A perfectly preserved pair of glass drinking cups was found when the grave of an Anglo-Saxon warrior was unearthed during building work on a new pub.
The burial place was one of more than 200 uncovered at a site in Sittingbourne, known as The Meads.
Other findings included swords, spears, shields, decorative beads and other jewellery, as well as fragments of clothing.
In all 2,500 objects were unearthed and they are now being cleaned and catalogued.
But instead of the work taking place in the bowels of the British Museum it is being carried out in shop fronts in Sittingbourne town centre – next door to the burial site itself.
“This is really unique,” said Andrew Richardson of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, who supervised the excavations.
“Instead of the work being carried out behind closed doors it is being done in a place where visitors are welcome to come and see what is taking place.
“The cleaning work is being done by volunteers who are working under expert supervision.”
As well as cleaning soil and debris from the objects they will be scanned by an X-ray machine similar to that used by airport security officers to reveal hidden details.
A total of 229 Saxon graves were discovered along with four burial sites dating from the Bronze Age.
They were of men, women and children with a number having swords, spears and shields buried with them.
Several of the burial places were of high-ranking members of the Saxon ruling class, judging by the objects discovered with them.
Mr Richardson said: “The graves date from the 6th or 7th centuries when Kent was a kingdom, one of the wealthiest and most sophisticated in England.
“The king and his royal court would have travelled from place to place with Canterbury and Faversham both important centres.
“There have also been some other Saxon cemeteries uncovered in the Sittingbourne area, but these were found in the 19th century so this is the first of recent times.”
The site the graves were uncovered as is known as The Meads – which is also set to be the name of the pub being built by Marston’s Inns and Taverns.
KCC county archaeologist Lis Dyson said: “This gives us a fascinating insight into what life was like in this part of Kent 1,400 years ago.
“The presence of some very rich graves suggests that the area was important at the time the kingdom of Kent was emerging.”
Sittingbourne Heritage Museum recruited the team of 30 conservation volunteers who are carrying out the conservation work
The site was being cleared for a housing development and the pub when the accidental discovery was made last May. Work was stopped to allow for the archaeology dig.
Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out the excavation and is supervising the community science investigation with the help of expert conservator Dana Goodburn-Brown, from nearby Teynham, who has worked on Channel 4’s Time Team.
Come to the Forum shopping centre, next to Sittingbourne rail station, to see the discoveries and how they are being conserved by specialists and a team of local volunteers.
We will be there until January 2010,
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5.30pm.