How Did They Keep Food Cold in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, people didn’t have the luxury of refrigerators to keep their food fresh. So, how did they manage to preserve their food without it spoiling? Let’s explore some of the techniques used by our ancestors to keep their food cold.


One of the earliest methods used to keep food cold was ice. Ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans would transport ice from the mountains and store it in underground pits called ice houses.

These ice houses were designed to keep the ice frozen throughout the year. The ice would then be used to cool drinks and preserve food.

Evaporative Cooling

Another technique that was commonly used was evaporative cooling. This method involves using a porous clay pot or pitcher which is filled with water.

The water then seeps through the pores and evaporates, which cools the container and its contents. This technique is still used today in countries like India where ‘matkas’ or clay pots are used to keep water cool.

Cold Water Baths

Cold water baths were also used in ancient times to keep food fresh. This involved placing containers of food in cold water which helped reduce their temperature and slow down spoilage. The water would need to be changed regularly to maintain its cool temperature.


Cellars were also commonly used in ancient times for storing food like fruits, vegetables, and wine. Since cellars are located underground, they offer a naturally cooler environment that helps preserve food for extended periods.


In conclusion, people in ancient times had various methods at their disposal for keeping their food cold without refrigeration. From using natural resources like ice, to techniques such as evaporative cooling and cold water baths, our ancestors displayed incredible ingenuity when it came to preserving their perishables.

  • Ice – transported from mountains and stored in ice houses
  • Evaporative Cooling – using porous clay pots or pitchers which seep water through pores and evaporate, cooling the container and its contents
  • Cold Water Baths – placing containers of food in cold water to reduce temperature and slow down spoilage
  • Cellars – underground storage for fruits, vegetables, and wine which offer a naturally cooler environment for preservation

So next time you reach for your refrigerator to keep your food fresh, think about the ingenious methods used by our ancestors to preserve their perishables.