Irish Archaeological Finds & Theories


Privateer in the service of Princess Frideswide
Jan 19, 2014
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I have been talking to people who know a bit more about mail and they say this story isn't possible. The mail is more like the stuff that's made for a reenactor - even to the style of the hoops of the metal and other stuff I don't really understand and the condition of the mail is just too good. Also it is very small which is apparently common in mail created in China. Gah!
It does look in extremely good condition, as though it's been in the ground (or someone's garage) for twenty years, not in the wilds for 800. I think historical mail was more likely to be riveted, which takes ages, while a lot of modern reenactor mail is butted, which is weaker. I knew more about these things a couple of years ago, and I know enough to know there are few clear cut answers in arms and armour.


Jul 13, 2011
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Hobbs End
Wouldn’t the museum people be able to tell the difference between a Norman vest & a modern Chinese one?

And though it does look small in the photo I reckon it would expand when worn.


Abominable Snowman
Oct 12, 2003
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I was wondering how young did men become fighters in those days. Maybe it's teenager sized.


I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Jul 19, 2004
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Out of Bounds
The newly established Leitrim Sweathouse Project is dedicated to surveying and analyzing Ireland's historical sweathouses.
The unearthing of Ireland's mysterious naked sweathouses

Until the 1900s, when people in Ireland got sick, they would get naked and disappear into steamy saunas. Now, a new project is aiming to uncover these timeworn structures' secrets.

Naked and sweaty, they laid inside grass-covered stone igloo-like structures in the remote fields of Ireland. Some were ill, others may have been having hallucinations, hatching plans to distil illegal alcohol or imagining they were the Vikings who once raided this country. By the time these addled folk emerged from the structures back into the fresh air of 19th-Century Ireland, they had been through a jarring mental and physical journey. One that still holds many mysteries.

"Some people reckoned the cure was worse than the disease," archaeologist Aidan Harte told me of this sweltering experience, as he stood atop a 150-year-old Irish sweathouse in Killadiskert, an isolated corner of County Leitrim. "Part of the reason there's crazy theories about hallucinations and making alcohol is because we just don't fully know the truth about sweathouses and all their uses. They're a bit of a riddle that we're now trying to work out." ...

Harte is leading the new Leitrim Sweathouse Project with Leitrim County Council Heritage Officer Sarah Malone. Malone said their aim was to identify and demystify these timeworn structures, which are scattered across Ireland and were used as a sort of extreme stone sauna from the early 1600s to the early 1900s. ...

... most Irish sweathouses were built into hillsides or banks to bolster their foundation, and set in remote locations near a water source. Chunks of uncut rock, each a different shape and size, were carefully piled and then bonded with clay and sod to create a domed structure with a single low entrance, similar in appearance to an igloo. ...

Turf or wood was lit inside the sweathouse, before its entrance and roof vent were blocked, Harte said. After a few hours, smoke would be released, the embers swept out and a naked person would crawl into the stifling space and sweat for as long as they could bear. Eventually, they would emerge to cleanse and cool themselves in the nearby stream. Sometimes their condition improved, Harte said. The sweathouse had unfurled its earthen magic. ...

Not much has been documented about the historical use of sweathouses. ... Harte said some Leitrim residents he'd interviewed believe sweathouses weren't just used to treat illnesses. According to some tales he'd heard, sweathouses were makeshift distilleries for circumventing Ireland's long ban on distilling "poitin" moonshine. In another popular story, they once hosted drug-fuelled hallucination sessions aimed at connecting with the Celtic gods. ...

An even greater mystery than the use of sweathouses is their origin. According to Foley, there are four prevailing theories. One claims these structures can be traced to Scandinavia and the Vikings. Saunas have been used in northern Europe for more than 2,000 years, and Vikings had a major impact on Irish culture while occupying parts of the country between the 9th and 12th Centuries. Another theory posits they may have been imported from the US by returning Irish immigrants who'd studied Native American sweat lodges. Just as intriguing is the theory sweathouses were re-purposed fulacht fiadh, a type of ancient, outdoor Irish oven. Finally, some old antiquarian journals suggested the Irish creators of the sweathouse may have been inspired by seeing hammams while travelling in the Middle East, where the Islamic bathhouses have been used for more than a millennium. ...