Air Conditioning may rely on modern technology but throughout history different civilizations have battled to keep cool during very hot periods. We may not have the same challenges in Blighty but keeping humidity under control can be a challenge. The fundamentals of many of these methods apply in modern day air con. Here are some examples of how different people controlled temperatures throughout the ages.

Caves, Shade and Mud Huts

Not the most sophisticated of structures but caves and mud didn’t just keep cave man dry. In summer time, with searing temperatures these structures gave Neanderthal man respite from the Sun. Check out the Sassi de Matera, caves in Basilicata, Italy to see a great example of how man kept cool.


The use of water on buildings was a trick used by many of the ancient civilizations. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all doused water over the external walls of buildings which would evaporate thus cooling the walls and helping internal temperatures of buildings to fall. The Egyptians would also use hanging reeds in windows of buildings, doused with water, to create early air conditioning systems. The great Aqueducts in Rome were used to transport water from the hills.

Wind Catchers

Many cultures have built wind catchers into buildings in order to keep cool. The function of a wind catcher works but prevailing winds being channelled into a building through a roof top structure which then funnels the cool air down into the building below.


Fanning is thought to have evolved in the Far East. We are all familiar with the ornate hand held fan but the Han Dynasty also created early relatives of a modern fan using a system of wheels which kept a large 3m wide fan turning in the court, enabling cool air to circulate.

These days’ our buildings and the environment are becoming warmer and we need more efficient ways to keep cool. The advances in technology mean that air conditioning is becoming far more efficient. With more extremes in our temperatures as well, such as colder winters, it’s great that air conditioning can also heat a local environment too.