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Search for More “Salt Men” Planned


24 August 2005


Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) has allocated 200 million rials to excavate the Hamzehlu Salt Mine in order to search for more “salt men”.


The Hamzehlu Salt Mine is located near Chehrabad village about 75 kilometers from the northwestern city of Zanjan.


Four bodies of people dubbed “salt men” have been unearthed by mineworkers over the past ten years. The second and third salt men were discovered last November and January. The Fourth Salt Man was unearthed in early March 2005. Shortly afterward, exploitation of the privately-owned mine was halted by the CHTO. The owner of the mine has sued for damages.


The CHTO is attempting to buy the mine so that it can legally begin excavations in late September, Zanjan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department Director Yahya Rahmati told the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency on Wednesday.


“The excavations also aim to determine the various ways the mine has been exploited,” said Abolfazl Aali, the director of the team of archaeologists that will be working on the project.


It is still not clear when the salt men lived, but archaeologists estimate that the First Salt Man lived about 1700 years ago and died sometime between the ages of 35 and 40. He is currently on display in a glass case at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran.


The remains of the Second Salt Man are relatively intact, and include parts of the skull, jaw, both arms, as well as the left and right legs and feet.


Several pieces of wool cloth and a piece of a straw mat with a unique style of weaving were also discovered beside the Second Salt Man. The remains are currently being kept at the Zanjan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department.


The Third Salt Man’s body was buried under a two-ton rock, which severely damaged the skeleton. Several items such as a leather sack full of salt, a clay tallow burner, two pairs of leather shoes, and two cow horns were also discovered near the skeleton.


The Fourth Salt Man is the most intact of the salt men discovered in the mine. The most recent studies have determined that he died young.


The upper part of the outer covering of the Fourth Salt Man stretched to his knees and his pants are short and did not completely cover his legs. In his belt, the Fourth Salt Man also had a sheathed dagger, probably made of iron.


In addition, he wore two earrings, which experts are studying to determine their quality. Two jugs were discovered near the Fourth Salt Man, which experts surmise were used as containers for oil that was burned to illuminate the mine.


Pieces of clothing and DNA samples from three of the four ancient salt men were recently sent to Oxford University for carbon-14 dating.  



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