A search along the banks of the Exploits River near Grand Falls-Windsor for remnants of Beothuk settlements dating back 200 years is proving more successful than expected.

The area hasn't been assessed since the 1960s, and researchers weren't sure what they would find this week.

Laurie McLean, an archeologist conducting research in the area, said he and his survey assistant have come across locations that had been previously undiscovered.

"On the first day we found a new house pit that we hadn't seen before, that no one had seen before actually, and we found possibly another house pit," McLean said.

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Laurie McLean, the archeologist conducting the survey, says there is a lot that can be learned about the now-extinct civilization from studying their findings. (CBC)

They've already documented 12 house pits on a small island, and are systematically combing the rest of the area.

Don Pelley, McLean's survey assistant, said with 150 Beothuk sites along the river, it's like connecting dots to piece together the history.

"Everything you do, you're adding more dots. How long it's going to take is still a mystery, but I think eventually the Beothuk story will unfold," Pelley said.

Preliminary digs on the island have turned up remnants of fires, charcoal flakes and caribou bones. The last survey mentioned a 12-metre-long communal campfire.

McLean said there is a lot to be learned from their findings.

"Were they made by three or four families? Does the style of the stuff we're finding here represent one or two individuals, that this is their style of building a house?" he said.

"There's a lot of questions like that you can address with an in-depth understanding of a number of Beothuk houses along the Exploits River."

McLean and Pelley will wrap up their work at the site early next week. They hope to pick up where they left off next year, but say that will depend on whether or not they receive funding from the provincial government.