The 2,000-Year History of the Finnish Sauna

history of the finnish dry sauna
The Finnish sauna has a long history. It is first mentioned in recorded text around 112 A.D., and early Finnish saunas looked drastically different from the sauna that most are accustomed to seeing today.

The Progression of Finnish Saunas

The first Finnish sauna was built underground. As time progressed, saunas were built above ground and made of wooden logs. Rocks were heated up in a stove using a wood fire and then placed in the middle of the sauna. Early Finnish saunas did not have chimneys for the smoke to escape. Instead, they were designed with an escape vent in the back. As the room heated for approximately 12 hours, the smoke would fill the room. It would coat the walls, leaving them dark black. Interestingly, early Finnish saunas were called “savu,” the Finnish term for smoke.

The Sauna’s Introduction into American Society

Sauna is the only Finnish word in the English language. It basically means “in smoke.” This represents the smoke environment of early Finnish saunas. Later, open wood fires were replaced with wood stove heaters made of metal that had a chimney.

The Finns were responsible for spreading the sauna culture around the world. Wherever they went, they brought their saunas with them. In the mid-17th century, Finns who moved to the state of Delaware introduced the Americas to their first sauna.

Changes in Modern Sauna Designs

As technology improved and electricity was introduced, electric saunas became more commonplace. In the mid-1950s, the first electric sauna stove was created. Modern Camp Hill dry saunas are becoming increasingly popular throughout the United States and around the world. Saunas have become an established tradition for many Americans and are often found in upscale resorts, gyms and other places of relaxation.

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