Discovery of 5,700-year-old houses unearthed in Horton
Archaeologists have unearthed four Neolithic houses at a quarry in Horton thought to make up one of the oldest settlements ever found in England.
The 5,700-year-old foundations to homes have been discovered at Kingsmead Quarry in Stanwell Road by excavators Wessex Archaeology.
The site dates back to when the people of Britain were switching lifestyles from hunter-gatherers to settled farmers and was probably built by pioneering farmers.
Researchers say the discovery is 'unprecedented' as it is the first time more than one house from this period had been found on a single site in England.
Dr Alistair Barclay, of Wessex Archaeology, said: "Unfortunately only the ground plans have survived as any timber would have rotted away long ago.
"However, we have a good idea of what these structures may have looked like from the many house finds in Ireland, from experimental work reconstructing prehistoric buildings, and from wood working techniques from timber-built walkways of the same date."
All the houses are rectangular in shape with the largest measuring 15 x 7 metres and are situated next to the River Colne.
Pottery, flint tools, arrowheads, rubbing stones for grinding corn and charred food remains were recovered from the buildings confirming the lifestyle of the inhabitants and approximate age.
Radiocarbon dating has been used to confirm the age of one of the houses (3800–3640 BC) and further dates will be obtained for the other buildings later in 2013.
Dr Barclay added: "These finds add to our knowledge of life in Neolithic times and how buildings at that date were constructed."
He said excavations were ongoing and there could be more houses within the Horton settlement that have not yet been discovered.
Archaeologists are gaining an understanding of the area in pre-historic Britain and also found people lived in the area since the end of the last Ice Age, a period of over 12,000 years.
It is part of a £4million archaeology programme, which has been run at the sand and gravel quarry since 2003 by owner Cemex.
Sustainability director Andy Spencer, said: "In addition to extracting valuable building materials that go into buildings all around us, quarrying has given us some wonderful archaeological finds that tell us more about our ancestors and how they lived."