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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 1: Commentary: Prehistoric and early Christian sites: Fulachta Fiadha

Up to recent years no fulachta fiadha were known from Co. Clare. The 6” and 25” O.S. sheets, including the revised editions of the 1950’s, do not record a single example. However recently some sites were located and these have been reported (Ryan, 1966-1967, 218).

To date (1979) three previously unrecorded sites have been identified from the Barony of Bunratty Lower:-

Ardmaclancy, Site catalogue 1.245.
Cragroe, Site catalogue 1.456-8.
Knocknalappa, Site catalogue 1.487-8.

A fulacht fiadh may be defined as:-

“A type of monument found in great numbers in parts of the country and scarcely noted at all elsewhere is the ancient cooking place, which occurs in low-lying marshy areas or near the banks of streams, and consists of a mound of burnt stone and finely comminuted charcoal…” O’Riordain, 1979, 84.

The mound is frequently of a horse-shoe shape, with a slight depression at its centre showing the position of the pit. All of these features are well represented at Ardmaclancy. The two other local sites have been damaged, particularly Cragroe.

We again have to look outside the Barony for information relating to the date of these features. A number of sites have been excavated but “despite the very useful information obtained by excavation as to the use of these sites the finds of dateable artefacts are disappointing”. (O’Riordain, 1979, 86).

Excavation of two sites at Killeens, Co. Cork, yielded evidence of an early Bronze Age date (O’Kelly, 1954, 131 & 134). Continuation in use of cooking places is shown by the find of a flanged bronze axe (Middle Bronze Age) near Millstreet, Co. Cork and a late Bronze Age fibula from Balla, Co. Mayo. The site at Drombeg, Co. Cork, gave a date in the fifth century A.D. (Fahy, 1960).

This evidence suggests Irish fulachta fiadha were in use in prehistoric and early Christian times. However, until further excavations are undertaken, the question as to the date of such features still remains somewhat unclear.