Guide to Waterford Monuments

 

 

Bullaun Stones

 

Bullaun stones are a bit of a curiosity and to archaeologists are often a bit puzzling. This is mainly because their exact function remains unclear. Also uncertain is the time period  and dating of these stones, although recent archaeological reports tend to date them somewhere between the Iron Age and the Early Christian period.

 

A Bullaun is basically a stone or rock into which a bowl or several bowls are carved or perhaps worn by repeated pounding or grinding of grain or possibly mineral ore. They occur with single bowls and often multiple bowls sometimes up to six found in one stone. Multiples are usually found in earthfast rock while singles ( often called rock mortars) are usually much smaller and portable and could have been carried from place to place.

 

Bullauns are often linked with Pagan and early Christian religious traditions. Some are thought to be the imprints of Saint’s bodily parts such as the knees and elbows of the revered person who knelt or rested to pray on the surface of the stones. This folklore thus gave rise to the belief that the Bullauns held great spiritual and healing powers. In some parts of Ireland they are also known as ‘Wart Stones’, the belief being that the water contained in their bowls could heal warts. However, folklore also relates them as possible conduits of curses and spells.

They are frequently found near early church sites.In this location they had been seemingly been adapted for use as water containers and most likely served as holy water fonts or sometimes baptismal fonts.

 

Some Bullauns and their bowls are rough while others have a much smoother finish. The vast majority have circular bowls while some others are elongated in shape. Many contain rounded stones in their depressions which would have been used for prayer or performing rituals.