Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oseberg Tripod Replica

This is the next in the series of Viking Age cookware I am working on for 'that film'.

This, strictly speaking, is a replica rather than a reproduction. The measurements are within about 10 - 15 % of the original artifact, but I worked with a bit less attention to fine details (exact construction of the basket hook and twisting) than I would have for a detailed reproduction. I have made versions of this object a number of times in the past. It is not shown as standard item on the Wareham Forge 'Norse Replicas - Cookware' sheet, but can be custom ordered.

The source artifact here is the tripod found in the Oseberg ship burial - Norway circa 825. This is a royal quality object, and I believe the only metal tripod known from the Viking Age. Both of these facts should be considered when anyone is considering using this object as the prototype for a re-creation. It is far more likely that a traveler's camp in the Viking Age would use three cut saplings and a simple rope and chain trammel combination. (With the living history presentations DARC mounts, we have changed to reflect this use.)

There is another 'problem' with this object - mainly that it is barely functional in a practical sense. There are two aspects to this.
First, the size of the tripod and its integral hook are such that even with a small sized Norse cookpot - there is hardly any space below the hanging pot to allow for the fire itself. In the overall image, the pot seen is a reproduction (in copper) of one of the pots found in the Mastermyr find. The piece of wood seen is roughly 10 cm in diameter. Although it does not show as clearly as I had hoped, there is actually only about 15 cm clearance between the bottom of this pot and ground level. Certainly not enough to construct a camp fire. It should be noted that the cauldron actually found in the Oseberg burial was considerably LARGER than this, and when hung on the tripod barely clears the ground at all. You would have to dig your fire into a pit in the ground to use that combination,
This lack of clearance relates to the second problem. Not only does the size of the tripod cause any cooking pot to hang right on top of the fire wood - the integral hook does not allow for any adjustment to the height of the pot. As any skilled camp cook knows, you adjust for cooking temperature by raising or lowering the pot over the fire.

The overall impression all these factors give is that this tripod was intended as the * symbol * of a cooking tool, rather than a * working * cooking tool. For a more detailed commentary on artifacts that may not be quite what they first appear, see my article 'Aunt Martha's and Damnthings'.

A detailed image of the top of the tripod - folded for carry.
The three legs are joined by a short loop that has been peened over to fix them in place. Note the use of a square cut spacer (not found on the artifact - but this gives better action to the hot peening step). The integral hook is formed of a pinched basket, made up of three individual rods. These are first twisted, and the longest is folded in half. The ends are then forge welded and drawn to the terminal hook. The last step is to open up the basket shape and fit a collar of flat stock at the middle.

A closeup of one of the clawed feet.
Here I have set the foot over a gap in a stone floor to show how the pointed feet would be pressed into the ground. Two shorter pointed pieces are forge welded to the main bar, then spread and curved. Note how the base of the foot is flattened and set at an angle to that of the leg. In use, this tripod has a fixed configuration, as determined by the angle of the feet and a curve at the top of each leg (see image above). This means that the tripod also has a fixed height when correctly mounted (refer to cooking use discussed earlier).

I am quite happy with how this piece turned out. I hope it can be seen in the finished film.

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