Dark Age Tents


Viking and Saxon Camping Equipment

Historical provenance

Evidence for Viking and Saxon tents is hard to come by. Two basic types are in general use by re-enactors.
The tent/deck awning found with the Gokstad ship burial has been used as the basis for large A framed tents, but whether this structure was ever in fact used as a free standing tent on land is contentious. The Icelandic sagas indicate that there were shelters for use at the Allthing which were "tented over" when occupied. In Egils saga the verb used is "tjalda" which is also used in the context of rigging awnings on ship, so the Gokstad deck awning may also have been used as a cover for a semi permanent shelter.

Saxon Tent

The second type of tent, usually known as a "Saxon Geteld" is based on manuscript illustrations.One of the principal sources is the Utrecht Psalter [3], a ninth century French manuscript which shows several small tents. Also of note is the Harley Psalter [4], an 11th century English manuscript based on the Utrecht Psalter which shows a somewhat taller version of the same design. Building tents for re-enactment purposes is therefore largely a matter of informed guesswork and experimentation; that is to say, trying things out and using whatever works. The Ydalir tents are based roughly on the Saxon Geteld, rather than on the Viking deck awning. These have the major advantages of being easier to make and transport; more stable in a high wind; and not being subject to such vociferous arguments between Authenticity Officers (not yet, anyway...). We have used two styles based on the same design. The end opening version illustrated here is based on the manuscript illustrations. The large side opening version where one side swings up to become an awning is an adaptation of this design which, while not as closely based on evidence, has the advantage of allowing the public to see inside when it is set up as part of a display.