A centuries-old time capsule, complete with an actual cherry on top, was unearthed at the estate of America's first President, George Washington in Mount Vernon, Virginia.  Experts say two bottles of fermented cherries were buried about 250 years ago in a basement currently under renovation at Mount Vernon mansion, prompting careful excavation of the site.  Archaeologist Nick Beard says he was surprised to see the still-intact bottle poking through the dirt of the basement floor of Washington’s home during their on-going restoration project.  Beard says, “I got my flashlight out and shined it in there, and the thing is completely full of liquid.” Beard says the discovery of the cherries in what was likely a storeroom was made last fall, but archeologists painstakingly extracted the 1770s-era time capsule in the last few weeks.     Jason Boroughs, principal archaeologist at Mount Vernon says, “We wanted to make sure that we would do due diligence when we excavated…it’s a time capsule…an out-of-the-box, next-level, spectacular find.” The contents will be studied over the coming months but researchers say the liquid could be groundwater that seeped in after cork seals deteriorated, but the cherries, stems and pits are in great condition.  Boroughs says, “There are whole, recognizable cherries.  It actually smelled like cherry blossoms when we got to the bottom.”   

    This isn’t the first cherry time capsule to be found in Virginia. Boroughs says intact bottles were also found in 1966 in Williamsburg and in 1981 at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate in Charlottesville. 

    Lily Carhart, Mount Vernon’s curator of preservation collections says, “We don’t find complete objects or artifacts often ever in archaeology.  Usually we’re dealing with very tiny fragments. She adds, “Where we find even the beginning of something that looks like it might be complete, that is a truly exceptional day for us.”

    Researchers say the cherries were likely picked at Mount Vernon in the 1770s and stored for dining later that year.  Boroughs suspects there are other undiscovered time capsule bottles buried on the estate and says, “It’s been a very exciting find...these bottles tell stories.  They're attached to people who had real lives and if we know how to put the pieces together, we can piece together something about their lives.”

    Revitalization plans will continue at the estate through 2026 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of our nation.  


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