The word ‘Hall’, often found in contemporary Austrian place-names or geographical features, is derived from the ancient word for salt. (Zronik 14) Beginning in the 7th century BC, one of the main regions of Celtic occupation was in modern-day Austria, centred around Hallstatt, a large prehistoric salt-mining area. The Hallstatt period, 750 – 450 B.C.
, is named after this region. Hallstatt is the location where most of the extensive and comprehensive finds pertaining to the early Iron Age were discovered. (Schutz 191) Salt was a highly desirable commodity at the time, and the Hallstatt culture took advantage of the salts high value by establishing a salt trade.
There are two main components in any trading system; exports and imports. The Hallstatt culture exported salt, and imported such items as pottery, jewelley, weapons, and gold. The salt trade resulted in increased wealth for the Hallstatt culture while the imported goods carried along cultural influences. The various influences came from all around Europe, but most notably the Greeks, the Italians, the Mediterranean. With the current weather conditions at the time, the value of salt was extremely high. With salt having such a high value, the salt trade led to a stratification of society, as the rulers of the salt trade became wealthy.
The economic basis of the Hallstatt culture focused on the mining and distribution of rock salt.During the early Iron Age there was an increased demand for salt. The demand was attributed to the dry weather which lasted from 700 to 500 B.C. The salt trade was motivated by the need for the increase in the dietary use of salt to prevent dehydration.Also salt was valuable for preserving meats during the winter.
The salt trade was of great economic importance to the Hallstatt culture as suggested by thedifficulty in the mining of salt. With the tools available to the salt miners of Hallstatt they could advance into the rock at a rate of 1 met..