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July 17th, 2016 01:15 AM
David R E Hunt Hi Marla

Thanks for helping out us structurally challenged folks : (.

But my issue with this was more at metaphysical. I had somehow seemed to recalled an early discussion,
in one of the old rug books, in which the "open" portion of the terms "Open Left" or "Open Right" referred
to the space or grove in the pile. Thus in "Open Left" the pile emerges on the right side of the knot, and in
"Open Right" the reverse is true. Not to worry, it's just me. I'm confused and a bit out of the loop on this.

Note to self: if you ever do any serious publishing, it's a good idea to have the structural analysis done by
a qualified professional...

July 16th, 2016 02:58 AM
Dinie Gootjes Patrick, I think you can always find the knot collar above the tufts of yarn? Especially clear where two colours meet vertically. That would indicate that you are looking at the rug the right way. I remember one rug where the pile was lying two ways in different parts of the rug. The knot collars made it possible to decide how it was woven, and so what type the knots were.

July 13th, 2016 05:15 AM
Patrick Weiler Marla,

You hit the nail on the head with "It is of course necessary to have the rug oriented as it was on the loom when examining the structure." Often what is remaining of a bag face does not include enough to confirm which end was up or down when it was on the loom. Asymmetric open left is asymmetric open right when a piece is turned upside down. The pull of the knot pile can often be the arbiter.

Patrick Weiler
July 11th, 2016 12:08 AM
Marla Mallett
Knots open left or right?

Iíve just now tuned in to this discussion and have seen the confusion concerning the construction of asymmetrical knots open left or right. David Hunt has pointed out what he sees as a discrepancy between the diagrams in my WOVEN STRUCTURES book and those in Murray Eliandís book.

Actually the constructions illustrated in the two publications are exactly the same. The yarns are wrapped and the knots formed in precisely the same way. Murray has simply drawn his knots with the loose yarn ends pointing upward in an unnatural manner. That can be confusing. Iíve drawn the yarn ends pointing downward as they look to a weaver who must pull them down tightly toward the already woven part of the rug. Thatís the way Tanavoliís are drawn as well.

In any case, as someone has mentioned, the knots should be described as ďopenĒ on the side in which the yarn ends emerge. It is of course necessary to have the rug oriented as it was on the loom when examining the structure.

Marla Mallett
July 9th, 2016 04:24 PM
Rich Larkin Hi Chuck,

Your comments about the reported invisibility of the Ersari reflect my own thoughts at the time when I heard Dr. Eiland on the subject. I believe the thing boiled down as you suggest to sub-tribes and clans as having been the more familiar context for his informants. They didn't think of themselves as Ersari, but rather, as XXXX. Also, the occasionally encountered experience in the Middle East of not getting a straight answer to a question may have been a factor. Parsons' extensive experience in Afghanistan probably served him well.

July 9th, 2016 03:22 PM
Chuck Wagner Rich,

Interesting remark from Eiland, I wouldn't have guessed that from his writings. Dick Parsons lived in Afghanistan for many years and didn't seem to have any trouble finding people who identified as Ersari. His book includes his own version of the clan and sub-clan structure. Even so, I would posit that people would be more inclined to identify at the clan and sub-clan level first, and maybe that's what Eiland encountered ...(just guessing).

The Russians don't seem to have that problem either; there are recent books and articles available online that discuss staffing choices and power sharing in Turkmenistani government structures based on tribal affiliations and inter-tribal rivalry, including passing over one individual (General Akmurad Rejepov) who was Ersari and considered unacceptable to the Ahkal Tekke elders.

It is easy to think that the number of persons who keep any interest in their own tribal affiliations has been dwindling rapidly for decades, thanks in particular to the Soviet Union's shake-n-bake approach to population redistribution.

Nevertheless, your larger point is still taken; there are many things we cannot know - after all, there is no formal written Turkoman historical record. In the meantime we organize by what we do know, or hypothesize, and then engage in interesting discussions...

Chuck Wagner
July 9th, 2016 04:28 AM
Rich Larkin Hi Chuck,

Of course, it isn't our fault we can't identify the weavings of the Uch El, or the Adaqli, or the Tivechi, if they wove anything. We could probably do some mischief by planting a statement someplace saying their rugs were indistinguishable from those of the Ali Eli. Seriously, I have no doubt Poullada's work establishes a solid basis for identifying a group of weavings with which the Ali Eli were thoroughly involved. It's just that the rug appreciating community seems regularly to forget that the reality of provenance must be more complicated than our familiar and, in truth, simplistic models; though, as I mentioned, Poullada himself is largely not guilty in these regards in my opinion.

