Anthropology of Salt – theoretical approaches

Session proposal

Author(s): Marius-Tiberiu Alexianu

Affiliation of author(s): “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania

Positions of author(s): Assoc. Prof.

Title of session proposed: Anthropology of Salt – theoretical approaches

The Anthropology of Salt (AoS) is a very recent metadiscipline (Alexianu M., Anthropology of Salt: a first conceptual approach, 2012; 2016). Many of its concepts are in the process of crystallization, and for this reason the theoretical approaches must be multiplied. Following is a number of questions that require more nuanced answers: what are man’s main reactions towards this mineral; which are the salt-related themes of interest for research; which are the applicable sciences; how can AoS be defined; what are the goals, principles and methods of this new meta-discipline; what are the roles of the mono-, pluri-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary approaches in the development of AoS; how can AoS generate a specific complex heuristic model? Obviously, any other theoretical approaches are welcomed.

The typology of salt production in the archaic societies

Session proposal

Author(s): Valerii Kavruk, Marius Alexianu

Affiliation of author(s): National Museum of Eastern Carpathians, Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania; “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania

Positions of author(s): Manager; Associate Professor

Title of session proposed: The typology of salt production in the archaic societies

Abstract of session proposed:
The session intends to discuss the possible social typology of various modes of salt production documented in prehistoric and resilient societies.
The available archaeological evidence suggests three major types of salt production: domestic, sacral, and industrial. The domestic production was mainly aimed to satisfy the local needs in salt. The sacral production was aimed to obtain salt of high symbolic value used as exotic goods. The industrial production was aimed to supply significant amounts of salt to the societies in salt-poor territories.
The archaeological evidence does not allow a more nuanced reconstruction of salt production. At the same time, the archaeology shows a very low potential regarding the use of this mineral in prehistory. In contrast, the ethnographic research of the resilient societies shows a wide range of salt use (animal and human nutrition, food preservation, medicine, beliefs, magical-ritual practices etc.). Under these circumstances, based on the ethnographical data, a much more nuanced typology of salt production is possible.
The main challenge of the session is whether we can find in the archaeological evidence the ethnographically attested forms of salt production, Can we “match” the archaeological and ethnographic typologies of salt production? In other words, can we create a diachronic anthropological typology of archaic salt production?
The session is addressed to scholars concerned with various aspects of salt production and use in archaic societies around the world.

Site distribution and settling selection patterns in prehistoric times. Salt as a dynamic polarization factor

Session proposal

Author(s): Andrei Asăndulesei, Felix-Adrian Tencariu, Marius Alexianu, Ștefan Caliniuc

Affiliation of author(s): Interdisciplinary Research Department – Field Science, ”Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași, Romania

Positions of author(s): Researcher, Researcher, Associate Professor, MA Student

Title of session proposed: Site distribution and settling selection patterns in prehistoric times. Salt as a dynamic polarization factor

Abstract of session proposed:
Identifying the main reasons that conditioned the selection of the location of prehistoric settlements can definitely be productive for obtaining valuable clues for understanding the subsistence strategies or the social organisation of prehistoric communities. The option for a certain region is the result of a long selection process, which takes into account both the economic needs and the cultural ones.
On the local or regional scale, the identification of habitation models for prehistoric settlements requires a careful analysis of the resources available in a certain area, alongside a study of the hydro-geomorphological or pedological parameters. Salt, in its liquid or crystallised form, played a major role in the mechanisms of space occupation in prehistory, alongside the resources of water, food and raw materials, or the defensive or visibility potential of the landform on which the ancient communities settled. The indispensable character of this mineral for the human communities was a constant determinant in their behaviour in certain environmental conditions, developing diachronically towards a dynamic factor of polarisation, particularly in prehistory.
Our session is open to papers that rely on GIS, spatial or statistical analyses that involve or concern the mineral salt, for elucidating questions related to the occupation of space by human communities in prehistoric times.

