Youth and Education news
Ancient Miwok harvested salt
California: New evidence suggests the Miwok were among the first Native tribes to move from being hunter-gatherers to traders.
Researchers James Moore and Michael Diggles from the USGS (United States Geological Service) have located 369 basins between Yosemite and Tahoe. The basins are carved in glaciated granitic bedrock and are one meter deep and one and a half meters across. They were used to harvest salt for trade.
Miwok worked hard and long to
mine salt. First, the
basins had to be created.
Then, fires were built on the
granite to make the bedrock flake off
in small layers. The Miwok
repeated this process about 100
times until the depressions were
The tribe would fill each basin with water from nearby salt-springs. When the water evaporated, the salt remained.
"Ten families could have harvested the salt from the 300 plus basins," Diggles said. But those people wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”
Each season, the Miwok produced a ton-and-a-half of salt
"This salt is good stuff,"
Diggles said. "My wife cooked with it the other
day. I carved a bit off the side
of a rock with my Swiss Army
knife and brought it home. Good
He is not sure, however, how old
the basins are.
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