Archaeologists have labelled it as the region's answer to Stonehenge because of its major historical significance. Now, the North Yorkshire site, which is home to the country's oldest surviving house, has been listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage in a bid to preserve it for future generations.

Star Carr - a Stone Age site near Scarborough dating from 10,500 years ago - was awarded the prestigious status by the Heritage Minister John Penrose yesterday. The designation provides legal protection for the site where last year a team of archaeologists from the universities of York and Manchester discovered Britain's earliest surviving home.
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© Adrian Warren
Star Carr

The wooden building, which is circular, 3.5 metres wide, and shows evidence of a possible fireplace, predates the house previously thought to be Britain's oldest, at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years. A team of researchers excavating the site, which would have overlooked a giant lake, also found a wooden platform which is the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe and an 11,000-year-old tree trunk with its bark still intact after being preserved in peat.

Carbon dating and analysis of hundreds of scattered flint tools have revealed the house would have stood in 8,500 BC when it was previously thought Britain was home to nomadic hunter gatherers who left little evidence of their existence as they moved around. It led to academics believing settlers were gathered at the site for up to 500 years.

Mr Penrose said: "The diversity of finds on offer at Star Carr and its history which goes back to 9000 BC are unequalled in British archaeology and it remains one of the most important Mesolithic sites in Europe."

Star Carr is exceptionally rare due to its remarkable survival of organic material from this prehistoric date, as well as evidence of built structures on the site.

It is known for its great diversity of archaeological features and finds, including a collection of head-dresses fashioned out of deer skulls, which are now housed in the British Museum,

Archaeologists Dr Nicky Milner, from the University of York, and Dr Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor, from The University of Manchester, have worked at Star Carr since 2004.

Dr Milner said: "It is great news that the national importance of Star Carr has been officially recognised and it will now be legally protected.

"We are really looking forward to carrying out further excavations which will help us answer more questions about how our ancestors lived, just after the end of the Ice Age.

"We have got plans to do five more years of research there. There will be a few more years of excavation then obviously we have got to do a lot of work in the lab, as well as writing it up at the end. The programme is now subject to permission from English Heritage which will want to ensure any future work is done in the best possible way."

Dr Milner comes from Hunmanby Gap, which is several miles away from the site, and the project is close to her heart. The archaeologist believes Star Carr's new national status will ensure the site is promoted on a wider scale.

She said: "It's right on my doorstep and the most important thing for me is when I was growing up I had never heard of it even though it is so archaeologically significant.

"It is talked about in universities all over the world and all archeologists know about it yet people in the area don't know very much so it has been our mission to do a lot of talks and try and get as much information out as possible. It's like we have Stonehenge on our doorstep and nobody knowing about it so I really want to make a difference there."

The research at Star Carr was made possible by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council, early excavation funding from the British Academy, and from English Heritage.

The Vale of Pickering Research Trust has also provided support for the excavation works.

Nick Bridgland, designation team leader for the North at English Heritage, said: "The remains at Star Carr are unequalled in British archaeology and designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument recognises this importance.

"It will help archaeologists manage the site effectively and carry out critically important excavations to recover the rapidly decaying remains so we can all learn as much as possible about this fascinating period of prehistory."

For more information on the site visit www.starcarr.com.