Archaeology After Brushing Off All the Debris  Essay

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After brushing off all the debris, the team of archaeologists lifted the time capsule with a great sense of satisfaction and placed it on the research table. Inside we found five items that will enhance our understanding of life in the United States of America, circa 1969. The first two items we unearthed from the time capsule were bundled together using a piece of rough twine. The larger of the two objects was a disk, encased in a paper sheath. It was about one foot in diameter. When we examined the sheath, it had colorful artwork on it. The disk inside was black, and was etched with rings that looked like those found on a tree trunk after you cut it. Attached to the paper sheath with the piece of twine was a small envelope. Inside the envelope were two pieces of paper, which appeared to be tickets to an event. When I looked closer, I noticed that indeed they were tickets to the Woodstock Festival.

From my expertise in the area, I instantly identified the black disk. One member of the team said, "Is that an LP?" Another member of the team who was a graduate student asked, "What's an LP?" I informed the team that an "LP" was the name given to "long play" record albums from the days when musical recordings were pressed into vinyl disks. The vinyl disks could be played on turntable devices, which used a needle to pick up the sound waves and then played those waves through a speaker. The disks, also called "records," were extremely popular.

This record was by an artist called Jimi Hendrix. The name sounded vaguely familiar. I asked the intern next to me to quickly look up Jimi Hendrix, and then I knew why. Jimi Hendrix was a groundbreaking musician from Seattle, Washington in the United States. He was one of the foremost guitar players of the 1960s (Henderson, 1996). Scholars and historians of music refer to Hendrix as "legendary," (Brattin, 2010). One of the ways Jimi Hendrix hit the mainstream was when he played an instrumental version of the American national anthem at the Woodstock Festival. The Woodstock Festival took place in 1969, in what was called the Summer of Love. During the Woodstock Festival, Jimi Hendrix got on stage with a temporary band and played " an uninterrupted set lasting nearly two hours -- one of the longest performances of his career," (Brattin, 2010). This concert performance came at a crucial time in Jimi Hendrix's career, because he was between his famous Experience Band and moving forward to explore new bands, new styles, and fresh talent. As Brattin (2010) notes, Jimi's concert at Woodstock was a major time of transition for the musician because he had previously played only with white British musicians. After Woodstock, Jimi started to play more with African-American musicians.

After discussing Jimi Hendrix's performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, one of the students asked why Hendrix was so important and what his role was in the history of rock music. I responded that Jimi was a radical wizard with the electric guitar, which has survived various incarnations from 1969 in Woodstock to today in 2325. Whereas now we have titanium neck guitars, back then, they had Gibsons and Stratocasters. In the Archaeology of Music Museum, where I spent one summer working, they have various specimens of ancient guitars from the rock era. One of them is a Stratocaster guitar reported to have been played by Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock Festival, but some archaeologists deny that designation. Regardless, Jimi Hendrix was critical to the history of rock music because he played his guitar in a different way than his peers did. He relied heavily on the "wah" peddle, which created psychedelic sounds and effects. Hendrix also had a heavy sound, which was becoming increasingly popular towards the late 1960s.

A graduate student reached into the time capsule and pulled out another item, which broke my reverie about my favorite classic rock musicians. With the guitar riff from "Have You Ever Been Experienced" running through my head, it seemed all the more appropriate that my student should pull this particular piece of paper. This was a major discovery! I have never excavated a sheet of blotter acid before; I had only read about them.

The student handed the piece of paper to me. It was small, about eight inches long by five inches wide. If you looked closely, you could see the faded color designs printed on the paper. I think it had a bright yellow and orange solar motif, but I might be mistaken. The paper was perforated so that it could be divided into about 80 individual "tabs." Each tab was the size of a woman's pinky nail. "It's a sheet of blotter acid!" I exclaimed. The student next to me grinned. "You mean LSD?"

When I affirmed the astute student's knowledge of one of the most popular drugs used in the 1960s, another intern piped up, "What's LSD?" I described it first in purely academic terms, saying that LSD stood for "lysergic acid diethylamide." It was discovered in 1938 by a man named Albert Hoffman, who was later venerated by those who viewed LSD as a sacrament (Becker, 1967, p. 163). This one drug practically defined a generation, I said to the team. Referring to a what can be considered a primary source due to its being written in 1967, I said that "the number of people who have used or continue to use" LSD is "very large," (Becker, 1967, p. 163). Moreover, a historical proponent of LSD and superstar of the hippie movement was Timothy Leary. Leary considered LSD not just benign to use, but "beneficial" to personal and public consciousness (Becker, 1967, p. 163). According to my sources, Leary started a religion based on LSD, "in which it is the major sacrament," (Becker, 1967, p. 163). Why was this measly little bit of paper a sacrament? As Becker (1967) points out, and as Jimi Hendrix would agree, LSD induced an altered state of consciousness that was profound and sometimes life-changing. This was no ordinary drug. The problem was that using LSD often had some deleterious effects. Whereas Becker (1967) presents a balanced approach on the subject of LSD and notes that it is not the public menace that some had believed, the drug could cause symptoms of "psychosis" if abused (Becker, 1967). It is a good thing that we have evolved our technologies so that we no longer need to ingest substances like LSD in order to create the altered states of consciousness that Leary and Hendrix were promoting.

The counterculture movement of the 1960s was no stranger to drugs. I was about to continue lecturing the team working on the archaeological dig, when the next item was pulled out of the time capsule. "What's this?" one of the students asked. I took the item into my hands. It was a perfectly preserved satchel made of colorful crocheted yarn. There was something inside the satchel, something soft. I gently untied the strings, and emptied a bit of what was inside into my palm. It seemed to be some kind of organic substance.

"What is it?" another one of the interns asked. I held the substance to my nose. I wasn't going to be sure of it until I ran my laboratory tests later, but I was pretty certain that it was cannabis. When I told the intern, she was not surprised.

"Oh yeah! The hippies used to smoke a lot marijuana! Just like you, right?"

I laughed. Marijuana did become popular during the 1960s, and for similar reasons that LSD became popular. The counterculture movement embraced mind-altering substances that gave people a sense of euphoria and bliss. Marijuana use during the 1960s in America was related to the spread of the Jamaican social, political, and religious movement called Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism promoted the use of cannabis as a sacrament, which was intended to bring the user closer to God (Savishinsky, 1994). In 2325, we continue to use cannabis, but more for healing specific ailments than for finding God. Still, this finding was huge, because it was starting to reveal a trend in our time capsule. This capsule was put together by a counterculture group, which valued the mind-altering substances prevalent in the time as well as the music and culture that went along with those substances.

Part of that culture was revealed to me in the next item that we took out of the time capsule. This one looked strange, and at first I did not know what it was. The intern gingerly set it down in front of me. It was a glass cylindrical object. It was attached to a long cord with an electrical plug at the end.

When the students crowded around to see what it was, I said, "I'm not sure, but I think it's a lava lamp!"

One of the interns…

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