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Crypt of Civilization (wikipedia.org)
73 points by prtk on Sept 4, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments

To give some idea of how long this is supposed to last, 8113 AD is 6102 years in the future. The oldest buildings on the planet are all a good bit less old than 6102 years - they typically start at a maximum of about 3500 BC.

I would suspect that the biggest danger facing such a time capsule is that it is broken into during some time of societal collapse - a sealed strong room is going to look very tempting. For that reason I would suspect that comparable projects in remote locations stand a much better chance of long-term survival:



Are there no buildings older than 6102 years because every building inevitably crumbles or because the buildings that existed 6102 years ago inevitable crumbled?

Agriculture isn’t that old and there just wan’t any need for permanent buildings before agriculture arrived.

It doesn’t seem completely out of the question for the Pyramids to survive another 2,000 years to reach 6,000 years. (Ok, that might be a bad point to make, given that there is nothing inside the pyramids anymore.)

"Agriculture isn’t that old"

Agriculture is way older than any surviving building, back to about 9000BC:


Sure, but considering the scales involved the need for buildings is relatively recent.

Just to clarify - I was talking about oldest surviving buildings as we were discussing time capsules.

There are archaeological sites where large amounts of construction had been carried out that are much older than 3500BC e.g. Çatalhöyük in Turkey:


And, of course, Jericho:


I always wonder how future civilizations will interpret time capsules like this. "And here, children, we have the primitives sacrificing their possessions to their god 'Kap-sool', ruler of time"

It was just at the start of the microfilm boom, so they used microfilm. The quoted lifetime is 500 years, accelerated ageing tests indicate 1000 years. So the books probably wont be readable. The Egyptians did better with papyrus and ink.

Well, the chamber is supposedly filled with an inert gas, so the lifetime of the microfilm should be much larger.

It is not oxidisation that is the issue. Humidity and temperature are the main issues. Film is metallic silver in gelatine, and lasts ok, but thousands of years is a very long time.

They do mention a metallic storage system which should last a vary long time. I suspect the microfilm was there more for publicity than any real expectation that it would work in 8000 years. Still even if you can't directly read them they may degrade in such a fashion that you can reconstruct a useful significant percentage of the original message.

A backup metal film system resides in the crypt as well.[1][2]

[1]"The New Georgia Encyclopedia — Crypt of Civilization". Retrieved 2008-06-29. [2]"History of the Crypt of Civilization". Retrieved 2008-06-29.

I reckon they'll just use their time machines to travel back to when the microfilm is still intact.

Stick a computer on the moon, put a mirror of the Web on it, and let it serve queries over shortwave radio. Then all a fallen civilisation has to do is re-discover radio, to get access to the world's knowledge.

I suggest we make it a large black monolith and bury it.

And reverse engineer TCP/IP, HTTP, unicode, etc.? Maybe we should come up with a simpler one-way protocol and just broadcast the whole thing continuously, on loop.

How would you power it? How would you protect it from the cycles of heating and cooling every lunar day? How would you protect the circuits from long-term damage, like electromigration?

the monolith comment was more spot on than you think. see fullerenes: http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2011/08/fulle...

Hopefully someone actually does this.

I always like how these are scheduled to be opened at a specific date. If we remember thousands of years from now what the original plan was, we'll probably have records of what was kept inside. If we forget, it won't be opened on schedule.

For that matter, our current system of numbering years hasn't been around that long.

I was expecting a clever system of pictographs or landscape design to lead future generations to the vault. This:

> We depend upon the laws of the county of DeKalb, the State of Georgia, and the government of the United States and their heirs, assigns, and successors, and upon the sense of sportsmanship of posterity for the continued preservation of this vault until the year 8113, at which time we direct that it shall be opened by authorities representing the above governmental agencies and the administration of Oglethorpe University. Until that time we beg of all persons that this door and the contents of the crypt within may remain inviolate.

represents a very unrealistic expectation.

Should be Crypt of Western or American-defined Civilization, honestly. I always look at these things expecting something more comprehensive, only to find the same narrow slice of human civilization as a whole.

Archaeologists are usually interested in object assemblages that belonged in the same context. Thus it would be far more interesting to preserve, say, a complete print shop, than a juxtaposition of dental floss and Donald Duck.

Really? I think archaeologists are fascinated by the later excavations at Pompeii because it captures all the little things in daily Roman life so well. A lot of that was not written down at the time ...

The do have the contents of a woman's purse. Talk about context!

Sad but true.

As an alumni of Oglethorpe University, I would bet I'm the only one that reads HN (Anyone Else?).

You pass by the steal doors of the Crypt on the way to the Book Store. It was my observation that students didn't really care about the Crypt itself, but that in order to build it they had to gut the indoor pool.

70+ years later they still don't have a pool nor offer any Computer Science / Computer Engineering classes.

A bit incidental, but would there be any risk of a sealed time capsule delivering viruses/bacteria to the future?

That's the first thing I thought of as well - immunity to certain basic things might have evolved out by then.

I wonder whether bacteria or viruses could survive that long in those conditions?

Some bacteria can hibernate for millions of years in spore form. There was some speculation that the "Curse of the Pharaos" was caused by pathogenic bacteria or fungus-produced toxins, so yes, anyone opening that crypt should better be careful.

Only 6000 years? Well, that's nothing next to the Chauvet Cave ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvet_Cave ), where they found 35000 years old paintings...

This is actually a weird coincidence to see this on HN tonight, since I watched "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_Forgotten_Dreams ) this evening. Having two hours to spend in Paris before a rendezvous, and seeing the great critics, I thought "Hey, I'm not usually into art / paintings / museums, but let's give this a try...".

The documentary was fascinating. The paintings look so fresh, it's as if they were done yesterday... But they are 30k - 35k years old. This really puts things into perspective...

It's hard to explain, but the effect was kind of similar to watching a Sagan video ( http://saganseries.com/ ). Instead of marveling at the size of the universe when compared to our tiny planet, I was marveling at how short the recorded history is when compared to the thousand of years of prehistory. I knew about this theoretically, but it never really hit home before...

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