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Prince Charles was given a tour of the Cupids archeological site Tuesday, by chief archeologist Bill Gilbert. (CP)

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, began their first full day in Canada with a visit to the archeological site of what's believed to be the oldest English settlement in the country.

As a small crowd watched Tuesday, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall toured the archeological dig at Cupids on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, viewing the many artifacts on display.

The couple then went to Cupids United Church, which was filled with dignitaries, musical performers and residents.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams again welcomed Charles and Camilla to the province.

"We are especially pleased that your royal highnesses are today launching this tremendous year-long celebration of the 400th anniversary of England's first settlement in modern-day Canada," Williams said. "I can't imagine a more auspicious or appropriate start to this celebratory year than to have their royal highnesses and the prime minister and Mrs. Harper here with us today."

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Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, toured an historical site in Cupids, N.L., Tuesday morning. (CP)

After listening to a youth choir, Prince Charles told those gathered in the church that he and Camilla appreciated the musical welcome.

"It was a great treat for us and I can imagine how much rehearsal and practice has gone into it," Charles said.

He said as he toured the community, braving chilly winds, that he was struck by the region's geography.

"As we arrived in the community a few moments ago, I could not help but be struck by the rugged and imposing landscape … which frames this historic town," he said. "I found my thoughts turning to those early settlers arriving here in 1610, and to the Beothuk people who had already been here for many centuries.

"The story of Cupids is, in a very real sense, the story of Canada," he said. "They all came with a purpose, a dream to create something new, to build again and in the process to contribute to the great and vibrant tapestry which is the Canada of today."

Following the event, Charles shook hands with some people before heading to nearby Brigus, which is one of the oldest communities in North America, to visit the historic home of Capt. Bob Bartlett, an Arctic explorer who led a trek to the North Pole in 1909.

Earlier Tuesday, Cupids Mayor Ron Laracy told CBC News that the community of about 900 was excited about the visit.

"It's the first time it ever happened here in Cupids … so it's really good news for us," Laracy said.

The visit is "a real good kickoff" for the 400th anniversary celebrations the community is set to mark in 2010, he said.

Archeologists in the area are searching for evidence of the first settlers. About 144,000 artifacts have been uncovered at the site, said chief archeologist Bill Gilbert, who led the royal couple on the short  tour of the archeological dig.

Discoveries at the site include a dwelling, a storehouse, a blacksmith shop and a cemetery, believed to have been established after British merchant John Guy arrived at the location in 1610.

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Charles is also scheduled to open a housing project in St. John's, visit the Marine Institute and meet with young entrepreneurs.

Charles and Camilla arrived in St. John's on Monday for an 11-day tour of Canada.

This visit will be Charles's 16th tour of Canada and Camilla's first official visit.

Stops in 4 provinces

The royal couple's tour of the country comes at a time when a recent survey obtained last week by CBC News indicated that a majority of Canadians feel the constitutional monarchy is out of step with the times, and that only one-quarter agreed Prince Charles was ahead of the times.

The visit includes stops in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

Beginning Wednesday, the couple will visit Ontario, with stops in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara-on-the-Lake. They will meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty and tour Dundurn Castle in Hamilton and the Niagara College Teaching Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In British Columbia, Charles and Camilla will visit Victoria and Vancouver beginning Friday. In Victoria, they will meet Premier Gordon Campbell at the legislature. In Vancouver, their tour will include a visit to Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village on Saturday morning, a stop at a cancer care clinic and a seminar on sustainable development at Simon Fraser University.

During the last leg of the royal tour, the couple will visit Ottawa and Montreal. The couple will meet with Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, Harper and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff, followed by a meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

The couple's visit in eastern Ontario and Quebec will include the Cirque du Soleil and the Biodome in Montreal. The two will also be at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Remembrance Day and Rideau Hall for a tree-planting ceremony before departing on Nov. 12.

With files from The Canadian Press