The Archaeology of Salt in Eastern North America

Session proposal

Author(s): Ashley A. Dumas, Paul N. Eubanks and Ian W. Brown

Affiliation of author(s): University of West Alabama, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Alabama

Positions of author(s): Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Professor and Chair

Title of session proposed: The Archaeology of Salt in Eastern North America

Abstract: The archaeology of salt in eastern North America has not benefited from focused or large-scale research as compared to some other areas of the world and remains a lesser known resource for comparative archaeological and ethnological studies. Limited evidence suggests that salt may have been a factor in the initial occupation of eastern North America by nomadic Paleoindians more than 12,000 years ago, thus salt springs hold enormous potential for revealing information about the continent’s earliest inhabitants. With the development of agricultural societies, sources of salt were intensively worked and became important factors in the development of complex societies. Late prehistoric and early historic salt exploitation was based almost exclusively on the sea coasts and around inland salt springs, using both sal solar and sal cocida techniques. Briquetage is present in some parts of the Caribbean and in some areas of the Southeastern U.S., but it was not integral to most pre-modern production processes here. Late nineteenth-century salt production, based on mining rock salt in the northeastern U.S., was critically important to the development of canal routes and a massive food processing industry. The literature on salt in this region is growing and covers nearly the entire record of human occupation. This session is intended to reveal the breadth of recent salt archaeology and to invite comparison and collaboration on salt production methods and histories with scholars from other parts of the world.

Salt production in San Jeronimito, Guerrero, Mexico. Archeology and anthropology of a salt village

Session proposal

Author(s): Eric Saloma García

Affiliation of author(s): Proyecto Tepeticpac (INAH Tlaxcala)

Positions of author(s): Arqueólogo-Profesor Investigador Asistente B (Eventual)

Title of session proposed: Salt production in San Jeronimito, Guerrero, Mexico. Archeology and anthropology of a salt village

Abstract of session proposed:
The following work is a brief summary of the research carried out in a community of the Costa Grande of the state of Guerrero, dedicated to the production of salt. In this region, according to the ethnohistorical sources of the XVI Century and later, there was intensive exploitation of this important mineral. In order to corroborate these data, we enter the current area of salt production in San Jeronimito to discover salt mines that date at least from the Postclassic period (900 AD to 1521 AD). With the information collected it was possible to verify that there is a millenary tradition in the phases of production and distribution of the salt that have been transmitted from generation to generation until today, adapting to technological and cultural changes. Salt production remains an important part of the social, cultural and economic processes of the region.

The ethnoarchaeology and the ethnography of salt exploitation, distribution and consumption

Session proposal

Author(s): Felix Adrian Tencariu, Andrei Asăndulesei, Mihaela Asăndulesei, Marius Alexianu

Affiliation of author(s): ‘Alexandru Ioan Cuza’ University of Iasi

Positions of author(s): Researcher, Researcher, Researcher, Associate Professor

Title of session proposed: Living salt. The ethnoarchaeology and the ethnography of salt exploitation, distribution and consumption

Abstract of session proposed:
It is an undeniable fact that common salt (sodium chloride) is one of the essential nutrients, necessary for human consumption just as for the rations of livestock. As salt is nowadays, in the industrialized societies, a fairly banal and cheap thing, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand its appreciable importance and value during the times when this essential mineral was unavailable or difficult to acquire. Fortunately, traditional practices of extracting/obtaining salt using different techniques and materials were and still are well documented across the world, especially in non- and less industrialized communities.
Recording these practices, many of them nearly extinct, is invaluable as it identifies the significant role of salt exploitation by village communities (and particularly by pastoral communities). Also, the modes of exploitation, quantities, tool kits, ways of transportation, trade and barter, symbolic and ritual valences of salt etc. are elements, preserved more or less unaltered for centuries, that could provide hints to understanding the human behaviors determined by the need for salt from the historical and even the prehistoric past.
This session encourages presentations that explore all the above aspects related to salt exploitation, distribution, consumption and such recorded in living communities. Both archaeologically oriented research and purely ethnographic inquiries are welcomed.

