A 4,000-year-old piece of decorated pottery and a scraper used to prepare animal hides have been found in Londonderry.
The Early Bronze Age artefacts were discovered under a car park in the Province’s second largest city.
The first find was a flint tool used to clean animal skins for the production of clothes. The second, a piece of pottery, was part of a large urn and possibly from a burial, experts said.
Stormont environment minister Mark H Durkan said: “This dig has moved the date of the earliest occupation within the area of the Walled City back thousands of years.”
It was found in an area adjacent to the historic city walls and St Augustine’s Church.
“These Early Bronze Age finds are fantastic,” said Mr Durkan.
The dig by archaeologists will continue until the middle of next month.
The fieldwork has already uncovered human burials from the 17th century which appear to represent just one phase of burial and may be early settlers interred close to an existing medieval church.
One man was a pipe smoker because there is a groove worn in his upper front teeth from clenching a pipe. Another may be a clergyman and a double interment nearby could hold the remains of a man and wife.
Archaeologists are this week also discovering evidence of the community established by Sir Henry Docwra in 1600 during the conquest of Ireland by Britain.
The dig will be open to the public this Saturday between 10am and 3pm.
The excavation is surrounded by low fencing from which the dig can be viewed by visitors each day from 9am to 4.30pm.
Mr Durkan, who represents the SDLP at the Assembly, praised an Ulster Unionist ministerial colleague for helping facilitate the dig extension.
“I have asked the team to stay on for another two weeks and I would like to take this opportunity to thank [Regional Development] Minister, Danny Kennedy for granting the extension to this dig and his department’s Roads Service for their kind cooperation in allowing us access to the dig site.”
Mr Durkan said: “The burials are very important and will allow us a rare opportunity to study some of the early seventeenth century settler population at Derry.”