Neolithic house discovered in Ayrshire

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A line of large postholes belonging to the Neolithic house. (Image: GUARD Archaeology Ltd.)

GUARD Archaeology Ltd has discovered what appears to be one of the oldest houses in East Ayrshire, dated to c.4000-3500 BC.  

The post-holes of a rectangular building, measuring approximately 14m long by 8m across, were revealed in the countryside near Kilmarnock, during a multi-million pound Scottish Water project to upgrade water mains between Ayrshire and Glasgow, and a number of them were found to contain early Neolithic carinated bowl fragments.

‘Heavily truncated by millennia of ploughing, only the deepest parts of some of the post-holes survived, arranged in a rectangular plan and containing sherds of early Neolithic pottery, hazelnut shell, and charcoal,’ said Kenneth Green, director of the GUARD Archaeology excavation. ‘The width and depth of these post-holes indicated that they once held very large upright timber posts, suggesting that this building was once a large house, probably home to an extended family or group of families.’

These types of houses were constructed by the first sedentary communities in Scotland, who cleared forests and established farming settlements.

It is hoped that further analyses of the recovered pottery and other environmental samples from the site may be able to determine a more precise date for the house, and thereby provide a better understanding of farming settlements in general throughout Neolithic Scotland.

‘The pottery recovered from the Neolithic house are sherds of carinated bowl, one of the earliest types of pottery vessels ever to be used in Britain,’ added Green. ‘Traces of milk fat have been found in other carinated bowls found elsewhere in Scotland. These bowls are distributed across much of the country, but very few have been found in the west. This represents an important discovery.’

This article will appear in CA 333.

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