Updated: EXPERTS from the University of York have discovered Britain’s oldest house in the heart of North Yorkshire.

Archaeologists from the university said a 3.5 metre structure next to an ancient lake at Star Carr, near Scarborough, may date back as far as 8,500 BC, when Britain was still part of continental Europe.

If so, the house pre-dates what was previously Britain’s oldest known dwelling in Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years.

Dr Nicky Milner, from the department of archaeology at the university, has been working on the site with teams from the University of Manchester.

She said the find said a lot about the people who lived there.

She said: “This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time. 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. It is also likely there was more than one house and lots of people lived here.

The peaty nature of the soil surrounding the find has meant many items have been preserved for thousands of years with minimal decay, including the paddle of a boat, arrow tips, and red deer skull tops which were worn as masks.

“The artefacts of antler, particularly the antler head-dresses, are intriguing as they suggest ritual activities,” said Dr Milner.

The researchers said the house was inhabited by hunter gatherers who had migrated from an area now under the North Sea, just after the last ice age, for a period between 200 and 500 years.

Further inspection showed the inhabitants had not cultivated the land surrounding the site, but had burned part of the landscape to encourage animals, such as deer, wild boar and elk, to graze nearby.

The house was first excavated two years ago, as part of a research project funded by the National Environment Research Council, the British Academy, and the Vale of Pickering Research Trust.

The team is currently excavating a large wooden platform next to the lake, which is made up of timbers which have been split and hewn and believed to be the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

English Heritage has announced it is to declare the site a National Monument.

York Press: Dr Nicky Milnerworks on the remains of a Birch tree thought to date back 11,000 years at Star Carr, near Scarborough