Object: Salt Cellar

Salt Cellar
Attica, Greece
Middle to Late 5th century B.C.
Materials:  ceramic

This object is a salt cellar from the Attic region of Greece. Attica was an ancient district of east-central Greece with Athens as its chief city.

Salt cellars were common household items during the Classical Period of Greece (490 – 323 B.C.).  They were used primarily to place salt and other condiments on the table.  The salt cellar was not as common during the Hellenistic and Roman periods most likely due to an increase in the use of other seasonings in the cooking process which reduced the need for separate seasoning dishes at the table.

In antiquity, the Greeks extracted salt from seawater by means of evaporation utilizing the sun’s heat.  Seawater was deposited in square basins dug near the shore and left to evaporate, leaving behind pure salt.  This method is still used today in places like Portugal.  Salt had many uses in ancient Greece.  The Greeks would use salt to dry meats, flavor foods, and clean wounds, as well as use it as currency in trade.  The phrase “not worth his salt” comes from the ancient Greek practice of using salt to purchase slaves. [Debra Taylor]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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