Thursday, October 13, 2016

Salt Mining


Halite rock salt
Salt (NaCl) is a mineral made up of white cube-shaped crystals composed of two elements, sodium and chlorine. It is translucent, colourless, and odourless.

For centuries salt has had a permanent place in the life of human beings. Salt was considered sacred, a gift from the Gods; it was used to confirm oaths and sacrifices. Salt served as money at various times and places, and the quest for salt has been the cause of bitter warfare. Offering bread and salt to visitors is, in many cultures, a traditional sign of hospitality.
Prior to industrialization, it was expensive, dangerous, and labor intensive to harvest the mass quantities of salt necessary for food preservation and seasoning. Mining salt caused rapid dehydration. Other problems related to accidental excessive sodium intake.

This made salt extremely valuable throughout history. Entire economies were based solely on salt production and trade.

Inca ancient salt production farm in Peru.
The World's oldest salt mine. The “Man in Salt” greets visitors on their journey through time at the Salzwelten Hallstatt Mine, Austria.

In 1734 a corpse preserved in salt was discovered in the deposit.

The Dachstein-Hallst├Ąttersee region has been appointed a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
At the Chehrabad Salt Mine, Iranian miners recently uncovered the sixth "salt man" to be found in the last fifteen years. 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 have been found intact.

The first salt man, 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 50 feet away, followed by another in 2005 and a "teenage" boy later that year. The oldest of the salt men found is truly ancient and has been carbon dated to 9550 B.C.

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 the seawater in large 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".

Malta Roman salt flats

Ancient Roman Glass Salt Dishes
Roman salt mining was often done by slave or prison labor, and life expectancy was low. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder stated as an aside 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.