Functional MRI (fMRI) experiments rely on precise characterization of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal. As the spatial resolution of fMRI reaches the sub-millimeter range, the need for quantitative modelling of spatiotemporal properties of this hemodynamic signal has become pressing. Here, we find that a detailed physiologically-based model of spatiotemporal BOLD responses predicts traveling waves with velocities and spatial ranges in empirically observable ranges. Two measurable parameters, related to physiology, characterize these waves: wave velocity and damping rate. To test these predictions, high-resolution fMRI data are acquired from subjects viewing discrete visual stimuli. Predictions and experiment show strong agreement, in particular confirming BOLD waves propagating for at least 5-10 mm across the cortical surface at speeds of 2-12 mm s-1. These observations enable fundamentally new approaches to fMRI analysis, crucial for fMRI data acquired at high spatial resolution.