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What are fulachta fiadh?

The morphology of fulachta fiadh Fulachta fiadh (plural) are very common in Ireland. A fulachta fian usually consists of a rectangular water trough that is lined either with slabs of stone or wood and there are generally hearths nearby. Near the trough you would commonly find a pile of stones in a horse-shoe shape that have been burnt and cracked by heat. The sites are usually located near water and sometimes the remains of a wooden hut are found nearby.

The shape of fulachta fiadh is usually determined by their location and by the amount of damage or erosion that the monument has suffered. “They vary in size, ranging from a few shovel fulls of burned material, well trodden into the ground to a large mound up to 2m high” (Coffey 1984).

Fulachta fiadh have been recorded in every county of Ireland. There is a clear North-South divide with the concentration being in the South of the country. There are an incredible 2,500 in Co. Cork. The dates of fulachta fiadh have been established from radiocarbon and thermoluminesciene dates, small finds, pollen studies and references in early Irish literature. The majority of dates range from a period beginning at c.1,400 BC and range to the early medieval period in Ireland meaning, that fulachta fiadh are Bronze Age innovation. A small number of fulachta fiadh in Ireland have been excavated and published. However, we know very little about fulachta fiadh. We do not know conclusively what purpose they served or why so many were built. There are three main theories :

Laundries/Textile Pproduction

each of these are discussed in other sections of this website.

What are fulachta fiadh? | Arguments for cooking | Arguments for bathing/saunas | Arguments for textile centres/laundries |
A compendium of excavted fulachta fiadh | The study of textiles in archaeology | Bibliography |

The washing experiment | The dyeing experiment | The fulling experiment | Results and concluding thoughts |