History of Ancient Salt

Before you start reading about the History of Salt, realize that until the early part of the 20th century, Salt and Sea Salt were synonomous..The only salt we used came from the Sea.  As we entered the "prepared, processed and canned foods era, the need to add nutrients, vitimins and other trace elements that are destroyed in food processing caused the Salt companies to crack the Sea Salt crystal and seperate out the 85-90 nutrients and trace elements and sell them to the food processiong giants.  What was left at the bottom of the barrel, was Sodium Chloride.  It tasted salty, but it was a brown cake.  But by adding anti-caking agents like Magnesium Carbonate or Calcium Silicate and bleaching it white, there was a market for it, the consumer.  It couldn't be called salt, because it wasn't, so trade names were registered, like Morton's Salt, which is a registed trademark.

As far back as 6050 BC, salt has been an important and integral part of the world’s history, as it has been interwoven into the daily lives of countless historic civilizations. Used as a part of Egyptian religious offerings and valuable trade between the Phoenicians and their Mediterranean empire, salt and history have been inextricably intertwined for millennia, with great importance placed on salt by many different races and cultures of people. Even today, the history of salt touches our daily lives. The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times, so it was historically used as a method of trade and currency. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables. Undeniably, the history of salt is both broad ranging and unique, leaving its indelible mark in cultures across the globe.

Most people probably think of salt as simply that white granular food seasoning found in a salt shaker on virtually every dining table.

It is that, surely, but it is far more. It is an essential element in the diet of not only humans but of animals, and even of many plants. It is one of the most effective and most widely used of all food preservatives (and used to preserve Egyptian mummies as well). Its industrial and other uses are almost without number. In fact, salt has great current as well as historical interest, even the subject of humorous cartoons and poetry and useful in film-making. Sometimes, however, we need to separate the salt to get the history.

The fact is that throughout history, salt—called sodium chloride by chemists—has been such an important element of life that it has been the subject of many stories, fables and folktales and is frequently referenced in fairy tales. It served as money at various times and places, and it has been the cause of bitter warfare. Offering bread and salt to visitors, in many cultures, is traditional etiquette. It is used in making pottery. While we have records of the importance of salt in commerce in Medieval times and earlier, in some places like the Sahara and Nepal, salt trading today gives a glimpse of what life may have been like centuries ago.

Salt was in general use long before history, as we know it, began to be recorded. Some 2,700 years B.C.—about 4,700 years ago—there was published in China the Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, probably the earliest known treatise on pharmacology. A major portion of this writing was devoted to a discussion of more than 40 kinds of salt, including descriptions of two methods of extracting salt and putting it in usable form that are amazingly similar to processes used today. Chinese folklore recounts the discovery of salt. Salt production has been important in China for two millennia or more. And the Chinese, like many other governments over time, realizing that everyone needed to consume salt, made salt taxes a major revenue source. Nomads spreading westward were known to carry salt.  Egyptian art from as long ago as 1450 B.C. records salt-making.

Salt was of crucial importance economically. A far-flung trade in ancient Greece involving exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, "not worth his salt." Special salt rations given early Roman soldiers were known as "salarium argentum," the forerunner of the English word "salary." References to salt abound in languages around the globe, particularly regarding salt used for food. From the Latin "sal," for example, come such other derived words as "sauce" and "sausage." Salt was an important trading commodity carried by explorers.


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