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Stools

The sketch to the right is one of three 3legged stool seats found in the York dig.
All three were made using a heavy plank
cut into a deep half-circle. Each stool
had three legs, with two at each corner of
the front edge, and one at the center
back. This particular stool was made of
oak (or maybe burrwood) and measured
55cm (22 inches) across the width. The
cross-section shows a fragment of one of
the legs, which was wedged into the hole.
This type of stool was probably the most ubiquitous Norse seating, as they have been found in
homes and in workshops. Similar stools have been found in Winchester in the early-mid 10th
century levels, and in the Fishamble Street, Dublin, dig at 11th century levels. Both of these
stools had D-shaped holes cut into their center, presumably to make them easier to carry. There
was also a rectangular 4-legged stool in Viking Age levels at Hedeby, and another in 11th
century layers at High Street in Dublin. The Oseberg ship burial contained fragments of a
longer oblong stool which might have also functioned as a workbench. The birch stool seat
below was found in Lund, Sweden, and dates to the 11th century. The seat was 40cm (16
inches) wide. (sketch above: Morris, p. 2303; photo below: Roesdahl, p. 245)

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Chairs
The chair back on the right from Lund, Sweden,
(1000-1050) is 75cm high (30 inches) at the
back top. The chair back is maple, but the cross
pieces are beech. The wooden pieces use
mortise and tenon joints, while the cross-pieces
on the upper part are held in place by trenails.
The reconstruction uses the same types of wood
and is the same size. The woven straw seat is
conjectural. Stools that resemble this chair, but
without a back, were used in 13th century
Novgorod. (Roesdahl, p. 375)
This childs seat from ~1050 in Lund, Sweden,
was built of beech wood. While only two sides
have been found, the chair has been
reconstructed with a matching other side, a seat,
and a rod going through the hole in front of the
seat. This chair would have been used as a child
restraint like a modern high chair. The chair is
46.5cm (~18 inches) long. (Roesdahl, p. 376)
The reconstructed chair to the lower
right is based on the chair pieces found
in the Oseberg Queens burial. The
chair is made of beech wood and is
67cm (27 inches) high. The four base
boards fit into the corner posts. The two
back posts slant slightly backwards and
support the back board. The seat was
missing, but the holes drilled into the
side boards suggest that it was originally
a rope or woven seat. The panels of the
chair have parallel lines drawn onto
them, and the center rectangle of the
boards is set in. The chair was
originally painted with stylistic animals,
and colored borders. This is the only
known box type chair from the Viking
Age, however, other chairs of this type
have been found from later in the
medieval period.
(Christiensen, Ingstad & Myhre, p. 131)
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Oseberg Chair Schematic Drawing

(photo: http://s192.photobucket.com/user/Castlegrounds/media/Oseberg/Volume%202/Plate9sm.jpg.html)

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Isle of Lewis Chessmen


The 78 pieces of the Isle of
Lewis chess set were carved
from walrus ivory and whales
teeth by a Norwegian workshop
in the 12th century. The kings,
queens and bishops in the set are
clearly depicted sitting in chairs,
which have carvings on all
visible surfaces. (photos: google
images for isle of lewis chessmen)

The Bayeux Tapestry


The Bayeux Tapestry was commissioned in the 1070s by Bishop
Odo, half brother to William the Conqueror. In several frames of
the Tapestry, William is shown seated on a cushioned bench with
animal-head terminals. The only other people that appear in the
Tapestry seated are Edward the Confessor, and Harold Godwinson
at his Coronation. This suggests the idea that chairs were owned
by those of higher rank. (Wilson, p. 177)

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Benches
Pieces of benches have been found in Norse and Anglo-Saxon sites
such as York, Dublin, Novgorod, Winchester, and Oseberg. This
suggests that benches were a common piece of furniture in homes. To
the left is a bench-end from Christchurch Place in Dublin, Ireland,
from the mid-11th century. Note that it is about 30cm (12 inches)
wide, and about 13.5cm (5.4 inches) high and . The other 11th-century
bench-end found at Christchurch Place was 38.4cm (15.36 inches)
high and 14cm (5.6 inches) wide and was carved from willow wood.
This diminutive size suggests that both might have been for kneeling
rather than sitting. (Lang, p. 35, 64, 75) The two 13th century
benches (left and below left) are from Norway and Sweden.
No size indications were given in the text. (Karlson, Pl. V &
VII) The 12th century bench ends below right are from
Hemsedal Church, and are 130cm (52 inches) high and 123cm
(49.2 inches) wide. Note the slot cut for the seat, and traces of
the back still attached to one edge of the uprights. The animal
head terminals are reminiscent of the 12th century chairs
shown earlier. (Roesdahl, p. 348)

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Kungsra Bench
The Kungsra bench was discovered in
1906 in Kungsra Church, where it had been
for close to nine centuries. It was examined
by experts and determined to be from the
11th century, which makes it the oldest
known intact example of Scandinavian
medieval furniture. The sides are 62cm (~25
inches) high, apart from the finials, which
are 75cm (30 inches). The back is 108cm
(~43 inches) high at the sides, 75cm (30
inches) high at the lowest point and 82cm
(~33 inches) in the middle. The seat is
43cm (~17 inches) above the floor and 50cm
(20 inches) deep. The length of the bench
halfway up the back is 198cm (6.6 feet).
The bench is made from pine. It uses four
upright pieces, one long board for the back,
another for the seat, and another for the
decorative piece under the seat. There are
also 3 pieces on each side: the carved side, a
shaped armrest on top of that, and a plain
support under the seat. (Kolchin, Pl. II & III;
correspondence, Statens Historiska Museum

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Folding Chairs or Stools


A Bronze Age chieftains burial from
1400BC in Guldhj, Jutland, Denmark,
yielded a folding chair made of ash
wood, with an otter skin seat. The
crossed legs were 34cm (13.6 inches)
long, while the edge of the seat was
36cm (14.4 inches) long. Fragments of
17 other folding chairs resembling this
one have been found in Nordic Bronze
Age sites in Store Hj in Denmark,
Germany and one in Sweden. The
Daensen chair from Lower Saxony was
decorated with bronze and gold fittings.
(photo: http://thomasguild.blogspot.com/2011/12/
medieval-folding-chairs.html)

The 2003 excavation of an early 6th century AngloSaxon grave at Prittelwell, Essex, England, revealed a
folding stool made of iron , the only one found in an
Anglo-Saxon grave to date. This grave belonged to the
Prittelwell Prince, an Anglo-Saxon king who has yet
to be positively identified. Another iron stool with
inlaid work on its frame is housed in the British
Museum, but its design is significantly different. It has
been suggested that this stool is 6th or 7th century
Merovingian. No folding chair has yet been found in a
Viking Age context. (Wilson, An Inlaid Iron Folding Stool, p. 45)
Stools and chairs with a basic X-frame have been
recorded since the 18th dynasty in Egypt. King
Tutankhamuns tomb contained two such folding chairs,
one with a high back. These campaign stools also
appear in Roman and Byzantine contexts. Folding
chairs also appear in later medieval contexts, usually
being used by someone of high status such as a king or
clergyman. The 12th century chair to the right belonged
to the Abbess of the Monastery of Nonnberg; it was
refurbished in the 14th century when more carving was
added to it. Many examples of folding chairs are
brightly painted and highly decorated.
(photos: http://pinterest.com/pin/523473156657639535/;
http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/folding-chair-of-the-abbess-ofthe-nonnberg-monastery-caps-news-photo/56466280)

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