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Excavations at Figa in 2009, showing the wooden structures for salt production including a ladder and a wood-lined shaft.

Ancient Salt in Carpathian Europe

Professor Anthony Harding

(joint project with Dr Valeriu Cavruc, National Museum of the Eastern Carpathians, Sfîntu Gheorghe, Romania)

This project is concerned with the discovery and interpretation of salt production sites in and around the Carpathian Basin, centred on Transylvania. A series of remarkable discoveries since 2005 have transformed knowledge of the techniques used in this area, notably the use of wooden troughs with perforated bases, set on stands over rock salt surfaces and accompanied by a large number of wooden installations of various kinds (wattle fences, channels, roofed enclosures etc). The largest amount of information comes from the site of Băile Figa near Beclean on the Someş river in northern Transylvania, but such troughs have now been found at some six other sites in Romania and Ukraine.

Excavation is ongoing at Figa and is likely to continue for some years. Each year has brought new finds and delivered new insights into the production techniques involved. Analytical work is being attempted in order to identify the characteristic signature of different salt sources in Transylvania and elsewhere.

The first major publication of the work, covering the years 2005-2012, appeared in 2013 (Explorations in Salt Archaeology in the Carpathian Zone, Budapest).