Towards an Archaeology of Salt Production in Ireland

Wes Forsythe, R McConkey, C Breen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Salt-making is an under researched area of study in Ireland. Only recently prehistoric evidence of salt making has been
recognised, and Medieval sources have largely been documentary rather than archaeological. Yet the production of salt was
central to the Irish economy as it emerged in the Late Medieval and Post-Medieval periods. Ireland remained an agricultural
country and relied on the export of salted beef and butter, in particular the emerging transatlantic trade. A major project over
the past two years has reassessed the material evidence of salt making in the country with an emphasis on coastal sites. The
use of sea water in the absence of geological sources of salt was expensive and inefficient, yet provided an important means of
securing a commodity of importance. This paper will provide an outline of the Irish Salt project as well as some of its preliminary
findings based on survey and excavation activities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMirrors of Salt: Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Anthropology of Salt
Subtitle of host publication20-24 August 2015, ‘Al. I. Cuza’ University, Iași, Romania
Place of PublicationOxford
ISBN (Print)9781784914561
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jul 2023


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