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Thursday July 20, 2006 8:20 am

History of Salt




Posted by Janie Franz Categories: History, Condiments,

Salt CellarSalt has been with us for thousands of years. The Egyptians used salt to preserve mummies 3,500 years ago, and the Chinese were using salt some 5,000 years ago for medicinal purposes.  Salt was used in pottery making, preserving meat and fish, dying cloth, and cleaning a variety of objects. Our grandparents knew that their livestock needed salt and provided large blocks of salt, called salt licks, for their cattle. Today, it has 14,000 known uses, including seasoning our food.

In various times in ancient history, salt has been used for currency.  In ancient Greece, slaves were bought with salt. Therefore, if someone acquired a lazy slave, it was said that the slave “wasn’t worth his salt.”

Salt also has been the cause of social unrest and even warfare. In England, British monarchs gained revenue for their treasuries through taxes on salt. These were often steep for a commodity that was so essential that made a loyal subject turn smuggler, bringing in shipments of plain salt. Even Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War journalist and political activist, wrote of the high British salt tax shortly after the Revolutionary War.

In many cultures, even today, it is polite to offer guests bread and salt. Giving the bride and groom salt on their wedding day is considered good luck.

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