tent, portable shelter of canvas, skins, felt, matting, or other material usually supported by poles and used chiefly by nomads, hunters, and campers. Tents have been used by pastoral peoples since ancient times and are mentioned in the Old Testament and in Homer. Persian tents, usually circular, were early noted for rich hangings and rugs. Army tents developed by ancient peoples include the small, skin-covered tents of the Greeks and the Roman tents of canvas supported by two upright poles and a ridgepole. Medieval military tents were round or oval and were often lavishly hung with silks or furs. Army tents were widely used in Europe in the 17th and 18th cent. but are now employed chiefly for training purposes. Modern types include bell tents with a central pole; the A tents with sides sloping from a ridgepole; and the marquee, a large field tent, used for mess or hospital shelters. Smaller tents for recreational camping and backpacking include dome, “flashlight,” and other designs that typically use shock-corded aluminum or fiberglass poles and lightweight fabrics. The yurt, a circular, felt-covered structure of latticework surmounted by curved poles fitted at the top into a ring forming a smoke hole, has long been used by nomads of the Asian steppes. Desert tribespeople of W Asia and North Africa generally use a ridgepole tent. One of the simplest tent forms is the windbreak, which was mainly used in Patagonia. See also tepee.
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