Salt has been an essential part of human civilization for thousands of years. Its importance is reflected in the fact that the word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium, which was a payment made to Roman soldiers in the form of salt.
But who mined the salt in ancient times? Let’s explore.
Early Methods of Salt Mining
The earliest method of mining salt was by extracting it from evaporated seawater. This method was used by ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, who built salt evaporation ponds along the Nile River. The sun would evaporate the water, leaving behind a layer of salt that could be harvested.
The Celts were known for their advanced mining techniques, and they were one of the first groups to mine rock salt. They would use a technique called “fire-setting,” where they would light fires against rock formations containing salt. The heat would cause the rock to crack, and then they would extract the salt.
The Chinese were another ancient civilization that mined rock salt. They used a technique called borehole mining, where they would drill a hole into a salt deposit and then insert bamboo pipes. They would pour water into the pipes and then let it evaporate, leaving behind a layer of salt that could be harvested.
Salt Mining in Ancient Rome
Salt was so important in ancient Rome that it was sometimes used as currency. The Romans mined rock salt using techniques similar to those used by the Celts. They also developed underground mines where they could extract large quantities of salt.
The Salt Tax
In ancient Rome, there was a tax on salt called the “salarium.” This tax made it expensive for people to buy salt, which led to smuggling and black market trade.
Salt Mining in Medieval Times
In medieval times, salt was still an important commodity. It was used to preserve food and as a seasoning. The most common method of mining salt during this time was by evaporating brine in shallow pans.
The Salt Road
During the Middle Ages, there was a trade route known as the “Salt Road,” which connected the salt mines in Eastern Europe with the rest of Europe. It was a dangerous journey, but it was essential for the economy.
Salt mining has a long and storied history that dates back thousands of years. From evaporating seawater to drilling boreholes, ancient civilizations developed many techniques for extracting salt. Today, we take salt for granted, but it was once one of the most valuable commodities in the world.