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Ancient history just under our feet

Beakers found at the Meads site
Beakers found at the Meads site

by Emma Grove

People are helping sort a host of
discoveries after an Anglo-Saxon burial ground with 229
graves was found under a site due to become housing and a
pub.

More than 2,500 precious objects have
been found on a dig at the Meads site in
Sittingbourne, including jewellery and weapons, and local
volunteers are now working to conserve the find.

The Community Science Investigation is
a joint initiative with Canterbury Archeological Trust (CAT), which
carried out the dig, AMTeC and Sittingbourne Heritage Museum, the
treasures are now on display in an exhibition at The Forum Shopping
Centre in Sittingbourne.

Opposite the exhibition, a team of
volunteers are working to uncover the rest of the finds. They have
been trained by experts to use microscopes and X-ray scanners to
conserve and identify the objects.

The dig took place between May and
December last year and finds manager of CAT, Andrew Richardson,
explained why local volunteers are being used.

He said: “We had thousands of objects
which are extremely hard to conserve. To get it all professionally
conserved would cost about £200,000 so we are using volunteers
under expert supervision.

“It is the first time it has been done
using volunteers and it gives people the chance to have hands on
involvement with their heritage."

Sorry, this video asset has been removed.

Watch a video interview
explaining the work in Sittingbourne

Mr Richardson said a team of
archeologists worked ahead of the builders once they realised the
significance of the site, although the find was not expected.

One of the most significant finds is a
perfectly preserved pair of drinking cups from a Saxon warrior’s
grave which were found by a local volunteer.

Mr Richardson added: “They were found
by Don Rudd, a volunteer for CAT who lives in Sittingbourne. He did
a really good job excavating them.”

Other finds included arrow-heads,
pottery made locally or imported from the continent, broaches and
beads made in France, Germany or Faversham and amethyst and amber
beads from the Mediterranean and the Baltic.

There were also some very wealthy graves
uncovered which suggests the area was important at the time the
kingdom of Kent was emerging.

For more on the dig and pictures, see your Sittingbourne
Messenger on Friday.

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