I've mentioned before that I heard Murray Eiland, Jr., M. D., say at the Textile Museum (quite a number of years ago) that he looked everywhere around Central Asia, unsuccessfully, for someone who would admit to being Ersari. He said people whom he asked didn't seem to understand the question. I suspect if many weavers could be clued into the vocabulary we use regulary to analyze and discuss rugs, there would be a good deal of head scratching. Not that it's such a bad thing.

July 9th, 2016 02:50 AM
Chuck Wagner Hi Rich,

Well noted; all attributions based on supposition are inherently uncertain. While little can be "known" about Turkmen pieces outside those items properly documented at the time of original accession, I think that studied inference is worth a lot. And as you note, Peter has put some serious effort into his work, and he has not allowed "mission creep" to distract him away from his target demographic. From a separate email discussion on a different piece I own:
I will have to go back and check my notes on Erik Risman's and my comprehensive knot count calculations for all known, cataloged " Ersaris" and KA.
In the case of Ali Eli bags, the fact that David's piece meets Peter's Ali Eli structural and design criteria AND also has the very rare hash lines on the sides - allows a tenuous link to be made between that bag and the Ali Eli pieces in Mackie and Thompson (and Dave and my bags). It is an indirect link, but the feature is sufficiently rare to be notable.

In the case of my last piece, I am satisfied with his suggestion of a possible turn-of-the-century Amu Darya centric Salor attribution. Witness this image (the camera strap is 1/4 inch wide):

While anything is theoretically possible, I would be interested to see someone produce a known Ersari, Kizil Ayak, or Saryk piece with a back that looks like that, with a lot of silk, and with a maximally depressed AsymL knot.

I have two Tekke pieces that have a similar appearance due to the fine un-depressed knotting (the chuval is more than 400 knots / in sq). But I have never seen an Ersari piece that looks anything remotely like this.

Not being argumentative, your point is well taken. But also, these are not SWAGs.

Chuck Wagner
July 8th, 2016 05:25 PM
Rich Larkin
There were six men of Indostan, to learning much inclined....

Hi Chuck,

Great posting of all that material referencing, inter alia, the Ali-Eli. Seems like a good time to make my septo-annual citation of that venerable old chestnut "The Six Blind Men and the Elephant," that so efficiently reflects the traditional approach to the study of traditional weaving from the greater Middle East. As you aptly pointed out a while back (as usual, I'm late to this parade), in regard to Peter Poullada's purported take on the distinctions between the work of the Ali Eli and the Kizil Ajak, "...like any analysis, it's based on the data he had, and not on data that he didn't have." What I appreciate about Poullada, though, is that he at least acknowledges the great complexity of the tribal situation among the Turkomans in particular in any given period. Indeed, it has to be speculative how much the putative weaving practices from an identifiable group in one period can be used in the analysis of material from a different period; and whether it is legitimate to limit the candidates for a handful of more or less similar weavings (e. g., the juvals above) to, say, the Ali Eli and the Kizil Ajak. How about those folks in the various published lists that most of us have never heard of? And where were they in 1830? Or 1873? Or whenever? And what did their weavings look like? I'm guessing we don't know.

I don't advocate ignoring what we do know. Bravo to Poullada! Just keep in mind the analyses only take us so far, and must be considered tentative, a fact Poullada understands as well as anyone.

July 7th, 2016 04:24 PM
Chuck Wagner Steve

That said, there are exceptions to that rule, like this Sistani bag which would have to have all the back & bridge kilim work done at one end:

Chuck Wagner
July 7th, 2016 03:19 PM
Chuck Wagner Steve


I knew I would get something reversed, and you are right.

Serves me right for typing before my first coffee of the day.

Here is an example of what Steve describes:

July 7th, 2016 02:46 PM
Steve Price Hi Chuck

I don't know whether chuvals were always, sometimes or never woven in the same sequence as khorjins, but the sequence of weaving a pair of khorjins is:
1. First face (beginning at what will be the upper lip of one bag)
2. First back
3. Bridge
4. Second back
5. Second face (beginning at what will be the bottom of the second bag)

In this sequence, one face is woven from it's open end, the other from its closed end.

Somewhere in our Archives is a discussion of this question. My recollection is that it arose because the numbers of extant chuvals woven from the bottom is very different than the number woven from the top.

