Burnt mound

A burnt mound is an archaeological feature consisting of a mound of shattered stones and charcoal, normally with an adjacent hearth and trough. The trough could be rock-cut, wood-lined or clay-lined to ensure it was watertight. Radiocarbon dates vary quite widely, the earliest being late Neolithic, with clusters of dates between 1900–1500 BC and 1200–800 BC, with some outliers in the Iron Age. There are also some dates that go into the early Medieval period. The technology used at burnt mounds has much greater antiquity and is found from the palaeolithic onwards.[1]


The shattered rock fragments are thought to be the remains of stones heated in fires, which were used to heat water for cooking, bathing, dyeing or leather treatment. The shattering of the rock appears to have been the result of thermal shock when the heated stones were dropped into liquid, normally believed to be water. The mound is assumed to result from the periodic clearing out of the trough, with the stone fragments and charcoal being cast up into a mound. The mound is frequently a crescent shape, which is seen as being the result of the upcast.


The vast majority of burnt mounds are found in the uplands of Britain, and in Ireland where they are called fulachtaí fia. Recognised from the nineteenth century onwards, they attracted little significant interest until the 1980s.[2][3] In Ireland they are often found in low-lying ground close to water. In Britain, they appeared to have a distribution pattern confined to the higher ground. However, this may be illusory, as examples have been found at lower altitudes during linear route excavations. The reason that they had not been recognised before was that the mounds have been ploughed out, although the trough may partially survive and there will be layers of the burnt mound material surviving as a spread of material.[4] The mixture of burnt and shattered rock with charcoal, labelled as burnt mound material, is found on occasion without the trough. There are settlement sites on Orkney, where the burnt mound material is found as thick layers[5] , but there is no trough to explain the shattering of the rocks.

The upland bias in distribution in Britain has led to a suggestion that they were cooking sites for hunting parties, and there are images from Medieval Irish texts that appear to show this. There are also descriptions of the use of such features for cooking in some of the early Medieval tales,[3] although the historicity of these accounts is open to question. The burnt mounds are always adjacent to water courses, and there can be several instances along the same burn or stream.

There has been considerable debate about the time required to create the mounds. Some interpretations posit the rapid accumulation of material, as a trough was used intensively and very frequently; others suggest a slower accumulation, where the trough was used occasionally over a long period of time. The hunting site explanation would most likely result in the latter pattern of accumulation, while the former would suggest that the use of the trough was for an essentially domestic purpose.

Possible explanations

The main explanation for burnt mounds is that they were cooking sites. However, there are problems with such explanations, not the least of which is the lack of any direct evidence of cooking. The process undoubtedly works; experiments were carried out in Ireland in the 1950s to show that a joint of meat could be fully cooked in about three to four hours through this method.[6] However, bone is rarely if ever reported from burnt mound sites, which would be unusual for a cooking site. This has been explained as the result of the soils being too acidic for the bone to be preserved, but this is unsatisfactory. It would be rather unlikely that all of the soils relating to burnt mounds were so acidic that no bone survived, particularly as the pH of the soil will vary considerably from site to site. However, there are examples of burnt mounds that have been recorded on neutral or basic soils, without bone being apparent in the burnt mound material,[7] Alternatives that have been suggested include saunas (where the intention is to create steam rather than cook anything), fulling, salt production, leather preparation etc.[2]

The implication found in many accounts of burnt mounds gives the impression that they are found in Ireland and Scotland, but they also are found in Wales and in England. The Welsh examples tend to be upland and rural,[8] as are many of the English ones, but there are also many found in the lowlying English Midlands. Barfield & Hodder's interpretation of burnt mounds as potentially saunas arose from their various excavations of burnt mounds in the Birmingham area, while more recently forty mounds have been discovered in Birmingham.[9] One example is in Moseley Bog where experiments were made in the late 1990s to assess the plausibility of the sauna hypothesis.

