A GROUP of archaeology students have discovered the remains of the oldest wooden house so far found in the Dales - and used by its earliest farmers.

The timber structure, unveiled at Yarnbury Henge near Grassington, dates from almost 6,000 years ago, a time when agriculture in Britain was in its infancy.

The Bradford University students uncovered the house as part of a dig at the Henge which has been going on for almost three weeks.

Alex Gibson, reader in British Prehistory at the university, who is leading the dig, said the discovery was "very exciting and very significant."

He explained: "It's a rectangular timber structure and similar remains found elsewhere in Britain gives us a fairly precise chronological window - we can pinpoint it to around 3,800BC. Farming in Britain started around 4,000BC, so these remains relate to the first farming in the Dales. Obviously we are all very excited."

Students put in a trench through the bank and ditch at the henge, which is among the most well-known archaeological sites in the north, and took lots of soil samples. They have also found fragments of a Bronze Age urn which are almost certainly parts of the same pot which was found on an excavation of the site in 1922.

Alex said: "We found an old excavation trench from then - the fragments have the same pattern, so we are almost certain they are from the same urn. It's been a highly successful excavation."

Twelve students from the university's Archaeological Sciences department were involved in the dig, helped by members of the Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group. They have started to 'backfill' the site this week.

Geophysicists from Austria have also been involved,covering about 15 hectares on the site, and first identified the timber structure remains.

Alex said: "It's been a real team effort and I don't think anyone thought we would be quite so successful when we started."