Salt And Its history In A Few Paragraphs – Halite


Source: Collin Key

By: Linus Koepcke, Researcher

Salt is an essential mineral to humans, and throughout history, it has contributed to the rise and fall of civilizations, trade and connections, and many cultures. The word “salary” derives from Latin sal, salt, as Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. We shall go through a brief history of salt.


The Ancient Egyptians knew about salt before recorded time, and they collected salt from evaporated sea water from the Nile River Delta. They were aware that different sources and lakes yielded a gamut of different salts. Salt was deeply connected to religion, such as mummy-making. On the other hand, it was an important part of daily life, such as being an ingredient in cured food or in trade.


At the same time, on the other side of the world, in China, people were fighting for a lake. The lake was in an arid desert region in northern China, and by the time the Xia dynasty came about, people were boiling down lake water in pans and selling the salt. Sichuan people were among the first to create technology for creating salt. They preserved soy with salt by fermenting it and making it into soy sauce. Even now, pickled vegetables are a staple in Sichuan, China, and soy sauce(and other salty condiments) is very common in China, even spreading to Japan and other parts of Asia.


Europe has(or had) many salt mines, which were extremely important in its history. For example, the Salzburg mine in the Austrian Alps, in addition to supplying salt across Europe, preserved several prehistoric miners bodies by essentially curing their bodies. The Asse Salt Mine in Germany was used to mine salt, but eventually was used as a burying site for radioactive waste and was permanently closed. Most famously, in Poland, there is the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine, notable for having a cathedral entirely carved out of salt, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Europeans have used salt for ages, using it to cure meats and herring. Some mines have salt of quality such that it is safe to use straight out of the mine without purifying, whereas other mines require solution mining. This is where large holes are bored into the salt-bearing rock, and water is put into the holes. The water dissolves the surrounding salt, creating brine, and the brine is pumped up to be evaporated. The end product is extremely high purity salt. This salt from Europe sustained sailors by curing meat, who would eventually go colonize America. Not only that, it also is the base of Scandinavian food culture, like Bergen fish stew or surströmming.

Modern Times

Since the middle of the 19th century, salt consumption has been declining, even in “salty” countries like Sweden. The salt now is often produced from large scale evaporations in lakes and is exported across the world via megacompanies. There is also one essential artificial component added to edible salt: iodide. This is an essential nutrient for humans, often found in seafood such as seaweed or fish. Since it is not common in Western diets, particularly America. Thus table salt is fortified with sodium iodide or potassium iodide, which is essentially the only iodine an average American gets in their diet.

Sources/Further readings:

A brief reading on halite:

A book on the history of salt: “Salt: A world history, Mark Kurlansky”

Article on “salary”:,with%20salt%20instead%20of%20money.

Salt in Chinese history:

On iodized salt: 

Take action

Visit the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mine: