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Oglethorpe University Archives
Oglethorpe University Archives

Oglethorpe University's 'Crypt of Civilization'

Oglethorpe University Archives
Oglethorpe University Archives

Time capsules tap into our fundamental desire not to be forgotten. The earliest example of an American time capsule is the one buried in Boston by Paul Revere and Sam Adams in 1795. The cigar-box-sized capsule was rediscovered and opened in January 2015, revealing coins, newspapers, and a plaque thought to have been engraved by Revere himself. Other famous examples include the Westinghouse time capsules buried at the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs in New York. Each bullet-shaped tube is about 90 inches long, 6.5 inches in diameter, and filled with small artifacts such as money, cigarettes, toys, and seeds.

And then there’s the Oglethorpe University time capsule in Atlanta, Georgia. Not content to simply bury a box or a tube, Oglethorpe and its then-president, Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, buried an entire room. Known as the Crypt of Civilization, the “capsule” was once a swimming pool and measures 20 feet long, 10 feet high, and 10 feet wide. Though its foundation was already waterproof, Jacobs had additional protective measures added, including a thick stainless steel door that was welded into place when the room was sealed on May 28, 1940.

Behind that door is a collection of items intended to “fulfill our archaeological duty,” in the words of Dr. Jacobs. Among the objects: 640,000+ pages of written material on microfilm, Lincoln Logs, Budweiser beer, dentures, male and female mannequins, aluminum foil, board games, dishes, Vaseline, a grapefruit corer, sewing materials, and a calculator. (You can find the complete inventory here.)

Judging from the list and the picture above, the Crypt's collection is reminiscent of a mediocre garage sale. But what we think is a bit mundane now will no doubt be fascinating to whoever unearths the room in 6177 years. Yes—Dr. Jacobs decreed that the room should remain closed for more than six thousand years. But why 6177 years exactly? Because the first known date in recorded history is 4241 BCE, 6177 years prior to when the Oglethorpe time capsule was conceived. Dr. Jacobs suggested giving his Crypt another 6177 years, which means it will be opened on May 28, 8113—assuming anyone’s around to find it.

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Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Finally Identify a 4000-Year-Old Lost City in Iraq
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

In 2016, archaeologists excavating in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age city near the modern village of Bassetki. It was large, and it appeared to have been occupied for more than 1000 years, from around 2200 to 1200 BCE. Ancient Mesopotamia, home to the earliest civilizations on Earth, had many cities. So which one was it?

The mystery remained until recently, when a language expert at the University of Heidelberg translated clay cuneiform tablets unearthed at the site in 2017. The archaeologists had discovered Mardaman, a once-important city mentioned in ancient texts, which had been thought lost to time.

The inscriptions were likely written around 1250 BCE when Mardaman (also called Mardama) was a part of the Assyrian Empire. According to the University of Tübingen archaeologists who unearthed the tablets, they describe the "administrative and commercial affairs" between the citizens of Mardaman and their Assyrian governor Assur-nasir. The account led the researchers to believe that the area where the tablets were recovered was once the governor's palace.

Excavation site in Iraq.
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

Situated on trade routes connecting Mesopotamia, Anatolia (modern Turkey), and Syria, Mardaman was a bustling commercial hub in its day. It was conquered and rebuilt several times, but after it was toppled by the Turukkaeans from the neighboring Zagros Mountains sometime in the 18th century BCE, it was never mentioned again in ancient texts. Experts had assumed that marked the end of Marmadan. This latest discovery shows that the city recovered from that dark period, and still existed 500 years later.

"The cuneiform texts and our findings from the excavations in Bassetki now make it clear that that was not the end," lead archeologist Peter Pfälzner said in a press statement. "The city existed continuously and achieved a final significance as a Middle Assyrian governor's seat between 1250 and 1200 BCE."

This lost chapter of history may never have been uncovered if the clay tablets were stored any other way. Archeologists found the 92 slabs in a pottery vessel that had been sealed with a thick layer of clay, perhaps to preserve the contents for future generations. The state in which they were found suggests they were stashed away shortly after the surrounding building was destroyed.

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Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
King Tut's Tomb Doesn't Contain Hidden Rooms After All
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images

When Howard Carter first entered King Tut's tomb in 1922, there was a lot to uncover. Unlike most royal tombs of the ancient Egyptian kings, Tut's had remained sealed and untouched for centuries, providing a pristine treasure trove for those who would eventually stumble upon it. Now, nearly a century later, archaeologists are accepting the idea that King Tut's tomb may have no more secrets left to reveal: New radar scans show that there are no hidden rooms beyond the main burial chamber, NBC News reports.

The theory that Tut's tomb contains secret rooms first emerged in 2015. British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves claimed that high-definition laser scans conducted by Japanese and American scientists hinted at the existence of a second tomb on the other side of the chamber's walls, and that the hidden tomb possibly belonged to Queen Nefertiti, Tutankhamun's stepmother. The theory sparked excitement in Egyptology circles, but its popularity was short-lived. Radar experts cast doubts on the research saying that what appeared to be a wall or a room could easily be a geologic feature. Archaeologists and Egyptologists began calling for more evidence.

The newest study on the matter will likely debunk the hidden tomb theory for good. According to findings by Italian researchers presented at the fourth International Tutankhamun Conference in Cairo, ground-penetrating radar shows conclusively that there are no hidden rooms or corridors adjacent to Tut's tomb. The new scan represents the most comprehensive radar survey of the area ever conducted.

Even without hidden rooms, Tut's tomb and the artifacts it contained make up one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. The public will be able to view 4500 of the young ruler's possessions when they go on display at a new museum in Cairo in 2022.

[h/t NBC News]

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