A Stitch in Time

Originally published 18 October 2651
by Dr. Matilda Warwick
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Melbourne

The Middle Ages is full of tales of gallant knights, great kings and devout monks. What it lacks is much record of the women of the era. Outside of an occasional mention of a royal marriage or some miracle by a female saint, women are invisible. It is known that the convents created beautiful embroideries, manuscripts, paintings, music and poetry, some of which actually survived. I have devoted my career to recording these forgotten artists and scholars and their works.

I tell people I am a nun for simplicity’s sake, but that is not accurate. If I were a nun, I would have to take vows of obedience and would not be allowed to move about without permission from my superiors. Instead I am more like a “lay nun” if that is the proper term.

A woman traveling in the Middle Age has three options: camp in a tent (and get attacked by bandits), stay at an Inn which is nothing better than a tavern full of drunken men or stay at a convent. Monasteries were given more respect (and gifts) than convents, so most convents are strapped for cash. They welcome paying guests...with reservation. The guests come with their jewels, lap dogs, servants and fine clothes causing a disruption among the nuns with their vows of poverty.

My persona is that of a wealthy widow. Since men often married women young enough to be their daughters or even granddaughters, many women were widows before they were thirty. My story is I had a vision one night that Saint Hilda of Whitby came to me and told me to go on a pilgrimage to all the convents in England and live as the nuns there. I dress in a simple brown tunic and veil and live as much like the nuns as I can without getting in the way. Needless to say I am always welcomed back.

One night, while at a convent near Canterbury, some novice nuns came to my room, all upset. “Lady Matilda!” the one name Gunhild spoke. “Mother Superior has sent us to beseech your help. The bishop has brought us a tapestry to complete in too short a time. You are a lady, are you not?”

“Yea, wife of my late Lord.”

“Then you will know how to embroider! We need your help.”

I rushed to the dining hall to find a long white linen cloth over 19 inches wide spread over the tables. My heart skipped a beat as I recognized the design sketched in charcoal on it. “Did Bishop Odo, brother of King William send this?”

“Yes, my lady!” Mother Superior looked amazed. “How did you know?”

“I have heard rumors this was in the making.” I didn’t tell them I had read history books about this--the Bayeux Tapestry!

The Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry, what survived into the 27th century, is 230 feet long! It is known though that it was done in nine separate panels. This convent was given one of them.

Odo , Bishop of Bayeux
half-brother to William
There has always been a debate as to who embroidered the Bayeux Tapestry. (Yes, I know it’s not technically a tapestry but an embroidery.) It has long been held that the monks of Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy, where Odo was Bishop, did it. Fools! William had just conquered the country most renowned for it’s embroiderers. Why wouldn’t he use them?

Many think the Bayeux Tapestry was just created to celebrate William’s conquest and to rub England’s nose in it. The Tapestry is in fact an “apologia” which does not mean “an apology” but rather a defense for one’s actions. This is William’s “proof” that he had the legal right to invade England and defeat “Good King Harold.” The truth is Harold’s claim to the throne was as shaky as William’s.

How do I condense this tangled skein which could easily fill volumes into a short narrative? Pray thee, bear with me if you will.

In 1016 Canute the King of Denmark conquered England. Aethelred the Unready, king of England, and his two oldest sons, Edmund Ironside and Eadwig all die in the conflict. Aethelred’s widow and second wife, Emma, sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy, catches the eye of Canute. He decides to set aside his current wife and marry Emma. She agrees under two conditions. First he must spare her two young sons by Aethelred and secondly Canute will make their offspring his legal heir. Canute agrees. Emma’s sons, Edward and Alfred are sent off to live with Uncle Richard in Normandy.

King Canute goes on to conquer Norway and parts of Sweden, spreading himself thin. He wants to keep England stable and lo and behold, Godwin, a minor English noble, shows up offering his wise advice. Canute makes him Earl of Wessex. Godwin will always manages to always stay on the winning side and accumulates wealth and power.

Canute dies. His son by Emma, Harthcnut, becomes his successor in 1035. Harthcnut doesn’t make it to England to get crowned until 1040. Meanwhile his half-brother by Canute and his first wife Aelfgifu, Harold Harefoot, tries to take over England. Harthcnut finally makes it to England to behead his brother. Unfortunately Harold had already died before Harthcnut could make it to England, so he has him dug up and beheaded anyway.

Godwin switches sides again and offers Harthcnut his loyal services which the king accepts. Maybe he was too sick to fight with the second most powerful man in England. Knowing he is dieing and without heir, Harthcnut sends for his half-brother, Emma’s son, Edward in Normandy to be his heir, who assumed the crown in 1042.

