Birth of the Samovar?

April 15, 2009

Conservation of energy is hardly a new concept. Thousands of years ago, when the size of a campfire was limited by the twigs and branches used to build it, cooks learned to make the most out of the limited fuel that was available.

Under these conditions, the samovar – an urn now manufactured of metal and used to heat water – was designed for maximum efficiency. An inner hollowed out tube allowed heat to pass from a fire beneath, thus creating a much larger heating surface than a regular pot, consequently reducing the amount of time it took to cook or boil. In Azerbaijan, samovars are used for boiling water for tea, though the gas stove and tea pot are far more ubiquitous.

Some references state that samovars were first created in Russia, but a fairly recent archeological discovery in Azerbaijan would suggest otherwise. Ancient tribes in the area apparently used a samovar-like vessel to heat water for their meals. To learn more, we spoke to archeologist Tufan Akhundov, who unearthed one such pottery-shaped samovar in Shaki, a city located in the foothills of the Caucasus about five hours northwest of Baku. He believes this archeological find to be the oldest samovar ever unearthed – possibly up to 3,600 years old. Although archeology may seem like a romantic job, it can also be very difficult. []

Above left: View of ancient samovar from above.
Above right:
Side view of theancient samovar.

Left: Sketch of how the ancient samovar would have been used to heat water.


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