Towards the safeguarding of saltscapes

Session proposal

Author(s): Valerii Kavruk

Affiliation of author(s): National Museum of Eastern Carpathians, Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania

Positions of author(s): Manager

Title of session proposed: Towards the safeguarding of saltscapes

Abstract of session proposed:
Salt rich landscapes (saltscapes) with their specific geology, morphology, fauna and flora, often include material evidence and intangible cultural manifestations related to their human exploitation. The saltscapes expose high potential for research, health care, tourism and eco food production.
Many of the saltscapes meet the conditions to be included in the official lists of natural, cultural or/and natural-cultural heritage. Nevertheless, they are much underrepresented in the official lists of heritage, both on national and international levels, and just few of them benefit from proper research, protection and management. In this condition, many saltscapes are under real threat of irreversible damage or even destruction. At the same time, in the context of modernisation the intangible cultural heritage related to salt is on the verge of extinction.
The session has as its main goal the appeal to the academic community to direct its efforts to the scientific substantiation of the effective policies for the protection and commodification of the saltscapes. It is addressed to the scholars involved in various aspects of saltcapes research, to the heritage managers, as well to the national and international bodies with legal attributions and responsibilities in protecting, enhancing and commodifying the heritage.

Historiography of Salt

Session proposal

Author(s): Igor I. Lyman

Affiliation of author(s): Berdyansk State Pedagogical University

Positions of author(s): Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor. The Head of the Department of History and Philosophy. The Coordinator of International Relations

Title of session proposed: Historiography of Salt

Abstract of session proposed:
The great importance of salt in world history results in the fact that researchers from different countries and continents have written thousands of works devoted to a wide range of issues related to salt. Only some of the issues studied by historians include: the history of salt mining and evaporation; salt trade; salt roads; the role of salt in the creation and destruction of empires, in determining the power and location of cities; wars for salt; the influence of salt on toponymy; and even the history of salt usage in alchemy. For this reason, the “Historiography of Salt” can become an important part of the Second International Congress on the Anthropology of Salt.
Historiography, or the history of historical writing, here has two meanings: 1) a body of historical works on a particular subject related to salt, and 2) the study of how historians have used particular sources, methods and theoretical approaches on salt.
So, the session “Historiography of Salt” may accepts papers devoted to:
– Analysis of the history of studying salt by historians in a certain country or region;
– Analysis of the history of studying salt by historians in a certain period of the past;
– History of studying a certain issue related to history of salt;
– A person who made a significant contribution to studying the history of salt;
– Comparative studies of the historiography of salt.

Salt administration in ancient empires

Session proposal

Author(s): Lucretiu Birliba

Affiliation of author(s): “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania

Positions of author(s): Prof. dr.

Title of session proposed: Salt administration in ancient empires

Ancient states valued salt as a most important resource. The written and archaeological sources reveal the Hittite and the Assyrian Empires as first organizers of systematic salt exploitation. The Roman Empire offered the most complete image of a salt state administration, especially during the 1st-3rd c. AD. The purposes of salt use were multiple and various: human and animal food (in different ways, from primary consumption to sophisticated sauces and meals), medical use, conservation use, etc. Our round table aims to construct an image of the state’s involvement in salt exploitation and its administration. The extremely efficient administration in metals’ mining was implemented by Romans in salt mining. We shall try to observe how the salt administration was organized (and what was its specificity in comparison with other ancient Empires), who were the higher and lower ranked clerks and what was their concrete role. Thus, we shall try to highlight the importance of salt exploitation through its administrative organization.

Salt – The original reserve currency

Session proposal

Author(s): David Bloch

Affiliation of author(s): Salt Archive M.R. Bloch

Positions of author(s): Director

Title of session proposed: Salt – The original reserve currency

Abstract: An economy may be valued by its assets and its dynamic direction. The Ancient economies such as the early Greek democracies were thought to be relatively liberal and they allowed individuals followed by prominent communities such as the Athenian leagues to recognize and trust one another’s status by presenting tokens of exchangeable value. The first tokens to replace the inefficiencies of barter, were probably of intrinsic value, however as trust increased, the varied intrinsically valued items were replaced by a scaled down representation of one measure of intrinsic value – the relative weights of metals. Most currencies today are still named by their original relative weights. The only intrinsically valued item that was so necessary to humanity, that also fitted all these evolved types of portable value, was initially the commodity – consumer salt. Then there came exchangeable uniform salt cakes which were “hall-marked”, and finally exchangeable metallic weights which could represent a relative weight of a family’s, or an individual’s need for salt. The direct reliance upon the supply of salt and its metallic weighted token, made salt the ultimate reserve currency.