Although this restores the Saxon lineage, Edward is viewed as a Norman by the English lords since he has spent most of his life there. Godwin, now the most powerful man in England, offers Edward his daughter Edith’s, hand in marriage. Despite the fact this is the man who betrayed his brother Alfred to his death, Edward sees no other choice. However he does cheat Godwin from ever seeing his grandson on the throne. Edward builds Westminster Abbey west of London and spends his days praying there and remaining celibate and becoming known as Edward the Confessor. Edith is without child and not very happy.

King Edward the Confessor
Meanwhile Edward’s Uncle Richard II’s son, Robert I, Duke of Normandy, has a son by his mistress, Herleva, who shall forever be known as William the Bastard.

When Godwin’s spoiled son Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, proves to be so mean that the natives revolt. King Edward sends Godwin’s other son, Harold, to deal with the situation. Harold sees no other way to save his own good name than to convince Edward to banish Tostig, who flees to Norway.

Edward the Confessoris, not doing well himself, calls Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside, his half-brother on his father Aethelred’s side, to England. Nephew Edward dies mysteriously two days after he arrives before King Edward can make him his heir. Godwin’s hand? There are rumors.

1066 Edward the Confessor on his deathbed with his last breath reaches out his hand. His brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson grabs it proclaiming that Edward reached out to him to make him his heir. No one dares point out that Edward was in a coma and didn‘t know what he was doing. Harold is crowned King of England.

Right after Harold is crowned King of England
a comet is spotted. This is a sign of doom.
William the Bastard is now Duke of Normandy. When he hears of Harold’s good fortune, he claims England is really his. After all, Harold once swore fealty to William after he had ransomed him from a Count who had found him shipwrecked. That is what a large part of the Bayeux Tapestry is depicting. Actually the fealty was to help William in an upcoming battle with a neighbor. William’s claim is flimsy at best, but so is Harold’s.

William, Duke of Normandy in front
The Tapestry then shows the invasion from Normandy and the Battle of Hastings. What it does not show is the invasion from Norway. Harold’s brother Tostig (remember him?) talks King Harald Sigurdson into conquering England. King Harold and his troops rush north to defeat the Norse at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25th, 1066. Harold Godwinson kills Harald Sigurdson.

Three days later William lands on the coast of East Sussex far to the south with 7000 mercenaries he has promised land to. Harold and his troops march 200 miles to fight the Normans at the Battle of Hastings. Exhausted and outnumbered King Harold and most of the English nobility is killed. The survivors have their titles and land taken away and given to William’s men.

Battle of Hastings - mounted Normans fight exhausted Saxons
England is in disarray, now ruled by foreigner ruffians who only speak French. Even after five years the nuns were uncertain about their own future, and when Norman officials showed up demanding they embroider this section of the Tapestry, they had no choice but the comply.

Did I want to help embroider even a stitch on the most famous embroidery of all time? Yes! But would I get in trouble with the Institute of Time Travel for interfering with history? The piece we were given was so large, even my contribution would be a small fraction.

While the nuns often embroidered with a single strand of silk,
the Bayeux Tapestry was done with cheaper wool
in the "quick and dirty" couch and laid stitch
This was not their best work (and I doubt their heart was in it.)
The Mother Superior looked very grave. “My Lady, you were married, were you not?”

“Yea, I was.”

“Then you have cleaved your flesh to that of your husband?”

“Yes, we lived as man and wife.”

“We have a great favor to ask of you, my lady. You may refuse, but if you could embroider two of the figures none of us dare touch.” She took me by the arm and lead me over to one of the few female figures on the Tapestry. Under her in the decorated margins, instead of a duck or hare was a naked man, proudly showing off what God had bestowed upon him.

“There is another,” the Abbess pointed to the figure a bit to the left. It was a man hacking at a plank of wood with an adz, also naked. No sane man would have worked with a sharp instrument in the nude. He was viewed from the side, but his privates were peeking out.

The two nude figures at bottom with naughty bits covered
There has been much debate as to what these figures represented. Was it a public scandal? An allegory? Or was a cruel joke on the poor virgin nuns? The cloth had been brought with the pattern already drawn on it, the entire tapestry probably done by one artist.

I bowed my head to the older woman. “I understand your dilemma, Mother. I would be honored to help you and the Sisters in this dire situation.”

And so I got to embroider the two “pornographic” figures on the Tapestry. The Enforcers were not happy with me, but I convinced them my part in this had no effect on history other than relieving my embarrassed hostess.

Now here is the funniest part of my tale. When I told this story to my friend, Dr. Wendell Howe from Cambridge University, he doubled over laughing. He is a Temporal Anthropologist studying the Victorian Era. He said the good ladies of the Leek Embroidery Society made an exact copy of the Bayeux Tapestry in 1886 for the Reading Museum. Exact except for the two figures mentioned. The man with the adz apparently had an accident and was castrated. As for the full frontal nude, the Victorian ladies put him in a pair of un-medieval-looking shorts! Now Wendell understood why the man was wearing them.

