How did people satisfy their needs of ice before the invention of refrigerators? It’s true that they used natural ices, but, what if they lived in a desert or a dry area. In Iran, people produced this precious commodity by a building with special features, in order to result in a specific production. Across Iran there many Ice houses which actually were like big refrigerators. But, why they were built? Was it necessary to build such buildings? How did they work? To answer these questions, let’s visit them.
In fact, the mankind has always needed ice to preserve food or to scape from the hot, dog days of summer. First, the natural ice was used, then, inspiring by nature, they learned how to make ice. Actually it is not clear that when these primarily refrigerators were exactly built, at least since 600 years ago. Sincerely, ice was a precious commodity that only prosperous people could buy or were the owners, it’s proved by the existence of their house near Ice houses. It’s said that ordinary people could not afford it, even ice workers were received ice as a part of their income. In addition ices were not produce with the same quality. The best ones were used for drinking, moderate ices were important for preserving and foods and low qualities were used in the ice cream industry. Moreover, there were decorative ices which were used by riches, being produced by crystalline arils of pomegranates.
These amazing buildings had to have a special architecture, in order to avoid melting ices. First of all, there had to be a long wall which is called “Divar-e Sayeh Andaz”, meaning the shading wall. It shades the ice during the hole year, cover some small pools to freeze and is supported by some pillars. However in some Ice houses there are some adjunct walls. Second, a shallow, square pool was built to the north of the shading wall, but not longer than the wall, to producing ice during winter. Then, the ice cubes were broken into pieces and collected in a round or a square pit, to the south of the shading wall, called warehouse or Ice house reservoir.
Moreover, to construct these building impeded materials were used, such as adobe, mud, lime, animal’s wool, etc. Due to their texture and color, they reduced the intensive reflection of the sun and kept the storeroom as cold as possible. Finally, there are two types of ice houses, round or square. In the round ones, a step-conical dome was built on the warehouse. While in the other type, ices were gathered in a long, narrow hypostyle hall. This type is also known as underground ice houses, because their surface is below the ground level.
Ice houses were traditional refrigerators which were built to produce ice which was a precious commodity that could not be easily obtained or made, specially during summer. gradually, the ingenious people learned how to provide ice, by pouring water in some channels, protected by shading walls, transporting the ice into the reservoirs.