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Perth and Kinross


Ancient dwelling found in quarry may be 10,000 years old

from the Herald:
Shan Ross

The earliest known house in Scotland is understood to have been unearthed in Dunbar, East Lothian.

Archaeologists believe the remains of the house on the site of a limestone quarry dates from the Mesolithic era of the hunter-gatherers between 8000BC and 4000BC.

The site could pre-date the Skara Brae settlement in Orkney which is from around 2000BC in the Neolithic Age.

But the substantial structure might never have been found had planners not insisted the site be surveyed by archaeologists before Lefarge Cement could begin quarrying.

The discovery of holes to take wooden posts for a teepee-like structure, suggest for the first time that the hunter-gatherers built semi-permanent structures from which to roam the shore and countryside in search of food.

Previous sites dating from the Mesolithic era have been found, including shell middens on the west coast of Scotland. A number of small hunting camps scattered with stone tools have also been found.

However no other sites apart from Mount Sandal in Northern Ireland show evidence of serious construction methods.

First indications of the site's age emerged with the discovery of thousands of flint shards, the remnants of stone tool manufacture, the tools themselves and burned hazelnut shells.

But significantly the discovery of the inward-sloping 8in diameter post holes indicated that the partially natural hollow around which they had been sunk was more than an overnight shelter, according to John Gooder, the project manager for the Edinburgh-based AOC Archaeology.

He said: "Considerable effort was involved in building this round house so perhaps our Mesolithic family spent a relatively lengthy stay in the area, or perhaps returned to the house at particular times of the year over a lengthy period.

"This contrasts strongly with the prevailing view of Mesolithic settlements as little more than temporary camps scattered over a hunting territory."

Dr Alan Savile, curator of archaeology at the National Museums of Scotland, described the find as "extremely significant" and added: "We may well be looking at Scotland's earliest house."

Hunter-gatherers were the original environmentalists. They knew how to burn a stretch of moorland to improve hunting or stimulate the re-growth of edible plants in much the same way grouse moors are burned today to encourage the growth of fresh heather. It is still unknown why or how they managed to turn to farming as a way of life.

-21 Nov
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2002ce

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