Archaeologists have found Britain's earliest house, built by Stone Age tribesmen about 11,000 years ago.

The discovery is likely to change the way archaeologists view that early period.

The circular post-built house, 3.5m in diameter, pre-dates other Stone Age buildings in the United Kingdom by up to a thousand years.

Located at one of Britain's most important prehistoric archaeological sites, Star Carr in North Yorkshire, the newly discovered building may have been home to a Stone Age hunter - or even a prehistoric priest or shaman.

Ethnographic parallels elsewhere in the world suggest that, in hunter-gatherer societies, well-built structures of this kind were often the homes of shamans.

It is also known from previous excavations that the site was probably used, at least partially, for ritual activity.

In 1950, archaeologists there discovered 21 Stone Age head-dresses made of modified deer skulls and antlers - which were almost certainly used for ceremonial hunting-related rituals, possibly dances.

And, over recent weeks, archaeologists at the site - on the edge of a now long-vanished prehistoric lake - have been uncovering the remains of a well-built wooden platform from which they believe Stone Age tribesmen threw high value objects into the water as offerings to deities or ancestral spirits.

Careful excavation by archaeologists from the universities of Manchester and York has revealed that the walls of the newly discovered house consisted of up to 18 upright posts, each on average around 20cm in diameter.

Inside the house, built between 9200 and 8500 BC, the occupants had created a sleeping area - a 20 to 30cm-thick layer of moss and other soft organic material placed in a shallow 2.5m diameter man-made depression.

- INDEPENDENT