Ancient Salt Ponds

Ancient Salt Ponds


There is a canyon in Maras, Peru which is filled with geometric salt pools that have been being harvested since the Incan empire.


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Fed by a small local stream, the field of angular, interlocking earthen evaporation pools near the small Peruvian town of Maras has been providing local inhabitants with salt and visitors with a stunning view for generations.

Cascading down a hillside valley like uneven steps, the Salinas de Maras (as they are known in the local tongue) were first created sometime in the 1400s by the Incas. While there is no transcribed record of the ponds’ creation, they seem to have been passed down and expanded by a small number of owners over hundreds of years.

Salt is harvested from the patchwork of shallow pools via a process of evaporation. A natural spring feeds a salt-rich stream that flows down into the pools, which are then opened and dammed individually as needed. Once one of the pools is filled, the water is allowed to evaporate, and then the salt crystals are scraped off the ground with simple instruments. Then the whole process begins again.

The area is not widely industrialized, and the salt is still just bagged up, packaged, and sold at the market. Today there are about 3,000 pools that are still harvested by the community of local families who control the salt pans, the transport roads to the valley, and generally the entire salt production from the site, which remains much the same as it was when the Inca discovered it over 1,000 years ago.


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