Burnt mounds outside Britain and Ireland

Burnt mound material is also found outside Britain and Ireland, and examples have been found elsewhere in northwestern Europe, such as in Sweden [10] and Switzerland.[11] It is not necessarily the case that the burnt mound material must have been created for the same purposes, and it would be a mistake to seek a single explanation for all the examples of burnt mounds and burnt mound material. Similar material has been produced all over the world[12] , and there may be a range of explanations.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Ó Néill, John (2009). "Burnt Mounds in Northern and Western Europe". ISBN 978-3-639-20609-8.
  2. ^ a b Barfield, L H; Hodder, M A (1987). Burnt mounds as saunas, and the prehistory of bathing. Antiquity. 61. pp. 370–379.
  3. ^ a b O Drisceoil, Diarmuid A (1990). "Fulachta fiadh: the value of early Irish literature". Burnt Offerings (ed) Victor Buckley: 157–164. ISBN 1-869857-07-0.
  4. ^ Banks, Iain; Dickson, Camilla; Downes, Jane; Robins, Paul; Sanderson, David (1998–99). "Investigating burnt mounds in Clydesdale & Annandale during motorway construction". Glasgow Archaeological Journal. 21 (21): 1–28. doi:10.3366/gas.1998.21.21.1.
  5. ^ Barber, John (1990). "Burnt mound material on settlement sites in Scotland". Burnt Offerings (ed) Victor Buckley: 92–97. ISBN 1-869857-07-0.
  6. ^ O'Kelly, Michael J (1954). "Excavations and experiments in ancient Irish cooking-places". Trans Royal Ir Acad. 18: 105–155.
  7. ^ Barfield, L H (1991). "Hot stones: hot food or hot baths?". Burnt Mounds & Hot Stone Technology (ed) Hodder, M A & Barfield, L H: 59–67.
  8. ^ "Welsh Contributions". Burnt Offerings: 117–140. 1990. ISBN 1-869857-07-0.
  9. ^ *Birmingham City Council leaflet by planning archaeologist Archived March 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Larsson, Thomas B (1990). "Skärvstenhögar - the burnt mounds of Sweden". Burnt Offerings (ed) Victor Buckley: 142–153. ISBN 1-869857-07-0.
  11. ^ Ramseyer, D (1991). "Bronze and Iron Age cooking ovens in Switzerland". Burnt Mounds & Hot Stone Technology: 71–91.
  12. ^ Campling, N R (1991). "An earth oven from British Columbia, Canada". Burnt Mounds & Hot Stone Technology: 93–95.
  13. ^ Hurl, Declan (1990). "An anthropologist's tale". Burnt Offerings (ed) Victor Buckley: 154–156. ISBN 1-869857-07-0.


Academic books
  • Ó'Néill, John (2009). Burnt Mounds in Northern and Western Europe: A study of prehistoric technology and society. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller. ISBN 978-3-639-20609-8.
Academic articles

External links

Ballyvolane, Cork City

Ballyvolane (Irish: Baile Uí Mhaoláin) is a townland and suburb of Cork on the north side of the city, that borders Mayfield, White's Cross, Glenheights and Dublin Hill. The townland of Ballyvolane is in the civil parish of St. Anne's Shandon.The two schools in Ballyvolane are St. Aidan's C.C and Scoil Oilibhéir, and the local Roman Catholic Church is Saint Oliver's, built in the 1990s. Nearby archaeological sites, protected under the National Monuments Acts, include a number of burnt mounds and fulacht fiadh.In June 2012, several households in the area were damaged by flooding.

Celt (tool)

In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

East Burra

East Burra (Old Norse: "Barrey") is one of the Scalloway Islands, a subgroup of the Shetland Islands in Scotland. It is connected by a bridge to West Burra.

With an area of 515 hectares (1,273 acres) it is the twelfth largest of the Shetland Islands.

East Burra has a much smaller population than West Burra and no substantial settlement; rather, there are a few hamlets and a scattering of individual croft houses. It is known for its Neolithic remains including a burnt mound, and for sea caves. The roofless, plain, Old Haa (manor or laird's house) of Houss is a prominent feature. From Houss, it is possible to walk the two kilometres or so to the cliffs at the southern end of the island. From there, the island of South Havra, nowadays home only to sheep and seabirds, can be clearly seen.

