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SANDPOINT, Idaho — An archaeological dig conducted ahead of a northern Idaho highway project has uncovered nearly 600,000 artifacts from the late 1800s to early 1900s at Sandpoint’s original town site.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reported that on Friday officials unveiled some of the artifacts found during the dig conducted from 2005 to 2008. The dig preceded the $100 million Highway 95 realignment project called the Sand Creek Byway.

“It’s pretty unique,” said Bob Weaver of The Environmental History, a Seattle company that oversaw the project. “It’s unique in the sense of what we’ve found, but it’s also unique in the sense of how much we essentially were allowed to find. You don’t get broad-brush collections like this very often.”

The dig turned up hundreds of bottles, including a hundred empty Champagne splits, as well as patent-medicine bottles. Hair combs, buttons, toys, beads, a gun and items from a Chinese laundry also were found.

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“There’s a whole bunch of stories still to tell,” Weaver said. “This is a collection that will generate master’s theses down at the University of Idaho for years to come.”

The artifacts are owned by the state, but are on long-term loan to the Bonner County Historical Society & Museum. Officials said artifacts on display will be changed occasionally to keep things fresh.

The dig centered on Sandpoint’s original town site on the Sand Creek peninsula. The early town had the Humbird Lumber blacksmith and machine shop. Another building was occupied by Chinese laborers. The site also included the city’s red-light district, known as the restricted district.

Weaver said the dig could give hints about Humbird Lumber and the rise of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League.

“You’ve got an interesting transition going on in Sandpoint where you really do see it all of a sudden becoming a family community, and women gaining power and starting to clean up the joint,” Weaver said.

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