Salt Research in Thailand
Salt Production in the Khorat Plateau, Northeast Thailand - Past & Present
Salt has been an important natural resource in Northeast Thailand from as early as the Iron Age up until the present. The unique geology and climate of the region ensures that salt resources are widely available during the dry season. Recent research and interviews with local salt makers have provided important information about this traditional technology and the economics of this seasonal activity. This data will help us identify and interpret archaeological features and artifacts associated with salt-making, and the salt working mound sites, which are widespread throughout the region.
Salt working mound sites are found clustered throughout various regions of the Khorat Plateau. These mounds tend to be located adjacent to floodplains in areas with saliferous soil. The mounds generally range from 50 to 150 meters in diameter, and are formed from the yearly processing and discard of soil that has been leached of salt. Many local families gather in these areas on a seasonal basis, during the dry season, to make salt. Some families collect the soil and take is back to their homes to process. Others setup temporary camp at these sites making large quantities for both personal use, and to sell and trade. Only some of these mound sites are still in use today, while others were probably abandoned long ago.
Evidence suggests that some of these salt working sites date back to as early as the Iron Age (Higham & Rivett; Nitta 1992). Recent and past surveys conducted in the Mun River Basin, have noted the presence of prehistoric pottery, as well as other salt-making related features at many of these sites. Furthermore, pit features have been identified in archaeological excavations at the village of Ban Non Wat, in the Mun River Basin, and elsewhere that resemble the filtration reservoirs and brine pits that are still made by salt-makers today. Future research will address: the relationship between the archaeological and ethnographic features and the technology of salt production; the age, characteristics and distribution of the mound sites; the relationship between the salt resources and the local people and their landscape throughout time; and the economic and social importance of salt in this region from prehistory to the present.
Click here to see video footage of the traditional method of making salt in the Khorat Plateau.
Nitta, E. (1997). Iron-Smelting and Salt-Making Industries in Northeast Thailand. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 16:153-160.
Rivett, P. and C.F.W. Higham (2007). The Archaeology of Salt Production. In The Excavations of Noen U-Loke and Non Muang Kao. C.F.W. Higham, A. Kijngam and S. Talbot (eds.), 589-593. Bangkok: The Thai Fine Arts Department.