Most of the world’s salt comes from the sea. Since ancient times man has used the sea to harvest salt by the evaporation process. This involved cutting a complex system of sluices, channels and rectangular basins into the flat, rocky coastline. These channels guided the sea water to the basins, also known as salt pans, which was then warmed by the sun. After the water had evaporated, the remaining salt was ready for harvesting (Marzano, 2013, p.124). Salt pan development began during the Roman period, which then spread to other countries (Marzano, 2013, p.125). By the 6th century salt had become a valuable commodity. Records show that Moorish merchants frequently exchanged salt for gold and throughout Africa slabs of salt were being used as currency. Roman soldiers were often paid with salt, which came to be known as solarium argentum, from which the word salary originated. A soldier’s salary would be reduced if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that developed because of Romans routinely buying slaves with salt (TIME, 1982). Numerous references to salt can be found in religion too, particularly in the bible (Salt Institute, 2013). “You are salt of the earth”, spoken by Jesus to his disciples, refers to them as being good people, in other words; as valuable as salt (Mathew 15:3). Throughout history salt has been the cause of many wars, the most notable being the War of Chioggi; between Venice and Genoa in 1378-1380 (Kurlansky, 2010, p.104). Evidence of early Roman salt pans can be found throughout the Maltese islands but it was not until the times of the Knights of Malta that these pans were used to their fullest potential supplying salt around the Mediterranean. In total there are around 40 salt pan sites located around the coastlines of Malta, Goza and Comino. There are still a few working sites in use today, although many of them have been abandoned and fallen into disrepute. Despite this there are plans to restore some of these sites along with accompanying museums (Malta Independent, 2011). Man’s desire to alter the landscape for his own benefit occurs throughout the history of the world. This series of landscapes documents what remains of the islands’ salt pans and what they represent historically, culturally and topographically.



Gaul, S ( 2007). Malta Gozo & Comino, (Country & Regional Guides – Cadogan). 4th Edition. Cadogan Guides.

Kurlansky, M (2010). Salt: A World History. Vintage/Ebury.

Marzano, A (2013). Harvesting the Sea: The Exploitation of Marine Resources in the Roman Mediterranean (Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy). Oxford University Press.


A Brief History of Salt – TIME. 1982. [ONLINE] Available at:,9171,925341,00.html. [Accessed Jan 2015].

Gozo – Saltpans – Visit Gozo. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

History of salt production on the Maltese Islands. Art. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

History of salt – Wikipedia. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

How an expensive delicacy was produced – 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

Salt and Christianity – Salt Institute. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

Salt evaporation pond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

The Wied Il-Għasri salt pans – Ta’ L-Arluġġar – The Malta Independent. 2011. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed Jan 2015].

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