Posts Tagged ‘Salt’


Towering over a natural lake—today frequented by masses of tourists, particularly from Asia, who come to admire the picture-perfect Alpine scenery—the Hallstatt mine lies more than 800 metres (2,600 feet) above sea level

Original article:

August 24, 2018 by Philippe Schwab


All mines need regular reinforcement against collapse, and Hallstatt, the world’s oldest salt mine perched in the Austrian Alps, is no exception.

But Hallstatt isn’t like other mines.

Exploited for 7,000 years, the mine has yielded not only a steady supply of salt but also archaeological discoveries attesting to the existence of a rich civilisation dating back to the early part of the first millennium BC.

So far less than two percent of the prehistoric tunnel network is thought to have been explored, with the new round of reinforcement work, which began this month, protecting the dig’s achievements, according to chief archaeologist Hans Reschreiter.

“Like in all the mines, the mountain puts pressure on the tunnels and they could cave in if nothing is done,” Reschreiter told AFP.

Hallstatt was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and the work aims to protect it for “future generations”, said Thomas Stelzer, governor of Upper Austria state where the mine is located.

Towering over a natural lake—today frequented by masses of tourists, particularly from Asia, who come to admire the picture-perfect Alpine scenery—the Hallstatt mine lies more than 800 metres (2,600 feet) above sea level.

Among the most striking archaeological discoveries was that of an eight-metre-long wooden staircase dating back to 1100 BC, the oldest such staircase found in Europe


3,000-year-old stairs

Among the most striking archaeological discoveries was that of an eight-metre-long wooden staircase dating back to 1100 BC, the oldest such staircase found in Europe.

“It was so well preserved that we could take it apart and reassemble it,” Reschreiter said.

Other items date back much further. Excavated in 1838, an axe made from staghorn dating from 5,000 BC showed that as early as then, miners “tried hard to extract salt from here,” Reschreiter said.

In the mid-19th century, excavations revealed a necropolis that showed the site’s prominence during the early Iron Age.

The civilisation became known as “Hallstatt culture”, ensuring the site’s fame.

“Thousands of bodies have been excavated, almost all flaunting rich bronze ornaments, typically worn by only the wealthiest,” Reschreiter said. “The remains bore the marks of hard physical labour from childhood, while also showing signs of unequalled prosperity.”

Priceless ‘white gold’

Salt—long known as “white gold”—was priceless at the time. And Hallstatt produced up to a tonne every day, supplying “half of Europe”, he said, adding that the difficult-to-access location “became the continent’s richest, and a major platform for trading in 800 BC”.

Testifying to this are sword handles made of African ivory and Mediterranean wine bowls found at the site.

A second series of excavations—started by Vienna’s Museum of Natural History some 60 years ago—produced more surprises.

In tunnels more than 100 metres below the surface, archaeologists discovered “unique evidence” of mining activity at an “industrial” scale during the Bronze Age, Reschreiter said.

As well as revealing wooden retaining structures more than 3,000 years old which were perfectly preserved by the salt, the excavation unearthed numerous tools, leather gloves and a rope—thick as a fist—as well as the remains of millions of wooden torches.

Continuously active

Also used by Celts and during the Roman era when salt was used to pay legions stationed along the Danube River—it is the origin of the word “salary”—the mine has never stopped working since prehistoric times.

Today, about 40 people still work there, using high-pressure water to extract the equivalent of 250,000 tonnes of salt per year.

“Salt doesn’t have the same value as in antiquity anymore. But some of its new uses, such as in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, are still highly profitable,” said Kurt Thomanek, technical director of salt supplier Salinen Austria.

Tourism linked to the archaeological discoveries is also “a pillar of our activities”, Thomanek added.

Last year, some 200,000 people visited the Hallstatt mine


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Researchers stored 17th-century foodstuffs aboard the 19th-century tall ship Elissa as part of an investigation into how well food preservation worked during the age of discovery. Photo by age fotostock/Alamy Stock Photo


An unprecedented archaeology experiment is putting historical shipboard food and drink to the test.

