Due to the continental climate on the Iranian Plateau, with hot summer days and freezing cold winter nights, the Iranians have since the Antique been able to produce ice in open basins and store it in protected ice pits, the so-called ice houses, for use in the scorching hot summers. An important pre-condition for making ice was of course the availability of fresh water. Thanks to the ingenious tunnel systems – qanats – the Iranians have for almost three thousand years conveyed water from the surrounding mountains into the desert plains and established villages with irrigated agriculture and during winter used the surplus water for ice making.
The ice houses had usually domes for protection of the ice storage, but the study revealed other types, wall-protected or underground, which were predominantly used for commercial ice house operation in the big cities. In total the study located 129 ice house sites on the fringe of the large deserts, but with remains of ice houses on only 104 of them. On the basis of the comprehensive survey, the dissertation develops a typology and the distribution of ice houses in the landscape.
The majority of the ice houses found were of the dome type as seemingly the walled and underground ice houses attracted only little interest. The future prospects for the remaining ice houses are bleak. Only partial restoration has taken place in a few locations. Ice houses went out of use in the middle of the twentieth century when the advent of electricity made ice-making an individual household exercise.
Hemming Jorgensen (born 1939) graduated as a civil engineer in 1962 (MSc Technical University of Denmark), as a business economist in 1974 (B.Comm. Copenhagen Business School), and an iranologist in 2010 (PhD University of Copenhagen). His engineering career included jobs in Switzerland, Iran, Denmark and Indonesia. For 15 years he was technical advisor and subsequently project director until retirement at the European Investment Bank. He worked as a senior consultant for various international agencies before embarking on the Iranian Project at the University of Copenhagen. His forthcoming book Ice Houses of Iran is scheduled for spring 2012!