Category Archives: IRAN

Ancient Advanced Technology: 2,400-Year-Old Yakhchals Kept Ice in the Desert

The Yakhchāl was an ancient Persian “the refrigerator” that stored food and even ice long before electricity was invented

The ancients were smarter than certain individuals think today. They had no rockets and electricity, no undisputed evidence of such techniques has been discovered, but they have developed technology which we generally do not associate with the ancient world.

The yakhchal (meaning ice pit) was a kind of old coolant constructed in the deserts of Persia (now Iran), which was made without electricity, with contemporary coolants, or with most contemporary coolers. It shows humans ‘ capacity of humans to find solutions to problems with any materials or technology they have available.

Take the Incas, for example, who did not have a developed alphabetic system for writing but had the quipu, a counting device of knots and strings that enabled them to keep track of population records and livestock and even recaptured essential episodes of their folklore.

When it comes to engineering, architectural wonders are omnipresent on almost every continent, whether that be the pyramids of Egypt, Angkor Wat of the Khmer Empire, or even entire underground cities such as Derinkuyu in Turkey’s Cappadocia region.

One great example of smart and sustainable engineering brings us to the Middle East, a realm noted for being one of the cradles of civilization and developing human cultures. There, around the 4th century B.C., the ancient Persians came up with what is known as yakhchāl.

Characteristic ice-house construction called a Yakhchal in Kashan, Iran.

The yakhchāl did not serve as a burial ground or a place to accommodate people, but it instead fulfilled another important function amid the scorching summers.

With excessive heat and arid climate, the region had occupants, the ancient Persians, who needed some way to cool off and store food during the summer months, and that’s when yakhchāls were found of great help.

The word stands for “ice pit.” These edifices provided both space and conditions to store not only ice but also many types of food that would otherwise quickly spoil at hot temperatures.

Yakhchāl near Kerman, Iran

On the outside, a yakhchāl structure can dominate the skyline with its domed shape, and on the inside, it would typically integrate an evaporation cooler system that allowed the ice and food resources to stay cool or even frozen while stored in the structure’s underground rooms.

It may sound a bit far-fetched that the ancient Persians saved ice in the middle of the desert, but their technique was, in essence, not so complicated.

Yakhchal in Yazd, Iran

A typical yakhchāl edifice would rise some 60 feet, and on the inside, it would contain vast spaces for storage. The leading examples point to figures such as 6,500 cubic yards in volume.

The evaporative cooling system inside the structures functioned through windcatchers and water brought from nearby springs via qanāts, common underground channel systems in the region designed to carry water through communities and different facilities.

The evaporative cooling allowed temperatures inside the yakhchāl to decrease with ease, giving a chill feeling that indeed you are standing inside one big refrigerator.

The walls of it were constructed intelligently as well, with the usage of special mortar that provided super insulation and protection from the hot desert sun. It was a mix of sand, clay, and other components such as egg whites and goat hair among others.

Exterior and interior (dome) of the yakhchal in Meybod, Iran 

The structures also contained trenches at the bottom, designed to collect any water coming from molten ice. Once collected, this water was then refrozen during nighttime, making maximum use of the resource as well as the cold desert night temperatures. It was a repetitive process.

Not only did the yakhchāls provide basic food resources, treats, and ice for the royals and high state officials, but the service was so attainable that even the poorest of society could access it. 

Usage of yakhchāls has halted in modern times, and though some structures have been damaged and eroded by desert storms, still, many can be found intact across Iran and some of its neighboring countries, as far as to Tajikistan.

The usage of the term yakhchāl lingers on in the region today, commonly referring to refrigerators found in modern-day kitchens.

Ancient Underground ‘City’ Investigated By Iranian Archaeologists

Ancient Underground ‘City’ Investigated By Iranian Archaeologists

Archeologists in Iran Open the Door to An Ancient Underground City

There are underground cities all over the planet, there are as many as 200 underground cities in Turkey alone.

That’s finding more subterranean cities in other parts of the world doesn’t come as a surprise.

Now, it has been reported how a group of archeologists has managed to open a door to an ancient underground city in Iran.

The underground city of Saleh Abad

The exact age of the underground city remains debatable, but archeologists estimate its anywhere between 800 to 1000 years old.

Scholars say that the subterranean city of Saleh Abad was most likely built in the 12th or 13th century when the Ilkhanate dynasty ruled the area.

During the initial works, ceramic pieces from that period were recovered among other artifacts.

Ahmad Torabi, a provincial tourism official who participated in the opening of the door to the city points out that the place was not made public when it was found three years ago in order to prevent possible looting before researchers could study the site.

“Now we need more time to investigate and explore this area,” Torabi said, explaining that the underground city may even have been used in modern times during World War II when entire families used it to hide from the Soviet armies.

A team of archaeologists has commenced an extensive research on a centuries-old underground “city”, which is located in Salehabad district of Hamedan province, west-central Iran.

“At the time when Russian soldiers crossed the area [during the World War II], the men of the region concealed their families in the underground city so that no one noticed their presence,” Torabi added.

The area where the underground city was discovered, Hamadan, is one of the oldest in Iran and was part of ancient Ecbatana, which was the capital of Media and a summer residence of the Achaemenian kings who ruled Persia from 553 to 330 BC.

This ancient city is not by far the oldest one discovered in the region. Experts have previously discovered subterranean cities in Iran (Samen and Arzan-Fu) and some of them are thought to date back more than 2,500 years.