Steve Price
July 7th, 2016 01:59 PM
Chuck Wagner Greetings Hans,

I assume you are referring to the last of the three chuvals.

Terminology: Top and bottom on a vertical loom; far and near, on a horizontal loom.

The term "upside-down weaving" is somewhat misleading. Working on a horizontal loom and starting at the far end, a weaver would have to sit on unknotted warps, making tension management almost impossible. On a vertical loom, starting at the top and working down would cause the newest wefts to tend to fall, and again make tension management very difficult.

So, when we see a bag that appears to have been woven upside-down, a more likely explanation is that we are looking at the second of two bag faces, Starting at the bottom and working upward, the order is typically:

-the first kilim back
-the first bag face
-the middle kilim saddle
-the second bag face
-the second kilim back

(authors note: Duh; wrong; see following posts)

The design on the second bag face is upside-down relative to the first so that when draped over a pack animal, the bags appear the same from both sides. It is a more likely explanation even with chuvals intended to be hung on tent frames; it would be a circumstance where the loom was large enough to accommodate two bags and the weaver had the intent to produce two chuvals on the same warp structure. If you are looking at a bag "woven upside-down" you are looking at the second bag face, likely cut away from the complete weaving.

When weaving, the weaver always pulls the knots tightly toward the completed knot/weft structure - again, because to do otherwise would result in a loose and structurally unsound mess - so the pile points toward the bottom/near end of the weaving.

So, this is definitely open left.

Chuck Wagner
July 7th, 2016 11:40 AM
Open left or Right?

Dear Mr Wagner:

I did look at the closeup picture you posted of your chuval. The one where you are trying to show the type of knot.

Is your chuval woven upside down? Or did the weaving begin at the bottom? If it is woven upside down, top to bottom, the it appears to me to be open to the right. And converse if woven from the bottom to the top then open to the left. Perhaps this question has already be considered in the much comments this discussion has drawn. If so then it is my fault for missing them.

Best wishes to all,

Hans Kraklemeyer
July 6th, 2016 06:06 AM
Chuck Wagner HI all,

To wrap this up, I'll add a little more content from some ongoing email discussions I've had with Peter about late 19th and 20h century Salor demographics. His remarks:
There is brief mention of Salors in the MAD in the section of William Woods article " Turkmen Ethnohistory " in the Amstey Collection catalogue Vanishing Jewels: Central Asian Tribal Weavings: A Catalog of an Exhibition at the Rochester Museum,1990. See the extensive bibliography by Wood who was a Central Asian History PhD at University of Indiana and now teaches at a university in Southern Ca;ifornia. Wood refers to Salors in Sayat ( on the Left Bank even though Vinnikov makes it clear the Sayat are another tribe).He adds that the number of Salors along the river are twice the number found in Sarakhs, which most rug books show as the center of Salors in the 19th and 20th century. The map that accompanies Vinnikov clearly shows the main concentrations based on the 1926 census as being along the river north of Charjui and south on the Right bank around Khojambas.In the 1926 census after the four Ersari subtribes, the MAD Salors were the largest population of the tribes in the Lebab Region, and that is still true today in Turkmenistan's Lebap province.
As for the Salors of Northern Afghanistan, it is true there are a few mixed in with the Saryks in Maruchak, as well as with some of the Tekke north of Herat ( where they are all just called " Mauri " ) and just over the border in the Pende oasis, but most of the Marv Salors ended up in Sarakhs, fleeing the Tekke invasion in 1830
Chuck Wagner
June 30th, 2016 02:48 PM
Chuck Wagner Greetings all,

Hat tip to David and Steve for helping me contact Peter Poullada, enabling an interesting exchange of emails. Peter reviewed and remarked on several detailed images of the pieces I posted earlier, as well as a third (mentioned, but first posted below).

A) Regarding the first , this mid-20th century Ali Eli piece:

These remarks may extend to Dave's bag as well; the two seem to be related.

