Stone Age Britons extracted salt from seawater utilizing industrial-style processes greater than 5500 years in the past. The invention means individuals in Nice Britain had been producing salt 1000’s of years sooner than thought, earlier than the Bronze Age.
The know-how might have been introduced by migrants arriving from mainland Europe.
“It adjustments how we take into consideration Neolithic society,” says Stephen Sherlock, an unbiased archaeologist primarily based in Redcar, UK.
In mainland Europe, there’s proof of salt manufacturing from the heating of salty water as early as 6050 BC in the course of the Neolithic: the final interval of the Stone Age, earlier than the invention of bronze. Nevertheless, in Britain the earliest recognized proof was from Brean Down in Somerset, the place Bronze Age individuals had been making salt round 1400 BC.
Sherlock has been excavating for a few years at Road Home, close to the city of Loftus in north-east England. The web site was occupied from the Neolithic, about 5700 years in the past, into the later Bronze Age and the Iron Age that adopted, and as not too long ago because the seventh century AD within the Anglo-Saxon interval of English historical past.
Geophysics revealed a buried construction about 200 metres from a Neolithic home, so Sherlock started digging.
“It was sealed by a couple of metre of clay,” says Sherlock. Beneath that was a particular pit measuring 2.8 metres by 2 metres, with a slender trench main into it. Three areas of the pit had been intensely burned, leaving charcoal deposits: Sherlock argues these had been hearths. A hazelnut shell within the charcoal layer was radiocarbon dated to between 3766 and 3647 BC.
Comparable constructions are recognized from Iron Age deposits in Britain and are usually interpreted as “salterns” used for extracting salt from seawater. The water was positioned in giant ceramic pots, supported by stones over scorching flames. The warmth evaporated the water, leaving salt crystals. Sherlock discovered shards of pottery of a low high quality attribute of salt manufacturing.
“I confirmed these finds to salt-making consultants,” says Sherlock. “They stated you’d anticipate finding that within the Iron Age.”
Salt would have been probably the most priceless commodity in society, says Sherlock. It was exhausting to acquire and could possibly be used to flavour or protect meals, as an illustration. “The individuals who managed salt are going to be a number of the richest.”
Journal reference: Antiquity, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2021.25
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