A currency for trade

For a long time, salt served as a currency for trade, making it possible to buy all sorts of goods or services.


Animals, agricultural material, precious stones and minerals, etc. could all be acquired thanks to salt. For example, a goat was worth eight kgs of salt in Tanzania and Burundi, and a cow was worth six. Gold was exchanged for salt in Sudan. At the time, the price of a slave was even estimated by means of a plaque of salt the same dimension as his feet.

Salt was also used to pay for certain services.  For a long time, Switzerland, a great consumer of salt needed for raising animals and for the production of Gruyère cheese, offered the services of its soldiers in exchange for the precious condiment. The word “salary”, derived from the Latin word “salarium”, came into use due to the practice of giving the Roman legionnaires half of their pay in salt.

Salt was also used as a reference to calibrate the value of money.  In ancient China, it was used to a reference for the value of currency notes: each note was worth 200 pounds of salt.