It all began for us with a benchmark! The presence of flints locally had been known for some time. Farmers were aware of them in the fields, and in the 1930s, Hilda Paterson had been collecting them from Birkwood, near Banchory, and neighbouring fields (H Paterson and A Lacaille 1936). Dr John Grieve, in the early 1970s, recorded the locations of flint scatters in several areas. However, we knew nothing about all this, until James Kenworthy knocked on our door. He introduced himself and asked if he could use the bench mark on our house for surveying purposes, as he was directing an excavation in one of the nearby fields. We didn’t know we had a benchmark on our house, but we did locate it eventually behind a shrub! James Kenworthy’s Excavation at Nethermills After examining John Grieve’s collections, James had chosen the site in one of the fields at Nethermills Farm for further investigation. The excavation took place over four years (1978-81). I worked as a volunteer, mostly doing preliminary cataloguing of the flints with Alan Russel under the tutelage of James. Our children went down most evenings after school to help with washing flints and the wet-sieving. I also worked as a volunteer on the Balbridie excavation (I Ralston and N Reynolds 1977 - 1980). Approximately 30,000 flints were found. Most were waste pieces from the manufacture of tools from the flint pebbles. Cores were present together with scrapers and ‘microliths’ small worked pieces, characteristic of the Mesolithic, for making composite tools. An ‘Interim Report’ was produced summarising the work done in 1978-80, and privately circulated, but James never published the full account. Encouraged by James, our children and I went fieldwalking (1978-81) and collected about 400 flints including an Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead picked up by Dinkar Sabnis (jun). This collection was passed over to James before we left for Dinkar’s sabbatical year in Australia. After a gap of over 20 years, we met up with James again during the excavation of Warrenfield, near Crathes Castle. As a result, Dinkar and I joined OFARS and became involved with resistivity and fieldwalking near Kildrummy.



Uncovering one of the largest Mesolithic Sites in the UK

In 2000 a group of local archaeologists got together and formed the OVER FIFTIES ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH SOCIETY, with the following aims: Carrying out high quality field-work in the North East Encouraging interest in the archaeology of the area Supporting other non-professionals who wish to do the same by giving advice and training Assisting in research projects being carried out by other bodies. Providing information for archaeological recording centres. This somewhat tongue in cheek name became generally known as OFARS. With the help of a grant and private donations, surveying and resistivity equipment were bought and later a plane-table, together with other equipment. Site visits were organized and various projects were undertaken. However, as a younger generation was showing interest, and with the advent of NESAE (NE Scotland Archaeological Exchange on Facebook) the name was changed and the society reconstituted as NESARS (North East Scotland Archaeological Research Society) in March 2012. Now, sadly, NESARS has come to an end, and although the Facebook page is being continued, the website will be closed down soon after this Crathes report is published online.
The OFARS Project
On hearing that Dinkar and I had been fieldwalking, with OFARS, one of our grandchildren, 8 year-old Jovi Fawcett, asked if she could go fieldwalking too. After first checking a neighbouring field, we took her along, for a second brief look. As so many flints were exposed, we contacted James, and these preliminary sessions turned into a full scale project at Crathes, under the auspices of OFARS. The information from James, our own personal fieldwalking and the grid reference points given by J Grieve in no way prepared us for the extensive area covered by the scatter, or for the intensity of some areas.
A faithful copy by Dinkar Sabnis of James’ Interim Report, can be accessed from the link as a pdf.  (Sorry, not yet linked!)  A final report with the flint analysis by Torben Ballin has now been produced by Caroline Wickham-Jones et al. 2016.
Plane table at Kinnaird
Resistivity near Kildrummy
References for Background page Hilda M. Leslie Paterson, F.S.A. Scot., and A.D. Lacaille, F.S.A, Scot. Banchory microliths. PSAS 11 May 1936. Pages 421-434 (A short introduction by H Paterson, followed by ‘Comments on the artefacts’ by A. Lacaille, with some beautiful drawings). James B Kenworthy. Interim Report 1981. Nethermills Farm, Crathes. Excavations 1978 - 1980. Excavation of a Mesolithic settlement site at Nethermills Farm, Crathes, near Banchory, Grampian. 1978 - 1980: Interim Statement. Caroline R Wickham-Jones, James B Kenworthy, Aoife Gould, Gavin MacGregor and Gordon Noble. Archaeological excavations at Nethermills Farm, Deeside, 1978 - 1981. PSAS 2016 Vol. 146. Pages 7 - 55 (Includes a contribution by Heather M Sabnis regarding the OFARS fieldwalking at Crathes.)
© Copyright 2019 Heather M Sabnis