May 28: The Crypt Of Civilization

Crypt_of_civilizationWe’re all familiar with the concept of a time capsule; a (hopefully) weatherproof container, filled with items that are supposedly emblematic of the era in which the capsule was created, that is sealed and buried and not intended to be opened until a predetermined date. Today marks the anniversary of the sealing of one of the world’s most famous time capsules, the Crypt of Civilization, which was sealed on this day in 1940 and won’t be opened until May 28, 8113 CE.

The Crypt of Civilization is located at Oglethorpe University in Georgia, and was the brainchild of college president Thornwell Jacobs. Jacobs had become fascinated with the discovery and exploration of Egyptian tombs in the 1920s and took note of how little information was available about ancient civilizations. Naturally, he began to wonder how historians of the distant future would look back on the early 20th century.

So, in order to give future humans an accurate depiction of the 1930s, Jacobs dreamed up the Crypt of Civilization. As it had been 6,177 years since the year 4241 BCE, then thought to be the earliest recorded date in human history (as marked by the start of the Egyptian calendar), Jacobs decided that an additional 6,177 years should pass between the conception of the crypt in 1936 and its opening.Jacobs told the media of his idea, and soon suggestions for crypt items and actual physical donations came flying to Oglethorpe. Here are a few items included in the Crypt:

  • Microfilm of 800 works of literature including the Bible, Koran, Iliad, Dante’s Inferno and the script to Gone With The Wind plus a timeline of historical events and photos of 20th century life.
  • Audio and video recordings of the human voice including everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to Popeye the Sailor to a champion hog caller.
  • An apparatus for teaching the English language in case it is no longer spoken, placed at the entrance of the Crypt.
  • A Lionel model train set.
  • A specially sealed bottle of Budweiser.
  • A Donald Duck doll.
  • One male and one female mannequin.
  • A specially prepared copy of The New York Herald-Tribune.
  • An Artie Shaw record.
  • A dial telephone.
  • Several sets of clothing.
  • Seed samples.
  • Plastic home goods.
  • Various electronics.

Of course, in addition to including microfilm readers, record players and projectors so that future civilizations can engage with the works included in the Crypt, Jacobs and Crypt archivist Thomas Kimmwood Peters included a windmill powered generator to power the devices, and a seven-power magnifier which would allow the people of 8113 to read the microfilm records by hand.

On May 28, 1940 the stainless steel door of the Crypt was sealed. Most items were placed in glass lined, stainless steel containers and the Crypt was filled with an inert gas to prevent aging. The 20 feet long, 10 feet high and 10 feet wide stone walled Crypt is located in the basement of Oglethorpe University’s Phoebe Hearst Memorial Hall and above the door is a plaque which explains the contents of the Crypt and instructs humanity to leave the site alone until 8113.

While we wait out the next 6,098 years until the Crypt is opened, let’s enjoy a Crypt Cocktail. It’s a sweet, liqueur heavy variation on the Long Island Iced Tea, and too many of these might just knock you out until 8113.

Crypt Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Sloe Gin
  • 1 ounce Peach Liqueur
  • 1 ounce Amaretto
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 1 ounce Orange Liqueur
  • 1 splash 151-proof Rum
  • 1 splash lime juice

Shake all ingredients, except the 151, with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Float the 151 on top.

Tomorrow: The riot of spring.


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