The fulacht fiadh, or 'ancient cooking place', is the commonest of all Irish archaeological features. So far over 4,500 have been documented, with many more doubtless still to be found. These grass covered kidney shaped mounds of burnt stone had a central wooden trough, a burning pit, and post holes suggesting they were once covered by a hut or shelter.
Experiments conducted as far back as 60 years ago showed that the troughs could be filled with water, hot stones dropped into them, and water brought to the boil. A leg of mutton cooked in this way took a tedious three and three quarter hours, while a haunch of venison took considerably longer. So were the fulachts really cooking places, or did they serve some other function? Just as it can be proven that a pea can be pushed up Ben Nevis with a persons nose, does'nt mean to say we are all doing it.
In no other tribal culture, either now or in the past (as far as I am aware) has meat been cooked in this way. It is time consuming, energy inefficient, and produces at best a lump of unpalatable blubber.
The commonest and most energy efficient way of cooking meat is by roasting. It was in the past and remains so today. In as little as 15 minutes, meat, especially if cut into small pieces, can be safely consumed. It seems reasonable to assume that hungry people would be reluctant to sit around for 4 hours, burn enough timber to conduct a weeks roasting, and produce something vastly inferior by boiling. Like us, they would not walk a mile to cover one hundred yards, so what were the fulachts really for?
My bet would be bathing. The troughs are large enough to accomodate the average person, and hot water as we all know, is far better at removing grime than cold. It would be a far more practical use for the fulachts than boiling meat, indeed they may even have been used as primitive maternity huts, in which childbirth could take place in relative warmth and comfort.
For me the cooking place does'nt wash...just a thought...