For centuries we have been studying those who came before us. We learn about cultures through art, archaeology, ancient texts, and in other less conventional ways. For example, every year, hundreds of time capsules are dug up all over the world, containing stuff from newspapers to trinkets — and there’s a lot we can learn from them.

Finding a time capsule is exciting, regardless of its location or how long it has been waiting to be unearthed. What did people choose to preserve and share? What was important to them? And why did these items matter so much? These time capsules contained goods that shed some serious light on what mattered to the people that buried them…

On October 11, 2018,  Joe Meaney, a representative for the historical society, spoke out about an amazing new find. “We knew there was something there,” he said. “But we didn’t know exactly what it was, how big it was, or anything of that nature.”

In the remains of Thompson Middle School in Nova Scotia, they’d unearthed something after rumors of its existence circulated for dozens of years. 

While they may have dove in blind, they did end up locating a metal container from inside a block of cement. With the right tools, a little patience, and a whole lot of elbow grease, they were eventually able to open it.

So what was inside this mysterious cache? First, they found a newspaper that dated the time capsule all the way back to 1949. The rumors were correct: these memories were preserved a whole six decades! 

The historians also found countless documents naming important prominent community figures from the era. Lastly, there were some well-preserved cash and coins tucked inside a wallet. 

Out in Michigan, USA, another capsule was discovered in the same year, at another school: Kenowa Hills’ Central Elementary. It was opened by the principal, Cherie Horner, as well as a fair share of enthusiastic students.

Sadly, the capsule contained a newspaper article dedicated to the memory of David Michael Raap, who passed away at age 10. Such a tragic loss must have had a great impact on the community, which is likely why they chose to share it.

This newspaper came from 1967, a time when the school had been called Walker Junior High. The capsule — which was a tube — also held four other documents, including a class program list and a student handbook.

Dr. Horner, however, found the Michigan Association of School Boards paperwork particularly fascinating. After all, it seemed to focus on the importance of retaining middle school values in education, which is her motto for life.

She even said, “Our entire building is going to be undergoing construction until basically 2020, so if there are additional time capsules, I’m sure we’re going to find them in the next few years.” Pretty exciting, right?

But in the meantime (while there’s no word yet on any other time capsules from Central Elementary), Shenandoah University in Virginia presented another capsule-related story in 2018. This one is not like the others.

As a matter of fact, the college’s students left a gift buried in the ground under a concrete slab back in 1993 for future attendees. The inscription on block read, “Class of ’93 time capsule. To be opened in the year 2018.”

So, on October 17, 2018, students and faculty members gathered to reveal the unknown contents during their homecoming weekend. But before they could open the concrete case, they had to lift it out of the ground.

First, a spokesperson for the University addressed the audience. “Welcome, thank you for joining us for our 1993 flashback,” the speaker said. “I also want to say ‘thank you’ to the class of ’93 for thinking of us 25 years ago.”

The contents of the capsule had been affected by moisture over the years, yet the artifacts had by no means been destroyed. The first thing they pulled out was a piece of sheet music by an alumnus, called “Sketches & Reflections 1993.”

However, that was not the only music-based treasure included in the time capsule. The next item the staff revealed was, in fact, a vinyl record called Introducing… The Beatles, featuring “Twist And Shout” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Other alumni wanted to represent their time at university. For example, someone left a plastic dinosaur as a tribute to Jurassic Park, which was released that same year. Another left a pack of condoms – though these had unsurprisingly expired.

Also among the collection were some pretty unique items including a stone hippo carving with a now-illegible name on it. It even included a Shenandoah University radio listings featuring Queen and Aerosmith.

Aside from these items, the box was filled with old photographs of student parties and trips, and an endearing note of a young man asking a girl to the prom. Do people even pass hand-written notes in class anymore?

What the capsule really shows is how much has changed over time. In 25 years, the student population of the university has doubled, and technology has advanced greatly. But that is exactly why these time capsules are both important and fascinating.

