A muddy revelation of the mysterious West Point time capsule from the 1820s

  • By Holly Honderich
  • BBC News

57 minutes ago

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Watch: The first look inside a mysterious time capsule at a US military academy

Staff and students at West Point, the famed US military academy, gathered Monday for a supposedly historic moment: the opening of a mysterious 1820s time capsule discovered months ago at the base of a campus monument.

The event was livestreamed and began with pre-recorded remarks by Academy historian Jennifer Voigtschild, inviting the audience to “literally discover a piece of West Point history.” Cadets were filmed making their own predictions about the contents of the nearly 200-year-old lead box: an American flag, boots, or maybe a class ring.

But instead there was mud.

30 minutes earlier, an auditorium full of cadets had watched as Ms. Voigtschild led the school through the breathless buildup and invited some of West Point’s finest brass to the stage to celebrate the exciting moment.

In front of them, center stage, was the gray box – 30 x 30 x 33 cm (12 x 12 x 13 inches) – and two school staff wearing purple rubber gloves and white masks stood ready to reveal the contents.

The box had been found a few months earlier during the removal of a bronze statue of war hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Under the monument’s marble frontage was discovered the chest apparently placed there during the completion of the Statute in 1829.

“We suspect it is an artifact, or what we would today call a time capsule, that was placed there when the memorial was completed in 1829,” Ms. Voigtschild said on stage.

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The mud found in the box will now be carefully examined

But they were only guessing, she explained, because West Point researchers couldn’t find any evidence that there was a box, artifact, time capsule, or other object in the base of the Kosciuszko statue. And since the box was made of lead, an X-ray of the suspected time capsule showed only a few “anomalies” inside — a sign of something, though no one knew exactly what.

There was silence in the auditorium when the box was finally opened and the lid carefully prized open with a metal tool. The live stream’s camera zoomed in close, capturing the arduous effort. After opening it securely, an employee took a small flashlight and scanned the contents of the box.

“We’re not sure if it’s soil, mud or dust,” he said, later adding, “The box didn’t quite live up to expectations.”

Still, hope remains that West Point’s ancestors, centuries later, didn’t actually leave behind a chestful of dirt that might yet be found, and we’ll be carefully examining the ooze for special content.

“I’m sure some of our audience have questions for our various experts on stage?” said Ms. Voigtschild after the mud was found.


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Jennifer Adams

Dedicated news writer with a passion for truth and accuracy. Covering stories that impact lives.

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