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June 1994 Index

Bulletin Index Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
June 1994

Geoff Leet

In the previous bulletin we unearthed accounts of sweat houses in Ireland and Africa. Elizabeth Custer, the widow of General Custer (hero of Custer's last stand), in her book "Boots and Saddles" describes Indians in 0klahoma:

Once my husband and I, in walking, came suddenly upon a queer little mound that we concluded we could observe at a distance. An Indian was seen carrying buckets and creeping with difficulty into the small aperture. It was about six feet in diameter, and proved to be a kind of steam bath, which they consider great medicine. A hole is first dug in the ground  and filled with stones: a fire is kindled upon them long before, and  they are heated red hot. The round frame-work of saplings over these  is covered with layer upon layer of blankets and robes, so that no air can penetrate. The Indians, almost stripped of their clothing, crouch round them, while the one acting as servant brings water to pour on the heated rocks. The steam has no escape, and the Indians are thoroughly roasted. While we were looking at this curious bath-house, a small Indian boy crept out from under the edges of the blankets and, ashamed to have given out before the rest, drew his parboiled little body into a hiding place. Ever ambitious, like small boys of all nationalities, he had at first believed experience better than hearsay.

Did the Indian bring the invention from Asia in very distant times or was it independently evolved?

Now we have to find the Scottish ones, probably beside burnt mounds.