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Old 02 April 2014, 02:25 AM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
Join Date: 05 March 2001
Location: Plymouth, MI
Posts: 4,407
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Almost every saltpeter production process, from ancient history to right before WWI, has required the chemical extraction of nitrates from manure and urine.

Guano is valuable only because (certain?) bats eat almost nothing but nitrogen-rich protein, so their manure is highly concentrated in nitrates and ammonia. Portions of Asia have known this from antiquity, but it was unknown in the West until publicized by Alexander von Humboldt in the early 19th Century. Guano began to overtake other manure sources around the 1840s, as production of gunpowder became more scientific and industrialized.

Prior to that there would be no reason for anyone in the New World to consider guano useful enough to go out of their way to collect.
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