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There are essentially only 3 tent designs in our period: the A Frame or Oseberg type, the awning or sail tent, and the Geteld. In addition, it is possible to make one man campaign type bivouac tents from a single sheet and some rope.

Because A frame tents were found in the Oseberg/Gokstad burials they are seen as being essentially Viking, and probably pagan. Similarly because the getelds are shown in Christian psalters they are taken to be Saxon, and Christian. This is in fact a huge generalisation and one that we do not insist upon within the society. You can use either type of tent at any type of show. Interestingly our Norman counterparts who attend Battle Abbey events almost all use A frame tents ; the Normans being most definitely Christian but descended from Viking settlers in northern France. It should also be noted that the Utrecht psalter is in fact Dutch, but possibly written in Reims, France. So all of the evidence is continental ; the geteld is not in fact Saxon at all, if anything it is Carolingian or Frankish. We have very little evidence of period tents from the UK possibly limited to the Harley Psalter. The problem with the Harley Psalter is that it is almost certainly a copy of the Utrecht psalter.

There is also a common misconception that the geteld supersedes the A Frame historically, however the Utrecht psalter is dated to around 815 to 837, with the latest suggested date for it being 850, whilst the Oseberg ship burial is dated around 834. As such the two different tent types are more or less contemporary.

Further information on tents can be found in the Society Village Guide [1]or here [2].

Evidence for tents

A Frames. and Getelds

We have actual physical evidence of the A frame tents from the Oseberg and Gokstad ship burials from Norway, but we have no cloth from these finds so we must interpret what the assembled tent would look like. We have pictorial evidence of Getelds from psalters etc. but no actual finds, so we know what they look like but we have no clear evidence of their structure and/or what holds them up. There is similar pictorial evidence from psalters for sail tents/awnings. There are other finds that seem to relate to tents, some cloth parts etc. the odd tent peg, and line strainers presumed to be from tents because they are too small for a boat, but nothing else of any significance or substance has been found ; the evidence for tents per se is very thin on the ground.

Conical tents

There is very limited evidence for conical or bell tents. The existence of this type of tent is limited to psalters the same as getelds, and is always shown with a cross surmounting the pointed top. It has therefore been assumed that this type of tent is limited to use as a chapel, and subsequently its use within the society is limited to such purpose, and usually in later period shows.

Logo.gif Unacceptable tents - "pavilion" tents

The 'pavilion' tent, with a round top and vertical sides, using a spoked cartwheel to avoid central poles, originated in the middle east. It seems to have been use in Poland and the Slavic regions of the eastern Baltic by c.1000 as a result of trade with Byzantium and the Islamic world.

However, there is no evidence for such tents being used in western Scandinavia - and certainly not the British Isles - before the Crusades.

'Pavilion' tents may not be used within the core period the Vikings Society re-enacts (800-1100).


This category has only the following subcategory.


Pages in category ‘Tents’

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.