STONE Age Britons from across the North-East flocked to a prehistoric "Glastonbury festival" marked by mysterious rituals, a major archaeological discovery suggests.

Experts believe tools, pottery and timber stakes unearthed near Durham City show a site within view of Durham Cathedral was a place of mass worship as far back as 3,000 BC.

What the Neolithic-era North-Easterners did during the meetings is still buried in history, but possible activities include ceremonial cremations and burials.

Steve Speak, senior keeper of field archaeology for Tyne and Wear Museums, said: "There is a whole range of different techniques here and finding out what it was used for takes a bit of Sherlock Holmes work.

"We know it's not defensive, and it's not a settlement. So you are left with one alternative - it had a spiritual use.

"It would have been a focus for people - like a prehistoric Glastonbury."

Archaeologists made the discovery while excavating the site ahead of the construction of a £3.5m drinking water reservoir.

Three man-made trenches, three raised henges and several wooden stakes, which may have been used to hold back soil, have been found.

Lee White, assistant archaeological officer at Durham County Council, said: "This is a very significant site. We have very few sites from this period in County Durham."

Mr Speak said: "Just to hold a piece of wood from 1500 BC that somebody made and used is amazing."

Archaeologists will remain on the site until October. They hope there will be public access to the site and information displayed to explain its importance.

Items unearthed will be offered to museums in the area.

Northumbrian Water says the reservoir will be used from next spring.