The body of water known as the Dead Sea has also been called the Salt Sea and the Asphalt Sea, among other names dating to antiquity. It is the lowest point on Earth – currently close to 1400 feet (422 meters) below sea level. The surface of the sea has been dropping for years due to diminished flow from its primary source, the Jordan River. There is no river outflow from the Dead Sea. Water is lost only from evaporation.
The unique saline/mineral content of the water has long been considered healthy for body and skin. In Roman times, people regarded the Dead Sea as something of a health resort or spa. Some ancient cosmetics included Dead Sea minerals because of their beneficial effects.
Several modern cosmetics industries continue to utilize Dead Sea minerals in various skin and hair products. People with troublesome skin conditions find relief from applying Dead Sea mud to their skin and from swimming in its waters. (The Dead Sea waters are very warm, almost like a hot tub.) While the region is quite hot in the summer, the air is generally pollution-free. I was told during my recent excavation trip that some European health plans provide coverage for medically-recommended Dead Sea visits.
Popular sites along the Dead Sea include Qumran (an Essene settlement in the 1st century B.C./A.D.), En Gedi and Masada.