Friday, 7 January 2022

Salt Mining

Prior to industrialization, it was expensive, dangerous, and labor intensive to harvest the mass quantities of salt necessary for food preservation and seasoning. This made salt an extremely valuable commodity in ancient times. The Bible compliments some men as being ‘the salt of the earth’. Entire economies were based solely on salt production and trade.

Ancient method of boiling brine into pure salt in China.
In the Iron Age, the British evaporated salt by boiling seawater or brine from salt spri­ngs in small clay pots over open fires. Roman salt-making entailed boiling seawater in lead-lined pans. In ancient Rome, salt on the table was a mark of a very rich patron; those who sat nearer the host were "above the salt," and those less favored were "below the salt".
The oldest salt mine known in Azerbaijan.

Ancient Roman Glass Salt Dishes
Roman prisoners were given the task of salt mining, and life expectancy was low. Rapid dehydration caused by constant contact with the salt and accidental excessive sodium intake was fatal. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder stated in his Natural History's discussion of sea water, that "[I]n Rome ... the soldier's pay was originally salt and the word 'salary' derives from it ..."
Roman salt pans in Hortales.

The oldest of the salt men found has been carbon dated to 9550 B.C.
While bulldozing salt from the Chehrabad Salt Mine, Iranian miners uncovered the sixth "salt man" to be found in the last fifteen years. These "salt men" are ancient corpses killed or crushed in the cave and mummified by the extreme conditions. Hair, flesh and bone are all preserved by the dry salinity of the cave, and even internal organs such as stomachs and colons have been found intact. The first salt mummy, dated to 300 A.D., was discovered in 1993, sporting a long white beard, iron knives and a single gold earring. In 2004 another mummy was discovered only 50 feet away, followed by another in 2005 and a "teenage" boy mummy later that year.