Before the invention of air conditioning, people had to rely on various methods to keep themselves cool during hot summers. These methods ranged from simple techniques to sophisticated engineering designs, depending on the availability of resources and the social class of the individual.
One of the most straightforward methods was to spend time in the shade or indoors during the hottest part of the day. Many cultures developed architectural designs that prioritized shade and ventilation, such as courtyards, arcades, and breezeways. For instance, ancient Egyptians built their homes with small windows on the northern side and larger ones on the southern side to maximize the shade and airflow. Similarly, traditional houses in the Middle East and North Africa had central courtyards with fountains or pools to cool the air through evaporative cooling.
Another common method was to wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen. These fabrics allowed the skin to breathe and absorb sweat, which would then evaporate and provide a cooling effect. In some cultures, people also wore turbans or headscarves to protect their heads and necks from the sun.
People also used various natural materials to create makeshift fans or cooling devices. For instance, in China, people used hand-held fans made of bamboo, silk, or paper to circulate air and create a breeze. Similarly, in ancient Egypt, people used ostrich feathers or palm leaves as fans.
In areas where water was abundant, people used water to cool themselves through evaporative cooling. For instance, in India, people used to sprinkle water on the floors and walls of their homes to lower the temperature. In Persia, people used wind catchers, which were tall towers with vents at the top that captured the wind and directed it down into underground chambers filled with water or ice. The cool air would then circulate through the home, providing a natural form of air conditioning.
Ice was also used as a cooling method, although it was only available to the wealthiest individuals. In ancient Rome, wealthy citizens would import snow and ice from the mountains and store them in underground cellars called "ice houses." They would then use the ice to cool their food and drinks or create chilled desserts. Similarly, in the 19th century, ice was harvested from lakes and ponds in North America and shipped to cities in large blocks, which were then used to cool homes and businesses.
In conclusion, people used various methods to keep themselves cool before the invention of air conditioning. These methods ranged from simple techniques like shade and loose clothing to sophisticated designs like wind catchers and ice houses. Although these methods may seem primitive compared to modern air conditioning, they were effective in keeping people comfortable during hot summers and are still used in many parts of the world today.
Thankfully, we now have aircons. And with proper servicing and looking after, they can provide us with all the cool air we need!