Pottery shard unearths North America’s first French settlement

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One of the greatest archeological mysteries in Canadian history — the precise whereabouts of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s 1541 settlement near present-day Quebec City — has been solved after experts matched the shard of a broken plate found at suburban Cap Rouge with an identical, 465-year-old porcelain treasure held by the famed Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The startling discovery of Cartier’s short-lived Fort Charlesbourg-Royal, announced Friday by Quebec Premier Jean Charest and quickly hailed as the most important find in Canada since a 1,000-year-old Viking village was unearthed in northern Newfoundland in the early 1960s, is expected to shed light on many lingering questions about what exactly happened to North America’s earliest French settlement.

The fort was built during Cartier’s third and last voyage to Canada where the Cap Rouge River runs into the St. Lawrence.

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