JAMES CITY, VA. -- A band of local archeologists has uncovered rare, 17th century artifacts from what may have been a tannery in Northampton County on the Eastern Shore, said a published report.

During a week of excavating, the archeologists found a well-preserved pine tool box, six leather shoes and pottery fragments, the Newport News Daily Press and Times Herald reported yesterday. The artifacts were found in a series of nine barrel wells uncovered by erosion and unusually high tides.

The archeologists, who were hired by the state Division of Historic Landmarks, are to display their finds Friday in Jamestown.

"It opens our eyes to the potential of the Eastern Shore" for historic sites, David Hazzard, a state archeologist, told the newspaper.

Though research is not complete, the archeologists say they think that the site may have been part of a 1600s tannery and that a large landowner named Stephen Carlton lived in the area from 1637 to 1654.

The nine barrel bottoms were uncovered in a row and probably were located 300 to 400 feet inland and were 15 feet deep.

"Having nine wells so close together is extremely unusual. It might suggest a craft industry that needs an inordinate amount of water, such as a tannery," said Nick Luccketti, director of the James River Institute for Archaeology, whose firm was hired to excavate the site.

The well-preserved artifacts -- three adult and three children's shoes -- are particularly valuable because they double the collection of 17th century shoes found at Jamestown, said the newspaper.

Other artifacts include the pine tool box, hoes and other metal tool fragments, and fragments of tobacco pipes and a wine bottle.

The wells, now apparently completely excavated, are termed an "orphan site" -- a historic site discovered shortly before it is to be destroyed, with little money available for work on the project.

The weeklong excavation of the wells cost about $2,500, funded by the state's annual salvage budget.

Hazzard said the site was discovered by accident while he was working on another salvage dig, about 15 miles away. The owner of the wells gave him a box of artifacts found on the beach, leading to further sleuthing, he said.