Fulachta Fiadh or ancient cooking places consist of grass-covered mounds, composed of burnt and fire-shattered stones intermingled with ash and charcoal, and frequently characterised by a horseshoe- or kidney-shape plan. The mounds are merely an accumulation of debris resulting from a method of cooking that is known from many parts of the world. When in use the centre of activity on the site was a cooking pit or trough usually found in the central hollow enclosed by the arms of the mound or in a depression at some point along the perimeter. These troughs were usually lined with planks or small logs but unlined or slab-lined pits are also known. The water in the trough was brought to boiling point by adding stones heated in a nearby hearth. In an experiment carried out to test the efficiency of this method, 100 gallons of water were brought to boil in 30 to 35 minutes and only a few adirelandional stones were needed to keep it boiling for the duration of the cooking; a 4.5kg joint of meat was cooked in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Repeated use of a site, involving the removal of the shattered stones from the trough and their dumping nearby, results in the characteristic horseshoe-shaped mound by which the sites are recognised in the field today. Where this has been removed or interfered with a spread of burnt stones and charcoal may be the only means of identification.
The need for a plentiful supply of water dictated a siting either close to streams or in water-logged areas where seepage from the surrounding soil would fill the trough automatically. It is quite common to find two or more sites grouped together around such a water source or scattered along the banks of a small stream. At Ballynasare Lower, for example, 3 closely-grouped mounds have been recorded with a 4th occurring some distance further upstream. Though fulachta fiadh occur sporadically in many parts of Ireland, particularly dense concentrations occur in the south of the country, especially in Co. Cork where recent field-work has brought the total number to approximately 2000 (information: Cork Archaeological Survey). Only 14 have been identified on the Dingle Peninsula, but more intensive field-work may yet reveal greater numbers. Similar sites are found in Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and a few in England, where they are usually referred to as 'burnt mounds' .
The term fulacht fiadh, or fulacht flan, meaning cooking place of the wild (or of the deer) or cooking-place of the Fianna, is found in early Irish literature where the sites are connected with the Fianna. This has given rise to their interpretation as temporary camps used by roving bands of hunters. However, the ever increasing numbers of examples now being recognised suggests that the sites may, alternatively, represent settlement of a more permanent nature (Ó Drisceoil 1980). It can also be suggested that the primary function of Fulachta fiadh may have been as a form of sweat-house or primitive sauna. (pers. comm. D. Ó Drisceoil). The dating evidence available at present indicates that this type of site has a long traditional, spanning the period from the Early Bronze Age to early histoyic times, but there appears to be a concentration of sites in the Middle to Late Bronze Age.
This above information was sourced from the Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula (1986) and provided to dodingle.com courtesy of Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne. Republication of the extract or any part therin, in any form or capacity, is strictly prohibited without the express permission of the publishers. © Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne 1986-2010.Copies of the Survey are available in the bookshop of Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne,
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