"Cultivating" Salt: Human Ecology of the Saltpans of the Venezuelan Caribbean, 16th–19th Century

Author(s): Konrad Antczak; Miguel Lentino

Year: 2016


This paper discusses a diachronic human ecological approach to the interaction between humans and saltpans in the Venezuelan Caribbean from the 16th to the 19th century. This research is based on historical archaeological and oral historical evidence marshaled to understand the dynamics of past solar salt production, and the impacts of the natural environment on the final product’s output and quality. “Tending” a saltpan was not always straightforward business as knowledge of the weather patterns, yearly, monthly and daily tides, and the right physical conditions and biotic factors involved in the concentration of brine and the subsequent crystallization of sodium chloride was indispensable to augmenting the quantity and quality of a salt harvest. Furthermore, human management of saltpans, such as the construction of dikes and walkways and the pervasive flattening and compacting of the ground of the pans has left still-visible modifications and impacts. This research also indicates that the Dutch in the 16th and 17th, the Anglo-Americans in the 17th and 18th, and the Bonaireans and Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries, each applied a different know-how to the process of salt “cultivation” on the Venezuelan saltpans, resulting in a variable final product geared towards diverse market necessities.

Cite this Record

"Cultivating" Salt: Human Ecology of the Saltpans of the Venezuelan Caribbean, 16th–19th Century. Konrad Antczak, Miguel Lentino. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403806)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;