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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Site used by man 5,000 years ago
Artist's impression of ancient site
Experts have described the site as a bit of a puzzle
A site occupied by ancient Britons 5,000 years ago has been uncovered in County Durham.

It was found on the outskirts of Durham City, during an excavation prior to Northumbrian Water's construction of a 3.5m drinking water reservoir.

Pottery remains and flint knives and skin scrapers have been unearthed at the site.

Experts say they are still trying to make sense of what the site was actually used for.

Ceremonial use

Digging also uncovered very well preserved timbers used to shore up ditches and shaped by bronze age tools and elsewhere traces of iron age fields were found.

Circular features thought to be the remains of henges or barrows for ceremonial use or to house the dead emerged surrounded by steep slopes and large ditches.

Steve Speak, senior keeper of field archaeology for Tyne and Wear Museums, said: "Trying to make sense of all the various dates from the same site is a bit of a puzzle - it seems the spot was reoccupied almost continuously throughout the prehistoric period.

"What isn't clear is what it was actually used for, it's not well enough preserved for us to say that it was a farmstead, a defensive site, a settlement or something more spiritual in nature.

"What is clear is that it is the earliest site of its kind in Durham by a long way, and with material from over 5,000 years ago, it is the earliest settled site in the city."

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