THEY were the first people to live in Scotland, nomads who left little trace of their day-to-day lives. But the first evidence that early man built homes as far north as Orkney up to 10,000 years ago appears to have been uncovered by archaeologists.
Tiny slivers of stone - combined with previously puzzling results from a geophysics survey - point to the presence of a settlement created by Mesolithic hunter gatherers.
The discovery of the islands’ first houses would represent a major step forward in understanding the shadowy lives of our earliest ancestors.
Jane Downes, from Orkney College, one of the archaeologists leading the excavation at Mine Howe, said: "To find evidence of a settlement would be a first for Orkney.
"But it would also be incredibly unusual for Scotland, because the lifestyle of the Mesolithic people meant they left few traces for us to find," she added.
Orkney is internationally famous as the home of some of the Neolithic period’s greatest architectural masterpieces. Stone monuments like Skara Brae and Maes Howe date from about 5,000 years ago.
A more detailed survey of the area will now be carried out by the new geophysics unit at Orkney College.