninsular evolution has been intimately connected to the tectonic dynamics that characterizes the circum-pacific eastern border and is associated, since the Late Jurassic, with the interactions among the tectonic plates, in particular the North American with the Farallon paleoplates and the modern plates of the northeastern Pacific. These dynamics have exerted and continue to exert fundamental control over the tectonic and geologic nature and history of the region. A modern example of such control is represented by the Gulf of California, known as one of the geologically newest marine basins and, like the Red Sea, is often used as a classic example of tectonic interaction of the plates in the recent geological time.

For a great part of the Mesozoic and almost all of the Early Tertiary the convergent limits were tectonic features common to western fossilarrow Mexico that presented an evolutionary tendency typical to an arch system, in front of an oceanic basin, towards environments of continental convergent margins In the Miocene two important changes occurred in the tectonic system: the first, when the subduction along the western edge of the continent ceased during the Middle Miocene and new plates with transform faults and features were established; and the second, after a prolonged phase of evolution and development during the Miocene- Pliocene, a system dominated by extensive forces operated that resulted in the opening of the Gulf of California and the present establishment of the relative movement between the Pacific and North American plates.
The rocks and structures register and document the effects of these phenomena with the presence of volcanic islands associated with intra-oceanic basins of arch and post-arch types where sedimentary sequences of marine, volcanic and continental origin were deposited in varied marine and terrestrial environment. These very diverse conditions favored the arrival and evolution of many groups of organisms throughout this geological history.

The geological heritage, be it rocks, fossils or the form of relief, can promote tourist, cultural and/or scientific activities. Nowadays, in the tourism sector they are used as a new form of tourism conceived as “traveling through time”, an activity known as geotourism (INE, 2004). In the development of this activity a scientific interpretation of the components of the landscape is supplied, through pathways or itineraries that connect predetermined sites of interest to illustrate the geologic history of a region. This allows the tourist to understand, enjoy and fully appreciate the physical landscape observed.

Baja California Sur is a territory with a notable geodiversity It’s an ideal place that enables the design and realization of pathways or itineraries to discover its geologic history and promote a wide range of tourist activities, involving, in an active and permanent way, the inhabitants of the communities where such activities take place. The five municipalities of the state have these attractions in their territories. Some of these are used in an incipient and disorganized way, while many others have not been identified and valued for their use in tourism activities at all.

The southern part of the state, from La Paz to Los Cabos, is characterized by rapid growth in traditional tourist activities, which can be complemented with the use of places like the gullies of the Sierra de la Laguna, the fossil localities between Santiago and San José del Cabo, the springs of Santiago or a visit to the San Lázaro or La Laguna mountaintops. In particular, the paleontological heritage has caught the attention of specialists of many countries for many years. GONZÁLEZ (2005) mentions that the fossils in this state have been described since the Jesuit chronicles of Miguel del Barco in the second half of the XVIII century, and that from this same time date the first excavations to unearth mammoth bones near the mission of San Ignacio. GONZÁLEZ (2005) highlights the recent discovery of cetacean fossils from the Late Oligocene in San Juan de la Costa and giant terrestrial turtles, saber tooth cats and horse crania from the Late Pleistocene at the site known as El Carrizal. Altogether, good exposures or manifestations of the different types of rocks and sedimentary deposits, the different levels of erosion and the geological-structural and geomorphologic aspects constitute a great number of possibilities in Baja California Sur to be used to promote tourist, cultural and scientific activities, on condition that an inter- predation and explanation directed to the local inhabitants to facilitate understanding of the physical landscape and its evolution is in place thus ensuring an effective and better enjoyment, appreciation and value of the natural surroundings. As mentioned by only in this way can you value what you know, you conserve what you appreciate and you appreciate what you understand.

Following, some experiences held at UABCS are presented. HERITAGE CONSERVATION OF BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR PROGRAM Established in 1998 as an academic collaboration program between the UABCS and the California State University, Northridge (CSUN), it represented the first interinstitutional initiative to create an academic binational program with a holistic focus on education and investigation of topics of environmental conservation and natural and historic-cultural heritage resources in both California’s. The initial financing was made possible through a seed fund contributed by the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior en México (ANUIES) and from the American Council of Education (ACE) of the United States of America. Since 1999 The William and Flora HEWLETT Foundation financed in an outstanding way this program until it ended in 2005.

