It’s easy to forget while you’re sprinkling it on your food the outsized influence salt has had in shaping human civilization. Since its first uses in ancient Egypt and China (for mummification and soy sauce, respectively), sodium chloride became such a valuable commodity that entire roads, cities, and even kingdoms were built around its procurement.
Salt—the only rock we eat—has played a role in shaping the geography of the world, with dozens of towns built around salt mines, and the course of its history: Salt restrictions or taxes added to the tensions that sparked wars and revolutions. Today, this extraordinary mineral is no less valuable to daily life. Maybe that’s why we find it so wonderful to behold.