Remains of a 6,000-year-old dwelling built by some of Scotland's first farmers are unearthed in an Ayrshire field
The remains of a pre-historic dwelling dating back 6,000 years have been unearthed in a field during engineering work.
Archaeologists found post-holes which formed part of a rectangular building in Scotland, as well as fragments of rare Neolithic pottery.
The discovery was made while Scottish Water was working on an ongoing £120 million ($161 million) project to upgrade its network between Ayrshire and Glasgow.
Archaeologists believe the structure, near Hillhouse farm north-east of Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire, was built by some of the earliest farmers in Scotland.
The remains of a pre-historic dwelling dating back 6,000 years have been unearthed in a field during a major earthworks project. Archaeologists found post-holes which formed part of a rectangular building in Scotland, as well as fragments of rare Neolithic pottery
This took place more than 4,000 years BC, before the Callanish Stones in Lewis and Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
The rectilinear hall, which measured 45 feet (14m) in length and 26 feet (8m) in width, belonged to a type of house built by the first farming communities in Scotland.
Fragments of Neolithic carinated bowl, used for cooking and storage, were also found.
Experts say it is a rare example of the earliest type of pottery used in Scotland.
Before 4,000 BC, pottery making skills were not known in the country.
Kenneth Green, excavation director at Guard Archaeology in Glasgow, who carried out the archaeological work, said: 'This is one of the most important discoveries of this type in south-west Scotland in recent years.
The width and depth of the post-holes indicate that they held up the supports for a very large house. The rectilinear hall, which measured 45 feet (14m) in length and 26 feet (8m) in width, belonged to a type of house built by the first farming communities in Scotland
'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.
'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.
'Up until this time, during the earlier Mesolithic period (c. 8000-4000 BC), Scotland was inhabited by small groups of hunter-gatherers, who led a nomadic lifestyle, living off the land.
'The individuals who built this Neolithic house were some of the earliest communities in Ayrshire to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, clearing areas of forest to establish farms, growing crops such as wheat and barley and raising livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.'
Archaeologists believe the structure was built by some of the earliest farmers in Scotland. This image shows plans of the site
Scottish Water has been working with archaeologists to identify sites of potential interest along the route of the water main installation to allow the archaeologists to carry out excavations.
Guard Archaeology's operations manager Warren Bailie said: 'What we have unearthed will add significantly to our knowledge of the history of this area but we would not have made this discovery, and these ruins would probably have lain undiscovered, had it not been for Scottish Water's project.
'It is also quite apt that we found evidence of an old watercourse, a winding line of peat suggesting an older channel, very close to the Neolithic house.
'The house was built on a small rise or hill above that channel. That suggests these early settlers chose this spot because of access to water.'
The discovery was made during groundworks Scottish Water was working on, for an ongoing £120 million ($161 million) project to upgrade its network between Ayrshire and Glasgow
Scottish Water environmental adviser Andrew Grant said they were 'delighted' that something of such importance had been uncovered.
The discoveries have been removed for recording and analysis and, like all archaeological finds, will be claimed by the Crown and deposited in keeping with Scottish legal requirements as set out in the Scottish Government's Treasure Trove Code of Practice.
Scottish Water, its alliance partners Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA) and GUARD Archaeology will liaise about the find with the West of Scotland Archaeology Service (WoSAS), which works for a number of local authorities.