Ferta – the term is preserved as an element in Irish place-names like Clonfert, Ardfert and at least a dozen other examples. A Ferta is a burial site which was used to mark boundaries and stake a tribe’s ancestral claim to the land. Archaeology research demonstrates burials to be boundary markers as they occur on hilltops, on spurs over rivers, on ravines overlooking large expanses of countryside or on known boundaries. Furthermore it is known from the large corpus of early medieval genealogies, laws, sagas and topographical sources that graves were used to mark boundaries and a large number of graves are included in the medieval Irish corpus of topographical poems and prose texts known as Dindshenchas Érenn ‘the place-lore of Ireland’.

Anthropological evidence universally recognises that burial rites were not only used as indicators of cultural identity but also of authority over a territory. In early Irish sources, especially in the laws and in saints’ lives, the legal process of taking possession of land involves the ability to cross and use the ferta or ancestral graves. This places burials at the heart of acquiring authority in early Ireland and may often explain the location of certain burials.

Extract from “Mapping Death: People, Boundaries and Territories in Ireland 1st – 8th Centuries AD” Full paper available: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/130343167/Untitled—The-Heritage-Council

Adolf Hitler loved Irish trad.

Adolf Hitler was a fan of Irish folk music.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler loved Irish folk music and recently-released historical photographs reveal that famous Irish musician Sean Dempsey played for him in 1936.

Dempsey, an uileann piper, was invited to play for Hitler and propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels during a visit to Berlin in 1936 after being told that Hitler was an Irish folk music fan.

When he arrived to play however, there was no room for him to sit, which he needed to do to play, and it looked like it would be canceled.

however, Hitler jumped up and demanded that an S.S. member get down on his hands and knees and that Dempsey sit astride him while he played.

Dempsey played what was described as a ‘haunting air’ as Hitler listened with rapt attention. After he performed, Hitler presented him with a gold fountain pen while Goebbels clapped wildly.

The bizarre scene was revealed for the first time in a new exhibition of Irish photographs from that era called ‘Ceol na Cathra.’ The exhibition opened in Dublin and was collected by legendary fiddle player Mick O’Connor.

Also in the exhibit are rare photographs from the early days of The Chieftains and Sean O’Riada, the father of modern Irish folk music.

Did the Irish wear shoes?

Wearing of shoes – Many historic drawings and more recently photographs show the Irish had a preference to go barefoot. Yet, the most common archaeological artefacts to be found in Ireland are shoes.* So why did the Irish not like wearing shoes?

Ireland has a mild temperate climate, swathe in the warm Atlantic mists thus the ground underfoot is damp for most days of the year. Throughout history and until very recently shoes were made of leather and leather soled shoes are prone to soaking in water. Feet which are constantly wet are prone to developing “Immersion Foot Syndrome” better known since WWI as “Trench Foot” when it was a major problem. Even today Trench Foot remains a problem and even during WWII, in December 1944 the US Army records show that there were 37,336 injuries due to battle and 11,469 due to Trench Foot and frost bite.

In anthropology the term “adaptation” refers to patterns of behaviour which enable a culture to cope with its surroundings. Here we see a good example of “adaptation” where enclosing feet in shoes would have been detrimental to one’s health. The abundance of shoes in the archaeological record demonstrates that shoes were worn during the winter and whenever needed. Ironically leather goods in Ireland survive mostly in a waterlogged environment.

Image: Irish warriors c. 1540. An anonymous woodcut of Irish warriors, all barefoot. Thus we can conclude that the Irish Army had known all about Trench Foot for at least 374 years before modern science and modern armies!

‘DRAVN AFTER THE QVICKE’ (means drawn from life). Quick originally meant “living persons” from the Old English word cwic. It was frequently paired with the dead, e.g. cwicum & deadum. (The quick and the dead!)

Warning distressing photograph of feet afflicted with Trench Foot.

Us Army diagram on the causes of Trench Foot.

*The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland – Nancy Edwards p.79