Steamy Past Unearthed; Remains of Bronze Age Saunas Found in Scotland for First Time

Daily Mail (London), February 10, 1999 | Go to article overview

Steamy Past Unearthed; Remains of Bronze Age Saunas Found in Scotland for First Time


Byline: KEITH MCLEOD

A TINY village in the Borders was hailed yesterday as the Scottish birthplace of that most Scandinavian of luxuries, the sauna.

Amateur archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be the remains of primitive saunas near Broughton, Peeblesshire.

Investigations carried out around the village, famous for its brewery, have uncovered 4,000-year-old piles of cracked stones and charcoal, which may have been used by Bronze Age man and woman to have a good, relaxing steam.

Similar examples have been found in England, but this is the first time such a discovery has been made north of the Border.

It is believed the stones were heated in a fire and then placed into a container of water.

Experiments carried out by the archaeologists, from Biggar and Peebles, have shown that five gallons of water could be boiled in five minutes using this technique. The pot would be kept boiling by adding stones. The stones disintegrate in the water and were later discarded along with charcoal in neat piles or burnt mounds. Around 20 of these were found near Broughton.

Biggar Museum archaeologist Tam Ward said: 'We now expect to find one or two of these sites during our exploration of the area, because earlier archaeologists didn't know about them.

'But to find 20 in one day is fantastic. Fragments of Bronze Age pottery were even found on the mounds, confirming its age.' The conventional idea of such finds i s that the mounds are the remnants of the cooking process. But key elements archaeologists e x p e c t e d t o f i n d a r e missing. Mr Ward said: 'If they were areas for cooking we would expect to find cooking utensils nearby.

'We would also expect to find organic matter in the mounds as well. None of these features were present. …

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