Yurt

Yurt

A circular, domed, portable tent covered by felt, typically used by nomadic peoples.

History

Keywords

yurt, tent, nomad, nomadic lifestyle, migration, lifestyle, dwelling, shelter, circular, felt, animal husbandry, Mongolian

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Questions

Scenes

  • center ring / smoke hole

  • center pole

Inside the yurt

A yurt was constructed from a circular wooden lattice frame (called kerege) a door-frame, bent roof poles and a center ring (crown, smoke hole). The wooden frame was fixed with ropes so that the structure did not collapse when the posts holding the center ring were removed.

The entrance of the yurt was covered with felt, there were no wooden doors. According to nomad mythology, it was forbidden to step on the door sill, because that would wake up the domestic spirits who bring bad fortune on the family.

The place of the head of the family was opposite the entrance. The family area was on his side, the guest area on the other side. The hearth was in the center of the yurt, the smoke left through the center ring or smoke hole.

The floor was covered with carpets, often in several layers. Beds were also formed of stacked carpets, opposite the entrance. Tables and chairs were not used. Their tools (weapons for hunting, cooking pots, etc.) were hung on the wooden lattice. The family´s valuables were usually stored in a wooden chest.

  • center ring / smoke hole

Narration

During the Migration Period between about AD 400 and 800, the nomads of the Eurasian steppe mostly dealt with horses and cattle. They wandered with their livestock from pasture to pasture to find new areas rich in water and grass. Their typical livestock consisted of horses, sheep and cattle (or reindeer in the north).

Horses were the most important of these, as they were used for a number of purposes. They were held in high regard. The horses kept by Eurasian nomads were descendants of the Asian wild horse. They were typically short or medium-tall and stockily built. They were fast, strong and easy to keep.

The nomadic lifestyle also determined the type of their dwellings. Constant migration required dwellings that were easy to transport and quick to construct from the available materials, but able to resist extreme weather conditions. Yurts were designed to meet these requirements.

They were practical, tent-like structures.
A cylindrical, wooden lattice framework was fastened with animal tendons and surrounded securely with ropes, so it did not fall apart. The yurt was covered with felt, a highly durable material made by matting and compacting wool with water. It was often placed on the framework in several layers. In hot weather, this covering was rolled up or lifted to permit aeration.

The entrance of the yurt was covered by blankets, also made of felt. Opposite the entrance, a simple altar was placed. Mens´ beds and the family´s valuables were placed on the right of the altar. Women, cooking utensils and food were on the left side of the yurt. The hearth, built from stones, was in the center. The smoke left through the center ring or smoke hole, at the top of the domed roof. When the hearth was not used or the weather conditions made it necessary, the smoke hole was covered. Tools and other objects were hung on the lattice frame. The family was made more comfortable with carpets, animal skins and fur.

During the centuries the nomadic lifestyle adapted well to constant migration. Even today there are nations who lead a nomadic lifestyle and live in yurts.

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