CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Archaeologists digging at the site of a planned $75 million International African American Museum in Charleston think they have found evidence of the old wharf where tens of thousands of enslaved Africans set foot in North America.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports (http://bit.ly/1B5bFSi ) that researchers working with Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting have found timbers and bricks thought to have been part of a waterfront wharf and warehouse.

The items were uncovered during a preliminary study of the museum site.

The artifacts are thought to have been part of a wharf built by Revolutionary War patriot Christopher Gadsden. It's estimated that as many as 40 percent of African slaves brought to the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries walked across it.

From 1803 to 1807, the final years of the international slave trade, more than 70,000 enslaved Africans were brought to the wharf at a time when Charleston's population was only 20,000.

The first slaves arrived in Charleston in 1670, the same year the Carolina colony was founded.

A draft of the results of the $17,000 initial study at the museum site released last week describes how archaeologists dug three trenches at the site. They found bricks from the wall of a warehouse and fragments of timbers thought to come from the framing of the historic wharf.

"We believe these are actual elements of Gadsden's Wharf. It's huge for a preliminary first dig," said Felicia Easterlin, the museum's program manager.

She said remnants of the wharf or the warehouse were found in all three trenches.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. has said he hopes the money will be in place by early 2016 so construction of the museum can begin. If that schedule holds, the museum should open in 2018.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com