Peter's remarks:

This one is almost certainly a 20th century Northern Afghan version of the old Ali Eli format.( See Loges) In my day in the 1970's in Afghanistan they would call this Labijar or Taghan, both towns near Shibergan in N. Afghanistan. The weavers themselves were probably sedentarized Ersari and almost all these are ASR, but a lot of the weaving villages were mixed up Turkmen tribal groups who had fled from the Lebab in the 1930's and had to some extent lost a lot of their " tribal " cultural identities, or at least the women didn't weave so " endogamously ". What is confusing is the extent that even in the mid-20th century some of these Northern Afghan weavers managed to continue to use vegetal dyes even though the synthetics started coming in full use in the 1890's.
I am intrigued and fascinated to see that the backs of your pieces are so decorated and wonder if we just aren't aware of the extent of back decoration in older " Ersari " pieces because they have been cut off and discarded for so long !
There was some additional discussion on the photo from Mackie & Thompson; Peter recalled that Pfeiffer's photos were taken near Andkhoy in northwest Afghanistan.

B) Regarding the second piece posted earlier

Peter's remarks:

Let me take on this dyrnak one. It is a very nice example. Sight unseen and without handling it I would say 1880's. The combination of the precise drawing of the guls which are archetypal to the Saryk,but appear in the late 19th in some of the Marv Tekke pieces ( see below for why) the use of the dyrnak-claw minor gul, that main border which is really quite rare, and that they almost always seem to use ASL knotting convinces me that they constitute a separate Lebab-region tribal group, i.e. Not to be lumped into the " Ersari " basket. And I am pretty certain they are not Ali Eli.

Just to restate the thesis and the message: from the 1650's on to the end of the 19th century there were between 25 and 30 different and well-defined
( self-identified) tribal groupings of Turkmen inhabiting this region along the Amu Darya, known from the 17th century onwards as the " Lebab" and now within the Lebap Province of modern Turkmenistan and into Northern Afghanistan.

Karpov's 1926 survey of the region, confirmed by Vinnikov in the 1950's gives us their tribal names, as well as detailing their relative populations and the locations of their weaving villages ( qishlaq). These two sources clearly and unambiguously identity and differentiate for us territories of the four main Ersari sub-tribes ( Bekaul, Kara, Ulugh Tepe and Gunesh), and confirm that there were many many tribes along the river who were NOT Ersari.
When I drove the length of the Lebab on both sides of the river in 2014, all 250 kms from Charjui to Kerki and back, we visited with my guide who was himself a Bekaul Ersari, more than 20 separate tribally self-identified Turkmen groups, including Kizil Ayak ( a silk weaving area and the location of an important sufi shrine ).

But in terms of linking tribes to weavings, we have in current use only four or five " labels " used by the trade to attach to all these Turkmen: Ersari, Kizil Ayak, " Beshir " ( which is a place not a people) and Burdalyk ( also a place ).And I am trying to add Ali Eli to the list. So unfortunately we are stuck with speculations in trying to attach more precise names to weavings even if we can be pretty sure they constitute products of a separate ( as opposed to " Ersari ") tribal group.

But we can derive some hints: in some cases we know precisely which qishlaq a weaving came from, thanks to some of the labels and acquisition cards Moshkova left us. In some cases we have hints: for example the Khalach/Khaladj are from a region north of Kerki on the west bank that has a very high volume of silk production so we can speculatively link use of lots of silk to their weavings. In some cases ( like juvals from the Khojambas region on the East Bank, north of Kerki, inhabited by the Salors) , we do have evidence of ASL knotting, depressed warps and use of " Salor-like " motifs to suggest a connection or speculative attribution. etc etc.

I know this is a long-winded comment, but the point is with regard to this juval: we know from the Persian and Bukharan chronicles that the Saryk came to the Marv Oasis in the second half of the 18th century, and mostly had concentrated there by 1785. But most of our catalogues etc forget to mention where did they come from? Most likely from the Lebab, or perhaps some from the southernmost areas of Khorezm ( Khanate of Khiva) that lies along the river north of the Lebab. And we are told by the Khivan Chronicles (principally the Firdaus al Iqbal) that they were closely associated with a large and important tribal group called the Saqar, who still live on the west bank south of Charjui. So I propose to speculate that there are weavings from this region out there in our collections that are either residual Saryks ( let us call them MAD or Lebab Saryks), who did not migrate to Marv or they could be products of the associated Saqars. But for some reason the Saqars unlike the more familiar Marv Saryks used the ASl knot rather than the symmetric ??
So to summarize, No question in my mind this juval constitutes a separate tribal group, but I have seen and handled only a half dozen of them. So the more the merrier !

Here is my version, a redder pallette and very Saryk style elem, and with yellow and pink silk highlights but I would suggest the same tribal group.
He graciously allowed his piece to be shown; a very handsome piece, and less abused:

C) Moving on to my third piece (images below), let me note a discussion back in 2006, initiated by Jack Williams, featuring an exceptionally similar chuval. Jack hypothesized a Saryk attribution; some other members suggested Ersari at the time.