East Burra is linked to the Shetland Mainland via West Burra and Trondra by a series of bridges.

Fulacht fiadh

A fulacht fiadh (Irish pronunciation: [ˈfˠʊl̪ˠəxt̪ˠ ˈfʲiːə]; Irish: fulacht fiadh or fulacht fian; plural: fulachtaí fia or, in older texts, fulachta fiadh) are burned mounds, dating from the Bronze Age, found in Ireland. Most surviving examples consist of a low horseshoe-shaped mound of charcoal-enriched soil, and heat shattered stone, with a cooking pit located in a slight depression at its centre. In ploughed fields, they are apparent as black spreads of earth interspersed with small sharp stones.Fulacht fiadh examples are multiple in Ireland. The majority were constructed during the mid to late Bronze Age (c.1500- c. 500 BC), though some Neolithic and a few medieval examples are known.

In Great Britain and the Isle of Man they are known as burnt mounds, and similar objects are found in Sweden. Permanent structures are rarely found near to fulachtaí fiadh, but small hut sites are common and it is unknown whether early sites were built by permanent settlements or nomadic hunters.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.

Kilbride, Skye

Kilbride (Scottish Gaelic: Cille Bhrìghde, or the Church of Saint Bride) is a small township in Strath Swordale, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The township is situated in a pocket of fertile lime-rich soil, between the Red Hills to the north and Beinn an Dubhaich and the Suidhisnis peninsula to the south. It has been inhabited since ancient times; there is a standing stone (Clach na h-Annait), the site of an ancient chapel (or annat) and an ancient well (Tobar na h-Annait) with a stone cover. Newlywed brides were, according to local tradition, brought to the well to ensure fertility.On-going archaeological excavations since 2003 at High Pasture Cave, on the common grazing east of Kilbride, have revealed continuous use of the site from roughly 700BC to 120AD, for possibly ceremonial purposes centred in and around a large burnt mound which had the cave at its heart. Valuable artefacts, including pottery (some of it Roman in origin), a spearhead and components of an ancient lyre, had been carefully placed on the floor of the cave. At the end of its period of constant use, the cave was carefully back-filled and the remains of two human beings, one woman and one child, were interred over the entrance.

The surrounding landscape is exceptionally rich in iron age roundhouses, several of which were surveyed in 2010.Another ancient well, Tobar Tà, features in a prophecy by Kenneth MacKenzie, the Brahan Seer, who was alive in the 17th century:

Tobar sin, is Tobar Tà

Tobar aig an cuirear blàr;

Marbhar Torcuil nan trì Torcuil

Air latha fliuch aig Tobar Tà.

"That well, it's Tobar Tà, a well where a battle will be fought, and Torquil of the three Torquils shall be killed, on a wet day at Tobar Tà". Tobar Tà, now just a small boggy area on the common grazing, is about a kilometer east of the township, next to the Broadford road.

In 1745–1746, three men from the township took part in the Jacobite rising, fighting for Prince Charles Edward Stuart in the regiment formed by Iain Dubh MacKinnon, chief of the MacKinnons of Strath. Their names (anglicised from the Gaelic) were: John MacInnes, Alexander MacLean, and William Ross.

Liddle Burnt Mound

Liddle Burnt Mound is a Bronze Age site on the island of South Ronaldsay, Orkney. The site consists of the remains of a building and a mound that surrounds it on three sides. The purpose of the site is controversial, but most investigators believe burnt mounds hosted a "domestic function", perhaps related to cooking.

