Much of the find consists of rusted iron and old bones. But for the Americans at least, it is the equivalent of digging up King Arthur's Camelot, complete with round table.
For the 20,000 artefacts on display at the National Geographic Society in Washington were excavated from a site which was one of the cornerstones of U.S. history.
The items, from candlesticks to cannons, were gathered by archaeologists from the original wooden fort that marked Jamestown, Virginia, the first English settlement in America where Captain John Smith net Pocahontas.
The discovery of the remains on a small island in the James River 60 miles south of Chesapeake Bay, is considered sensational because historians had believed that the Jamestown fort and the land on which it was built were washed into the river by a huge flood 200 years ago.
"It would be difficult to think of a more significant find for this nation," said Dr William Kelso, the archaeologist in charge. "It takes us back to our roots."
The exhibition includes a signet ring adorned with a bird crest which belonged to William Strachey - whose account of his sea voyage to Virginia is believed to have been used by Shakespeare as a basis for The Tempest.
There is also the skeleton of a young man with a musket ball lodged in his right knee, while other bones are thought to be from a young woman - one of the only two female settlers in the colony's earliest days - who died at the fort between 1607 and 1610.
From the Daily Mail, London, Thursday, March 12, 1998