If you include China in the "Old World" they use a mass heater which shares some features with the rocket mass heater.
I am reading King's book written in 1911 about 40 centuries of agriculture in China, Korea and Japan. During his visit to Mongolia he came across the "kang" which in one case was 7ft by 7ft and about 28" high and "could be warmed in winter by building a fire within. The top was fitted for mats to serve as couch by day and as a place upon which to spread the bed at night." They were constructed from brick "made from the clay subsoil taken from the fields and worked into a plastic mass, mixed with chaff and short straw, dried in the sun and then laid in a mortar of the same material. These massive kangs are thus capable of absorbing large amounts of the waste heat of from the kitchen during the day and of imparting congenial warmth to the couches by day and to the beds and sleeping apartments during the night." He mentions a horizontal flue which passes under the kangs. He goes on to mention problems after 3 or 4 years and how they turn the problem into a solution.
These kangs are still used today. I tried to upload some 'photos without success. You can see them at my website.
www.nu-trac.info - new life tracks – growing organic, conservation, self reliance
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A rocket mass heater is the most sustainable way to heat a conventional home