List of Scheduled Monuments in Swansea

The city and county of Swansea covers, in addition to the port city of Swansea, areas of upland to the north, and the Gower peninsula to the west. It is on Gower that the earliest Scheduled monuments are found. Three sites have evidence of habitation from the Paleolithic, a time before the last Ice Age. These include the oldest rock painting in Britain and the earliest known burial in Western Europe. There are in total 124 scheduled sites. Prehistoric sites of many sorts are found, particularly on Gower. 64 pre-historic sites are from Paleolithic to Iron Age dates, and include caves, burial mounds and tombs, cairns, defensive enclosures, hillforts and promentary forts. Roman and early medieval sites, by contrast are scarce. The post-Norman Medieval period, by contrast, has 26 sites, 17 of them castles or other defensive monuments. The other 9 are all ecclesiastical monuments. The 26 post-medieval monuments are more diverse, including industrial and maritime sites, but also leats, quarries, a mill and even an observatory and an orchid house. All of the Swansea administrative area lies within the historic county of Glamorgan.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) have statutory protection. It is illegal to disturb the ground surface or any standing remains. The compilation of the list is undertaken by Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, which is an executive agency of the National Assembly of Wales. The list of scheduled monuments below is supplied by Cadw with additional material from RCAHMW and Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust.

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire is a large rural county in West Wales. It includes mix of upland and mountainous terrain and fertile farmland. The western end of the Brecon Beacons National Park lies within the county. Across Carmarthenshire there are a total of 370 Scheduled monuments, which is too many for a single list page. For convenience the list is divided into the 227 prehistoric sites (shown below) and the 143 Roman to modern sites. Included on this page are small number of stone chambered tombs from the Neolithic. There are a large and diverse variety of burial cairns, mounds and barrows, mainly from the Bronze Age, accounting for 197 sites. A further 49 Iron Age sites are mostly defensive sites such as hillforts and enclosures. Carmarthenshire is both a unitary authority and a historic county. Between 1974 and 1996 it was merged with Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion) and Pembrokeshire to form Dyfed.

All the Roman, early medieval, medieval and modern sites are listed at List of Scheduled Roman to modern Monuments in Carmarthenshire

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) have statutory protection. It is illegal to disturb the ground surface or any standing remains. The compilation of the list is undertaken by Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, which is an executive agency of the National Assembly of Wales. The list of scheduled monuments below is supplied by Cadw with additional material from RCAHMW and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in Powys (Brecknockshire)

Powys is the largest administrative county in Wales. With over a quarter of Wales's land area, and covering much of the eastern half of the country, it is a county of remote uplands, low population and no coastline. It was created in more or less its current form in 1974, and is the only one of the large county units created at that time to have been carried forward intact at the 1996 local government re-organisation. It comprises three historic counties, namely Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire, and most of Brecknockshire. There are 950 Scheduled monuments within the county, which is far more than can be sensibly covered in one list. Each of the 3 historic counties is therefore listed separately, and each of these has two lists - one for the prehistoric sites and one for the Roman, medieval and post-medieval sites.

This list shows the many prehistoric sites in Brecknockshire (also historically known as Breconshire, and not including those parts that are no longer in Powys). Brecknockshire is the southern third of Powys, and encompasses the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Black Mountains and Mynydd Epynt. The River Wye separates it from Radnorshire, and Montgomeryshire forms the northern third of Powys. There are 254 prehistoric scheduled monuments in the Brecknockshire area. Of these, 12 are neolithic burial sites. An extraordinary 190 are likely to date from the Bronze age, mainly burial sites of various sorts but also including 44 standing stones, stones circles and stone alignments. There are 52 Iron Age hillforts, defensive and other enclosures including settlements and hut sites.

The lists of Scheduled Monuments in Powys are as follows:-

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in Powys (Brecknockshire) (254 sites - shown below)

List of Scheduled Roman to modern Monuments in Powys (Brecknockshire) (135 sites)

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in Powys (Radnorshire) (139 sites)

List of Scheduled Roman to modern Monuments in Powys (Radnorshire) (119 sites)

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in Powys (Montgomeryshire) (190 sites)

List of Scheduled Roman to modern Monuments in Powys (Montgomeryshire) (113 sites)Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) have statutory protection. It is illegal to disturb the ground surface or any standing remains. The compilation of the list is undertaken by Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, which is an executive agency of the National Assembly of Wales. The list of scheduled monuments below is supplied by Cadw with additional material from RCAHMW and Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust.

