How Was Salt Used During Ancient Times?

During ancient times, salt was a precious commodity that played a significant role in various aspects of human life. From preserving food to religious ceremonies, its uses were diverse and important.

The History of Salt

Salt has been used by humans for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of salt production dates back to 6000 BC in China.

Ancient Egyptians also used salt in the mummification process, while the Greeks and Romans used it as a form of payment for soldiers. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word “sal,” which means salt.

Salt as a Preservative

One of the most common uses of salt during ancient times was as a preservative for food. Before refrigeration was invented, people had to find ways to keep their food from spoiling. Salt works by drawing out moisture from food and creating an environment that is hostile to bacteria.

Smoked Fish

One example is smoked fish, which was a popular dish in ancient Rome. The fish would be covered in salt and left to dry for several days. Then it would be smoked over a fire made from aromatic wood such as juniper or oak.

Pickling Vegetables

Another example is pickling vegetables. The ancient Greeks and Romans would preserve vegetables like cucumbers and cabbage by soaking them in brine (saltwater) with other flavorings like dill or garlic.

Salt in Religious Ceremonies

Salt also had religious significance during ancient times. In many cultures, it was believed to have purifying properties and was used in various ceremonies.


In Hinduism, salt is one of the five essential elements (along with earth, fire, water, and air) that make up the universe. It is used in purification ceremonies and is believed to ward off evil spirits.


In Judaism, salt is a symbol of the covenant between God and his people. It is used in the bread that is eaten during the Sabbath and other religious festivals.

The Role of Salt in Medicine

Salt was also used for medicinal purposes during ancient times. In fact, the word “saline” comes from the Latin word “salinus,” which means “salty.”

Eye Infections

One example is using saltwater as a remedy for eye infections. The ancient Egyptians would dissolve salt in water and use it to wash their eyes.

Sore Throats

Another example is gargling with saltwater to relieve a sore throat. This practice was common in ancient Greece and Rome.


In conclusion, salt played an important role in many aspects of ancient life. Its uses were diverse and ranged from preserving food to religious ceremonies to medicinal purposes. Even today, salt remains an essential part of our lives and continues to be used in many of the same ways as it was during ancient times.