One of the difficulties that the archeologists face while studying ice-creams is that unlike books or pottery it quickly melts. There is evidence that there were ice-houses (buildings used to store food) in Mesopotamia. Scattered evidence also suggests of ice being imported to Egypt for the pharaohs. The existence of ice-houses and ice, however, doesn’t establish the fact that the people in those nations knew about ice-creams.
The Chinese, one of the oldest civilizations, also attempted to make ice-creams. Historical records show that the Chinese nobility enjoyed ice-creams flavored with fruit juices during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 BC). This is a bit strange because diary products don’t make much of the Chinese diet. It has been proposed that the Mongols introduced milk and other diary products to the Chinese.
The Persians came close inventing ice-cream around 4th century BC. Their invention was a chilled substance which was part sorbet and part rice pudding. The Arabs improved on it and they added milk to ice creams and they were the first to use sugar instead of honey to sweeten the ice-creams. Arabic ice-creams were also flavored with fruits and nuts and could be bought in all major Arab cities. Another evidence of ice creams being sold dates back to 5th century Athens. Historians say that sorbets were being sold in the Athenian markets during that period. The Romans, after conquering Greece, adopted a number of Greek traditions – ice-cream preparation and eating was one of them. Since that point, the methods of preparing ice-creams have evolved a lot and the invention of refrigerators was the next major breakthrough. Advances in chemistry have also contributed a lot.