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Desert Diary



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Many of us have the unfortunate tendency to think that prehistoric means isolation—that, if you lived in the pre-Spanish Southwest, your contacts were limited to your nearest neighbors, and you knew nothing more about the wider world. However, the archaeological evidence suggests that these earlier people were much more knowledgeable than that.

Even some thousands of years ago, stone artifacts were made of exotic materials originating hundreds of miles distant—whether moving by travel or trade, certainly indicating a non-insular life. Trade routes were widely established long before the entry of the Spanish into our area. Macaws from the tropics south of the desert regions and marine shells from the Gulf of California for decoration represent two of the clearly out-of-place trade items.

We probably will never know how much of the trade occurred by the passing of items from settlement to settlement until they reached their destination and how much depended on intrepid traders wending their ways over hundreds of miles. Either way, our desert peoples were well aware of a broader world out there. 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.