Original article:


by Jeremy Hsu

In 1619, a hurricane sank the English merchant ship Warwick in Bermuda’s Castle Harbor. The struggling settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, were desperately awaiting the shipload of fresh supplies, and keenly felt the loss. Almost 400 years later, artifacts from the wreck are helping archaeologist Grace Tsai uncover if unrefrigerated food and drink remained edible and nutritious during long sea voyages.

Since 2012, Tsai, a doctoral candidate in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University, has been studying archaeological records of provisions from three different shipwrecks from the 16th and 17th centuries and analyzing shipboard diets based on modern nutritional guidelines.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are going one step further: for two months, they stored period-accurate provisions aboard the closest thing to the Warwick they could find—the 19th-century tall ship Elissa, docked in Galveston, Texas.

“The whole premise is to see how things age aboard ships,” Tsai says. Researchers, including her, have typically studied how to prepare food based on historical recipes, “but nobody has been testing how well they lasted on a transatlantic voyage.”

The two-month shipboard study took place from August to October 2017, and included its own hurricane scare, when Harvey swept through just a week into the experiment.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are back in the lab, analyzing the provisions’ surviving nutritional value and investigating the microbes that grew on them. Chemical analyses could even reveal any remaining—or acquired—flavors.

Yet before they could get to this point, Tsai and her team had to make all the foodstuffs that would have sustained a 17th-century English sailor, such as salted meats, peas, oatmeal, tough ship biscuits, beer, wine, and a barrel of natural spring water. The project also included a variety of heirloom rice, which was more common in the diets of Spanish or Portuguese sailors.

To better understand the salted meats, Tsai traveled to Bermuda to study animal bones recovered from the Warwick’s wreck. Her examination of butcher marks on cattle bones helped her identify the best size to cut beef to enable preservation. The team also imported sea salt from Guérande, France, a region that has been producing salt for more than 1,000 years, which remains a chefs’ favorite.

Previously, scientists have tried to re-create food and drink from various historical periods. But independent experts agree that this project is an unprecedented experiment in maritime archaeology.

“[The experiment] would certainly be the closest we could come to replicating the stowage conditions of a sailing ship in that environment,” says Chuck Meide, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program in Florida.

James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist and senior vice president at SEARCH, an independent archaeological consultancy in Florida, agrees. “While we’ve studied food waste and food based on archaeological remains, this is the first time, as far as I know, that someone has done experimental archaeology with shipboard provisions from that period.”

After their stint in the Elissa’s hold, many of the provisions still seem edible. For safety reasons, nobody will actually be tasting the experimental results, but the baked ship biscuits are in the best shape by far, a testament to their legendary hardiness. The salted beef, however, has taken on a pinkish center resembling prosciutto. It has a pungent smell, says Tsai, though it isn’t rotten.

A big exception is the natural spring water, which has turned cloudy with greenish bits and “smelled pretty disgusting,” Tsai says. Sailors may have preferred quenching their thirst with beer and wine, which remained more palatable. Still, a surprising amount of lingering yeast fermentation and carbonation caused the beer barrel to leak and grow mold.

Yet the biggest surprise came from the diversity of microbes found in some of the food. Early genomic sequencing analyses, mostly from the salted beef, suggest that many of the bacteria are neither illness-causing pathogens nor beneficial probiotics—most seem to be relatively neutral. The unexpected microbial bounty, however, has forced the researchers to expand their genomic sequencing efforts.

Even though no one is eating the food and drink stored aboard the Elissa, the team is organizing a fundraising event aboard the ship later this month to sample beer based on the historical recipe.

The event illustrates the project’s benefits beyond the research findings by getting more people interested in history and archaeology, says Meide. “There is something compelling about literally re-creating the past in order to learn about it.”

