‘Rock Salt Around the Clock’. Ethnoarchaeological Research Concerning Traditional Extraction of Salt for Animal Consumption

In Romania, an EU Member State since 2007, there are several mountainous areas with enduring ancient practices of animal husbandry and exploitation of salt resources. Here, shepherds quarry rock salt from outcrops two to three times per year as nutrients for their sheep flocks, for which they travel up to 20–30 km. Salt thus becomes an essential element for increasing the spatial parameters of pastoral mobility. Complex ethnological models emerged within a broader research project (cf., opening new windows to understanding the prehistorical or historical pre-mining phase of rock salt exploitation.

A new exploratory project: The ethnoarchaeology of salt in the Inner Carpathian area of Romania

This new ethnoarchaeological research project focuses on the inner-Carpathian area of Romania. The archaeological and ethnographic vestiges of salt exploitation in this area are among the most consistent in Europe. They are closely interconnected and reveal the continuity of salt exploitation in the same locations from prehistory to the present. From the methodological point of view, the project avail itself of the experience gained and validated by the projects carried out under the aegis of the “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iași and of the National Museum of the Eastern Carpathians in collaboration with prominent research centres from France, UK, US, and Germany. The new project will tackle a number of new issues, including the reconstruction of the prehistoric salt-exploitation techniques that employed wooden installations such as those unearthed in a number of archaeological sites from northern Transylvania and Maramureș, the transport of salt along streams with limited discharges, and others. New research methods will also be tested, such as the virtual simulation of certain salt-exploitation technological processes.