How Was Salt Obtained in Ancient Times?

Salt is one of the oldest and most important substances used by humans. It is essential for our survival and has been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, from food preservation to religious ceremonies.

But have you ever wondered how salt was obtained in ancient times? In this article, we will explore the various methods used by our ancestors to obtain this valuable mineral.

Early Methods of Salt Extraction

In ancient times, salt was obtained through a variety of methods. One of the earliest methods was through natural evaporation.

This involved collecting saltwater in shallow ponds or pans and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate the water, leaving behind a layer of salt on the bottom. This method was commonly used in areas with high temperatures and low rainfall, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Another method involved boiling seawater in large pots over an open flame until all the water evaporated, leaving behind a layer of salt at the bottom. This method required a lot of wood or other fuel sources, making it an expensive option.

Underground Salt Mining

As civilization developed, people began to discover vast deposits of salt underground. Underground mining became a popular method of obtaining salt during ancient times.

One example is the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, which has been in operation since the 13th century. The mine consists of over 300 kilometers of tunnels and chambers that were carved out by hand using simple tools like pickaxes and shovels.

Salt Extraction from Rock Salt

Another method that emerged during ancient times was extracting salt from rock salt deposits that were found near the surface. These deposits were usually formed millions of years ago when seawater evaporated in shallow basins.

The rock salt would be broken up into small pieces using hammers or explosives and then transported to processing plants where it would be crushed into smaller particles. The salt would then be washed and dried before being sold or used for various purposes.

The Value of Salt in Ancient Times

Salt was highly valued in ancient times, not just for its practical uses but also for its symbolic and religious significance. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium,” which means “payment in salt.”

Salt was used as a form of currency in some cultures, and it was even given as a gift to important guests or used as a sacrifice to the gods.


In conclusion, salt has played an important role in human civilization for thousands of years. From natural evaporation to underground mining and rock salt extraction, our ancestors developed various methods to obtain this valuable mineral. Today, we take salt for granted, but it’s important to remember the laborious processes that were required to obtain it in ancient times.