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Desert Diary


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In this electronic age, we sometimes forget how important it has been historically to have something physical to write upon. The spoken word is ephemeral and notorious for its mutability through time. The written word has the potentiality of carrying culture through time, mutating only when the medium upon which it's written fails and recopying a necessity. It's arguable that the great civilizations of the past were able to exist only by linking their administrators together by cuneiform, papyrus, or parchment. It may well be that numerous cultures failed to reach their potential simply for lack of a cheap, plentiful medium upon which to write.

We today, who regularly spit out reams of paper in what was supposed to be a paperless society, tend to forget that paper manufacturing requires capabilities beyond the technologies of most peoples until recently. Where would we have been without it before electronics? Perhaps like the early peoples in the Southwest, reduced to symbols on rocks and hides, and woven into cloth or painted onto pottery. Not cutting edge technology for running a country.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, National 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.