Archeologists working in northern Yorkshire have uncovered a Stone Age dwelling they believe dates back to an epoch when Britain's land mass was still part of continental Europe.
Teams from the Universities of Manchester and York estimate that the circular structure near the town of Scarborough, dates to at least 8,500 BC. They say the finding is comparable in archaeological importance to the ancient Druid site of Stonehenge. Following the Ice Age, hunter gatherers lived at the site for somewhere between 200 and 500 years.
So far, the excavations near an ancient lake have also turned up what was described as a large wooden platform, offering evidence of carpentry skills which existed within the population of Europe at that time.
The team also retrieved an 11,000 year-old tree trunk with its bark still intact.
"This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time," University of York archeologist Nicky Milner said in a statement. "From this excavation, we gain a vivid picture of how these people lived. For example, it looks like the house may have been rebuilt at various stages."
Milner added that it was likely there were other houses and many other people living in the vicinity of the site.
At the same time, fortune smiled upon the archeologists excavating at the ancient lake. The peat-rich region helped preserved many artifacts that otherwise might have disintegrated over the centuries. Among the findings so far recovered: e paddle of a boat, the tips of arrows and red deer skull tops used by the ancients as masks.
"And the artifacts of antler, particularly the antler head-dresses, are intriguing as they suggest ritual activities," Milner noted.
The house is about 500 years older than another structure in Howick, Northumberland, which had been considered to be Britain's oldest-known dwelling.