07/18/2015 02:17 EDT | Updated 07/18/2016 05:59 EDT

Turcot Interchange construction work unearths 18th century artifacts

Buried beneath layers of dirt and asphalt, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an old village at the site of the new Turcot Interchange.

Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries was a small settlement on the outskirts of Montreal in the 18th and 19th century.

In the past few months, crews with Transport Quebec have found dozens of artifacts dating back to that period.

"They found bottles, they found tools that were used to work on animal skins," said Martin Girard, a spokesperson with Transport Quebec.

Dinu Bumbaru, policy director with Heritage Montreal, an independent non-profit, said the area was once an important site for leather production.

"It was where back in the 1780s there was this kind of small traditional artisan industry, you know, working with leather was always very important because of the horses," Bumbaru said.

Over time, with the opening of the Lachine Canal, the area evolved from an "artisan-scale tannery" into one featuring machines and "industrial processes," he said.

"At some point near the turn of the 20th century, the area was paved over and turned into a rail yard. Then of course in the 1960s, they built the Turcot Interchange," Bumbaru said.

Bumbaru says the site offers an important window into the city's past and that it needs to be preserved in some way.

It will be up to Quebec's Ministry of Culture to determine whether the artifacts will be made available for the public to see.

For now, archeologists will keep exploring the area, taking pictures of the foundations, and cataloguing the artifacts