Guide to Waterford Monuments



Fulacht Fiadh


Fulacht Fiadh sites are generally believed to have been used for cooking purposes and are usually found near a water source such as a river or stream. They consist of a horseshoe shaped grass covered mound with a depression which is composed of burnt and fire cracked stones and a central pit or trough. They are amongst the most numerous Prehistoric sites found in Ireland with up to 4,500 known examples. Many have been discovered in recent years with the construction of new motorways etc.

A wooden lined pit was filled with water. Stones were then heated in a nearby fire and placed in the water till it reached boiling point. Food such as meat (probably wrapped in straw) could then be cooked in the hot water. Though it was a primitive way of cooking, it has been shown by experiment to be very efficient. At a reconstructed site in County Cork, a 4.5 kg leg of mutton was cooked in four hours. The heating of water also might seem laborious and time consuming, but in the experiment, it took just about half an hour to bring 450 litres to the boil.

Over time, the continuous heating shattered the stones used. This exhausted material accumulated round three sides of the trough, thus resulting in a horseshoe mound. The sites are typically 5 – 15 metres across but can be larger like the one at Carrigeen in the Nire Valley which is pictured above.

There is some evidence that Fulacht Fiadh could may have been multi-functional and also have been used for bathing, burial, the dyeing of animal hides or even rituals. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the majority of these sites are from the mid to late Bronze Age period (c. 1500- c. 500 BC), though some Neolithic examples are known. However, some were still in use up to medieval times. Permanent structures are rarely found nearby, and it is unknown whether early sites were built by permanent settlements or nomadic hunters.

The word “Fulacht” means “cooking pit” while “Fiadh” may mean "of the deer" which would suggest that this was one of the animals that these people hunted and subsequently cooked.