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Desert Diary


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To many people, adobe buildings mark the Southwestern deserts every bit as much as do cacti and yuccas. Use in the Old World is ancient, possibly dating back as far as 10,000 years ago. Adobe construction in the New World is relatively recent, though perhaps initiated more than 5000 years ago in Peru.

In our Southwest, adobe seems to date to over 1000 years, with early usage consisting of what commonly is called puddled adobe. The adobe clay, together with materials to give the proper strength and cohesion, was mixed with water to form a slurry that was applied in layers to build up walls, or sometimes poured into log forms.

With the arrival of the Spanish, adobe bricks, the form we are most familiar with, came into use. Both puddled and adobe brick buildings normally were protected from the elements by adobe plaster, necessarily replaced every few years as it weathered. Today, as in the past, this ancient building material continues to be used. Living in a mud house can be a mark of distinction.
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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.