Santa Barbara: Data and Conclusions

Santa Barbara Arroyo:

Metate and distance findings:
The total number of metates found in the Santa Barbara arroyo system was 41
Using the distances tabulated below, the average distance of metates from the datum on Santa Barbara beach is calculated as 6.97kms, rounding up to 7kms

Energy Lost and Energy Gained

Is the amount of energy expended by the Cochimi in their search for, and basic grinding of, seeds, worth it in terms of the energy gained from the seeds? See the work flow at the end of this page.

The Data

Below in tabulated form, are:

1. Location of Art and Metates and travel distance from beach.

2. Evidence of shells in the area, indicated by an “s”

3. The use of campfires or fire blackening, indicated by use of “b”

4. Water in the immediate area, indicated by a “w”

A generic location for the Cochimi ‘home camp’ on the beach area of Santa Barbara close to the ocean was chosen as the distance datum for no particular reason other than convenience. A dot on the map if you will. All metate locations in the arroyo will reference this location and distances plotted for each metate location was done using Google Earth. Thanks Google!


No metates were found in the sites in the Lower arroyo. However the lower arroyo contains the Coyote Cave with significant art.

Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
Coyote Cave26.70xxx, 111.90xxxART2.14
Fish Cave26.70xxx, 111.90xxxART2.04
Table Lower Arroyo


Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB Mid C126.70387, 111.9158323.2
SB Mid C226.70456, 111.915182+s3.28
SB Mid C326.70932, 111.918842+s3.95
Table Middle Arroyo

MAIN ARROYO: From highway to junction of 3 LEFT and 4 RIGHT

Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB M C126.69162, 111.9167325.2
SB W1R C126.69683, 111.9173925.7
SB W2R C126.69967. 111.9193316.1
SB W2R C226.69888, 111.9192616.0
SB M C226.69459, 111.9202715.8
SB M C526.704751,111.9393504+s+b+w8.1
Table Main Arroyo


Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB 0L C126.68638, 111.9188816.4
Table Arroyo 0 Left


Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
3 small caves26.69399, 111.927233 total6.6
Table Arroyo 1 Left


Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB 2L C126.700159,111.9375433+s8.2
SB 2L C226.69728, 111.936841+s+scraper tool8.5
SB 2L C326.69436, 111.945551+s9.2
Table Arroyo 2 Left


No art or metates were found in the caves and shelters of this branch of the arroyo. Maybe because gathers took the seeds back to the SB M C5 shelter at the junction (where there were 4 metates found) and processed them there. There’s water nearby too.


This is the only branch of the arroyo to contain significant art other than the Coyote Cave in the Lower arroyo.

Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB 4R C1
Venado Gordo
26.71xxx, 111.94xxxART+b+w9.5
SB 4R C526.71xxx, 111.94xxx1+ART+s+b+w9.6
SB 4R C226.71xxx, 111.94xxx1+ART+s+w9.6
SB 4R C326.71495, 111.9474919.8
SB 4R C6
Wall of Man
SB 4R C6aas aboveART10.4
SB 4R C6bas aboveART+s10.4
SB 4R C726.72xxx, 111.95xxxART+b+w11.0
Table Arroyo 4 Right


The part of this arroyo that was explored contained shelters with the greatest number of Metates and although the route further up was effectively blocked by very large boulders, if a way past could be found, then more metates and manos may be discovered.

Cave or Shelter NumberGPS LocationNumber of MetatesDistance from Datum in Km
SB 5R C126.70404, 111.9289117.3
SB 5R C226.70372, 111.928731+s7.3
SB 5R C326.70596, 111.929324+s7.6
SB 5R C426.70720, 111.9295217.7
SB 5R C526.71152, 111.9345228.4
SB 5R C626.71166, 111.9343818.4
SB 5R C726.71480, 111.9366528.8
Table Arroyo 5 Right

Metate and distance findings:
The total number of metates found was 41
Using the distances tabulated above, the average distance of metates from the datum on Santa Barbara beach is calculated as 6.97kms, rounding up to 7kms


