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Desert Diary



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It's a fact of life in the Chihuahuan Desert, as elsewhere, that times of plenty are followed by times of want. Desert people learned early on to put aside food for the inevitable day of scarcity.

But storing food is not all that easy, requiring processing to prevent spoilage, and rodents and insects can take a fearful toll. Common choices were underground storage pits and ceramic pots. Storage pits are relatively easy to produce and can be made large and pest proof, though if protections are circumvented, losses may be substantial before discovered. Protection of the contents from moisture is critical, so pits often were dug into floors of dwellings and rock shelters. Sealed pots also supplied excellent protection, but take up room, are breakable, and are costly in time and labor to manufacture.

With all the potential problems, perhaps they didn't do that much worse than we—the United States is estimated to lose more than half a billion dollars annually in stored food to rodents and insects. pen and ink



Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

cooking and storage pot

Pottery was utilized both for preparation of food and for storage. Centennial Museum specimen on exhibit.



Cordell, L. 1984. Archaeology of the Southwest. 2nd ed., Academic Press, San Diego, 522 pp.