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Desert Diary


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In these days of modern materials, it's easy to forget that for most of mankind's presence, metals and plastics were not options, and the working of metals reached the New World only millennia after appearance in the Old. Plastics, of course, are but recent arrivals on the human scene. So what were used in the Chihuahuan Desert before these? Stone, wood, bone, and plant fibers.

In our hubris, we tend to forget that earlier peoples were every bit as handy as ourselves, just forced to work with different materials. We all are familiar with the arrow head, an icon of pre-Spanish contact, but we may forget that knives, drills, mauls, and other tools also were made of stone. And many of us may never have been familiar with metal awls, let alone those made of bone. For the uninitiated, awls are used to punch holes in tough material, such as leather. Not impressed with the skills of the past? Just try to imagine yourself placed down in a world, alone, without modern materials, and weep.
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.