After tabulating the findings the following thoughts came forward

  1. Can I be sure of the data? With respect to the number of metates found – yes. However I may not have been so accurate in noting the presence of soot or fire blackening in some of the shelters or caves. For example I may have overlooked fire blackening in a shelter if I had found a metate there. Duh! I must admit that I did not initially set out to explore the Santa Barbara arroyo with the intent to specifically document evidence of fires.
  2. Evidence of shells can be found at almost every location suggesting that some of the Cochimi, when in search of seeds to gather, took with them from the beach, a small quantity of shellfish to eat. Packing a Lunch so to speak. So, evidence of shells can suggest that:
    a. some, or all, of the seeds were to be processed and returned to the beach encampment for sharing and eating there, so requiring that some sustenance be provided on the trip to, and from the beach.
    b. the few Cochimi that brought them, expected a meager harvest of seeds, therefore requiring extra calories from the shellfish.
    c. as the shellfish were, no doubt, eaten many hours after being caught and while they may not be rancid would require the eater to have a strong disposition. A trait it seems of the Cochimi lifestyle.
    d. the eater was perhaps a person of an elite group, hunters or sentries for example and as such may have had easier, or privileged access to high protein foods like shellfish, even on seed gathering trips.
  3. Lack of shells in a location may suggest that:
    a. the users of the site were well fed and not overly hungry.
    b. they left the beach with the expectation of a successful collection of seeds and perhaps the processing and eating of some of the seeds at that location.
    c. the seed gathering trip could be concluded in a relatively short time period, well within a normal day for example, allowing for a meal to be skipped until they got back to the main encampment (on the beach).
  4. Fire blackening occurs at sites more than 8 kms from the datum on the beach. No fire blackened sites were found less than this distance. Without exception, all of the blackened sites were close to a source of water. In some cases in the immediate vicinity but at least within a hundred meters or so,
    This suggests that:
    a. overnight camps were made if there was water close-by and the location was a greater distance from the beach than could effectively walked in one day also allowing for time to gather/process seeds.
    b. If then, a site was used for overnight, then it might be possible that free time might exist after the seed processing chores were done. If that were the case, then some of that time could be used to decorate the site with rock art. This could definitely apply to the Venado Gordo site at the far reaches of the 4 RIGHT arroyo. It is fire blackened, 9.5 kms from the beach, and there is water in the vicinity.
  5. The Venado Gordo site supporting rock art, could also be considered within a day’s journey from the Piedras Pintados site in the Mulege basin being approximately 15kms over a relatively low pass at 390 meters altitude. An additional 9.5kms (approx) would be the remaining distance to the beach. Water would then be available at both ends of the trip and in the middle rest area of Venado Gordo.
  6. 12 metates were found in the shelters and caves checked in Arroyo 5 RIGHT. The bench area on each side of this arroyo was extensive, quite flat and close to the level of the arroyo, making it easy for the Cochimi to reach. Today, It is densely covered with cactii, and various trees. This would have been an easy area to collect seeds from if it was in this condition in historical times.
  7. All of the sites in the Arroyo Santa Barbara would have been used on a temporary basis, even the sites that were fire blackened because there is no evidence of a large midden.

Energy Lost and Energy Gained

Is the amount of energy expended by the Cochimi in their search for, and basic grinding of, seeds, worth it in terms of the energy gained from the seeds?

Here I’ll do a basic energy balance calculation. Remember, I’m not a Nutritionist and it’s been a long time since High School!

Here is what I have found out. . .

Humans need food energy to cover . . .
the basal metabolic rate;
the metabolic response to food;
the energy cost of physical activities;
and accretion of new tissue during growth and pregnancy, as well as
the production of milk during lactation.

In the case of my basic study of the Cochimi I am assuming that those gathering seeds are adults, not pregnant, not lactating and not debilitated, and have a good metabolic rate.

Here are the other considerations. . .
Not all seed energy is available to the Cochimi for maintaining energy balance.

First, foods are not completely digested and absorbed, and consequently food energy is lost in the faeces. However gentle reader, you may have heard of the Cochimi “Second Harvest” This is where the faeces containing the undigested seeds of the Pitahaya fruit are dried and the seeds recovered, ground and eaten. This would increase the digestibility of the seeds considerably, maybe by a factor of 5 or more.
The actual degree of incomplete absorption is a function of the food itself . . .and. . . The amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrate . . and . . . how the food has been prepared . . . and . . . the physiological state of the individual consuming the food.

Second, some incomplete conversion of protein is lost in the urine.

Third, the capture of energy from food is less than completely efficient in human metabolism (Flatt and Tremblay, 1997).

How is the energy handled in the body in terms of a formula?

Start with the total gross energy available from the food =GE

Incomplete digestion of food in the small intestine, in some cases accompanied by fermentation of unabsorbed carbohydrate in the colon, results in losses of energy as faecal energy =FE
There is a loss of “gaseous” energy =GaE in the form of hydrogen and methane.
The Jesuits reported that when the first of the seeds of the Acacia Vinorama was seasonaly available to the Cochimi, you would not want to be with them in a close environment like a Mission church with the doors closed.. . .Hmm.

