A Look Into the History of Saunas and the Finnish Sauna Culture

According to a study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, people who frequent a sauna are more likely to live longer and less likely to experience cardiovascular disease.

It is therefore no wonder that saunas have existed in some form across the globe since ancient times. Here is a brief look at the history of saunas.

Sweat Lodges of the Americas

Indigenous Americans have a rich history of using sweat lodges for a variety of purposes, depending on the historic era and the specific culture of the different tribes. Generally, however, the use of a sauna was ceremonial and part of a spiritual experience. That being said, these cultures also recognized the physical health benefits of ceremonial sweating. 

It is impossible to know the exact date that this practice began in the Americas because many tribes were nomadic and built temporary structures that have since disappeared. However, archaeologists have found evidence of saunas from the Chumash peoples that date back as early as 800 C.E.  

Roman & Arab Bath Houses

Another regional tradition of medicinal sweating comes from the intersection of Europe and Asia. The Greeks introduced the region to public baths, but these were typically just pools of water. As the idea traveled to Rome, you see the introduction of hot water and steam to induce sweating.

This practice was picked up by Arabs and presented the perfect way to purify and prepare for prayer. While Romans tended to have a cold room and a hot room in their bath houses, Arabic hammams removed the cold room, focusing on the use of steam and heat. 

Finnish Sauna Tradition 

Last, but certainly not least, is the tradition of the Finnish sauna. In Europe, the oldest evidence of sauna usage dates back to around 2000 B.C. In Finland, saunas began as pits in the ground, but later transitioned to an established building with three walls and a covering for the doorway.