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Crews find second apparent 1887 time capsule under statue of Robert E Lee

Crews on Monday heralding the removal of a giant pedestal that once held a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee in Richmond found what appeared to be a second and long-sought time capsule, Virginia governor Ralph Northam said.

The governor tweeted photos of a box that was removed from the site and said restorers were studying the artifact.

‘They found it! This is probably the time capsule everyone has been looking for,” he tweeted.

The governor said the box would not be opened Monday. It was not immediately clear what state the content might be in.

The development marked the latest twist in a months-long search for the capsule, which, according to concurrent news reports, was placed during a cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1887 attended by thousands of people. News reports described the dozens of donated artifacts, including Confederate memorabilia. Based on historical records, some have also speculated that the capsule could contain a rare photo of the late President Abraham Lincoln.

Earlier this month, crews dismantling the pedestal found a time capsule embedded in a granite block that some initially believed had been placed in 1887. expected treasure of objects related to the Confederacy. Instead, curators pulled out a few soggy books, a silver coin, and an envelope with some papers.

Crews removing the pedestal that once held a statue of General Robert E Lee found a long-sought time capsule. Photo: Governor of Virginia/AFP/Getty Images

The prevailing theory last week was that the lead box was left behind by a person or persons who oversaw the monument’s construction.

The search for the 1887 time capsule resumed Monday.

Devon Henry, the contractor whose company oversaw the removal, said the box was found in a granite enclosure, roughly on the ground, surrounded by filler and other construction material. Workers ripped off the top of the granite fence to find the box, which appeared to be copper, sitting in the water, Henry said.

The box was then covered with bubble wrap and transported by vehicle from the site for further examination, he said.

The Lee statue, depicting the general on horseback, was placed on the towering plinth in 1890 in the former capital of the Confederacy. The September removal came more than a year after Northam ordered it in the wake of protests that broke out after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The removal of the Lee statue was blocked by two lawsuits until a Virginia Supreme Court ruling in September paved the way for its dismantling. Crews then searched for the time capsule, dug and removed some massive rocks, but could not find it.

Henry said it was found Monday in the northeast corner of the pedestal, about 1.2 meters below the area initially searched.

The Northam government initially planned to leave the pedestal in place but announced in early December that contractors would remove the behemoth, now covered in graffiti, and transfer the grassy roundabout that occupied it to the city of Richmond. . The administration has said it will be stored until “next steps” are determined.

Completion of the removal work at the site will likely take another week, Henry said.