Soil samples have been gathered at a historic site in a bid to shed light on Deeside’s ancient settlers.
Archaeologists returned to Nethermills Farm in Crathes as part of a team of around 55 people, including university students and local volunteers.
The 988 acre field was last visited in the 1970s when a haul of significant objects was found – some thought to be from 12,000 years ago and the end of the last Ice Age.
Now, with advances in technology, archaeologist Ali Cameron hopes more accurate evidence can be gathered to date some items to within a few years.
Speaking to the Evening Express, Ali said: “This is a big site, it’s been known about for a long time.
“What we wanted to do is widen that out to look at other areas of the field and get an idea of how big this is.
“There is the potential that this is the biggest Mesolithic site in Britain.
“Agriculture has deteriorated the site but we think we have got some small archaeological features spread over the field.”
Stone tools, together with the remains of pits and post-holes in the area, indicated activity by groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers.
The team has collected soil samples over the weekend which will be sent off to labs for testing to find out if there are any organic remains which could be carbon-dated, including charcoal or hazlenut shells.
The hunter-gatherers would have collected thousands of nuts as a source of protein, storing them and discarding their shells.
Ali and her team have been digging around archaeological features on the site but admitted the team was “not sure” about whether they date back to the Mesolithic period from 8000-4000BC, immediately after the last Ice Age.
She said: “There’s nothing in the arc features which are telling us it’s a Mesolithic structure.
“We have to send the results away to find out if it is something or not.
“It will take a few months to do that. This is the start of quite an exciting time.”
Stone tool specialist Ann Clark said: “We’re basically testing the whole site to see if there is any archaeology surviving.
“We’ve got a lot of flints (tools) from the plough soil over the decades.
“We haven’t found anything solid but we’re thinking a lot of it has been ploughed away so what is left in the plough soil is the flints.
“Usually the flints are the only trace we have. We have been looking for charcoal and hazlenut that can be dated. This doesn’t require a very large sample.
“When this was excavated in the 1970s they wouldn’t have been able to get enough charcoal but now they can do it using a much smaller sample.”
The work is funded by Historic Environment Scotland, Aberdeen University and Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service.
Mesolithic Deeside, a group of archaeologists, students and local volunteers who have an interest in investigating the area along the River Dee, has also worked on the project.
The dig was expected to finish at around 4pm today.