West Point officials found six coins and a commemorative medal inside a heavy, nearly 200-year-old time capsule.
During a ceremony on Monday, they had opened the box and at first found only chunks of dirt.
Archaeologist Paul Hudson says he's left with a lot of questions, and few answers.
Officials at US Military Academy West Point pulled only a handful of coins out of a large, nearly 200-year-old time capsule that was hidden away inside a monument on campus.
And the somewhat underwhelming discovery has historians confused.
During a livestreamed ceremony on Monday, West Point staff appeared puzzled when they opened the large metal box — believed to be a time capsule placed in 1828 or 1829 — only to find chunks of dust inside.
But the next day, West Point archaeologist Paul Hudson did in fact find items stowed inside the one-square-foot box: six coins and a medal commemorating the completion of the Eerie Canal in 1826.
The box had been discovered inside a campus monument dedicated to Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Revolutionary War patriot, during renovations earlier this year. Historians had hoped it would contain more historically significant items.
Hudson said the coins — a Liberty dollar coin from 1800, a 50-cent coin from 1828, a 25-cent coin from 1818, a 10-cent coin from 1827, a 5-cent coin from 1795, and a 1-cent coin from 1827 — helped answer the question of when the time capsule was placed in the monument.
Hudson said he was excited the box turned out not to be completely empty, but finding only coins puzzled him.
"So it is a little perplexing again that we have this enormous box even with the coins in it," Hudson told Insider. "It answers one question for us, which is when was this put in, but it also raises a lot of other ones."
Questions, he said, like why put such small objects in such a big box? And, what else could have been in the box? Why did they choose coins from these particular years? Were there letters or newspapers in the box that decomposed? Was the Eerie Canal medal a "random memento," or did they think it somehow represented Kosciuszko?
"My best guess at this point is that [the coins were] just simply supposed to be representative of their time, representative of what was important to them at that time," Hudson told Insider.
He said he's continuing to do testing on the sediment inside the box, in hopes of discovering remnants of paper or other organic items that may have disintegrated over time.
"I would say anything is possible," Hudson said. "There's a little bit more of this story that we can tell."
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