Salt is an essential element in the diet of not only humans but of animals, and even of many plants. It is one of the most effective and most widely used of all food preservatives. Pre-civilization "salt men" represent a significant contemporary archeological research source, and the oldest as well. Its industrial, medical and other uses are almost without number. In fact, salt has great currency as well as historical interest, and is even the subject of humorous cartoons, music, "art" and poetry.
The fact is that throughout history, salt, called sodium chloride by chemists, has been such an important element of life that it has been the subject of many stories, fables and folktales (such as "Salt on a Magpie's Tail" from Sweden) and is frequently referenced in fairy tales. Some cultures ascribe magical powers to salt. Charles Dickens penned a Victorian era Ghost Story "To be taken with a grain of Salt." Forty years later, author George Gissing's last book was "The Salt of the Earth." Salt so infuses our culture that there are innumerable 'Quotes' drawing on salt. There is even a current "Words of Salt" literary competition, keeping alive the link between salt and culture.
Salt served as money at various times and places, and it has been the cause of bitter warfare. Offering bread and salt to visitors, in many cultures, is traditional etiquette. It is used in making pottery. While we have records of the importance of salt in commerce in Medieval times and earlier, in some places like the Sahara and Nepal, salt trading today gives a glimpse of what life may have been like centuries ago. Alchemists use the square symbol to represent salt. "Salt," is common in the jargon of other professions.
Saltmaking encompasses much of the history of Europe since Roman times. In the UK, particularly in Cheshire, salt reigns supreme. Consider visiting the Salt Museum or Lion Salt Works, both in Cheshire. Medieval European records document saltmaking technologies and concessions. On the continent, Venice rose to economic greatness through its salt monopoly. Further north, Halle is Germany's "Salt City" and an "old salt route" connected German salt mines to shipping ports on the Baltic. Since medieval days, Luneburg has been Germany's "city of salt". World War II historians record how the Nazis plundered European artworks and secreted them in the Luneburg salt mines. Saltmaking was important in the Adriatic/Balkans region as well where Tuzla, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is actually named "tuz," the Turkish word for salt. So is Salzburg, Austria, which has made its four salt mines major tourist attractions. The grand designs of Philip II of Spain came undone through the Dutch Revolt at the end of the 16th Century; one of the keys, according to Montesquieu, was the successful Dutch blockade of Iberian saltworks which led directly to Spanish bankruptcy. France has always been a major producer of salt, both on its Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. France, in fact, has a "salt road" along its Mediterranean coast. In the flowering of French neo-classicism in the 18th century, "The Ideal City of Chaux" was centered on the royal saltworks. Any discussion of saltmaking and distribution in France includes discussion of the gabelle (see above), the salt tax which was a significant cause of the French Revolution.
Source: Salt Institute