Meat was usually salted! Salting of the meat lowers what is called the "AW" of the meat! This technical term simply means the 'Available Water' of a food product! If a food product has a low 'AW' value then this inhibits the growth of both spoilage and pathogenic bacteria, ie the meat stays fresher for longer! Adding sugar also has the same effect of lowering the 'aw' of food products, hence why it is possible to store jams and preserves longer.
Another technique used in the past may have been 'Smoking'. Smoking works in a different way to prevent bacterial growth and hence food spoilage but can be just as effective. Salting, using sugar and smoking are still very commonly use today alongside a large number of other techniques used either by themselves or in a combination.