Beds

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While much of the wood excavated from the Oseberg (first half of 9th century) and gokstad (10th century) ship burials have been lost, there is good evidence that two types of beds were found on both sites: A large bed with decorated bed posts, and a smaller and simpler type. The large bed from Oseberg was best preserved, while only the decorated posts from Gokstad were found. Drawings of the Oseberg beds are available from the Norwegian Museums photo archive [[1]], where also the Gokstad bed can be found [[2]].

In England there were a few Anglo-Saxon bed burials, for example Swallowcliffe Down (see Speake, 1989, "A Saxon Bed Burial on Swallowcliffe Down" available here[[3]]), but they are earlier than 10th century. In the Swalocliffe down case there was not much wood preserved and they worked out the bed construction mostly on the basis of the metal bits. There's some other Saxon bed burials too. There's an article about them here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_burial

The construction of the Gokstad ship beds is not much different from the Oseberg beds, so it seems that the Viking beds didn't change much over time. However the Saxon bed burials use metal in their construction and so differ from the Viking beds.

The general advice would be to go for the Viking design as they were ship beds designed to be dismantled for ease of transport. The metalwork on the Saxon ones implies that they were not designed to be easily taken apart, so it makes them less suitable for use at shows, and also less plausible in an encampment.

Some of the Oseberg beds appear to use poles to support the mattress rather than planks. (The poles didn't survive, but there are round holes consistent with the use of poles.) This is obviously lighter and easier to transport, but you may prefer the firmer design using planks. Some people cheat and use a blow up mattress in which case the mattress is probably firm enough that the poles would work. However this does of course have the disadvantage that you can't let the public near enough for them to see what you're sleeping on. A straw mattress is much more interesting for the public, but can be a problem to transport if you are short of space. (Of course in the past people would just have transported the bag and got straw at their destination, even my Mother can recall camping as a girl and just taking a large bag with her then scrounging straw from a local farmer to fill it up.)

I have also seen people use rope to support the mattress. I don't know of any period evidence for this, and I've heard that it tends to sag, but it would obviously be easier to transport.

If you want to make a bed like the large Oseberg and Gokstad beds you need to be aware of two things: (1) The decorated bed posts make the bed a lot taller, and so you need a bigger tent to fit it into and you can't push it so far towards the edge of the tent. (2) The fancier you make something the more it tends to be associated with one particular ethnic group and so the less general purpose it is. (3) The fancier you make something the more high status it will be and the rest of your personal kit and LHE equipment should be of a similar status.


Credits: with thanks to Jenny Bray