Three long days of Rock And Roll, party, alcohol and drugs. The mythical Woodstock festival gathered more than 400,000 people in a farm of 240 hectares in Bethel, in the state of New York, 50 years ago. An iconic countercultural event from which so few records are preserved on-site that it has been necessary to call the archaeologists.
Researchers of the Binghamton University They have been studying the area for months to conclude that the hippie event that took place between August 15 and 18, 1969, "took on a life of its own." The work has been commissioned by the Museum of Bethel Woods, interested in knowing what was hidden among the rocks and vegetation that surround the area.
The Woodstock festival brought together more than 400,000 people on a 240-hectare farm in Bethel
In 2018 the archaeologists found the exact location of the stage and, more recently, they have determined the distribution of the different spaces of the festival, which allowed to successfully identify 24 positions of vendors and other 13 potential cultural stays in a land known as Bindy Bazaar.
"This bazaar was a meeting place where transactions were carried out, which included exchange and barter, as well as sales and cultural interactions. People also met there with lost friends, made new friends and tried to protect themselves from the rain, "Maria O'Donovan, project director, said in a statement. "It is an example of the informal and free spirit of the counterculture, of its spontaneity," he adds.
The stalls – built from stones, trees or other materials – were located on an old map, although researchers have determined that they were finally located in a different location. "The reality of what happened in Woodstock was not captured by the preliminary plans," O'Donovan says.
"This is clear evidence that the festival took on a life of its own that the organizers could not control. We also identified the most recent use of the area, which could be related to later anniversary celebrations or the casual use of the site before The Bethel Woods Museum acquired and preserved it, "says the expert.
The festival took on a life of its own that the organizers could not control
According to the photos, the Bindy Bazaar was located between two camps, with paths that channeled the pedestrian traffic between both places. At first glance, it seems that the location has not changed in the last 50 years, but the new trees and vegetation produced debris that reduced the visibility of the area.
Despite these challenges, archaeologists determined that the positions of potential sellers could be distinguished through well-defined examples of stacked stone and other features that clearly indicated human intervention. The results will help the museum develop a cultural interpretation program that includes constructing interpretive routes during the 50th anniversary acts of the concert this summer.
"The Museum of Bethel Woods aims to preserve and interpret this site in the long term, returning to the bazaar its former glory," said Maria O'Donovan. "They wanted to open the Bindy Bazaar to the visitors with a network of reconstructed trails and with the corresponding interpretive signage," says the director of the excavations.