Alan Hawkes (PhD Candidate)
Fulachtaí Fia, burnt mounds and infrastructural archaeology in Ireland
Supervisor: Prof. William O'Brien
Prehistoric Transitions Research Group
Fulachtaí fia or burnt mounds constitute the largest group of prehistoric sites in Ireland, with current estimates of some 7000 recorded examples (Power et al, 1997). Few attempts to deal with the issue of burnt mound archaeology in Ireland have been undertaken in serious academic scholarship. The proposed project will fill this significant gap in our knowledge by reviewing all fulachtaí fia sites scientifically excavated in Ireland since the 1950’s. This will include a large number of sites investigated in recent years that remain unpublished. The aim is to provide the first in-depth analysis of this site type by bringing together evidence of approximately 1000 excavated burnt mound sites into a searchable database and catalogue. Once this data-base has been compiled, it will be systematically analysed to obtain a better understanding of the use and social significance of this monument type, within its broader settlement and cultural context.
For instance, while fulachtaí fia cannot be described as residential sites, they are certainly an important element of local settlement landscapes in many parts of Ireland. The recent discovery of prehistoric settlements and house-sites, along with fulachtaí fia, on many road schemes in Ireland provides an opportunity to examine the wider settlement context of these sites. This project will undertake a study of burnt mounds as proxy indicators of prehistoric settlement, using GIS-based case studies of selected settlement landscapes in different parts of Ireland.
Recently fulachtaí fia excavations have also produced evidence to suggest that the activities undertaken at these sites were carried out in a controlled, ordered environment. The spatial organization of these sites will be examined, in relation to site occupation history and activities. The structured deposition of mound material, the layout of activities and the control of water suggests a level of site management that has not been explored in any detail.