Ice has been a valuable commodity for centuries, especially in warmer climates. While we take for granted the ability to make ice at home or purchase it from a grocery store, ancient civilizations didn’t have the luxury of refrigeration technology.
So, how did they make ice in ancient times? Let’s take a look at some of the methods used throughout history.
One of the earliest methods of making ice was through the use of ice houses. These were essentially large structures built underground or partially underground to keep the temperature cool.
In colder climates, snow and ice would be packed into the ice house during winter months and insulated with straw or sawdust to prevent melting. The ice could then be used throughout the year when needed.
Similar to ice houses, ice pits were also used to store snow and ice during winter months. Instead of being stored in a structure, however, they were dug into the ground and lined with materials such as straw or reeds for insulation. Once filled with snow and ice, additional insulation was placed on top to keep it from melting.
Another method of obtaining ice was through harvesting it from frozen bodies of water such as lakes and ponds. This required waiting for temperatures to drop low enough for the water to freeze over completely. Once frozen, workers would use saws or axes to cut blocks of ice from the surface which could then be transported to storage facilities.
To transport large blocks of harvested ice, sleds were often used. These sleds could be pulled by horses or other animals and were designed with runners that allowed them to glide smoothly over the ground without getting stuck.
Ice Houses (Again)
Once harvested or obtained through other means, blocks of ice were typically stored in ice houses. These structures were designed to keep the temperature low enough to prevent melting. Ice blocks were often stacked in layers separated by straw or sawdust insulation.
The Ice Trade
As demand for ice increased, so did the need for larger quantities. In the 1800s, the ice trade became a booming industry with companies harvesting and transporting ice from colder climates to warmer regions.
Ice was harvested from frozen bodies of water using large saws and then transported via ship or train to cities and towns across the country. The invention of refrigerated rail cars allowed for even greater quantities of ice to be shipped longer distances without melting.
In conclusion, while we take for granted the ability to make ice on-demand, ancient civilizations had to rely on ingenuity and resourcefulness to obtain this valuable resource. From ice houses and pits to harvesting and transportation, various methods were used throughout history to keep things cool.