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Desert Diary


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There's an old quote about "seeing through a glass darkly". That's what much of our vision of the past is: dim, often distorted, too much obscured—but it's what we have. We in the Southwest perhaps see some things a little more clearly than in other places, thanks to our dry climate. We have a past culture commonly known as Basket Maker, but if our climate was like that of, say, Pennsylvania, that culture undoubtedly would be called something else. Why? Because we likely wouldn't even dream that they made baskets, let alone the fine examples preserved in dry, Southwestern caves. Likewise, we know more than in other places in North America about the weaving of cloth hundreds of years ago, again thanks to our dry climate.

Even older material shows up now and then: the Shasta Ground Sloth from Aden Fumerole near El Paso, dried fecal material for determining the past diets of extinct animals, even hair of mammals long since gone. Overall, only through the glass darkly, but every once in awhile, the light shines bright!
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


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.