Near one of the metropolitan area's busiest intersections, archeologists have discovered what they believe is an American Indian camp first used shortly after the time of Christ.

The site, just inside the Capital Beltway and north of Rte. 50 in Fairfax County, sits on part of the Chiles tract, a 334-acre parcel where offices, shops, homes and hotels are planned or under construction.

A team of amateur archeologists under the direction of county archeologist Mike Johnson began digging at the site in the late summer near the spot where surveying teams had unearthed crude pieces of pottery several years ago.

Johnson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to Sue Henry, another county archeologist, the artifacts date as far back as 200 A.D., although some of them are from about 900 A.D. Although most of the artifacts were broken, she said, "the information value is very high."

Daniel E. Crowley, an amateur archeologist who has worked closely with Johnson on the site, said the team of volunteers had dug six pits, each about one yard square.

He said the site probably was "a base camp where the Indians might come in and stay for considerable time." He said pottery at a dig site generally indicates that it was a homestead for families, and not just for hunting parties.

Crowley added that it is unusual to find a base camp of this sort so far from the Potomac River.

The dig, which Crowley said could continue until November, has not impeded development at the site. "They've worked around us," he said.

He said he is not certain whether or when the artifacts will be displayed. Much of the work now, he said, involves cataloging the objects that have been found.