Archaeologists Dig Up 1969 Woodstock Festival Site Looking for Rock 'N' Roll History
The famously trampled hillsides of Max Yasgur's farm is now an archaeological site.
Don't Bogart that shovel, my friend.
Archaeologists are scouring the 600-acre site in upstate New York where nearly 500,000 people tuned in, turned out and dropped a lot of acid, searching for artifacts from the three-day 1969 Woodstock music festival.
What exactly are they looking for? The exact site of the mammoth stage where The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, The Band and Jimi Hendrix enthralled a generation and defined popular music for the anti-war set.
“The overall point of this investigation is to kind of define the stage space,” said project director Josh Anderson of Binghamton University’s Public Archaeology Facility. He was kneeling beside the post hole of a fence built to keep hundreds of thousands of fans from rushing the stage area.
"We can use this as a reference point," Anderson said. "People can stand on that and look up at the hill and say, 'Oh, this is where the performers were. Jimi Hendrix stood here and played his guitar at 8:30 in the morning.'''
The teeming crowd that trampled the hillsides of Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel braved thunderstorms, inadequate sanitation and food and water shortages to roll around in the mud while a lengthy and eccentric mix of talent took the stage.
The village of Woodstock was actually about 40 miles down the road, and like many surrounding towns, wanted no part of the August festival that drew counter-culture fans from all over the country.
There were two recorded deaths at the concert, two births, many drug overdoses and tons of trash and torn-up fields.
Yasgur's old farm is already on the National Register of Historical Places and a stone landmark commemorates the site.
A non-profit maintains the green expanse of land and runs an adjacent museum.
“This is a significant historic site in American culture, one of the few peaceful events that gets commemorated from the 1960s," said Wade Lawrence, director of The Museum at Bethel Woods. The archaeologists' work will help the museum plan walking routes in time for the concert’s 50th anniversary next year, he said.
Overhead photographs from the time don't help identify the concert site because the grounds have been re-graded over the years for anniversary celebrations.
Thus far, many of the items uncovered are of the trash variety, including pull-tabs from aluminum cans. Though those could be considered artifacts because they haven't been manufactured in decades.
"There’s just something about this place that — and I’m not the only one — that draws people here," 67-year-old Woodstock veteran Charles Maloney said as he stood by the plaque. "I mean, this area here could have 200 people. And you can still hear the silence."
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