List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in north Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire is the fifth-largest county in Wales, but has more Ancient Monuments (526) than any except Powys. This gives it an extremely high density of monuments, with 33.4 per 100km2. (Only the tiny County Boroughs of Newport and Merthyr Tydfil have a higher density). With three-quarters of its boundary being coastline, Pembrokeshire occupies the western end of the West Wales peninsular, terminating with the tiny cathedral city of St David's. It was a historic county in its own right but between 1975 and 1996 it joined Carmarthen and Ceredigion in the much larger county of Dyfed.

Over two thirds of Pembrokeshire's Ancient Monuments (346) date to pre-historic times. Even this is too many entries to conveniently show in one list, so the list is subdivided into three, separating the Roman to modern on one list, and subdividing the prehistoric sites along the lines of the former local districts of Preseli Pembrokeshire, (the northern half) and South Pembrokeshire. The list below shows the 233 sites in the north. This includes hill forts, promontory forts on both coastal headlands and inland locations. It also includes a variety of enclosures, hut sites and Raths, a wide range of burial sites and other ritual and religious sites listed as barrows and chambered tombs, stone circles and standing stones. There is a matching list of 113 prehistoric sites in south Pembrokeshire.

The county's 182 Roman, medieval and post-medieval sites are all included in the third Pembrokeshire list, which covers inscribed stones, stone crosses, holy wells, castles, mottes and baileys, priories, chapels and churches, houses, town walls and a Bishop's palace, along with a wide variety of post-medieval sites from coalmines, kilns and dovecotes through to World War II defensive structures.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) have statutory protection. The compilation of the list is undertaken by Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, which is an executive agency of the National Assembly of Wales. The list of scheduled monuments below is supplied by Cadw with additional material from RCAHMW and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

Listed buildings in Birmingham

There are 1,946 listed buildings in Birmingham, England. This list by district includes those of Grade I and Grade II* importance, plus a selection of those of Grade II importance that are otherwise noteworthy. It also includes the Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the city (indicated by the letters AM).

As of April 2006 there are 23 Grade I, 95 Grade II*, 1,828 Grade II, and 13 Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Llanrhidian Lower

Llanrhidian Lower is a community in the Gower peninsula forming the west of Swansea, south Wales. The community has its own elected community council.

The area covered by the community council includes Llanrhidian and less populous Cilibion to the east, Oldwalls, Leason, Llethryd and The Common. The main village sits well above steep coastal banks on a rolling plain below two promontories, Arthur's Stone, Gower on the peninsular's main escarpment Cefn Bryn, specifically being its western burial mound sometimes called Burnt Mound (154 metres Above Ordnance Datum); and a closer example, a small freestanding tor equally close to the coast, Cilifor Top at 118 metres.

The coast here consists of broad and long Llanrhidian Marsh followed by similar-size (tidal) Llanrhidian Sands and then the relatively thinly watered Loughor Estuary at low tide; Llanelli, Pwll and Burry Port (Porth Tywyn) face the other side of the estuary and lack such a marsh habitat though have more mudflats in places.

Llanrhidian Lower has a community council of six councillors, who meet monthly at Llanrhiddian Community Hall.

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Plano point

In archeology, Plano point is flaked stone projectile points and tools created by the various Plano cultures of the North American Great Plains between 9000 BC and 6000 BC for hunting, and possibly to kill other humans.

They are bifacially worked and have been divided into numerous sub-groups based on variations in size, shape and function including Alberta points, Cody points, Frederick points, Eden points and Scottsbluff points. Plano points do not include the hollowing or 'fluting' found in Clovis and Folsom points.


In archeology, a racloir, also known as racloirs sur talon (French for scraper on the platform), is a certain type of flint tool made by prehistoric peoples.

It is a type of side scraper distinctive of Mousterian assemblages. It is created from a flint flake and looks like a large scraper. As well as being used for scraping hides and bark, it may also have been used as a knife. Racloirs are most associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industry. These racloirs are retouched along the ridge between the striking platform and the dorsal face. They have shaped edges and are modified by abrupt flaking from the dorsal face.

South Ronaldsay

South Ronaldsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is linked to the Orkney Mainland by the Churchill Barriers, running via Burray, Glimps Holm and Lamb Holm.

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