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Salt: A World History
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NaCl, the only family of rocks eaten by humans. We need chloride for breathing and digestion, and we need sodium to transport nutrients and oxygen, to transmitnerve impulses and to move muscles.
Hunter tribes don't need extra salt - they get enough from eating red meat. But agricultural societies, living mainly on plants, need to trade for salt. And when you are in a cold winter environment, you need to preserve meat, which requires salt.
Taghaza was an ancient salt mine. 200 pound blocks of salt were quarried fromnear the surface then carried by camel 500 miles to Timbuktu. Timbuktu was a trading center bc it sat on the northernmost crook of the Niger River, which connects most of West Africa. In Timbukto goods from W Africa, N Africa and Sahara traded.
Silent bartering system. A gold merchant from West Africa would set out a pile of it on his blanket, and a salt merchant would counter with a pile of salt, each side altering their pile until an agreement reached.
In Roman times, the Venetian coast was substantially different to what it is today. A series of sandbars, called lidi sheltered shallow lagoons. Lido has become name for these, but in Roman times they were summer resorts for the affluent. In C6 the mainlandwas invaded by Germanic tribes, and the Venetians fled to the sandbars and built their city there.
North Africans probably invented idea of successive evaporation ponds, with brine of increasing concentrations being pumped from pool to pool, greatly speeding up the process of turning sea water into salt crystals.
The medieval Catholic Church banned eating of meat on religious days, and in C7 the number of such days was dramatically expanded. The fast for Lent was increased to 40 days, and Fridays, the day of Christ's crucifixion, were included. In all, nearly half the days of the year became 'lean' days, and the laws were strictly enforced. Under English law the penalty for eating meat on Friday was hanging. On lean days sex was forbidden, and you were only allowed one meal. Red meat was out bc it was "hot" and so associated with sex. But meat from water creatures was ok bc it was "cold", so beavers, porpoises and whales acceptable.
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