THEY pre-date the Egyptian pyramids by more that 1,000 years but until recently very little was known about the mysterious structures.

Now a 'floating' village is set to be built in a loch to illustrate and explain how how people lived 2,300 years ago.

Bosses at tplpan he Scottish Crannog Centre in Perthshire have unveiled plans to transform its museum into a 'national treasure'.

The project, which would be spread across 12 acres, will replicate how people lived on Loch Tay between 370BC and 355BC.

Multiple crannogs - a wooden house supported over the water by stilts - will be built suspended above the loch.

The scheme will create 35 jobs at the rural beauty spot and is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors a year.

In ancient times, people would have lived in the crannogs, which had the capacity to hold between 15 and 20 people, plus animals, and are usually made from timber.

The announcement comes on the back of research by a team of archaeologists that revealed crannogs date to the Iron Age.

Experts undertook a tree ring analysis of highly preserved wood recovered from Loch Tay and have radically narrowed down the timeline for life on the water.

Previously, it was thought the crannogs were inhabited during a 400year period from about 800BC.

Academic Dr Marco Gilardi, of the University of the West of Scotland, who is working with the centre on the project, said: "In the past year, the Scottish Crannog Centre has shown

a positive attitude toward change and is making giant steps in its renovation, redesigning itself as a modern immersive experience and living museum.

"The centre staff were a pleasure to work with and the UWS team looks forward to continuing the collaboration and to help them to become a national treasure and a model for modern living museums."

The Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology has put forward an asset transfer request to Forestry and Land Scotland on behalf of the museum to buy the land at Dalerb to build the village above the loch.

The centre, which is currently closed, hopes to become a year-round attraction and will provide creative studio space for artists and units for small businesses.

It previously reconstructed a crannog between 1994 and 1997 as an archaeological experiment led by Dr Nicholas Dixon.

Crannogs predate the Egyptian pyramids by more than 1,000 years, putting them in the neolithic period rather than the Iron Age.

Hundreds of crannogs have been found across Scotland, particularly in the outer islands.

Made of timber and stone, they were thought to have been built as individual houses for extended families. Similar settlements are found throughout the rest of Europe.

Archaeologists had believed the oldest dated to 800BC, after which they remained in use for 2,500 years.

However, the discovery of a big crannog on North Uist dating to about 3,700BC prompted speculation that several others might also be older.

Timber and pot residues found in water surrounding the islands were analysed by Duncan Garrow, and put the age of four sites at between 3,640BC to 3,360BC, about 2,000 years earlier than archaeologists previously believed.

The pyramids have been dated to about 2,500BC.

In 1996 Ian Armit, professor of Archaeology at the University of Leicester, who took his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, drew attention to “undated” crannogs across Scotland and Ireland that he believed could have neolithic origins.

In his book, The Archaeology Of Skye And The Western Isles, he wrote: “In areas such as the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, timber was unavailable from the neolithic era onwards".

As a result, completely stone crannogs supporting drystone architecture are common there. Traditionally considered to date to no earlier than the Iron Age, recent research has now identified several Outer Hebridean neolithic crannogs.

One of the sites in the study measured 28 yards x 24 yds and was made of stones weighing up to 39st each. The position and quantity of the pots suggested they were placed intentionally and some, if not all, were whole at the time.

Pottery found by a Lewisian diver on the bottom of three lochs also shed new light on when and why the circular structures were built.

Chris Murray, a former coastguard helicopter rescue winchman, who scoured Loch Arnish, Loch Langabhat and Loch Bhorgastail on Lewis, found the first of the bowls in 2011.

His explorations were later joined by archaeologists who said the intact nature of the pottery suggested neolithic Scots used the crannogs for ancient social rituals.