While time capsules are usually located at public places, they can pop up elsewhere too! One Imgur user, who goes by the handle Todirel, had been snooping around in their grandmother’s cluttered ceramics room when they found something surprising. Hidden in the back corner of the room was this tall cupboard.

The cupboard was more than it appeared—the bottom of it was actually removable, and the false bottom concealed a rectangular cavity tightly packed with gravel. The Imgur user suspected there was more than gravel inside that secret compartment…

todirel / Imgur

Todirel brushed away the loose gravel only to reveal the combination dial for a hidden safe! They wanted to investigate, but there was just one problem: their grandmother didn’t know the combination. Todirel’s grandfather, who owned the safe, had passed away…

No combination? No problem. The flimsy tin box couldn’t stand up against power tools and some good ol’ brute force. Todirel’s father used a grinder to break open the hidden safe and pry off the top.

todirel / Imgur

Since Todirel’s grandmother didn’t know the combination, she wasn’t totally sure what was inside. It was possible that no one living knew a thing about what her husband was hiding…

Luckily, the safe wasn’t empty! There in front of them was an object wrapped in cloth—alongside a lone note. Of course, the Todirel instantly grabbed the note, which had been written by their late grandfather…

todirel / Imgur

The note read, simply, “Abandon all regret ye who enter here.” It was a play on the famous passage from Dante’s Inferno, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” which was supposedly scrawled above the entrance to hell. “This is his way of playing around,” the Imgur later said.

todirel / Imgur

The note wasn’t the only cryptic thing they found. The large cloth bore a Chinese character, which meant “double happiness.” This symbol was typically seen at weddings. It sounded like Todirel’s grandfather was a positive guy…

todirel / Imgur

Todirel had barely been able to examine the rest of the contents of the tin when the dial suddenly broke off just from sitting on the table! Surely, this tin box was very, very old in order for that to happen…

todirel / Imgur

Todirel pressed on, curious as to what was inside the cloth. The black cloth had been wrapped around an old leather pouch. The seal on it—though faint—read 1776. Even better, however, was what they found inside the pouch…

todirel / Imgur

Todirel removed a handful of items from the pouch, each one sure to make collectors’ and history lovers’ heads spin. The first was pocket watch—perfectly protected by a British Army issue barrel cloth—which looked fresh from the factory line!

todirel / Imgur

Stamps from all over the globe also filled the leather pouch. Right away, Todirel spread them out for a better view and found some were from countries that didn’t even exist anymore, like the Soviet Union, Zaire, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic!

There were even more fascinating historical items, like this silver “lamp,” as Todirel called it. One commenter pointed out it was likely an incense burner, which left them disappointed. How cool would it be if it was a genie lamp?

todirel / Imgur

One of the more spectacular—and personal—finds were photographs of Todirel’s ancestors. This image of their great-great-grandmother posing in a window frame must have been over a century old!

todirel / Imgur

After Todirel posted this photo of their great-grandfather, one Imgur user commented, “Your great grandfather is so classy it HURTS.” Who could deny that? Everything from the pipe to the round-framed spectacles screamed “dapper.” Still, the safe held even more surprises…

todirel / Imgur

After some further digging, the Imgur user found this plastic container, which housed several coins, an old key, and some other assorted items. Were any of them significant?

todirel / Imgur

The answer was yes. What stood out first was the collection of rare coins from empires and countries long gone. Coin collectors online pointed out which ones were particularly valuable…

todirel / Imgur

“That 1921 Morgan silver dollar is in pretty awesome condition,” one user commented about the coin on the bottom-right side of the photo. “I’d hold on to it if I were you!” Others fawned over super rare Pakistani coins in the collection.

todirel / Imgur

Also inside the plastic container were two pieces of World War I memorabilia. This medal “was given to Commonwealth troops that served in theater,” one user confirmed. Still, the crest’s origins stumped even the most historically attuned Imgur users.

todirel / Imgur

There was one last item that mystified them all: a key. No one, not even Todirel’s grandmother, knew what it unlocked. The Imgur user hoped to find the answer soon. Imagine if it led to even more treasure?

todirel / Imgur

Just about everyone has wondered if there might be some sort of fabulous treasure tucked away in the attic of their childhood home. There has to be something in all of those boxes, right? A man named Mark Lopez, however, never really thought this way.

