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FULACHT FIADH

Always under Construction


"..... And it was their custom to send their attendants about
noon with whatever they had killed in the mornings hunt to an
appointed hill, having wood and moorland in the neighbourhood and
to kindle raging fires thereon and to put into them a large number
of emery stones; and dig two pits in the yellow clay of the moorland,
and to put some of the meat on spits to roast before the fire; and
to bind another portion of it with sugars in dry bundles and set it
to boil in the larger of the two pits and to keep plying them with
the stones that were in the fire.   Making them seethe often until
they were cooked.  And these fires were so large

that their sites are today in Ireland burnt to blackness,
and these are now called fulacht fian by the peasantry"

Geoffrey Keating
"The History of Ireland, 17th Century"

" Nausicaa and her maidens reached the noble river
with its never failing pools, in which there was always
enough clear water always bubbling up and swirling by to
clean the dirtiest cloths....
They lifted the clothes by armfuls from the cart,
dropped them into the dark water and
trod them briskly in the troughs,
competing with each other in the work"
Homer    The Odyssey   vi 87

"They (Hector and Achilles) reached two fair flowing springs.....
the one, indeed, flows with warm water, steam arising from it as of burning fire; whilst the other flows forth even in summer time like unto hail, or cold snow, or ice from water.  There beside them are wide, handsome stone basins, where wives and fair daughters of the Trojans used to wash their splendid garments."
Homer, The Illiad,  xxii

 

It has been agreed upon, that one of the first articles of clothing was from a woven/felted or simple felted type of cloth.  Since Adam saw his own nakedness, people have searched for ways to cover themselves.   Anthropology has brought the studies of all aspect of human lives for us to know.   What about the oldest ways of making cloth? 

One can find in Greece and Roman much evidence pointing to the fact that basins or tubs were used for washing, fulling and/or bleaching of cloth.  Ancient writers describe for us several observations on just how those chores may have been done.

We have been able to see where people of the ancient times worshipped, buried their dead, made their homes.  WE have seen evidence of their tools and hand implements.   But, everyone wore clothing!  Making cloth, via weaver or felting has many steps and therefore a larger area must be used to indeed make the fabric.  But where?  

In Ireland,  the possibility could be the Fulacht Fiadh.  Traditionally, meaning cooking place or cooking the deer,  the fiadh has always been known to be a pit for baking or boiling meat. There are many of these fulacht fiadh, also known as Burning Mounds, to be found.  Many  a construction of a road or shopping center has been stopped upon discovering another of these ancient treasures.  They are fascinating to read about.

In Sweden, the Skarvstenhogar (lacking the correct vowel characters) are similar to the Fulacht Fiadh.  Swedish archeologist as finding more of these however, their literature is either not yet translated into English, or I just can not find any.

Denmark has a passion for felting arts over the centuries and their word for the same Fulacht Fiadh is Kogensrose.  I am searching for more Danish descriptions as well.

Norway has it's Koksteinroyser and it is difficult if not impossible to discover writings on this subject.

One can still look to the Mongolian and surrounding areas for modern felting methods and a fascinating history of felting as a primary event of their lives.  This material is great and can easily be found both on the internet and in your library.

However, the Fulacht Fiadh is a controversial landmark currently.  Along with the known facts that the Fiadhs were indeed used for cooking, it is quite logical to project that this specially designed place was used for other than cooking.

There are several researchers who have actually duplicated the Fulacht Fiadh and tested many ideas on them.  Our interest, of course, is the possibility that the Fulacht Fiadh was also used for dyeing, felting, fulling, bleaching and or laundering animal fibers.  Well,  it was done somewhere.

Some of the other ideas are that these areas were use for bathing rituals, sacrificial rituals, crematories of sorts, and a few less probable possibilities as well.

The Fulacht Fiadh is generally a horseshoe shape.  Always near a source of flowing water.  There is always a large pile of large stones/boulders that have been burned or scorched through their use as hot rocks... heated to glowing and then rolled into the water of the pit. However, there is not always evidence of food cooking near these sights.   One would expect to find a garbage place full of bones, possibly hides, or cooking utensils of sorts, but this is not the case.  AS a matter of fact, less than half of the fulacht fiadh have evidence in the close vicinity to prove that it was a place for cooking and eating.  Of course years have gone by and the soil composition along with the weather has surely helped to erase some of these items.

It is interesting to note, that large amounts of fullers soap or diatomaceous earth has been discovered near many of the fiadh.  In the process of felting, for instance, the fullers soap was heaped upon the fibers in the heated water and trampled on by foot.   The fullers soap is ground into the fibers cleaning as well as chemically helping the process.  Urine was kept nearby in large containers as it was added to the mixture changing the pH of the water and helping to complete the process.

There have been studies done, no conclusions yet, to try to identify the types of animal fats that have been found in the earth near many of these fiadh.  It is obvious why one would find animal fats from cooking but how is that related to fulling?   There are theories, I have not found written evidence, that lard was actually tromped into the fulled fabric to help with waterproofing of the fibers.  This might seem a bit odd since it is a well known given, that wool is very waterproof on it's own accord.

There is just so much more to relate on the idea that the Fulacht Fiadh may have been used for fabric processing but, as of today, I have not found the time to organize my information and document it to give the true researches credit.  That is one of my goals on my too long list.

Keep in touch.

 

 

 

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