A seemingly empty time capsule recovered from a monument on the US Military Academy West Point campus flipped the script after its underwhelming reveal last Monday, August 28. Two days after a much-anticipated unboxing, live-streamed on YouTube, revealed nothing but silt, the academy announced that several 19th-century coins were later found beneath the layer of dirt that caked the bottom of the container.

Despite the negative press, West Point archaeologist Paul Hudson was certain that the 194-year-old time capsule had something in it. He brought the box and dried silt samples back to a lab to investigate further, and, sure enough, he unearthed five 19th-century coins, one 18th-century coin, and an 1826 commemorative medal.

The disappointing initial findings from the leaden time capsule during the August 28 unboxing event on West Point’s campus (photo by Christopher Hennen, USMA)

Among the discovered silver coins was a nickel from 1795, a Liberty dollar from 1800, a quarter from 1818, a penny and dime from 1827, and a half dollar from 1828. The commemorative medal celebrates the completion of the Erie Canal, which spans 363 miles and connects the Hudson River to Lake Erie.

The time capsule was hiding out in the marble base of an 1828 columnar monument of Polish general and engineer Tadeusz Kościuszko, who had helped to strengthen West Point’s original military fort during the American Revolutionary War. “The historical preservation process will continue,” West Point said in a press release.

West Point archaeologist Paul Hudson with the six recovered 18th- and 19th-century coins

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...