The sanitized Victorian version of the nude man

More Information on the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Stitch by Signora Giuliana di Benedetto Falconieri (S.C.A.)
A study of the Bayeux Tapestry Stitch and how to do it.

High quality panoramic image of Bayeux Tapestry

Reading Museum copy of the Bayeux Tapestry made in the Victorian Age
This website shows each scene and explains the story on the Tapestry

Animated Bayeux Tapestry (Youtube)

A History of Britain - Part 2 - Conquest (Youtube)
A documentary by Simon Schama - The soap opera that was 1066


The First Monterey International Pop Festival

Originally published 13 April 2656
by Dr. Veronica “Sunshine” Drew,
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of California, Berkeley

I have been studying the Hippie Culture of the 1960 & 70s. It was an amazing time full of dreamers and rebels, all brave and incredibly naïve. One of the high points of that era was the Summer of Love in 1967 when young people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco to create a better society based on peace and love. It didn’t work out, but for a few months there were hopes.

Hippie Bus
The beginning of the Summer of Love was kicked off by the first rock concert in history--The First Monterey International Pop Festival held June 16-18th. Okay, yeah I know about San Francisco’s KFCR Radio station’s Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival held the week before, but it didn’t go that well. I mean the crowd was cool and everything, but the festival had been postponed from the previous week because of rain, so several groups couldn’t make it because they had other bookings that weekend. Many historians consider this the first rock concert in history. Even though 36,000 people attended, it was pretty much forgotten.

The Monterey International Pop Festival had nice weather, nearly all the acts could make it and 90,000 people were their at it’s midnight climax on Sunday at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Also some guys taped it and put some of the acts together in a movie so million of people got to watch part of the festival. The acts were out of order so a lot of people think Ravi Shankar closed it on Sunday afternoon since he was the last performer in the movie. This also includes people who were actually there but were too high to remember much.

Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire
He left the amplifier on so you could hear it!
The festival was organized by record producer Lou Adler, John Phillips with The Mamas and the Papas, producer Alan Pariser and Derek Taylor, the publicist for The Beatles. The Beatles couldn’t make it because, since their Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album, their music had gotten just too complex to perform outside of the studio. The Kinks and Donovan couldn’t come because of problems with U.S. Immigrations. However the bands that did make it would make any music historian drool. The whole festival was started as a way to show the world that Rock was real music and not just noise. And to prove it they put the festival on for free.

The festival started Friday with The Association singing Cherish and Along Comes Mary. Other acts that night included Lou Rawls, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon and The Animals and ended with Simon and Garfunkel Feeling Groovy.

Saturday was the first major performance of Janis Joplin, lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. Watching her belt out “Ball and Chain” was amazing. Even more entertaining was watching Cass Elliott of The Mamas and the Papas in the front row watching Janis. Cass is one heck of a singer herself, but Janis made her jaw drop. That performance got the Holding Company national attention and a major contract.

Also performing on Saturday were Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It ended with Otis Redding. A star on the R&B circuit, this was the appearance that introduced him to a larger audience. I couldn’t help but cry as he sang in that incredible voice. I knew he would die in a plane crash that following December. His song Sitting on the Dock of the Bay would become the first posthumous number-one record on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Otis was a rising star who wouldn’t live long enough to see his own zenith.
A statue of "Otis Redding Sitting on the Dock of the Bay"
Later erected in San Francisco
Ravi Shankar kicked off Sunday by playing his sitar for four hours straight. Man, that cat’s fingers were flying! Many of the musicians from other bands just watched him in awe. Buffalo Springfield with David Crosby (later of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) and the Grateful Dead also performed. Janis Joplin was brought back on for a repeat performance. The Who, in their first American performance, brought down the house when Pete Townsend smashed his guitar. Not to be outdone, Jimi Hendrix, set his own guitar on fire before smashing it.

The Who at Monterey
The Festival ended with Scott McKenzie singing San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) the anthem of the Summer of Love, followed by The Mama and the Papas singing Dancing in the Streets. We were sure all dancing in the fairgrounds!

Considering the crowd and their excitement, the whole festival went without problems. Even the Monterey Police were surprised. They had come to keep the peace and were greeted with peace, as kids gave them flowers. The theme of the festival after all was peace and love.

Someone gave me flowers for my own hair. Both men and women wore them. Most of the guys had mustaches and sideburns. People were dressed in peasant, Native American and Victorian garb in a strange sort of mish-mash. I swear there was this one hippie with a mustache and sideburns, dressed in a top hat and frockcoat that could have passed for Dr. Wendell Howe’s twin! I’m sure you remember he’s the temporal anthropologist with the University of Cambridge. Of course, Dr. Howe was somewhere in the Victorian Age at the time.

It was an amazing weekend and I was careful to record all of it with the vid camera in my yellow sunglasses. And if I could figure out a way to keep from bumping into myself, I would love to go again! It was so outta sight!

