Archaeology mystery solved as 130-year-old 'time capsule' found under US monument

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Blue Peter hosts dig up the 1984 time capsule in 2000

The monument was taken down after George Floyd protests. Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam tweeted pictures of a box being removed from the site in Richmond and said conservators are now studying the fascinating artefact. He wrote: “They found it! This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for.”  


According to a press release from the governor’s office, historical records indicate that “37 Richmond residents, organisations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule, many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy”.

Mr Northam said that the box would not be opened yet.

But it was not initially very clear what kind of condition any contents may be in.

The quest to uncover the capsule has lasted for months.

There have been many contemporaneous accounts that have suggested it was placed during a cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1887 and was attended by thousands of people.

Time capsule

A time 130-year-old time capsule was found in a US monument (Image: Virginia Governor/AFP/Getty Images)

Time capsule

“They found it! This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for.” (Image: Virginia Governor/AFP/Getty Images)

Various accounts have detailed its array of donated artefacts, which include Confederate memorabilia.

And based on historical records, some have also speculated that a rare photo of President Abraham Lincoln might be contained in the time capsule.

Dale Brumfield, a local historian and author in Richmond, said: “I think it will be recovered as they remove the foundation.

“And then we’ll finally get a chance to see what in the devil that picture of Abraham Lincoln really is.”

Earlier this month, a time capsule was found embedded in a granite block when crews were dismantling the pedestal that once held a statue of Gen Robert E Lee.

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Time capsule

The main theory was that the lead box was left by someone who oversaw the monument’s construction (Image: @GovernorVA via Twitter)

Some initially thought that this time capsule was the one that may have been placed there in 1887.

But after hours were spent prying the box open by state conservators, they did not find what they expected as there were no trove of objects related to the Confederacy.

What they found instead was just a few waterlogged books, a silver coin and an envelope with some papers.

Last week, the main theory was that the lead box was left by someone, or several people, who oversaw the monument’s construction.

As of Monday, the hunt for the 1887 time capsule restarted.

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Workers unearthing time capsule

crews started to search for the time capsule by digging and removing some massive stones (Image: Getty )

Devon Henry, the contractor whose company was overseeing the removal, said the box was discovered inside a granite enclosure practically at ground level.

It was surrounded by construction materials, but workers pulled off the top of the granite enclosure to discover the box.

Mr Henry said it appeared to be made of copper and was sitting in water.

After the box was found, it was then covered in bubble wrap and transported by vehicle from the site for further analysis.

The Lee statue had a general sitting on a horse and was built on top of the pedestal in 1890 in the former capital of the Confederacy.

George Floyd protest by monument

The statue was removed after George Floyd protests (Image: Getty )

It was removed in September over a year after Mr Northam ordered it to be taken down after a surge of protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

But taking the statue down was no small feat.

The Lee statue’s removal was initially blocked by two lawsuits.

But then a ruling from the supreme court of Virginia in September signalled the all-clear for its removal.

After this, crews started to search for the time capsule by digging and removing some massive stones but failed to find it.

Mr Henry said it was discovered on Monday in the northeast corner of the pedestal, about 4ft (1.2 meters) below the area that first got searched.

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