How Ice Was Made in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, the ability to create ice was a luxury that only a few could afford. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1800s that ice became widely available thanks to the invention of mechanical refrigeration.

But how did people make ice before this technological breakthrough? Let’s take a look.

Ice in Ancient Times

The first recorded instance of people creating ice dates back to ancient Persia around 400 BC. It is said that during the hot summers, Persian engineers would use large underground chambers called yakhchāls to store ice and keep perishable food items cool.

How Did They Make Ice?

The process of making ice in ancient times was relatively simple but required a lot of manual labor. First, water was poured into shallow pits or clay pots and left outside overnight. The water would freeze due to the low nighttime temperatures.

The next morning, the frozen water was broken into small pieces and stored in an insulated container such as a pit lined with straw or sawdust. This insulation helped keep the ice from melting too quickly.

Uses of Ice in Ancient Times

Ice had several uses in ancient times beyond just keeping food cool. In China, for example, people used ice to make flavored desserts during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). These desserts were made by combining shaved ice with sweet syrup and fruit.

In Rome, Emperor Nero is said to have sent his slaves into the mountains to collect snow which was then flavored with honey and wine.

The Advent of Mechanical Refrigeration

While creating ice manually served its purpose for centuries, it wasn’t until 1805 that American inventor Oliver Evans designed the first refrigeration machine. This machine used vapor compression to cool air which could then be used to freeze water and create ice.

Over time, this technology improved and became more widely available. By the early 1900s, mechanical refrigeration had revolutionized the way we produce and store food.


In conclusion, the ability to create ice was once a luxury that only a few could afford. However, through ingenuity and manual labor, people were able to enjoy the benefits of ice for centuries before the invention of mechanical refrigeration. Today, we take for granted the fact that we can have ice at our fingertips anytime thanks to modern technology.