Salt, once a highly prized trade commodity essential for human survival, is often overlooked in research because it is invisible in the archaeological record. Salt in Eastern North America and the Caribbean: History and Archaeology brings salt back into archaeology, showing that it was valued as a dietary additive, had curative powers, and was a substance of political power and religious significance for Native Americans. Major salines were embedded in collective memories and oral traditions for thousands of years as places where physical and spiritual needs could be met. Ethnohistoric documents for many Indian cultures describe the uses of and taboos and other beliefs about salt.
The volume is organized into two parts: Salt Histories and Salt in Society. Case studies from prehistory to post-Contact and from New York to Jamaica address what techniques were used to make salt, who was responsible for producing it, how it was used, the impact it had on settlement patterns and sociopolitical complexity, and how economies of salt changed after European contact. Noted salt archaeologist Heather McKillop provides commentary to conclude the volume.
“This book is a current and comprehensive survey of salt procurement in the Eastern Woodlands and Caribbean, with case studies from precolonial times to the nineteenth century. It illustrates the importance of a resource that was essential to life, but is often overlooked archaeologically. Focusing on the use of salines, mineral springs, and salt ponds, the chapters provide many useful examples of how salt production can be recognized and reconstructed using material evidence. It also shows the variety of social and economic arrangements with which such production was connected in the past.”
—Vincas P. Steponaitis, coeditor of Rethinking Moundville and Its Hinterland
“This collection of essays is a welcome contribution to studies on the production and social uses of salt … geared to a more specialized North American archaeological readership. More importantly, perhaps, archaeologists and historians studying salt production, use, and trade at other sites around the world can find in this volume useful investigations with which to compare their own findings and continue expanding the study of salt in the human past.”—New West Indian Guide
“The volume Salt in Eastern North America and the Caribbean, edited by Ashley Dumas and Paul Eubanks, is a multifaceted, wide-ranging, welcome addition to the literature on global salt history and archaeology. From histories of the study of salt, to analyses of the ways salt was made, to the uses of salt in other manufacturing processes, to studies of the impact on society, the book makes important contributions to the understanding of economic and social changes in prehistoric and historic Eastern North America and to the corpus of literature that demonstrates the significance of salt throughout history around the world.”
—Rowan K. Flad, author of Salt Production and Social Hierarchy in Ancient China: An Archaeological Investigation of Specialization in China's Three Gorges
“This volume is an essential resource on the history and archaeology of salt. It highlights the variability of salt production and salt use across time within two broad regions, the Eastern Woodlands of North American and the Caribbean. The book addresses not only the technology and economy of salt, but also the ritual significance and political dimensions of salt-making, both prior to and subsequent to European colonization.”
—Vernon James Knight Jr., author of Mound Excavations at Moundville: Architecture, Elites, and Social Order