Uncovering one of the largest Mesolithic Sites in the UK

Field-walking was carried out after ploughing and after the soil had been weathered. The soil does need to be ‘weathered’. Heavy rain exposes the flints by washing away finer-grained material. The flints also show up better if they are wet. Walking a newly ploughed field may show little or no lithic material, and could give a very wrong assessment. We know this from experience. Notes made by Roger Daly on John Grieve’s collections mention that he fieldwalked after heavy rain. Use of hand-held GPS During fieldwalking with OFARS at Kinclune, James Kenworthy introduced us to the use of hand-held GPS for recording the grid reference of each find. This method was initiated by him in 2003 at Gory Hill, and we employed the same method at Crathes. As the scatters were quite intensive over large parts of the area we found it more efficient for each person to have their own GPS, although this was not always possible. The different GPSs were accurate to 2-3m and correlated well. Grid references were taken along the edges of all the fields walked. I also took GRs along the higher and lower areas of NM 3 in an attempt to give an approximation of possible river braiding. We think using hand-held GPS is a very effective and simple fieldwalking method for showing the spread and intensity of flint scatters in plough-soil and therefore to be recommended and ideal for amateurs. Vicki Cummings (2010) used hand-held GPS in a similar manner to us and also advocates this method. The grid references could then be used to compile 10m x 10m squares and calculate the total number of lithics in each square.
Recording I used Microsoft Excel for the cataloguing and recording of attributes, the lithics scatterplots and concentration charts. Scatterplots The scatterplots, using the Excel ‘Scatter chart’, were compiled directly from the grid references (y axis: Northings; x axis; Eastings). This is very quick and useful method for indicating the spread over the area covered. However, this does not give an accurate representation of numbers, as finds with the same grid reference will show as only one 'find-point' on the chart. It can also be used for more specific tasks such as showing the locations of cores (for example) over the area, or even finds from 1 person's 'walk' on a particular day. Concentration charts The concentration charts were plotted as the number of flints per 10m x 10m square, as we felt this gave us a good picture of the area taking into account the accuracy of the GPS and the fact that the flints were not in situ . The totals per square were calculated by summing the numbers of lithics found at each relevant grid reference. Comparison of scatterplots and concentration charts As mentioned above, the scatterplots do not give an accurate representation of numbers, whereas the concentration charts represent the actual numbers found per 10mx10m square. The more intense the scatter, the more the discrepancy increases (see the figure below).
752 . 758 749 750 751 Eastings:  NO 60-9 70-9 80-9 90-9 00-9 10-9 20-9 30-9 40-9 50-9 60-9 70-9 80-9 90-9 00-9 10-9 20-9 30-9 40-9 50-9 60-9 70-9 80-9 90-9 00-9 10-9 20-9 30-9 40-9 50-9 60-9 70-9 80-9 90-9 00-9 Eastings:  NO 1 0 1 0 2 0 3 2 2 1 1 1 2 3 4 7 6 6 17 32 68 117 93 83 30 27 26 15 25 10 24 18 20 9 8 1 0 1 0 1 0 3 2 2 1 1 1 2 3 4 4 4 5 11 20 29 41 38 35 11 16 18 12 16 6 17 12 13 7 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Number of  flints Number of GRs Square number 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 Number per 10m x 10m square Square no.  West - East (see chart above) Grid references Lithics
Figure The total number of flints and the number of grid references per each 10mx10m square along a transect from NM 1, 2008: Northings 96 (check) and Eastings 75860 - 75209.
Table: Brief summary of fields and areas walked
At 2m apart
>2m apart
Preliminary: W and S edges
W and S edges, extending further into the field
Some line walking in rest of field
NM 1
N half of field, including terrace
S half of field
NM 1
Part of intensive area in N half of field
NM 2
Brief survey along the terrace; unweathered soil
NM 2
Most of the terrace and adjacent area
N bank, ridge and part of S half of the field
NM 2
Terrace and adjacent areas including N bank
N and S parts of the field
NM 2
Brief walk through East end of terrace
NM 3
All the field except N end and extreme S edge
N end of field
NM 4
S W corner, W edge, and narrow strip along S edge; also part near NW corner
Some very brief line walking over rest of field
NM 5
Very brief survey round edges and across diagonal
Areas walked Fieldwalking in the 1980s had given us some idea of scatter locations; some line-walking to and from the strips to be investigated systematically added to this information. Walking at 2m apart was mainly focussed on the terrace and adjacent areas. Other areas were covered less intensively. The table below gives an indication of the areas walked during the five year survey. Details of the areas investigated are included with the relevant concentration charts, and a diary of of the fieldwalking with numbers of flints
OFARS members field-walking in NM 1 along the middle terrace; the bank of the upper terrace is the other side of the wall (top right) in NM 1A
Fieldwalking methods Systematic fieldwalking is recommended to enable comparisons to be made with other collections. Various method can be used, such as line walking, measured areas, total collection. We opted for total collection, following James’ procedure using hand-held GPS, and walking 2m apart using furrows as guidelines wherever possible. Each flint was individually bagged and, to save time, labelled with just the GR co-ordinates and finder's initials and kept by the finder. Where flints were within 1m of each other they were put into the same bag. Afterwards, at the end of each session, finders were each allocated a larger bag, labelled with the date, site, field number and his/her initials to contain their finds. Later, I rinsed the finds (many were muddy), briefly looked at them, and replaced them in their bags, transferring any ‘extras’ to their own individual bags. All the relevant information (i.e. site, field no., GR, date and finder’s initials) was added to each bag where necessary.
Photo: P Fawcett
Select the buttons below to view the fieldwalking progression through NM 1
26 Jan - 2 Feb 26 Jan - 2 Feb 6 Feb 6 Feb 10 Feb 10 Feb 16 Feb 16 Feb 17 Feb 17 Feb 11 Mar 11 Mar
NM 1, with NM 1A bottom right. Photo: P Fawcett
NB Typing error: the top left grid reference should of course be 748.
Reference Vicki Cummings (2010) A view from the outside: some thoughts on the research priorities for Mesolithic and Neolithic studies in Britain and Ireland (Methodologies). ‘LIthics, Journal of the Lithic Studies Society Volume 32 page 72.
© Copyright 2019 Heather M Sabnis