Scotland has some of the best preserved examples of prehistoric living in the world, and one of those, located on the Orkney island of Papa Westray, is the oldest example of a house in the north of Europe. It is known as Knap of Hower, and radiocarbon dating has shown it to have been constructed and used between 3500 and 3100 BC.
Prior to the Romans documenting the existence of the Scots, there is no recorded history of Scotland, and so everything that is known about the people who lived there has been discovered through examination of preserved sites such as Knap of Hower. The fact that they are so well preserved has helped immensely with this, and has led to discoveries about the people who lived there that can be used in puzzling out the way of life of other, similar settlements.
Although it is now right by the sea, Knap of Hower was originally inland. Consisting of two stone huts, joined with a small passageway, they are thought to have been the homes of agricultural settlers, farming cattle, sheep, pigs, barley and wheat. They also made use of the ocean for shellfish and to go fishing in boats. Although both constructions may have been used as houses, it is also possible that the smaller hut was a workshop for the maintenance and storage of the tools that would be used in farming and fishing.
The majority of evidence for this has come from the midden that surrounds the buildings, and that they were built on. A midden is a collection of the waste products that a group of people produces, and so, through analysis of it, the type of food and tools used by the people who created it can be determined.
One of the greatest things about this site, especially from an archaeological perspective, is that the stone furniture has also been preserved, and post holes which indicate what the structure of the roof must have been like are also still there. This means that a much greater view can be given into how people lived in these places, as well as one of the most accurate depictions of huts like these anywhere.