Salt production in the southeastern Caddo homeland
During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Drake’s Salt Works Site Complex, located in the southeastern Caddo Indian Homeland, was a major hub of the salt trade. Elsewhere, in eastern Texas and southern Arkansas, the Caddo had already been making salt for at least several centuries before utilizing Drake’s Salt Works. While some salt was produced in northwestern Louisiana prior to sustained European contact, it is argued here that much of the salt in this region was made with the aim of exploiting and profiting from the European demand for salt and salt-treated commodities, such as animal hides and meat. Despite this demand, there is little evidence that salt making was more than a seasonal or short-term activity at Drake’s Salt Works. Although Drake’s Salt Works contains half a dozen extant salt licks, only two, the Upper Lick and the Little Lick, appear to have been utilized to any noticeable extent before the salt works were taken over by Euro-Americans around the beginning of the nineteenth century. Prior to this time, historical and ethnohistoric data suggest that the Upper and Little licks likely were used by small groups of predominantly female salt makers. These individuals filtered salt-impregnated soil through woven baskets and evaporated the resulting brine in a standardized ceramic bowl. Using containers of a similar size not only helped the producers manufacture a known and portable quantity of salt, such bowls also may have made the production process more efficient, which in turn, allowed the producers to make more salt while maximizing the return on their efforts. In addition, standardized bowls were easy to stack on top of each other, which would have been beneficial if the salt makers were making the vessels elsewhere and then transporting them to the saline.