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Icehouse 1

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Icehouse 1 Information

The icehouse structures, of which four still remain intact, are located south of Sultan Kala. These large, conically-domed earthen structures would have had sheets of ice built up on the ground level over the course of the winter to provide year-round ice supplies. There are remains of wood beams that stretched across the domes; it is possible these were for structural support and/or used to hang meats and other culinary items for cold storage.

Icehouse 1 is about a kilometre south of the south-west corner of Gyaur Kala, south-east of Sultan Kala and due east of Icehouse 2 and the Timurid pavilion or Köshk Imaret. The köshk south of Gyaur Kala is c. 400m to the west.

This tall conical structure has a steep, strongly banded profile, curving towards the top. The internal diameter is 17.20m, and the walls stand to a height of c. 15.00m. The lowest part, a height of 1.45m, is built of pakhsa blocks, above is a band of mud brick, approximately 1.85m high. A second layer of pakhsa, height of 1.00m, marks the apex of the vertical side walls, above which the mud bricks of the walls corbel inwards to form a conical dome. At a height of approximately 7.00m above ground a row of circular holes is set into the side of the dome with a further five, and traces of a sixth, rows above at irregular intervals. Fragments of wooden poles survive in a number of holes of all except the highest rows. They are angled, alternately to left and right.

Entrance is via an arched doorway in the north, the shadier side where the cooler winds blow, and has a width at springing of 3.00m. There are four niches in the base of the walls, of which the pointed arch of only one, Niche 3, is complete and has a width at springing of 1.82m and a depth of 1.30m. Each niche contains a rectangular chimney or ventilation shaft; that of the well-preserved Niche 3 measures 1.74 x 0.60m, and that of Niche 2, 1.38 x 0.56m. The openings at the top of the shafts of Niches 2 and 3 are visible near the top of the exterior dome.

The structure is comprised of mud bricks, averaging 270 x 60mm in size and pakhsa blocks. The surface was roughly plastered and wooden beams formed part of the structure.

This building is unique in a number of ways: It is steeper and more curved in profile than the other icehouse examples, and the brick size is slightly larger. However, the most unusual feature is the presence of the ventilation shafts or ‘chimneys’, which scholars such as Beazley and Rogers suggest rule out the identification of this building as an icehouse, and by association of the others as well (pers. comm.).

Ref: Herrmann, G., 1999. Monuments of Merv: traditional buildings of the Karakum.. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London. London: Society of Antiquaries of London



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