Archeologists have unearthed a campsite thought to be more than 12,000 years old next to a stretch of highway near Fredericton, N.B., and the rare find could fill a critical gap in Canada’s Maritime history.

Evidence of the ancient encampment was first spotted two years ago by workers building a highway bypass. The province’s Department of Transportation issued a stop-work order and shifted construction to avoid disturbing the site.

Now, three weeks into the dig, a fully intact fire pit containing ancient charcoal, along with arrow heads and a stone tool for cleaning animal hides have been found among over 600 artifacts.

Brent Suttie, the provincial archeologist leading the 22 member team, says the ground underneath his tarps used to form the shores of a glacier lake larger than any in New Brunswick today.

“This gives us our only glimpse into what people were doing during this time period,” he told CTV Atlantic.

The painstaking process of sifting through the sandy dirt has been emotional for several of the workers who have long family histories in the region.

“Just to hold an artifact in your hand that you know that you’re the first person to hold in 13,000 years, you get goosebumps every single time, (from) ever singe artifact. That never goes away, that feeling,” said Shawna Goodall, a technician from the Tobique First Nation.

“My ancestors were all sitting around this beach shore, having a fire, fishing, camping,” said Tyson Wood. He grew up at St. Mary's First Nation just a few kilometres from the site. “It’s a great feeling.”

Suttie believes the site is between 11,600 and 12,200 years old, a key finding he says will give researchers a more complete timeline of the region’s history.

“We have a few sites down in the Pennfield area, and then we have very famous sites in Debert, Nova Scotia that dates to 11,600 years old. We don’t have anything between those two sites. This site just happens to fall within that,” he said.

The province has invested $30,000 in the project, which is expected to continue for another week. The area will be designated a protected archeological site after the team concludes their work and refills the site with dirt.

Officials say there could be even more artifacts under a newly-constructed bypass nearby. However, they remain hopeful that the clues they’ve found will lead them to other similar discoveries.