The Place for real traditions.Irish Culture begins in prehistory. First was a paleolithic mindset-based on hunting. The spirits of animals aid in this. Groups had totems- birds, boar,for identity. Next came a Neolithic awareness- crops, agriculture,farm animals. Villages and lineages. Multiple gods became single gods with many powers. Chieftains by birth ruled. Next the Bronze age with rule by heroes. We got cookbooks and recipes left the mind. How do we know what to do? That's our purpose.

Irish Chieftain's feast

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Cooking-Places of the Stone Age in Ireland

"The Cooking-Places of the Stone Age in Ireland"

John Quinlan

Mr. John Quinlan read the following Paper on "The Cooking-places of the Stone Age in Ireland," and exhibited a number of stone implements, &c. :—

While ample reference has been made by writers to the raths, cashels, crannogs, monoliths, and round towers of Ireland, no one seerns to have treated specially of "the ancient cooking places" of some race of people who dwelt, certainly in the counties of Waterford and Cork, indeed probably throughout all Ireland, as far back as the Neolithic, if not a still more remote period. Sir William Wilde in one of his lectures mentions that no matter how far you may go back, there is reason to believe that the Irish were very bad cooks. There is no country in Europe which presents amid its relics and remains so few and such rude specimens relating to the culinary art; even at a comparatively late period when the precious metals—gold and silver—were worked with great beauty of design and exquisite taste, cooking utensils, whether of metal or pottery, appear to have been as scarce as articles of ornamentation and weapons were abundant.

Far as we may search back into the records of Ireland, we are confronted with the assurance, that each and every people who visited our shores, invariably found other people here before them; but how they could have been all bad cooks it is really difficult to understand. A great Frenchman has said that " nothing shows the proficiency and advancement of a people in all the arts of civilization more than their superiority in the art of cookery;" and although the French have been known to do very eccentric things, no one ever heard of their sending to Ireland for a cook. But I am digressing. What I have to do with are Irish cooking-places of the stone age, and roofed by the vault of heaven. I am told that these ancient kitchens are to be found all over Ireland; but in this Paper I confine myself specially to those I have seen in the county Waterford, and in particular to one which I have opened and laid bare to view, such as it had been at the time it was in use,

" When wild in woods the noble savage ran."

Here, wherever a strong well or spring develops into a rivulet, you will not travel far before coming on a mound by the side of the stream; it is usually hemispherical in form, and having an opening towards the stream, unless its configuration has undergone alteration from tillage or such like operations; this mound is generally covered with a stunted crop of Irish furze, and is composed of broken and burned freestone—some pieces being about the size of a goose-egg, others somewhat larger, but most of them smaller—all, however, undoubtedly broken by man, and subjected to an intense heat.

The greater number of these mounds have been broken up and scattered about by plough and harrow; but very many of them, that were situated in bogs and moors have never been interfered with, and here in their more perfect state they present in shape the appearance of a horse's foot with the shoe on; the shoe itself being represented by the protecting wall, and the sole by the flagged floor of the hearth, where the small stones were heated by fire; the heel may be considered as represented by the opening in the protecting wall with the descending step adjoining and overlapping the trough, by which the stream from a well ran, and into which the meat was thrown. In this instance the trough is composed of an oak-tree hollowed out, and when cleared of the burned stones and rubbish was found to be very much decayed at the sides and rim, and altogether rotten at the lower end near the water; it is in colour like any ordinary bog oak. The floor of the hearth is composed of heavy sandstone blocks, which appear to have been dressed and neatly fitted

into each other, and the steps are well put together and very smooth ; the upper end of the trough goes in under the descending step which is about eight inches high, and was kept in its place by large stones wedged in between it and the soil of the field, which forms the foundation of the whole structure. The length of the trough to where it is rotted away is given, and also its breadth, in the sketch. The floor of the hearth, the steps, and the trough, all have a decline towards the water.

The theory which suggests itself is, that these people, having lighted a great fire, the stones made red hot thereby, were easily moved down the incline into the trough holding water from the stream ; that these stones when cooled were taken out and flung back all around the fireplace, to be again heated and returned to the trough, until the water boiled, when, the meat was put in, and kept simmering or boiling by a continuance of the process. At the present time we know that many tribes of savages cook their food in a similar manner.

The cooking-place in question had been often tilled like the rest of the field, and the stones had, doubtless, been scattered about by the plough and harrow. It is situated on the townland of Clonkerdon (where I reside) barony of Decies-Without-Drum, county Waterford, and was opened by me in November, 1885, remaining open with the trough in situ, for inspection of any one who might wish to see it. The whole mound, with the hearth and trough in the middle, has a diameter of fifty-two feet. There were about four feet of broken stones and black ashes over the floor and trough.

I made a section through the mound, and only cleared away sufficient of the small burnt stones to lay bare the rooking plnce itself, viz. hearth, steps, and trough. Js'o weapon, looking iiti-nsil, or ornament, was found in the small section dug out—they would be more likely to be discovered near to, than actually within, a spot that had been so greatly heated.

These cooking-places are invariably situated close to running streams or rivers, and no matter how wet the land may be, I have found them all the same. If what are swamps and bogs now had been such in those ancient days, it is not likely the people lived in them; but the Lmd, which is admittedly sinking, particularly along the south-east of Ireland, may have undergone such a depression since that period as to convert dry land into swamp and bog. We find trunks of oak still remaining in the position in which they originally grew in what, in the present day, is the subsoil of our bogs, but which is too low and wet now for the growth of any kind of timber. These cooking-places are called by the country people Fcllocx-feea, or Fullogh-Feea, which, I believe, means " the boiling-place or fire-place of the deer."

The three celts here exhibited by me were found at Clonkerdou within a few feet (in each case) of the burned stones of disturbed and nearly obliterated cooking-places, which suggests the theory that the people to whom they originally belonged used the cooking-places; and as the celts are Neolithic, these cooking-places probably belong to the same period.

The grooved stone exhibited may be one of those stones attached by a thong to two sticks, and used (like a flail) in battle, and to which some allusion is made in the account of the feuts of the Ulster champion, Cuchulainn. This stone is 4£ in. by 2£ in., with three grooves running around it, and one down the side from top to bottom.

The double stone chalice, to which I draw attention, is 8 inches high, and 5£ inches across the cup.

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1887 p.390