Week 8 Group E Lab Data


Week 8, over Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, our class built a reconstruction of the Viking-era tent discovered at the Oseberg archaeological site, scaled down to 60%. This reconstruction process took approximately three and a half hours on Thursday and an additional hour on Friday.

The following report details the data of the reconstruction process, including materials used and measurements throughout the construction.

Tent Elements

The tent we were aiming to replicate was the smaller of two found aboard the Oseberg ship. The individual pieces and their measurements are listed below.

Images and measurements of the smaller of the two tent materials from the Oseberg site.
Fig 1. Tent legs, poles, and transoms from Oseberg ship

The raw materials we were given to build a model of this tent were: (a) four 8-foot basswood planks and (b) 5 aspen trees ranging between 3 to 5 inches in diameter and 14 to 21 feet in length. Given the size restrictions imposed by the basswood planks, we decided to scale the tent down to 60% of the attested size. The resulting measurements to which we attempted to adhere are below.

Tent SegmentOriginal Length (cm)Adjusted Length (cm)
p.326, shear leg410246
g.318, shear leg410246
l.322, transom450270
o.325, shear leg410246
h.319, shear leg410246
n.324, transom450270
i.320, side ground pole570342
r.328, side ground pole560336
b.312, ridge pole505303


The two transoms were formed from aspen trees split using an axe, wedges, and a sledgehammer (pictured below). The first tree we split only rendered one usable half, so a second tree was split to obtain two functional lengths. The tree halves were then formed into planks using a shaping axe. Once formed, the planks were cut to the desired length of 270 cm.


The ridge and ground poles were all three formed out of whole lengths of aspen trees. We first cut the trees to slightly longer than the desired lengths (303 cm for the ridge pole and 342 and 336 for the two side poles). Then, we removed the bark from the poles using a drawknife and a shaving horse. The lengths of bark stripped off from the poles were typically between 25 and 50 cm.

After the poles were debarked, we carved out the tenons using saws, carving knives, and drawknives. We determined the length of the tenons by first calculating the desired middle length of the pole and then marking tenons long enough to achieve that length. For example, side pole i.320 ended up at 364 cm because of our allowances in the earlier step. With the target of 12 cm tenons and the target total length of 342 cm, the target middle length was 318 cm. To create the correct middle length, we carved 23 cm tenons and were left with the correct 318 cm middle section.

The diameter of the tenons was determined by the diameter of the holes in the transoms and legs, so they were carved small enough to fit through a 1.5-inch opening.

Shear Legs

We made our shear legs out of the pre-cut basswood planks. They were 8 feet in length, so ~244 cm and just short of our target length of 246 cm. The only work that had to be done with the shear legs was carving decorative heads and drilling holes for the poles to fit into.

We drilled 1.5-inch holes into the shear legs 12 cm at the center from the base and 24 cm from the top. The dragon head carvings extended 19 cm down from the top of the leg.

Partway through the drilling process, the electric drill died and we switched to a brace-and-bit drill with the same 1.5-inch bit.

The Assembled Tent

Having crafted all of the components, we assembled the tent. The finished tent had an internal square footage of 8.15 m^2 or 87.8 sqft and a height of 1 Austin (194 cm).

On Friday, we covered the tent with a 12 x 15 ft canvas drop cloth secured with ten lengths of rope.

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