As soon as he saw the dark gray stone, he knew it was special. "Something about it caught my eye," said Michael Q. Langland, who dipped the stone...

As soon as he saw the dark gray stone, he knew it was special.

“Something about it caught my eye,” said Michael Q. Langland, who dipped the stone in a puddle and held it to the sunlight. Patterns, etched by his Klallam ancestors, glinted.

The stone was one of more than 800 etched stones found in that ground, no two alike. Some tell a story or pass on a sacred teaching, such as how to turn a baby from a breech position or bless a pool of water before drinking. “Our first books,” some tribal members call them.

The stones are among the most intriguing of more than 10,000 artifacts found at the ancient Klallam settlement of Tse-whit-zen, the largest Indian village ever discovered in Washington.

The state Department of Transportation uncovered Tse-whit-zen in August 2003, while building a dry dock on the Port Angeles waterfront. After spending around $60 million — and finding 335 intact skeletons — the state abandoned the construction project.

But one of the department’s costliest mistakes has turned into an extraordinary find: Working side by side, archaeologists and tribal members have uncovered burials, the remains of many structures, and signs of human activity dating back at least 2,700 years.

Their discoveries are a panoramic view into our region’s past.