“Ancient cold storage depot found in Sagalassos”

Recently we heard that a “cold store” had been unearthed at the ancient city of Sagalassos, in Southern Turkey. The large building on 2 levels near the main market place is being excavated by Professor Jeroen Poblome of the Belgian Leuven Catholic University.

The city became important during the Hellenistic period after annexation by Alexander the great in 335 BC. It became the “First City”, in Asia Minor during Roman times but was then abandoned.

We made contact with Professor Poblome to find out why he thought this building had been a “cold store” in the modern sense of the term as this would make it easily make it the oldest in the world. As far as we were aware, Francis Bacon circa the 1620’s in London was the first known European to conduct experiments on the use of snow for preserving meat.  He used chickens for his experiments and died from a chill shortly afterwards. Clarence Birdseye in the 1920’s introduced quick freezing making frozen food a commercial success after watching the Eskimos. Although the Americans would dispute this, it seems that James Harrison of Geelong, Australia was the first to realise that evaporating gas could make things cold. In his case it was the lead type that he was cleaning with ether at the newspaper which he owned. This was in the 1840’s.

Unfortunately Professor Poblome, while somewhat surprised by our interest, confirmed that there was no actual evidence of refrigeration. The rooms in the structure had thick walls and few doors, which would have kept the produce inside relatively cool. However there was no sign of ice or snow being used to keep the rooms cold. He did however mention that the wealthy inhabitants would probably have used ice or snow to cool their wine, and there is written evidence for this, so they too enjoyed their wine cold especially on a hot day.

The ancient city of Sagalassos
The ancient city of Sagalassos [Credit: DHA]
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