© Transport Scotland/Headland Archaeology
An artists impression of how the Mesolithic dwelling may have looked
The ancient dwelling was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in a field on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A large oval pit nearly seven metres in length and studded with postholes is all that remains of the dwelling that has been dated to the Mesolithic period, around 10,252 years ago.
A survey of the site was being conducted in preparation for the building of the Forth Replacement Crossing in a field in Echline, South Queensferry, just north of Edinburgh.
Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, 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 year 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."
Worked flint and hazelnut shells were found in the remains of the building
The postholes are thought to have once held wooden posts that supported the walls and roof of the building. The roof itself was probably covered with turf, archaeologists believe.
The remains of several fireplace hearths were also found inside the building and more than 1,000 pieces of flint, including arrowheads and other tools, were also found.
Other discoveries included large quantities of charred hazelnut shells, suggesting they were an important source of food for the occupants of the house.
Archaeologists believe the dwelling would have been occupied on a seasonal basis, probably during the winter months, rather than all year round.
Ed Bailey, project manager for Headland Archaeology, the company that carried out the excavation 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 palaeoenvironmental evidence recovered in the field is ongoing. This will allow us to put the pieces together and build a detailed picture of Mesolithic lifestyle."
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "This ancient dwelling, which was unearthed as part of the routine investigations undertaken prior to construction works, is an important and exciting discovery.
"We now have vital records of the findings which we will be able to share to help inform our understanding of a period in Scotland's ancient history."