As kids, Mark and his sister, Maria, were told plenty of outlandish stories from their grandfather. Still, it never crossed their minds that he was telling the truth. He was just entertaining them, right?

For instance, when Mark and Maria were young, their grandfather used to claim that he’d located the treasure of José Gaspar, a notorious Spanish pirate, many years ago. The children enjoyed the story, but they never took it seriously.

After their grandfather passed away, Mark and Maria were tasked with cleaning his attic. They figured they’d find nothing of value… until they made a startling discovery inside an unmarked box that changed everything they thought they knew about him!

Among the items that Mark and Maria found inside the strange container was a picture of two people on their wedding day. While they had no proof, the siblings assumed it was likely a photograph of their great-grandparents.

Also inside the box was a crude map of Tampa, Florida, from the 1930s. Why would their grandfather keep such a bizarre item seemingly drawn by hand? Still, there were other items to add to the mystery…

Mark and Maria also found an array of what they believed to be Portuguese and Spanish coins dating all the way back to the 16th century. Perhaps there really was some truth to their grandfather’s stories?

“Maybe my great-grandparents were pirates,” Mark joked later, while admitting that the truth can sometimes be shocking. Still, he and his sister hadn’t seen anything yet! They kept digging through their grandfather’s stuff…

Quite disturbingly, the chest also contained a preserved human hand! It really must have seemed like something from straight out of a horror film. What the heck was their grandfather doing with a hand?

Both Mark and Maria were in complete shock when they discovered the hand. “Maria came across it and once she told me she found a hand in a box. I was totally blown away,” he admitted after their find.

Why would their grandfather keep a preserved human hand for so long? And why would he keep it all a secret from his family? Mark and Maria knew they had to do some more digging if they ever wanted to know the truth.

While every thought imaginable stirred in their minds, Mark and Maria decided they had to get to the bottom of their discovery, once and for all. So they brought the box and the items inside to a professional for appraisal.

First, Tampa Bay History Center curator Rodney Kite-Powell took a look at the coins. “They’re a little thin to be Spanish Coins or old coins in general. Generally, older coins were thicker,” Rodney explained.

The coins weren’t as old as they’d anticipated, but that didn’t make them any less exciting. Next, Rodney wanted to give the crude map of Tampa a close examination. After a while, he determined it dated back to either the 1920s or 1930s.

The chances of any of the items having belonged to José Gaspar were starting to dwindle. “It’s fascinating, but I just don’t know what to make of it aside from the fact that it’s probably not José Gaspar’s hand, these probably aren’t Spanish coins,” Rodney explained.

Of course, the hand might not have belonged to José Gaspar, but that didn’t do anything to take away from its mystery. Mark and Maria still had no idea of its origins—or if it was all even real to begin with.

“I think it still looks real and the weirdest thing is the hand,” Mark mentioned, while taking a moment to remember all the tall tales his grandfather had told him and his sister when they were children. Was he lying or not?

“Either my great-grandfather made the best, most elaborate pirate hoax ever and never shared it with anyone, or he really did find some treasure on the Hillsborough River,” Mark recalled. “There’s really no way to know.”

Mark and Maria decided they’d hold onto the mysterious box and its mysterious contents as a relic of their late grandfather and their family history. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll learn the whole truth!

While the coins, map, and hand might not have given Mark and Maria the answers they were looking for, there’s no denying that simply sifting through their grandfather’s items gave them a glimpse into his past. And what a wild past it was!