Some energy is lost as urinary energy =UE,
A certain amount of heat and/or sweat energy is also lost from the body surface = SE Keep in mind that the Cochimi effectively wore no clothing so there would be considerable heat loss during the cool of the night and considerable sweating in the semi-desert daytime hours. I wonder if they evolved to use a “siesta” break in the hot part of the day?

The energy that remains after accounting for the above important losses is known as “metabolizable energy” =ME

Some of the ME is lost to microbial fermentation in the stomach, conversion of sugars and gut and heat loss to atmosphere =NME

The amount remaining is used for basic body metabolism (growth and cell regeneration) and physical activity =NE

So the formula would be:


However, for this exercise I am going to modify the formula to be


Not strictly correct, but I’m not an academic and it makes the calculation easier. (Perhaps you could consider a certain percentage loss if you like?)

So, if we have an idea what energy is left to the body to use for activity, what about the inputs from the seeds gathered?

Note: the body can harness the energy from some foods better than others. Starchy foods like Agave, seeds and fruits are more easily converted (by our modern bodies) compared to meat, eggs and fish. I wonder if the Cochimi metabolism was adapted differently to their environment?

Energy Inputs from food:

Conceptually then, the food energy conversion factors should reflect the amount of energy in all the food components, the main ones being protein, fat, and carbohydrate. that can ultimately be utilized by the Cochimi adult.
This then represents the input factor in the energy balance equation or GE.

Determining the energy content of foods depends on the following:
1) the components of food that provide energy (protein, fat, carbohydrate, alcohol, organic acids and other good stuff) should be determined by appropriate analytical methods; ie do it in a laboratory.
2) the quantity of each individual component must be converted to food energy using a generally accepted factor that expresses the amount of available energy per unit of weight; and
3) the food energies of all components must be added together to represent the nutritional energy value of the food for humans.

So, let’s look at the energy input from various foods that would be available to the Cochimi but especially the seeds from say the Acacia Vinorama.

The following is table 1 (Merrill and Wood 1973) showing the calorific value per gram of each of Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates for each type of food. This is combined with. . .
The left column shows the food item from food calculator and shows on the bottom line the number of grams each of Protein, Fat and Carbs per serving sample.

Name of Food
Serving size
ProteinFatCarbsTotal energy per
gram of food
Duck eggs
70g each
9g x 4.36=39.2
= 1.9kcal/g
per 1oz serving
per 1oz serving
per 3oz serving
per 4oz serving
per 4oz serving
Acacia seed/Vinorama
per 100g serving
Table 1

The right column shows the results. So, for example 1kilogram of Acacia seeds would provide a total of 4.20 x 1000 or 4200kcal.
It can be seen from the table that Acacia seeds provide the highest calorific value of 4.20kcal per gram and shellfish the lowest at 0.86kcal per gram.

Energy outputs:

Metate and distance findings:

From a previous table of Metates and distance from the datum:
Using the distances tabulated earlier, the average distance of metates from the datum on Santa Barbara beach is calculated as 6.97kms, rounding up to 7kms

Critical Assumptions:

Speed of walking in the arroyo:
I walk at an average of 2.0kms per hour in the average arroyo. I expect the average Cochimi to be more nimble, and faster on their feet so I would consider 3.0kms per hour to be attainable.

I also attribute the adult Cochimi to be 140lbs or 63.6 Kilograms of body mass. (you could plug your own assumptions into the formula)

For the energy calculation, the altitude gain and loss will balance each other out as the seed gathering requires a journey to, and from, the seed gathering area.

Time spent gathering and grinding seeds at location say about 5.4 hours to give a day of 10 hours total?

Energy expenditure is referenced from the websites and

Speed: 3kms per hour
Time: Average distance/speed
7kms/3kmhx2 = 4.6 hours spent traveling to and from metate sites.
Weight: 140lbs or 63.6kg

From the websites, energy expended walking at 3kmh is 2.5kcal/hr/kilo
so energy expended in walking
to and from metate site is 2.5×4.6×63.6 = 731.4kcal

Another assumption is that the energy expended in gathering and processing seeds is 2.2kcal/hr/kilo

So, energy expended in gathering seeds is
2.2×5.4×63.6 = 755.7kcal

So, the total energy expended for the day is
755.7 + 731.4 = 1487.1kcal

So, to balance the energy equation for this trip, how much Acacia seeds must be consumed to break even assuming no other losses?

Acacia seeds = 4.20kcal per gram

1487.1 / 4.20 =354g

So, gentle reader, is this realistic and achievable or not? You be the judge!