Archaeologists Excavate the Field Where Woodstock Was Held

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Over 400,000 people attended the original Woodstock music festival in New York's Catskill Mountains. If any of the concertgoers left something behind—say, lost jewelry or discarded pinback buttons—it stood a chance of being unearthed by researchers nearly five decades later.

That's because archaeologists from New York's Binghamton University recently excavated the site of the 1969 concert in hopes of mapping out where some of the infamous events of Woodstock went down, the Los Angeles Times reports. The nondescript hillside in the small town of Bethel once served as a stage for some of the greatest names in rock and roll history, from Jimi Hendrix to Janis Joplin to The Who.

Woodstock lasted only three days in 1969, but its legacy has endured. Last year, the site—otherwise known as the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts—was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A museum on the property hosts public walking tours of the former festival grounds, but photographs from the period aren't the most accurate indicator of where exactly the stage was located, archaeologists say. Their research will be used to help the museum plan more precise “interpretive walking routes” for Woodstock's 50th anniversary next year.

Project director Josh Anderson told the Los Angeles Times their excavation will serve as a "reference point." "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,'" Anderson said. 

As far as artifacts go, the team of archaeologists probably won't be selling any of their finds to a museum or auction house. They didn't dig up much, save for a few pull tabs from aluminum cans (probably of the alcoholic variety) and shards of broken glass bottles. For more insight into what this historic concert was like, you'll want to head to the Bethel Woods museum, which offers a permanent collection of photos, videos, and memorabilia from the period.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

Laser Scans Detect Hidden Buildings and Tunnels Beneath Alcatraz Prison

iStock.com/f8grapher
iStock.com/f8grapher

Isolated in the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by steep cliff faces, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary seemed like the most secure place to keep dangerous criminals in the mid-20th century. But it's recently come to light that every inmate on Alcatraz Island lived above a series of potential escape routes that predated the prison's construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a new study published in the journal Near Surface Geophysics, archaeologists reported their discovery of structures and artifacts beneath the Alcatraz prison yard, including underground buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines. Guided by historical maps, documents, and photographs, they used laser scanning technology and ground-penetrating radar to locate the subterranean fortress close to the surface.

The site dates back to the mid-19th century, when Alcatraz Island was used for military purposes. The same natural features that would later make Alcatraz an appealing prison also made it an ideal coastal fortification. Enough brick buildings were built there to house 200 soldiers and enough food was shipped in to feed them for four months.

But the fortification wasn't used for its original purpose for very long. It was transformed into the West Coast's official military prison during the Civil War, and in the 1930s, the government turned it into a federal prison. Instead of tearing down the forts and tunnels leftover from its military days, workers left them intact and built over them to save money. Archaeologists plan to investigate the underground structures further without disturbing the historic site.

Alcatraz Prison closed in 1963, so the underground tunnels no longer pose a security problem. Today the island is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

[h/t San Fransisco Chronicle]

The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Will Open to the Public in 2021

iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina
iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina

Besides being a sanctuary for stray cats, Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is best known as the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 22 times by assassins in 44 BCE. As the city's oldest open-air square, the spot is an important piece of Roman history, but it's fallen into disrepair. Now, Condé Nast Traveler reports that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen to the public following a $1.1 million restoration project.

The site includes four ancient temples, a medieval brick tower, and the ruins of the senate house where Caesar was murdered. About 20 feet below street level, it was excavated under the rule of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, and has remained largely closed to the public since. Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is overgrown and accessible only to the feral cats that live there.

On Monday, February 25, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi announced that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen in the second half of 2021. To get the site ready for the public, the city will add restrooms, install lights, and build walkways that allow visitors to explore the area. Stone ruins, some of which are stacked into piles, will be secured, and artifacts currently sitting in storage will be moved to a museum. The one area the project will avoid is the corner where the cat sanctuary is located.

Rome, of course, is filled with ancient ruins—some that residents weren't even aware of until recently. In 2014, a 2000-year-old Roman road was unearthed during the construction of a McDonald's.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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