The natural bonding of sodium and chloride forms salt. Its chemical symbol is NaCl. Salt is as essential to life as food and water. It is indispensable in the chemical industry where it is a raw material starting point for a vast range of chemical products. Salt is critical to life, is consumed by humans and is present in literally millions of food products.
The fascinating history of salt
The most abundant source of salt is from the ocean. The other major sources of salt are inland waters, salt domes and sedimentary deposits located throughout the world. All the centres of civilisation in antiquity sprang up in valleys where the three essentials of life - food, water and salt - were readily available. When the population grew beyond local salt resources people engaged in trade or war to get this essential commodity.
Salt's political and economic importance can be traced back to as early as 2000 BC when the Shantung province of China supplied the court of Emperor Yu with salt. Possibly the earliest traders in salt were the Phoenicians during the period 1200 BC to 300 BC.
So critical was the need for salt in the Roman Empire that, when ocean levels rose in the 1st century BC and wiped out the ancient coastal salt works, the Romans conquered Palestine for the salt located in the Dead Sea. Throughout Roman history the army received salt as part of their pay and from this "salarium argentum" the future English word "salary" was derived. Later, during the Dark Ages, the key cities of Northern Europe became production centres of salted fish using salt from salt marshes and brine springs. Vast forests were cut and burned to extract salt from brine by evaporation.
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