A PREHISTORIC dwelling – 3,000 years older than Stonehenge – has been unearthed during construction of the runway extension at Isle of Man Airport.
Dating back an astonishing 8,000 years to the time when the first human settlers returned to the Isle of Man after the end of the Ice Age, it is probably the oldest dwelling ever found in the Island.
Featuring the foundations of a strongly-built shelter, filled and surrounded by thousands of pieces of worked flint, the charred remains of wood, and hundreds of hazelnut shells, the major archaeological find is certain to make headlines around the world.
It has been unearthed as fieldwork at Ronaldsway nears completion, with diggers due to finish excavating in the middle of ths month and the project on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
The site has already attracted interest from a BBC team filming the next series of Coast, and has recently been visited by Professor of Archaeology Peter Woodman, who excavated a similar, but less well-preserved, site eroding out of the cliffs just over 100 metres away in the 1980s.
Manx National Heritage field archaeologist Andrew Johnson said:
'Archaeologists hesitate to call a structure of this kind a "house", because the received wisdom is that 8,000 years ago people constantly moved through the landscape as nomads, gathering their food from the land, rather than staying put and farming and harvesting it.
'But this building was constructed from substantial pieces of timber, and had a hearth for cooking and warmth.
'Its occupants lived here often, or long enough to leave behind over 12,000 pieces of worked flint together with the tools needed to flake them, and food debris in the form of hundreds of hazelnut shells.'
The 8,000-year-old dwelling was found at the east end of the airport where a new taxiway extension is being built.
Radiocarbon dates have not yet been obtained but archaeologists confirm that it is 'probably' the oldest dwelling yet found on the Isle of Man.
So far, they have made their preliminary interpretations based on their observations in the field. Much painstaking study and analysis will follow.
Since comparatively few materials can survive in the ground for such a long period – unburnt wood, horn, bone, leather etc will have long since rotted away – it will be important to get maximum information from those remains which have been found.
The excavation has been undertaken by Oxford Archaeology North and monitored on behalf of the airport by Manx National Heritage.
Current archaeological works originally began in May last year following the discovery of a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age village, three burials and numerous artefacts, including thousands of pieces of pottery and worked flint.
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During that time a ground area equivalent to 20 football pitches was inspected and archaeological features recorded.
The Ronaldsway area contains an unusually rich prehistoric and historic landscape since work first began to create the Island's airport there in 1935.
Mr Johnson added: 'This is by far the largest archaeological project to have been undertaken on the Island. The discoveries have been first-class and are sure to revise and improve understanding of prehistoric life in the Isle of Man.'
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