In a famous and oft-quoted passage, the Greek historian Herodotus tells us of a curious custom concerning the Scythians, the peoples inhabiting the steppe lands north of the Black Sea. After burying their dead, they purify themselves in a makeshift tent: “when they have set up three pieces of wood leaning against each other, they extend around them woollen cloths; and having joined them together as closely as possible, they throw red-hot stones into a vessel placed in the middle [. . .] They have a sort of hemp growing in this country, very like flax, except in thickness and height: [. . .] When therefore the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths, and then put the seed on the red-hot stones; but this being put on, smokes, and produces such a steam that no Greek vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported with the vapour, shout aloud; and this serves them instead of washing, for they never bathe the body in water” (Herodotus 4.73–75).