Three First Nations teens surprised and delighted their trainers on Thursday when they discovered an ancient spear tip during a a one-day archaeology course at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The exercise was part of the First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program, run by Outland Camps, Confederation College and Lakehead. It gives teens hands-on job experience and training.

The training on Thursday was led by Lakehead anthropology professor Carney Matheson. After a morning in the classroom, the teens started digging small "test pits" along the river bank on the Lakehead campus.

"It's breaking news, it's a very exciting find," Matheson said shortly after the piece was discovered. "There are not a lot of them found in Thunder Bay."

'Older than the pyramids'

The copper-socketted spear tip is natural copper that was beaten down into a small tip that was hafted onto a piece of wood and would have been used on a spear, he said. Copper artifacts typically date back thousands of years.

Copper spear point

The copper-socketed spear tip broke in two when the teens were digging it out of the ground. It's a rare find in Thunder Bay that could be thousands of years old. (Jody Porter/CBC)

"We thought we weren't going to find anything really special but we started digging and we found this piece of copper," Gavin Echum said. "We didn't know what it was so we went and asked the main guy and he said it's a piece of history that could be older than the pyramids."

"It's a pretty good feeling," he said.

Cole Biedrzycki said it was exciting to tell his friends about the find, "just so I can make them jealous, because we're the only ones that actually found a copper head here."

Lakehead's anthropology department has been working the site throughout the summer. Matheson said the students' work will help locate and date areas of occupation.

It may also help set a career path for Bart Hardy, 17, the third member of the team that found the spear tip.

"I knew what archaeology was because my brother was doing that kind of stuff but I found this pretty cool today," he said.