Nowadays, almost 100 million U.S. homes have air conditioners, and when they break down, air conditioning services can come right over and do whatever AC maintenance is necessary. That obviously has not always been the case, but it doesn’t mean that ancient peoples weren’t without their own forms of air conditioning.
Ancient Rome’s Elagabalus.
The Romans had a real issue with hot weather. They invented the aqueduct system to circulate cool water through the walls of homes, thereby lowering the temperature of the structures. In the third century, the emperor Elagabalus took things to the next level when he had donkey trains import snow from the mountains, which he kept in his garden to keep it cool.
China’s Han Dynasty.
The second century’s Ding Huan, an artisan and inventor, created a three meter wide, manually-powered rotary fan that had seven wheels. About 500 years later, the Tang Dynasty took hyrdaulic power and incorporated it into the appropriately titled Cool Hall, which used the power of flowing water to keep the fans running.
Back in the day, before air conditioning was invented, people used to do like Elagabalus, and get huge slabs of ice to keep buildings cool. They’d harvest them from rivers and lakes in the winter, and then keep them around during the warmer times of the year. According to the Ice and Refrigeration journal from the 19th century, an 1890 crop of ice from the Hudson river weighed about 4 million tons. What’s even crazier is that the next summer was even hotter, so they had to do even more harvesting.
Who would have thought that people would build water into their walls, or use water-powered fans to keep buildings cool, let alone massive slabs of ice? If you know of any other types of ancient air conditioning, feel free to share in the comments.