Nomads, Steppes, and Cities: An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Eurasia (RES131)

Yurt Building

Instructors: Stephen Jones and Peter Scotto

As an experiential learning project for this course, students constructed a yurt, a replica of the homes of Central Asian nomads.

Rebecca Vernon '06, a student in Jones and Scotto's class, said she thinks that through the construction of the yurt, her professors "hoped for us to get a bit of an immersion experience into the cultures we've been studying in class. It was really great to actually assemble the kind of home in which Central Asian nomads live...I got an understanding of how the yurt really worked as a part of the nomadic culture - light, easy to assemble, and versatile."

Another student, Audrey Roof '07, said, "It's a tradition to build the yurt. We've been studying about the Nomadic people living on the steppes of Eurasia all semester and this project gave us hands on experience with how they live. It was a way of bringing us to Eurasia without getting on a plane."

As amateur yurt builders, the class required extra time to assemble their yurt. Roof said, "We read that it takes the average nomad only 45 minutes to assemble their yurt, which seemed unbelievably fast. It took us almost [two and a half] hours, but it was also our first time building the yurt. We also researched specific aspects of yurts before our construction as part of class projects, so we know a lot about how the nomads decorated their yurts and what sorts of food they cooked, et cetera. These projects are going to go inside the yurt after class [Wednesday]."

Aside from being a good learning experience, assembling the yurt was a fun way to get the students out of their class and dorm rooms on a warm spring day. Vernon said that she "liked working with my classmates and professors to put it up. And I think it's cool that now there's a yurt in the middle of the green, and I have heard people talking about it. And they think it's cool when I tell them about it...I think the only challenging thing was to ensure that the diameter was just right, or the canvas won't fit properly."

Roof's favorite part of assembling the yurt was "watching the crown go up. The crown is the circular piece in the center and is attached to all the roof slats. It was a gorgeous view standing in the center and looking up."

Further Reading: The Construction of a Yurt