In historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace, with or without an oven, used for heating and originally also used for cooking food. For centuries, the hearth was such an integral part of a home, usually its central and most important feature, that the concept has been generalized to refer to a homeplace or household, as in the terms "hearth and home" and "keep the home fires burning".
In a medieval hall, the hearth commonly stood in the middle of the hall, with the smoke rising through the room to a smoke hole in the roof. Later, such hearths were moved to the side of the room and provided with a chimney. In fireplace design, the hearth is the part of the fireplace where the fire burns, usually consisting of masonry at floor level or higher, underneath the fireplace mantel.
- Archaeological features 1
- Hearth tax 2
- Religion 3
- See also 4
- References 5
The word hearth derives from an Indo-European root, *ker-, referring to burning, heat, and fire (seen also in the word carbon). In archaeology, a hearth is a firepit or other fireplace feature of any period. Hearths are common features of many eras going back to prehistoric campsites, and may be either lined with a wide range of materials, such as stone, or left unlined. They were used for cooking, heating, and the processing of some stone, wood, faunal, and floral resources. Occasionally site formation processes—e.g., farming or excavation—deform or disperse hearth features, making them difficult to identify without careful study.
Lined hearths are easily identified by the presence of radiocarbon dating. Although carbon dates can be negatively affected if the users of the hearth burned old wood or coal, the process is typically quite reliable. This was the most common way to cook, and to heat interior spaces in cool seasons.
Hearths have been found in the ancient Kashmiri Posthole dwellings, radiocarbon dating tells us that they have been their since before 2920 BCE.(Upinder Singh, ISBN 978-81-317-1677-9)
In the Byzantine Empire a tax on hearths known as kapnikon was first explicitly mentioned for the reign of Nicephorus I (802–811) although its context implies that it was already then old and established and perhaps it should be taken back to the 7th century AD. Kapnikon was a tax raised on households without exceptions for the poor.
In England, a tax on hearths was introduced on 19 May 1662. Householders were required to pay a charge of two Clerk of the Peace between 1662 and 1688.
A revision of the Act in 1664 made the tax payable by all who had more than two chimneys
The tax was abolished by William III in 1689 and the last collection was for Lady Day of that year. It was abolished in Scotland in 1690.
Hearth tax records are important to local historians as they provide an indication of the size of each assessed house at the time. The numbers of hearths are generally proportional to the size of the house. The assessments can be used to indicate the numbers and local distribution of larger and smaller houses. Not every room had a hearth, and not all houses of the same size had exactly the same number of hearths, so they are not an exact measure of house size. Roehampton University has an ongoing project which places hearth tax data in a national framework by providing a series of standard bands of wealth applicable to each county and city.
Published lists are available of many returns and the original documents are in the Public Record Office. The most informative returns, many of which have been published, occur between 1662–1666 and 1669–1674.
In ancient Persia, according to Zoroastrian traditions, every house was expected to have a hearth for offering sacrifices and prayers.
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- Hansen, William F.. Handbook of classical mythology. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. 202. ISBN 1576072266
- Boyce, Mary. A history of Zoroastrianism. 2nd impression with corrections. ed. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989. 154. ISBN 9004088474
- Rabinovitch, Shelley, and James Lewis. The encyclopedia of modern witchcraft and neo-paganism. New York: Kensington Pub., 2004, 2002. 127. ISBN 0806524073