FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

The discovery of historical artifacts in Fort Lauderdale has prompted an archaeologist to call for a more extensive dig to find more of South Florida's past.

When archaeologists discovered musket balls, buttons, pipes and pottery relics from Fort Lauderdale's past at a construction site along Fort Lauderdale Beach last year, it did not cause historical hysteria. People knew the third Fort Lauderdale was once there, but things have changed now that the artifacts have been analyzed.

"This is a very important discovery," said Bob Carr, director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy. "This is a very important discovery. What we thought at first was a routine project ended up revealing a major part of Fort Lauderdale's most historic site.

Carr said wooden posts from the fort have survived for more than 180 years.

"This is the oldest structural elements we have of any building in Fort Lauderdale. They date from the 1830s. They are Dade County pine," Carr said.

The new seawall has been built, the pavers are down and there is no evidence that this is an historical place now, except for a small plaque stating that the third Fort Lauderdale was there.

Historians have only renderings and models of what they think the fort looked like.

"It would be amazing if you could find the footprint of the fort," said Christopher Barfield, curator at the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society.

Historians say the past should be explored.

"Yes, we know it is there. It should be preserved. It should be a cultural landmark," said Barfield.

Carr thinks a bigger dig should be commissioned and said the dig could be a tourist attraction.

"We would set up an area, a safe area for viewing. We would have somebody there to answer questions," he said. "The whole idea is that the public and visitors would be able to interact with this project."

Remains of Native Americans and soldiers who lived at the fort could also be buried under the beach.

"Somewhere out there, there are gravesites, which is one more reason why the site has to be protected. We have to make sure people don't go out there, the curious, even the well-intended, and start digging and look for things to collect," Carr said.

Carr said the dig would cost about $50,000.

The mayor said there is no extra money in the budget right now, so officials are looking for alternative funding, including the idea of a controlled tourist attraction.