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Desert Diary


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One of the frustrations of historians and pre-historians is the fuzziness that occurs as one goes back in time. Of course, the historian has the advantage, with written material often available from the past. However, the historian also knows that such written material seldom is produced without a degree of self interest and thus bias.

At the interface between written history and earlier times, preserved manuscripts may give some insight into prehistory. We often take the time before the arrival of European man in North America as the time of a primeval continent, hardly touched by the hand of man. But the records of Lewis and Clark suggest that Native Americans, though far reduced in number by introduced diseases, were nevertheless profoundly affecting game. In regions of scanty population, game abounded; in areas of population concentration, times were hard to the point that expedition horses and dogs were added to the larder.

The early Spanish were not much at writing about the natural landscape—we can only wonder what a well-kept diary might have revealed about our Chihuahuan Desert.
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.