 Monterey - Eric Burdon’s tribute to the festival showing the fairgrounds.

Performances from the First Monterey International Pop Festival

Janis Joplin belting out Ball and Chain
(Yes, the lady in the sunglasses in the audience with the dropped jaw is Cass Elliott)

Ravi Shankar with more scenes from the festival crowd

Otis Redding singing I’ve Been Loving You Too Long

Simon and Garfunkel (That’s John Phillips introducing them)

The Association doing Along Comes Mary

Butterfield Blues Band performing Drifting Blues

Buffalo Springfield with For What It’s Worth.
The Intro is by Peter Tork (No, the Monkees did not perform.)


To Timbuktu and Back

(Originally published September 12, 2643)
by Dr. Abubakari Djata, Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Mali

Timbuktu--the name evokes mystery. Many use it to mean the edge of the Earth. Most believe the place to be mythical. It is no more mythical than I, for I was born in Timbuktu.

The city of Timbuktu
Timbuktu owes its existence to the fact that it is where the boats of the great Niger River meets the camel trains of the Sahara Desert. It has survived over the centuries as a trade center in the salt traffic. Salt was so scarce and so necessary that it was once literally worth it’s weight in gold, sometimes more so. Just to the south of the city were some of the world’s richest gold mines. They supplied more than half of the world’s gold. Although no Europeans braved the trip, most of their gold came originally from this region of Africa. The British gold coin was called a “Guinea”, a corruption of the name “Ghana,” an older empire Mali absorbed.

So the people from the north brave the huge desert to bring down salt to trade for gold with the eager natives. Timbuktu has neither salt or gold, but as the trade hub, it lives well off the tariff it charges both sides. At least it did in its Golden Age. In the 14th century Timbuktu was the cultural center of the Mali Empire. By 1350 that empire was 1,138,000 square kilometers. Only the Mongol Empire was larger at that time.

Mali’s greatest emperor was the great Mansa Musa. He was so wealthy that when he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca he took 80 camels laden with gold, along with 60,000 men and 12,000 slaves. Every town and city he passed through he gave out massive quantities of gold as alms or to buy supplies. Rather than being a boon to the local economies he in fact caused high inflation by bringing down the value of gold. And we are not just talking little towns, but Cairo and Mecca themselves. This inflation was felt as far away as the Mediterranean.

Mansa Musa as imagined by the Europeans
Mansa Musa had a special love for Timbuktu, building mosques and even a palace for himself. Suffice to say, Timbuktu was one of the richest cities in the 14th century. So what great luxuries did the city import, would you guess? Jewels? Silks? Incense? No...books.

Sankore Mosque
Timbuktu is not only a crossroads for trade, but one for ideas. Scholars have come from all over Africa and the Middle East to study at the Sankoré Madrasah (The University of Sankoré).

Not only does these universities and its mosques have libraries, but many of the scholars have personal libraries. The books are stored on shelves like in Europe, except not standing on their edges. The bibliophiles of Timbuktu store them flat, atop one another in small stacks.

Every book is lovingly written by hand, each a rare treasure. These are copies of the teaching theologians, scientists and poets from the Arabian world as well as the ancient Greece, Romans and India. In these books are also the records of all the accumulated verbal knowledge our people have memorized over the generations. The Arab traders not only brought Islam; they brought writing and a new way to share knowledge. Timbuktu also has a thriving business in calligraphers producing copies as well as their own works.

a manuscript on astronomy from Timbuktu
When the Mali Empire falls, the Songhai Empire will arise. Timbuktu will become an even greater center of learning under the protection of their also enlightened leaders. Those heady times will end in 1591 with the Moroccan conquest. In 1593 Ahmad I al-Mansur, fearful of intelligent men, will have most of the scholars killed or exiled, thus destroying the University of Sankore.

Besides studying the events and culture of my ancient ancestors, my main aim for traveling into the past is to record all these books. Thanks to the extremely dry climate of the area, many manuscripts will survive into the 21st century when they could be recorded electronically, but these are only a fraction of the books that once were. War, invasions, fires, insects, and other calamities, both large and small, have taken their toll.

That any of these books survived into this time is testament to the great love the people of Timbuktu have for books. That love has survived into the 27th century. In our day solid books have become a curiosity, as anachronistic as a sundial. However, I do not know of one person in Timbuktu who does not own at least a dozen books.

Timbuktu has had her ups and downs in her long history. She will go from one of the richest to one of the poorest cities on earth. She has since claimed back some of her glory. I have tried to give her back her history. While I cannot bring back the actual books themselves from the past, I can film each page and preserve their knowledge--their soul. It is to this end that I have devoted my life.

The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu - BBC Documentary

How Timbuktu Saved Her Books in 2013 from terrorists