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Archaeologists discovered the remains of a large-scale storage for fermented fish dating back to 7,200 BC: a view of the gutter after 50 percent of it had been removed; notice the stark contrast with the surrounding clay under the gutter as well as between the stakeholes and the surrounding clay. Image credit: SHMM / Adam Boethius / Lund University.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of a large-scale storage for fermented fish dating back to 7,200 BC: a view of the gutter after 50 percent of it had been removed; notice the stark contrast with the surrounding clay under the gutter as well as between the stakeholes and the surrounding clay. Image credit: SHMM / Adam Boethius / Lund University.

Original Article:


Feb 9, 2016 by Enrico de Lazaro

Archaeologists in Sweden say they have uncovered the remains of a 9,200-year-old storage for fermented fish.

Dr. Boethius of Lund University and his colleagues found roughly 200,000 fish bones at Norje Sunnansund, an Early Mesolithic settlement site in the Blekinge province of Sweden.

“The archaeological site of Norje Sunnansund is dated to around 9,600 – 8,600 years before present and is located in south-eastern Sweden, on the shores of the ancient Lake Vesan, next to a 2-km long outlet leading to the Baltic basin,” Dr. Boethius explained.

“We’d never seen a site like this with so many well preserved fish bones, so it was amazing to find,” he added.

The archaeologists also uncovered a long pit surrounded by small stake holes and completely filled with fish bones.

“It was really strange, and because of all the fish bones in the area we knew something was going on even before we found the feature,” Dr. Boethius said.

“At first we had no idea what it was so we rescued it from the area to investigate.”

He analyzed the feature and the contents and discovered the fish bones were from freshwater fish such as cyprinids (the carps, the true minnows, and their relatives), the European perch (Perca fluviatilis), the northern pike (Esox lucius), the ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua), the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), the burbot (Lota lota) and other species.

He also showed the fish had been fermented – a skillful way of preserving food without using salt.

“The fermentation process is also quite complex in itself,” said Dr. Boethius, who is an author of a paper published online February 6 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“Because people did not have access to salt or the ability to make ceramic containers, they acidified the fish using, for example, pine bark and seal fat, and then wrapped the entire content in seal and wild boar skins and buried it in a pit covered with muddy soil. This type of fermentation requires a cold climate.”

“The discovery is unique as a find like this has never been made before,” he added. “That is partly because fish bones are so fragile and disappear more easily than, for example, bones of land animals. In this case, the conditions were quite favorable, which helped preserve the remains.”

“The amount of fish we found could have supported a large community of people,” the archaeologist said.

The findings are important as it is usually argued that people in the north lived relatively mobile lives, while people in the Levant became settled and began to farm and raise cattle much earlier.

“These findings suggest that people who survived by foraging for food were actually more advanced than assumed,” Dr. Boethius said.



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US Army sun cream and tins of bacon are among the finds on Salisbury Plain revealed by archaeologists, to mark US Independence Day.

Wessex Archaeology, based on the plain, said various US-issued provisions had been found in recent years.

Among the finds were tins of cooking oil, bottles of sauce and “even what appeared to be a block of lard”.

A group spokeswoman said: “The state of preservation of the provisions shows how well made they were.”

The Wiltshire plain has been used as a training ground by the British military since the early 20th Century.

It also provided a training area for US troops preparing for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two.

“The military has been on Salisbury Plain for decades so it’s not been ploughed up or disturbed by developers,” said Matt Leivers, from Wessex Archaeology.

Among the other finds unearthed on the plain were spoons and plates and bottles of Camp coffee.

Speaking about the “cream sunburn preventive”, which is labelled for use in “hot or cold climates”, a Wessex Archaeology spokesman said: “It was a rare hoard of 16 tins of US Army sun cream – still with the contents intact.

“It’s evidence of US military presence on Salisbury Plain and the surrounding area.

“Sadly, there were no contents left in the tins of sliced bacon.”

The finds have been transferred to the Salisbury Museum.

Original article:

BBCNewsBacon from WW2

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Archaeological work in the ancient city of Kaunos has unearthed a 2,000 year-old saltpan. The ancient city, which dates back to 3,000 years ago, is located in the Dalyan neighborhood in the western province of Muğla’s Ortaca district.

Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University Rector Professor Mansur Harmandar said they have been carrying out scientific work in the region since İztuzu beach was handed over to the university.

He said a team headed by Professor Cengiz Işık was working in the area, which is home to many historical artifacts.

The professor said during the course of the work they had discovered an area where salt was produced, and continued:

“Forty-eight saltpans were unearthed in the area of İztuzu beach. A project will be made soon to help the area gain tourism. We are currently working on a project in which ancient-era work will be revived. Our purpose is to boost tourism in the area as well as protect and use it.”

Harmandar said the ancient city of Kaunos was a center of trade and civilization in the past, and excavations and scientific studies showed that the locals earned great income from salt production in the region.

Most important finding

The deputy head of Kaunos excavations, Assistant Professor Ufuk Çörtük, said Kaunos had a very significant position among Anatolian cities and excavations had been ongoing there since 1966.

Çörtük said 48 salt platforms and four channels had been unearthed in the ancient saltpan facility, adding, “The most important outcome of the Kaunos excavations is the saltpans. 2,000 year-old saltpans made us very excited.”

He said the ancient facility was located on a narrow sand dune on İnceburun Hill behind İztuzu beach, adding the production of salt was an irreplaceable part of social and economic life in the city.

“Our studies reveal that the saltpan is the first one in Anatolian archaeology. Its localization, architectural tissue and production system can be explained,” he said.

Çörtük said interest in the saltpan would increase once the region starts serving tourism.

“It is reported in the ‘customs regulations’ inscription, which was found in the ancient site, that Kaunos salt was one of the most important export articles of the city. In order to boost trade with Kaunos, Roman Emperor Hadrian needed to take some incentive measures regarding the customs regulations. These regulations didn’t compromise only two products; salt is one of them,” he said.

Çörtük said salt was the most desired product in Kaunos because salt was considered a health product for the eyes.

According to ancient era writer Plinius, salt was used for insect stings because of its purifying, dissolvent and caustic features, said Çörtük, adding the writer mentioned both the Salt Lake and Kaunos in regards to salt production.

Original Article:




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Topic: pottery and salt

In July, I joined the Ur Digitization Project. As a part of this project, I have been working on a condition assessment of the ceramics from Ur. In doing the condition assessment I am looking at, measuring, and evaluating the stability of every ceramic vessel in the Museum’s collection from Ur. So far I have examined over half of the ceramics, and found that the main issue is soluble salts. I know when we all hear salt we think table salt. This is not too far off as table salt, or sodium chloride, is a soluble salt. This just means that the salt is soluble in water and in many cases is also hygroscopic (a big word for “absorbs moisture from the air”). We have all seen how salt clumps in salt shakers and won’t shake out nicely when it’s humid. This happens because the salt is hygroscopic.

You are probably wondering “Why this is a problem for ceramics?” Archaeological ceramics can absorb salts through moisture in the burial environment, and once they are excavated and dry out, the salts crystallize. If they crystallize inside the pores of the ceramic they can cause damage. If the ceramic is then exposed to changing relative humidity, these salts can go through cycles of dissolution as they pull moisture from the air and re-crystallization when they dry out, causing even more damage over time.

The pot on the left shows spalling. This happens when the salts pop off circular patches of the surface. You can see a spalled area in the front with the white salt crystals in the middle. The pot on the right is delaminating. This is also caused by the crystallization of salts. In this case they crystallize in a single plane, pushing off thin layers of the ceramic.

To stabilize the salty pots from Ur, I have been working on setting up a desalination station. This involves setting up an area where the pots can be safely soaked. Because these salts are soluble, they can be removed by soaking the object in water. The images below walk through the process I have been using to stabilize objects like the ones shown above.

Because the surfaces of the ceramics are so unstable, these objects have to be consolidated first with a dilute adhesive that is not soluble in water (otherwise the consolidant would be removed during desalination along with the salts). I have been using Paraloid B-72™ in acetone that I apply drop-wise so that I can control where it goes and how much is applied.