Salt in Antiquity: Greek and Latin authors’ references

Session proposal

Author(s): Dr. Roxana-Gabriela Curcă

Affiliation of author(s): “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania

Positions of author(s): Assist. Professor

Title of session proposed: Salt in Antiquity: Greek and Latin authors’ references

Abstract: Salt references by ancient Greek and Latin authors are not as numerous as one would expect, but it is remarkable that they cover a multitude of literary genres. An obviously non-exhaustive list of approached topics would include salt geography, production techniques, salt mines, usages (food and animal consumption, conservation), garum preparation, halotherapy, usages in metallurgy, construction, political-economic strategies and conflicts, legal regulations, mentalities, symbolism (ritual, magic, metaphors, etc). Our session aims to stimulate, first of all, the specialists in Classical Philology, in order for them to analyze in as many details as possible the lexical and semantic aspects of the texts on salt. However, our session also addresses the contemporary specialists with the purpose of understanding and interpreting the ancient texts referring to salt. We also encourage the comparative approach to the knowledge exercised by Greeks and Latins concerning the other ancient cultures, as well as studies regarding the scientific validity of ancient texts.

Toponymy of salt

Session proposal

Author(s): Mihaela Asăndulesei

Affiliation of author(s): Interdisciplinary Research Department – Field Science, ”Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași, Romania

Positions of author(s): Research Assistant

Title of session proposed: Toponymy of salt

Abstract of session proposed:
The Anthropology of Salt involves the study of all human behaviours concerning salt. This includes the need of human communities to designate the sources of salt with which they came into contact. In their turn, they influenced the process of designating other geographic elements that formed the immediate natural environment. Starting from this reality, the Romanian researcher Dragoș Moldovanu (2010) developed the original theory of toponymic fields.
The abovementioned theory is based on the idea that, in a certain territory, there exists a central element that influences the orientation and organisation of the human communities. The formation of toponymic structures involves expressing the categories of geographic objects through various types of oppositions. One of these oppositions is the polar one, characteristic to the process of structuration called polarisation, which expresses the unilateral dependency to a base of multiple geographic variables (e.g. ‘salt spring’  ‘Salt Spring Mountain/Hill/Creek/etc.). Another opposition, based on lexical oppositions, leads to differentiation (e.g. ‘salt spring’  ‘Great/Little/etc. Salt Spring’). The merger of the two toponymic fields forms the mixed toponymic field (Moldovanu 2010: 18, 25).
It follows that salt, irrespective of its form — liquid (salt springs, creeks, lakes, etc.) or solid (bedrock or outcrops) —has played the role of toponymic core in the development, via polarisation or differentiation, of several complex toponymic fields.
The present session aims to further toponymic research, since the few specialised studies have demonstrated that the natural mineral has played an important role in the complex process of toponymic designation. This reality is supported by the antiquity of the topical names related to salt, and by the evolution of the halotoponyms from simple appellatives, which will continuously perpetuate in human societies, up to micro-toponyms and further to official toponyms.

Moldovanu Dragoș 2010, Teoria câmpurilor toponimice (cu aplicație la câmpul hidronimului Moldova), Editura Universității „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Iași.

Lexical approaches to salt studies

Session proposal

Author(s): Mihaela Asăndulesei

Affiliation of author(s): Interdisciplinary Research Department – Field Science, “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iași, Romania

Positions of author(s): Research Assistant

Title of session proposed: Lexical approaches to salt studies

The linguistic approaches to studies of salt constitutes an innovative and new research direction. The importance of this subject is highlighted by its complexity and potential applicability for all languages, even though on the scientific stage there are few such studies.
The lexical units associated with the salt sources can be organised according to formal criteria, when they constitute lexical fields. With their help, the word is analysed from a synchronic perspective (e.g. salt–to salt–salted–salty etc.), but also a diachronic one (e.g. Old English sealt ‘salt’ (n.), from Proto-Germanic *saltom). Likewise, the lexicon generated by salt can be studied in terms of associative groups that lexical units form inside various semantic fields. They are represented by a word alongside its related concepts. In the case of the lexeme salt, for instance, the component notions of such a field can designate the various recipients for collecting or storing salt, either in solid or liquid form, the tools for exploiting the salt deposits, the occupations associated with this natural mineral, etc. The challenge of this sessions lies in the eventual identification of constants across the variety of linguistic reflexes of salt in various languages and dialects.

