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A Cannon Ball and Three Tins Found Inside Calhoun Monument Time Capsule

A rusty cannon ball and three tins found inside time capsule buried beneath the John C. Calhoun monument that once stood in Charleston's Marion Square.  The stone capsule is thought to have been buried during the 1850s.  It was opened February 25, 2021.
City of Charleston
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A rusty cannon ball and three tins found inside time capsule buried beneath the John C. Calhoun monument that once stood in Charleston's Marion Square. The stone capsule is thought to have been buried during the 1850s. It was opened February 25, 2021.

Archeologists with Brockington and Associates prepare to open a nearly 1,000 pound time capsule unearthed beneath a former monument of John C. Calhoun
Credit City of Charleston
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Archeologists with Brockington and Associates prepare to open a nearly 1,000 pound time capsule unearthed beneath a former monument of John C. Calhoun

A moment long awaited has many, well, still waiting.

What's inside a 1,000-pound, stone, time capsule unearthed from beneath a former monument of John C. Calhoun?

This much we know.  Archeologists have found a rusty cannon ball and three tins.

But like nesting dolls, what's inside those tins requires more opening.

The city of Charleston hired archeologists from Brockington and Associates to help with the removal of the capsule in January, months after the statue of the former Vice President was taken down from where it stood in Marion Square for more than 100 years. 

They pried open the lid Thursday and then gently flipped it over onto a table, carefully examining an inscription on the other side.  The engraving seems to indicate the capsule was buried in the 1850s.

Archeologists flip over the lid of a stone time capsule to reveal an inscription on the other side.  It indicates the capsule was buried during the 1850s.
Credit City of Charleston
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Archeologists flip over the lid of a stone time capsule to reveal an inscription on the other side.  It indicates the capsule was buried during the 1850s.

Next, they put on gloves as the went back to the sturdy capsule and peered inside.  The archeologists pulled out a small, rusty cannon ball much like newspapers accounts had described.

So, was there a lock of Calhoun's hair or the cloth banner carried at his funeral?  Those had been talked about as well.

One by one, the archeologists retrieved a tin the size of a loaf of bread, another that looked as if it could contain rolled up paper and yet another small enough to perhaps encase the statesman's hair.

But who knows what's really inside, at least not yet. 

Crews worked for more than 17 hours to take down the statue of John C. Calhoun from its pedestal.  June 2021
Credit Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio
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Crews worked for more than 17 hours to take down the statue of John C. Calhoun from its pedestal.  June 2021

The archeologists said it appears the larger tin has been soldered shut.  All, they said, have sat in a least an inch of water that over time seeped in, giving the capsule a rusty coat.  Who knows if their contents are even salvageable.

The statue of Calhoun, a staunch supporter of slavery, was taken down last June after years of controversy and protests.