Discovering The Ancient Persian Technology Of The Yakhchāl Which helped Keep Items Cool In Summer More Than 2000 Years Ago
Iran: In contemporary society one may spend time reflecting on all the marvel around their immediate environment. In today’s modern world we have an array of different tech items, products and goods as well as a whole host of mod cons which make everyday living a little easier, or supposedly so. Many of these ingenious devices have roots in ancient technology and knowledge which is often not widely known.
The birthplace and cradle of civilisation can be located in parts of the Middle East. Persia is one such region. Ancient Persian civilisation stood at the pinnacle of world history. The people of this region had problems in their living conditions. The scorching heat and dry climate often led to water shortages, droughts and issues around cooling food and water. The ancient Persians used trial and error, skills and their knowledge to develop techniques and solutions to the problems they faced in their localities.
The ancient Persian engineers were able to develop technology which helped store ice in the hot dry summer months in around 400 BC. Yakhchāl were ancient evaporation coolers with a domed shape above ground and subterranean storage space for ice, food, and other perishables. This effective technique of storing ice in the heart of the desert may seem complex, but in reality, it was a simple technique that even the poorest could acquire.
The process involved obtaining ice during winter periods from the mountain ranges which were in close proximity and the ice was brought to the yakhchāl, and most also had qanats (underground channels) to move water from nearby sources.
The designs were around 60 feet in height, the shape of the yakhchāl above the ground was a massive mud brick dome. Bellow the ground there was an empty space up to 5000 cubic meters with very thick walls, measuring at least 2 meters at the base. The walls were made out of a type of mortar called sarooj; a mixture composed of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in very specific proportions. This mortar was resistant to heat transfer and it was also thought to be completely waterproof.
The dome often included a system of windcatchers, which was instrumental in helping bring temperatures within the structure down to frigid levels during the hot season. The technology of the yakhchāls has survived up until modern times. Some of these structures that were built hundreds of years ago still remain intact. We can find these unique domed shape structures in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, the term yakhchāl is also used to refer to contemporary household refrigerators.
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