Tourism of Mandi connected with the Rock Salt area on cultural and religious aspects

Session proposal

Author(s): Dr. Jayaram Gollapudi

Affiliation of author(s): Post-doctoral Fellow & Assistant Professor (F&C), Tagore National Scholar

Positions of author(s): Assistant Professor (F&C) INDIA

Title of session proposed: Tourism of Mandi connected with the Rock Salt area on cultural and religious aspects

In the Mandi district, Hamal Pradesh state, India, tourists are attracted to beautiful lakes, especially lakes Rewalsar and Prashar, hot springs, hiking, and many temples. In the city of Mandi, traditional culture remains very strong, including deity worship at sunrise and sunset at the Shakari Devi temple, which is mentioned in the ancient Mahabharat epic and the Markandya Puran holy book. The serene beauty of the Panchvktra temple also attracts large numbers of tourists. This national monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and is named for the five-faced statue of Lord Shiva, which depict his five different characteristics. Although the original construction date for Panhvaktra is unknown, it was restored under the reign of King Sidh Sen (1684-1727). The other important tourist attraction in Mandi is pink rock salt deposits. The Hindustan Salt Limited (HSL) company mines salt at Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, where 116 million metric tons of rock salt are believed to exist. HSL dry mining produces about 400-500 tons per month, and its salt is preferred by the people in the Himachal Pradesh, but it is also distributed in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Haryand. Tourists visit the mines for medical treatment, traditional festivals, and folklore.

Mining of rock salt and usages of rock salt in India

Session proposal

Author(s): Dr. Jayaram Gollapudi

Affiliation of author(s): Post-doctoral Fellow, Assistant Professor (F&C), Tagore National Research Scholarship Award Holder

Positions of author(s): Post-doctoral Fellow, Assistant Professor (F&C)

Title of session proposed: Mining of rock salt and usages of rock salt in India

Rock salt from the Punjab region It is mined at the Khewra Salt Mine in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab, which is situated in the foothills of the Salt Range hill system in the Punjab province of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, near Amrutsar. Another one rock salt mine is at Mandi in the Himachal Pradesh province, which is run by the Indian government.
In Indian, rock salt is commonly known as table salt, or ‘Sendha namak’ or ‘kala namak‘ in Hindi, ‘Rati Uppu‘ in Telugu, ‘Intuppu‘ in Tamil, ‘Kallu Uppu‘ in Malayalam, ‘Kalluppu‘ in Kannada, ‘Shende Lon‘ in Marathi, ‘Sindhalun‘ in Gujarati and ‘Saindhava Lavan‘ in Bengali. It is formed by the evaporation of salty water from large water bodies such as inland marginal seas, enclosed bays and estuaries in semi-arid regions where it is found in enormous deposits. In the Indian subcontinent, it is found in the Himalayan region where it known as the Himalayan crystal salt.
There is a difference between the rock salt and the common salt that we mostly consume. Sendha namak is the purest form of rock salt that is available in India in small quantities. Thus, it is costlier than commercial salt. Unlike commercial salt which is iodized, rock salt is more granular with large chunky crystals, has less salty taste and is not chemically processed. It can be used as a healthy substitute of common salt as it is rich in minerals and does not pose health problems like high blood pressure, puffiness in the body or eyes. It is used in making ice creams, as it lowers the freezing point when packed with ice in the ice cream maker, thus making the ice cream colder. It is mostly used for seasoning and preservation. Apart from consumption, it is stocked in massive bags for the purpose of keeping down ice on the roads in winter. The nutritional value of the rock salt is so high that it has different effects on different parts of the human body. Rock salt is devoid of environmental pollutants and chemical components. It contains 84 out of the 92 trace elements required by the body including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper and so on. Some of its health benefits are as follows: It aids in digestion and is prescribed for laxative and digestive disorders. It improves appetite, removes gas and soothes heartburn, facilitates the cellular absorption of minerals. It plays an important role in replenishing the body’s electrolytes and maintaining the pH balance. By stimulating blood circulation and mineral balance it removes toxic minerals and stabilizes blood pressure by maintaining a balance of high and low blood pressures, aids in weight loss by equalizing minerals which inhibit cravings and eliminate fat dead cells and Rock salt is used as a home remedy for curing many disorders and ailments such as rheumatic pain and herpes, inflammation and irritation from insect bites. This salt uses for the leather cleaning and securing good quality of leather goods.

