Not Just Silt: West Point's Time Capsule Actually Contained Some Historical Artifacts

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Six coins and a commemorative medal were recovered from a nearly 200-year-old time capsule that was opened at West Point’s Thayer Hall on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. (flicker.com)
Six coins and a commemorative medal were recovered from a nearly 200-year-old time capsule that was opened at West Point’s Thayer Hall on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023. (flicker.com)

The 194-year-old West Point time capsule that was opened this week and originally believed to contain only silt produced a handful of historical artifacts, the academy said Wednesday.

Six coins and a commemorative medal were found in the hardened silt at the bottom of the one-cubic-foot lead box that was pried open earlier this week. During a much-anticipated event at West Point's Thayer Hall on Monday, curators, archaeologists and historians appeared disappointed to find mostly hardened sediment in the capsule.

After analysis, the academy said that it found five coins of varying worth and ages from the 1800s. Another coin, a 5-cent piece, was from 1795, and a nearly two-inch Erie Canal commemorative medal from 1826 emerged from the gray, crusty box as well.

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"The box didn't quite meet expectations," Paul Hudson, West Point's archaeologist, said to the crowd as he removed shards of fragmented sediment from the box during the opening Monday. While disappointed, the experts on stage said they would sift through the contents to see whether there was anything of historical interest caked to the bottom.

"We don't want to think that they went to all the trouble to put this box in the monument and not put anything in it," Hudson added.

The complete list of items removed from the box were:

    The time capsule was discovered in May when engineers and public works officials were renovating the statue of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish-born general who helped fortify the academy during the American Revolution.

    Following its discovery, administrators and students built much hype around the box. A panel of historians was invited to speculate on its contents, but they did not get the chance to do so Monday.

    "This is an incredible story that involves so many of West Point's heroes, and many of them are the Army's and our nation's heroes," West Point's dean, Brig. Gen. Shane Reeves, said at the event.

    "We should reflect upon and be inspired by our history to pause and realize we have the immense honor and responsibility to continue the legacy that Kosciuszko started, and that West Point continues to live up to his vision from so long ago," Reeves added.

    -- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

    Related: West Point Opens 200-Year-Old Time Capsule and Finds ... Silt?

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