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Mesolithic Life Comes Alive in York! ‘Britain’s Oldest House’ to be Built in Museum Gardens 

Date: 10 July 2024


Mesolithic Life Comes Alive in York! 

‘Britain’s Oldest House’ to be Built in Museum Gardens 

7 August to 1 September 2024 

Just what is it like to build and live in a Mesolithic House? 11,000 years ago our ancestors were not just surviving, they were thriving and this summer, visitors to York’s Museum Gardens can see the challenges of building a Mesolithic house for themselves and find out more about these ancient people’s lives from the exhibition in the Yorkshire Museum. 

From 7 August, a team from the York Museums Trust and the University of York, and experts in ancient technology and archaeology, will build a Mesolithic house using evidence gleaned from the world famous prehistoric archaeological site at Star Carr in Yorkshire.  One of the most important discoveries at the site was the oldest known house in Britain. The house construction in the Museum gardens will be based on evidence from the archaeological site using techniques and materials, such as stone tools and plant materials which would have been used 11,000 years ago.  Professor Nicky Milner, Head of Archaeology, and Dr Jess Bates, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of York, are spearheading the project with experts Diederik Pomstra and Leo Wolterbeek and support from Dr Adam Parker, Curator of Archaeology at York Museums Trust. This project has been made possible by funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.  


Dr Adam Parker says: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to experience a Mesolithic build, using evidence based information such as the tools and the resources, much of which we are showing in the Museum. Taking our lead from Star Carr, we are able to harness and harvest materials from the environment that will be similar to the components these people utilised all those years ago. It’s a chance for visitors to see the process and the results and we’re expecting everyone to get very hands on with the making of matting and twine. Displays at the Yorkshire Museum includes the original implements and items left behind from the lives that unfolded there. It’s a chance to get to know and understand a relatively unknown period of history in a fun and open way for all ages. Come and see for yourself!” 

Professor Nicky Milner, says “We are really excited to be working with experts in the Museum Gardens to replicate the earliest known structures in Britain. It is a rare opportunity to really demonstrate the immense skill and ingenuity of Mesolithic people. We hope it will transport visitors back to life in North Yorkshire over 11,000 years ago!” 

The build accompanies the exhibition inside the Yorkshire Museum on ‘Life After the Ice’ where visitors can learn more about the incredible site of Star Carr and see the amazing real-life tools, objects and ritual artefacts found there. The house will be built by 11 August, with the build remaining in place until 1 September.   


From 7-11 August associated activities hosted by the University of York will also take place, with a series of hands-on opportunities, as well as daily short talks and on-site demonstrations from some of the team who excavated Star Carr.  Visitors will be able to handle replica objects used as part of daily activity in the Mesolithic and learn more about the people who lived at Star Carr. 



The Mesolithic build takes place in front of the Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York, YO1 7FR (entrances on Lendal Bridge and Marygate) from Wednesday 7 August to Sunday 11 August 2024, the site is open every day 10am to 4pm – please check website ahead in case of closure due to weather. All activities are free and will take place in the marquee next to the Mesolithic Hut on the main lawn outside the Yorkshire Museum. Participating children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. 

Throughout the summer holidays get creative and be inspired by the stories and objects of Star Carr in Museum Gardens alongside the specially built Mesolithic Hut. 


Creative Family Wednesdays: Star Carr Special! 

Wednesdays 7, 14, 21 and 28 August 

10:30am – 3:30pm drop in anytime (no booking required) 

Wednesdays during the school holidays for artist run drop-in creative workshops inspired by the Star Carr exhibition delivered outdoors in Museum Gardens next to the Mesolithic Hut. (No need to book.) 


Star Carr Storytelling 

Thursdays 15, 22 and 29 August 

10:30-11:15am, 11:30am-12:15pm, 2:00-2:45pm and 3:00-3.45pm (No need to book.) 

Join Hoglet’s Theatre Company for an adventure into the prehistoric world of Star Carr in these immersive, outdoor story-telling sessions suitable for all the family. Timed sessions will take place, throughout the day next to the Mesolithic Hut. 



Star Carr Skills Weekend 

Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 August 

10:30-4pm drop-in sessions, times advertised on the day (no booking required) 

Ever wondered how you can turn nettles into twine or shale into decorative pendants? Join expert Chris Woodland as he introduces you to Mesolithic craftsmanship using natural materials and learn the skills needed for everyday life at Star Carr. 


Into Wilderness Bushcraft Adventures 

Friday 30 August, Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September 

10:30-4pm drop-in sessions throughout the day (no booking required) 

Experience wild Britain from an Aboriginal bushcraft perspective and immerse yourself in the Mesolithic in these hands-on workshops led by the team at Into Wilderness.