After the pots are consolidated and the adhesive has fully dried (I usually wait a few days after consolidation to be sure), each object is weighed and placed in a known volume of deionized water. The pots are weighed and the water measured so that I can calculate when they are ready to come out of the water and compare the data from pot to pot.

I use a conductivity meter to record how much salt is being extracted from each object. Every time I take a reading, I note the date and time as well so that I can plot the data on a graph. The length of time each pot soaks depends on various factors (weight, volume of water, how salty it is), but to give you an idea, they can stay in the water for a week or more. Once each pot has been desalinated I pull it out of the water, rinse it off, and let it dry.

If the surface is unstable after the pot has dried, I do some final consolidation. Once the treatment is complete, I take the final treatment pictures and the pot goes back to its home in storage.

Original article:
penn museum
By TESSA DE ALARCON | Published: OCTOBER 31, 2013

Follow the above link for additional information and photos.

The salt in this shaker has clumped because the salt is hygroscopic –

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Prehistoric tell over
which was erected a
Thracian mound.
5 levels were
documented from later
6th – earlier fifth
millennium cal BCE.
No certain data about
intensive long-distant
exchange of salt.
For more on salt trade and production go to follow this link iianthropology.org

Topic: salt

Bulgarian archaeologists announced two major finds at the close of the 2012 excavation season, and hope to obtain state and other financial support to shed more light on the life and culture of the early Balkan civilisations.

Vasil Nikolov, former head of the country’s National Archaeology Institute, unearthed Europe’s oldest urban settlement near Provadia, 50 kilometres west of Varna on the Black Sea, which is dated between 4700 and 4200 BC.

The site is more than 100 metres in diameter, is encompassed by a 3-meter high stone wall and has two-story structures housing nearly 350 residents.

The settlement is one part of a much larger complex from the same period, which includes a salt production unit, a sanctuary and a necropolis.

“A thorough study of the site will take many years. … There is work for at least seven generations of archaeologists at the site,” Nikolov told SETimes.

Archeologists said they believe Provadia’s ancient residents made a living by producing salt. They suspect production began in 5500 BC and by 4500 BC produced 5,000 kg annually.

The salt trade helped the ancients obtain raw materials, some of which were used to craft luxury goods like jewelry, and also gain enormous economic power, Nikolov added.

The Provadia finds may provide significant clues about the origin of the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis riches, dating back to around 4300 BC.

The latest find — a wooden chest containing two different sets of gold treasure, but from a much later period and left behind by the Getae, a Thracian tribe — was unearthed at the largest mound on the site of the Sboryanovo Historical and Archaeological Reserve in northeastern Bulgaria.

Weighing more than 1.8kg, the treasure was from the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, buried as part of the funeral of a Getic ruler, archeologist Diana Gergova said.

“We found the chest in a vesicle at a depth of 8 metres … Inside were two sets of gold objects. The first was a set of women’s jewelry, including a unique tiara of a type never found before. There were also four spiral bracelets and a ring with an incredible haut-relief image of a lion,” Gergova told SETimes.

The other set comprised an iron bridle and a number of gold items the bridle was decorated with, including horse harness decorations and buttons, as well as two large round pieces with the image of the goddess Athena and an exquisite forehead piece with a horse head.

Gergova and Nikolov are due to continue fieldwork at the two sites next summer, but excavations are dependent on funding.

The Bulgarian culture ministry told SETimes that it channelled 1.3 million euros in 2012 for archaeological excavation and conservation across Bulgaria and for the preservation of 10 historical sites.

Finance Minister Simeon Djankov promised last year to set aside more than 5 million euros for archaeology in the 2013 state budget.

Nikolov said although the budget was passed, he still does not know the amount the government will provide him.

“The minimum amount needed for the two-month excavation campaign stands at 61,000 euros,” he told SETimes.

Given the volatility of government funding, archeologists said the excavations would not have been possible without private support.

“We would not be able to continue without private donations,” Nikolov said.

Original article
By Svetla Dimitrova
se times.com


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