Salt and the Arts

Session proposal

Author(s): Dr. Adrian-Silvan Ionescu

Affiliation of author(s): “G. Oprescu” Institute of Art History of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania

Positions of author(s): Manager

Title of session proposed: Salt and the Arts

Abstract: Part of Romanian folklore includes a short story called Salt in Dishes (Rmn. Sarea în bucate). Its plot is very similar to that of King Lear, even though the peasant storyteller had not heard of Shakespeare and his tragedy. In ita king asks his girls how much they love him, and the youngest answers that she loves him “as salt in dishes,” which upsets the elder sovereign so much that he disowns and banishes her daughter. Later, while a guest at the wedding of a neighboring prince — and without knowing that the prince’s bride is his banished daughter — he is served dishes without salt but with much sugar, which irks him greatly. But he eventually realizes this plot of his estranged daughter, who taught the emperor a lesson by showing how necessary salt is in victuals, and how suitable was her choice of words for expressing the utmost love for her father.
Starting from this story, I invite participants to this section of the congress, with papers on the presence of salt in artistic creations, both as a subject and an object of creativity:
– Decorative arts/design: salt cellars, from the ones made by Benvenuto Cellini for the tables of Francois I, to those contained in the field and hunting sets of Napoleon I, Napoleon III, and other royals of the past, up to the salt receptacles of the present;
– Plastic arts: compositions in which salt is present — still life (Frans Snyders, Jan Steen, Pieter Claesz, Willem Claesz Heda, J.B.S. Chardin, etc.), landscapes with salt mountains and springs; subject painting with salt exploitation works; images from the sketchpads of explorers and travelling artists; etc.
– Photography: images with saltworks (salt mines, salterns, etc.); the institutional exploitation of salt; samples from world fairs; salt mines — setting for convicts to hard labour;
– Art objects carved in salt: crucifixes, cups, portraits; shrines carved in rock salt;
– Salt mines as venues for spectacles and sports: concert venues and theaters; competitions inside decommissioned salt mines; etc.

Unknown, less known, surprising stories on salt

Session proposal

Author(s): Dr. Marius Alexianu

Affiliation of author(s): “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Romania

Positions of author(s): Assist. Professor

Title of session proposed: Unknown, less known, surprising stories on salt

Abstract: In order to obtain a holistic view of man’s perceptions and reactions to salt, special consideration should also be given to those aspects considered minor and therefore usually neglected. These are divided into two categories: written testimonies and oral testimonies.
The first category includes:
1. Passages on salt found in writings with very different purposes, e.g. Literary works (in prose or lyrics), travel journals, memoirs, etc.
2. Passages about salt in various works written in idioms without international circulation.
3. Episodes neglected in the history of salt-related sciences or technologies.
Oral testimonies refer to relevant salt events in which various persons took part or of which they heard. They must be valued by introducing them into the scientific circuit.
Our session is open to researchers all over the world interested in capitalizing on this intangible, neglected patrimony. Our session also encourages the participation of people outside the academic world, whose unique testimonies about salt are particularly precious for scientific research.


Sessions opened to all papers on any of the proposed themes, but not assignable to any of the specific sessions listed above .

Manager(s): Assoc. Prof. Dr Marius Alexianu

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