Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bronze Age sauna unearthed on the Orkneys

Imagine a sauna 6,000 years old, now being excavated. Because the ones we most often think of are wooden, it's hard to conceive of a sauna surviving a single century, not to mention 60 centuries.

But steam bathing was used world-wide over the years, for a variety of needs — body cleansing and mind-purification among them. With their understanding of wood and fire, it's natural that they would consider building a sauna with stone. For one thing, the heat would last much much longer.

An archaeological dig in the Orkney Islands of Scotland has unearthed network of buildings. With a water-holding area and places for fires, steam could be created. Why?
Here's the text (for the pictures, click the link):
“The fact that tap water was thousands of years away from being invented didn't stop ancient people who wanted a good soak in a steam bath. Archaeologists studying the Links of Noltland in Scotland's Orkney islands believe they have found a 6,000-year-old sauna, complete with a water tank, The National reports.
“The sauna is one of 30 buildings investigators are hastening to uncover and learn more about before the site potentially succumbs to erosion. Thankfully, the sauna remains remarkably intact, allowing researchers a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived at the site between 4,000 and 1,000 B.C.
“ 'We know this was a large building, with a complex network of cells attached to it and a sizeable tank of water in the central structure, which would likely have been used to produce boiling water and steam, which would have been used to create a sauna effect,' Rod McCullagh, the deputy head of archaeology strategy at Historic Scotland, told The National.
“He added that 'What this would have been used for we don't know exactly, but the large-scale, elaborate architecture and sophistication of the structure all suggest that it was used for more than just cooking.'
“The sauna could have been used in rituals, for example, or for healing and hygiene. Likewise, it could have been a place for women to give birth, or for elderly people to use while dying, or perhaps it functioned as a room to prepare the dead for burial. Then again, ancient people might simply have used it for a good ol' soak.” Jeva Lange
For this news, I thank my friend Barry Radin, who kept me abreast of this interesting development about the sauna.