Thursday Dec 23, 2021
WASHINGTON: A time capsule buried 130 years ago in the base of a statue of a Confederate general was opened on Wednesday, revealing several water-logged books and other artefacts.
The bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, was taken down in September in Richmond, the Virginia city that was the capital of the South during the bloody 1861-65 conflict.
Unveiled in 1890, the towering figure of Lee mounted on a horse is among hundreds of Confederate monuments in the United States that are widely considered symbols of racism.
Once the sculpture was carted away in pieces, work crews began a search of the 40-foot-tall (12-meter) granite pedestal for a time capsule believed to be hidden in a cornerstone of the base in 1887.
They abandoned the search after several days but discovered the time capsule last week while dismantling the pedestal and took it to the Department of Historical Resources in Richmond to be opened.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ceremoniously lifted the lid off of the shoebox-sized box on Wednesday after conservators spent several hours scraping away at the lead and mortar sealing the container.
According to an 1887 newspaper article, the time capsule contained relics from the Civil War such as buttons and bullets, Confederate currency, maps, a Bible, a picture of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln in his coffin and other items.
The box opened on Wednesday contained three books, a cloth envelope with a photograph and a coin of unknown origin. The books, envelope and photo had all suffered water damage.
One of the books was the 1875 American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, a guide for astronomers, surveyors and navigators.
Another, however, appeared to be a book published in 1889, two years after the time capsule was reportedly buried, leading to speculation there may be another time capsule hidden in the pedestal.
Lee's statue in Richmond became the focus of protests for racial justice last year following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white police officer in Minnesota.
During the Civil War, the Confederate South seceded from the United States and fought to maintain slavery, which the rest of the country had abolished.