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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/257

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253
SALT.

in Boone County, Kentucky. Professor Shaler in his history of the state says:

Not only do we find the bones of animals which occupied the country when the whites first came to it—the buffalo, the elk, the deer, etc.—but also deeper in the mire, or in portions that indicate a greater antiquity, great quantities of the bones of the fossil elephant, his lesser kinsman the mastodon, the musk-ox, an extinct long-legged buffalo, the caribou or American reindeer, and various other creatures which dwelt here in the time when the last glacial period covered the more northern regions with a mantle of ice.

The number of animals buried in the swampy soil about this lick is enormous. Many of them, in their eagerness to get at the brine, rushed beyond their depth, and before they were aware of it were borne down by their own weight until they were unable to extricate themselves, and so died of starvation. Others were probably pushed forward by those that crowded on from behind and trodden into the soft earth, where they died of suffocation. The locality was equally fatal to small and to large animals. How many years or cycles ago this destruction began we have no means of knowing, but that it continued to comparatively recent times is extremely probable.

Let us now examine some evidence which goes to show that man has lived without salt. Sallust in his 'History of the Jugurthine War' says the Numidians live chiefly on milk and the flesh of wild animals, and that they use no salt or other relishes. Not only is the time to which the historian refers comparatively recent, but he has the reputation of carefully verifying his facts. His statements, therefore, carry great weight. It is held, moreover, that the Finnish name for salt is derived from an Indo-European root. If this view is correct the inference is natural and legitimate that the Finns did not know this commodity until they came in contact with Aryans, probably Slavs, from whom they got both the name and the thing, or rather the thing and the name by which they heard it called. In the Odyssey the renowned seer, Teiresias, directs Ulysses to travel until he comes to 'men who know not the sea neither eat meat flavored with salt.' Pliny supposes the Epirotes to be meant by this passage. But the point of chief interest is that to the Homeric Greeks a saltless people were supposed to live somewhere in the interior and in the most primitive condition. The poet, instead of naming a dozen points of difference, with epic prolixity, in life and usage between his own nation and this far-off tribe, has selected a single characteristic as sufficiently explicit for his purpose. Tacitus relates that toward the close of the first christian century a great battle was fought between the Hermanduri and the Chatti for the possession of a river boundary, a salt-producing stream, because both parties believed that at this place heaven was especially near and that nowhere else could they address their prayers to the gods