This initiative originated between academic groups of the UABCS and the CSUN when they acknowledged that Baja California Sur was one of the Mexican regions with the highest tourism growth and that this activity impacted the natural and social environments and threatened to degrade a wide range of heritage resources. The challenge raised was answering the question: how to balance the economic benefits of tourism and at the same time mitigates the threat and risk of its negative impact? Government and non-governmental organizations that struggled to invest more resources and take more action for the protection and conservation of the environment also shared the concern. The initial aspect of the program identified that one of these investments should focus on the education and research that helped to identify, know, rescue, protect, and conserve the heritage resources of Baja California Sur, considered also of universal value.

The general goal of the program was to achieve social and economic benefits through the activities of self-sustainable education and research, with the following particular goals: 1) create more public awareness of the necessity of environmental and natural and historic- cultural heritage conservation; 2) develop and offer academic programs directed at graduates in higher education, putting emphasis in the field and lab practical work, according to the established environmental and heritage protection laws in Mexico and the United States of America; and 3) train students in theoretical and practical aspects of conservation who wish to assume leadership in tourism activities oriented at the conservation and recreational ecology, namely, Scientific Tourism. For this, two theoretical-practical instruction courses were done, allowing students to certification in a Certificate Program. The first Certificate Program, titled “Prehistory of the Arid and Coastal Zones of California and the Peninsula of Baja California”, had a duration of seven weeks of classroom work and four weeks of field and lab work, accumulating a total of 200 hours and was given by professors of the UABCS and CSUN, as a distance education program. The purpose of the course was focused on the training of students to perform investigations about prehistory of arid and coastal regions on the peninsula of Baja California (Mexico) and in California (USA) and to do effective, rigorous and clear retrieval of information in archeological sites. In this way, besides enriching the scientific knowledge of the students, they would also become competitive in obtaining positions in organizations that make studies in environmental impact related to archeology and paleontology as well as in academic institutions. The second Certificate Program titled “Responsible Use of Tourism Resources” had a duration of four weeks of instruction in the classroom and field, accumulating a total of 120 hours and was given by the collaboration of faculty and instructors from UABCS, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the University of La Habana, Cuba, the Observers of America, The Nature Conservancy, and the Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT). The course focused on giving the students basic, theoretical and practical information about the natural and cultural heritage of Baja California Sur in the conceptual margin of Scientific Tourism and Recreational Ecology. This activity combined the knowledge of Natural History and the information of ecotourism use with the philosophy of conservation of NOLS “Leave no Trace”.

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM AT UABCS The UABCS has worked for about 15 years to have a natural History Museum in the campus. Until now, the collections have been improved, but nevertheless budgetary and space restrictions have been inadequate for the identification and conservation of the biota. The museum is divided into rooms for: petrology, mineralogy and paleontology. GONZÁLEZ (op. cit.) mentions that the paleontology collection has plentiful marine fossils invertebrates (shells, giant snails, corals, bryozoans, sea- weeds, foraminifer, sponges, crabs, hedgehogs) and vertebrates (fish, rays, and sharks, cetacean) mainly from the Cenozoic. The description and identification of many of these samples have been the subject of thesis from many or the UABCS students of Marine Biology and Geology.

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM IN CABO SAN LUCAS One of the results of the program for Heritage Conservation of Southern Baja certification in a Certificate Program. The first Certificate Program, titled “Prehistory of the Arid and Coastal Zones of California and the Peninsula of Baja California”, had a duration of seven weeks of classroom work and four weeks of field and lab work, accumulating a total of 200 hours and was given by prfossilairrowheadofessors of the UABCS and CSUN, as a distance education program. The purpose of the course was focused on the training of students to perform investigations about prehistory of arid and coastal regions on the peninsula of Baja California (Mexico) and in California (USA) and to do effective, rigorous and clear retrieval of information in archeological sites. In this way, besides enriching the scientific knowledge of the students, they would also become competitive in obtaining positions in organizations that make studies in environmental impact related to archeology and paleontology as well as in academic institutions. The second Certificate Program titled “Responsible Use of Tourism Resources” had a duration of four weeks of instruction in the classroom and field, accumulating a total of 120 hours and was given by the collaboration of faculty and instructors from UABCS, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS),