Archaeologists startled to discover Neolithic ritual site

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THE setting for one of the most famous castles in Scotland’s North-east was first used as the site for a high-status building almost 6,000 years ago, it was revealed yesterday.

A team of archaeologists began work earlier this month at the Crathes Castle Estate, on Royal Deeside, to investigate what was thought to be the remains of a timber hall from the Dark Ages, 1,500 years ago.

But they have instead found the remains of a large Neolithic building which may have been used as a prehistoric ritual site.

The remarkable discovery was yesterday hailed as one of the most significant archeological finds made in the North east of Scotland for years.

Charlie Murray, co-director of the excavation, said: "What we discovered is highly significant and has taken everyone by surprise. This site is of huge importance and we will now have to really rethink our use of the landscape by the farmers and what they were doing in the early Neolithic period.

"Considering you are talking about 5,500 years ago, the structure we have found was massive, constructed of huge timber posts and as a big as 25 metres by up to ten metres."