Soggy Bags of Smelly Garbage Unearthed, Helpfully Reminding Time Capsule Enthusiasts Of Their Own Mortality

The unfortunate remnants of a time capsule unearthed on Tuesday in Burke, South Dakota (Photo by Matt Gade/The Daily Republic)

“This is not a good commercial for Ziploc,” said one disgusted onlooker in Burke, South Dakota. And they weren’t wrong.

A wet mess of magazines, books, and other unidentifiable garbage was unearthed in South Dakota on Tuesday. It was supposed to be a time capsule. But like so many time capsule ceremonies, this one turned into a funeral.


As the Mitchell Daily Republic reports, nearly everything in the 1990 capsule was destroyed by water. However, there were a few items that were recognizable, like a South Dakota centennial flag and a VHS tape. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the tape would play.

From the Daily Republic:

In an attempt to salvage what they could, items were taken into the courthouse and laid out on tables to dry out. Past and current courthouse employees spread smudged paper and limp documents on newspaper. What were once presumably photos are now mostly white, the pictures long since bled away. Most of the plastic bags bore a dirty, brown tinge from years of absorbing the contents they contained, and several people commented on the rotten smell emanating from the bags. Documents were handled gingerly as residents tried not to cause further damage.

It’s been a rough year for time capsules so far. Many have been damaged beyond recognition thanks to the ravages of time and water.

People in Burke, South Dakota pull out a soggy bag that was supposed to be a time capsule (Photo by Matt Gade/The Daily Republic)

As I’ve said many times before, burying stuff underground is literally the worst way to preserve something for the future. But we keep doing it. And time capsule nerds keep holding out hope for those 1 percenters—the time capsules that not only survive, but have something really cool inside.

Not only is time capsule hunting a great lesson in patience, the failed soggy capsules are a great reminder that we don’t have much time until we’ll be rotting in the ground, too.


[Daily Republic]

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Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog