Station: [221] Salt

We take salt for granted in our everyday lives. Humans need no more than three to 10 grams of salt a day to survive.  In fact, we consume far more than that; salt is used to enhance flavour and to preserve vegetables, meat and fish.  Before fridges were invented, large quantities of salt were required for this purpose.  Salt is also used in tanning, for various metalworking processes, for animal husbandry and many other purposes.

There are three ways of obtaining salt; from sea salt, mineral salt and brine springs. We know that rock salt was extracted from the mines at Hallein and Hallstatt in the Salzburg area during the early Iron Age, hence the name that this period is known by – the Hallstatt Period.  Brine springs were used for extracting salt during the Bronze and Iron Ages, mainly in the central Saale region near Halle and in the central Elbe-Saale region. First, the brine had to be evaporated. Here You can see the clay materials that were used for this process; the tub or saucer-like saltpans and supporting pillars, known as briquetage.

The saltpans and supporting pillars were placed in flat ovens. Charcoal or another fuel was piled up to provide the heat that was needed to evaporate the brine.  The saltpans were kept continuously topped up with brine until they were lined with a thick layer of salt crystals.  Finally, the salt was traded in the saltpans.  The huge demand for salt meant that salt producers enjoyed a monopoly, which served, just like the new material, metal, to create social distinctions.