WHAT is believed to be Teesside’s oldest house has been discovered by this year’s excavations at Street House, near Loftus, on the east coast.

Radiocarbon testing on hazelnut shells found within the building reveal that it is more than 5,600 years old, which means that it dates from the early Neolithic period and it could even be the earliest house in Yorkshire.

This is the latest discovery at a site which archaeologists have been investigating for nearly 40 years. The most remarkable find was in 2007 when the remains of a very high-ranking woman were found buried on a wooden bed surrounded by jewellery – this “Saxon princess” burial, which dates from the second half of the 7th Century, is of national, if not international, importance.

Then, in 2012, a sizeable Roman villa, dating from about AD370, was found about 100 metres away.

The latest find came this spring, although the radiocarbon results have only just come through.

The excavation, led by Dr Steve Sherlock and carried out by a small local team of mostly volunteers from Teesside Archaeological Society, found the house following extensive geophysics surveys.

It is in a hollow more than one metre deep. It is a sunken oval building, approximately five metres by three metres, with evidence of a fragmentary wall of stakes. The stakes would have been interwoven and any gaps would probably have been filled with either vegetable matter (straw and thatch) or mud to make daub.

The entrance to the house is thought to have been south facing, and there were more substantial postholes at the rear.

The people who lived in the house were the first to settle down in the area and grow crops. Their early farming enabled them to stay in one place. The house could, therefore, be said to be the home of the very first Teessiders.

Similar structures can be seen at Briar Hill in Northamptonshire and Little Paxton in Cambridgeshire, although these are later in date. Within Yorkshire, there are four other Neolithic houses, but they do not all have the broad range of finds and structural evidence that Street House has.

Four samples of Street House’s hazelnut shells were sent for analysis, which shows they date from between 3,949BC and 3,662BC – so the house could be 5,965 years old.

This means it is contemporary with a Neolithic long cairn about 400 metres away which was excavated by archaeologist Blaise Vyner from 1979, when work on the site started.

This year, more than 200 flints have been found within the house, including cores and knapping debris. These come from the “knapping” process of making flint tools by striking the flint with a harder object, usually a stone. The “core” is a piece of flint which has been manufactured so that it has a flat bottom. The core is placed on its base and then struck so that pieces flake off it. These pieces can then be fashioned into tools – blades, scrapers and a leaf-shaped arrowhead have been found on the site – and the waste is known as “knapping debris”.

Also found at Street House were pottery fragments from at least eight vessels. An initial assessment by Blaise Vyner suggests these are carinated bowls – bowls with round bases joined to inward sloping sides – with quartz and quartzitic inclusions added to the clay as a tempering agent to make it stronger. Again this is similar to the pottery vessels found in the nearby cairn.

Other finds include quartz pebbles from a posthole – perhaps these had been collected as a curio or a charm.

In 2012, a carved boulder was found 10 metres to the west of the house, and several other examples of prehistoric rock art have been found. All are potentially contemporary with the Neolithic house.

The house structure appears to have been sealed by a horizontal layer of clay which contained some burnt material. Radiocarbon dating analysis of this material by Glasgow University suggests that the site was levelled some time between 2,578BC and 2,408BC, indicating that there is further late Neolithic activity still to be uncovered. Evidence for this later activity includes a timber circle and a late Neolithic house known from excavations carried out in 2010-11.

The excavations have been possible due to the support of the landowner, Tony Garbutt of Street House Farm, Loftus.

Further excavations to understand more about this enigmatic site are planned for 2017.

Dr Sherlock says: “There is tantalising evidence of something else going on later in the Neolithic period, but the really big question is if there’s a royal Anglo-Saxon burial, there must be an Anglo-Saxon settlement nearby.

“We are looking for the whole picture, and that settlement is the missing link – it would be a really fascinating story if we could find it.”