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Bridge works uncover nation's oldest house

WELCOME to the oldest house in Scotland – newly unearthed by archaeologists amid work to build a new bridge over the Firth of Forth.

It is only seven metres long, has no roof, and you won't learn much about it from its home report but, according to experts, this 10,500-year-old site is the location of one of the most important homes ever built.

The remains of the oval structure – as imagined in our artist's impression – give an extraordinary insight into the lives of the earliest hunter-gatherer Scots.

Found in a field at Echline, South Queensferry, the "first house" dates back to the Mesolithic period, around 10,252 years ago – some 5000 years before Stonehenge was built on Salisbury Plain and Skara Brae built on Orkney.

Nearly seven metres long by just over half a metre deep, the dwelling was held up by a circle of wooden posts.

It was discovered as part of routine archaeological excavations before work started on the Forth Replacement Crossing project.

Carbon dating and analysis of more than 1000 flint tools revealed the building stood in 8240 BC.

Researchers believe the walls and roof were carpeted with layers of turf, moss and grasses, and that there may have been several fireplaces inside the house.

Ed Bailey, project manager for Headland Archaeology, the company that carried out the works, said: "The discovery of this previously unknown and rare type of site has provided us with a unique opportunity to further develop our understanding of how early prehistoric people lived along the Forth.

"Specialist analysis of archaeological and palaeo-environmental evidence recovered in the field is ongoing. This will allow us to put the pieces together and build a detailed picture of Mesolithic lifestyle."

The site has also yielded large quantities of charred hazelnut shells, indicating these nuts were an important source of food for the hunter-gatherers. Its owners would have used the dwelling during the winter months, rather than all year round.

Historic Scotland senior archaeologist Rod McCullagh, an adviser to the project, said: "This discovery and, especially, the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation,10,000 years ago.

"The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland, which adds to its significance."

Archaeologists in charge of the dig said all of the artefacts will be preserved.

The excavation works were carried out to ensure any evidence was recorded and recovered before construction began on the Forth Replacement Crossing.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said the find was "an important and exciting discovery".

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