Salt and Farming

6 Apr 2021

At ... discovery by Stephen Sherlock. At Loftus, on the Yorkshire Moors, there is a neolithic site going back 5800 years ago [early 4th millennium BC]. Charcoal deposits have been found on earlier occasions, as well as pottery etc. Now they have found evidence of Neolithic salt extraction from sea water. Salt has been an important product for many yearsd and old salt routes [including pack horse trails] were a feature of the medieval period, and are well documented. However, there is evidence the salt trade goes back much deeper into the past, including the Iron and Bronze ages. Salt was used to preserve food and hides, and was an essential addition to cooked food, if only to take away the blandness from boiled vegetables and meats. It was traded over long distances in the medieval period - mainly from rock salt deposits in the Midlands. Salt has  been mined for a long time but extraction from sea water is an older methodology. The evidence now exists that people were doing this in the Neolithic period, presumably introduced by early farmers. Sea water was captured in containers from the North Sea, it is alleged , and transported to Loftus, 2 or 3 miles away. At the site the brine was boiled for 6 or 7 hours, the water evaporating and leaving behind a salt cake. It was then kept until required. Similar salt extraction sites have been discovered in several places in Europe and the technique was probably imported into Britain.