The Salt Wells of Bo Kleua District, Nan Province, Northern Thailand: Traditional Salt Production and Its Implications for the Study of an Ancient Industry

Andrea Yankowski1 & Puangtip Kerdsap2

1Independent Researcher, U.S.A.

2Kasetsart University, Thailand

The village of Ban Bo Luang in the mountainous province of Nan, Northeast Thailand, is known for its ancient brine wells which are still actively used for making salt today. Local knowledge, supported by historical documents, maintains the salt wells are at least eight hundred years old, and likely older. Moreover, many active and abandoned wells can be found to the north and south of Ban Bo Luang demonstrating there has been extensive exploitation of salt throughout the region, likely part of an ancient industry. Archaeologist Madeleine Colani suggested that salt was extracted and traded in the landlocked highlands of Nan, Thailand and Laos for more than two thousand years. This likely included the Bo Kleua region. We will present the results of recent ethnoarchaeological and ethnographic research on traditional salt production in Bo Kleau District, part of an ongoing project to learn more about the historical and cultural importance of this industry in Nan. This includes GPS mapping of active and abandoned salt wells in the Mang and Wa River Valleys, ethnoarchaeological studies on traditional salt production methods and related material culture, and ethnographic studies on the ritual practices that are still an important part of the salt-making tradition today.