Here's the link:


Peter's remarks:

On the final one, let me throw out a speculation: an early 20th century weaving of the Lebab region Khojambas Salors. ASL with depressed warps.
Well, that got my attention and I inquired further, and after some additional discussion (not argument) he added:

I am reluctant to accept arguments about attribution only on the basis of design and aesthetics, particularly for 20th century pieces. No doubt there are some very " Saryk-like " features, but then we have trained ourselves to define what is a Saryk based on Russian evidence collected only from Marv, Yolatan and Pende Saryks. And this was after their 100 year interaction sharing the oasis of Marv with the Salors of Marv. Hmm, makes me wonder. And the symmetric versus ASR/ASL technique is a powerful signal, I think.
Now, on to images of the piece in question, followed by some of my remarks and supporting images from the discussion with Peter.

The images; note conspicuous use of silk. Knots are asymmetric open left:

Now some of my remarks to Peter, with images:

CW: I would argue that the crispness of the design execution should count for something, here is mine at left, Ersari center, and Saryk right, from Mackie & Thompson

CW: The trouble with a Saryk attribution is that most (but I think, not all) Saryk work is built with symmetrical knots. If you’re right about my dyrnak gul piece, that’s another argument in favor of non-Ersari. Frankly, I think it is far too nicely done to be Ersari. Snobbish, I know, but I’ve never personally seen an Ersari so well or consistently executed. So Saryk is something I would consider; still, a lot of silk for a Saryk piece. Salor work often has copious amounts of silk.

Additionally, both the pubished Saryk and Ersari analog examples are more cluttered than mine. Salor pieces always seem to have an elegant balance of space and geometrics, as does mine.

Saryk left, Ersari right:

Kizil Ayak (left), Saryk (right):

CW: So I am satisfied with a quite late Salor hypothesis – if “feels” right, but I would love to have enough personal insight to be able to justify it to skeptics.
There seems to be a slowly growing body of evidence and opinion that the Salor were present and weaving in the very early 20th C and that they did not just disappear overnight (sneaking away, like the Baltimore Colts). Rather, they gradually dispersed and redistributed over time.

Chuck Wagner
June 28th, 2016 12:29 AM
David R E Hunt Hi Guys

Very good, end of the mystery ...

June 27th, 2016 07:20 PM
Chuck Wagner Hi David,

A very helpful response. As you have his attention, would you mind asking him to take a look at the images I posted for mine (above) and provide any insight he might have ? It has a vertical to horizontal knot ratio of 1.8 to 1 (5 H, 9 V, on the average, counting on the back), which is one of his criteria for Kizil Ayak but, it is Asym open left, which he says is inconsistent with Kizil Ayak. And then there's the dyrnak guls.

The V to H ratio is well above the 1 : 1 he expects for Ersari pieces.

Chuck Wagner
June 27th, 2016 05:49 PM
David Katz Thank you Chuck for all of the technical and historical references.

I found Peter Poullada's email address online (he is president of the San Francisco Bay Area Rug Society) and sent him the images of my presumed Ali Eli juval. Here, with his permission, is his response:

"Hi David,
this juval appears to show many of the very characteristic elements of an Ali Eli although I have never seen a twenty gul version and the size seems much bigger than usual. Some of the elements that suggest this tribal attribution are: ASL knotting, (unlike Kizil Ayak and 75-80% of Ersari that are ASR), the very characteristic main gul with its little " c" forms in quarters ( whenever you see these you get ASL knotting), the chemche minor guls have typically symmetric layout ie no elongation or width, this form is shared with the Kizil Ayak. The palette seems a bit more brick red than other AE I have seen, at least in this photo, and the use of silk is normal ( almost never found in KA or Ersari) It seems to have more borders than usual but the comparison sample is probably just too small. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

So apart from the number of guls (and I don't really think that is a marker of tribal identity for any of the Turkmen tribes) I think an AE attribution is fine. Appears to have white wool warps which is more like the KA but again is not unknown with Ali Eli, but I can't tell the wefts. Often they are not the same wool color ( again unlike the Ersari who tend to use the same ).
So based on the photos you sent I would have no problem at all attributing it to the Ali Eli.

Hard to tell what age, second half of 19th ? Third quarter ? And most likely Ali Ali of Andkhoy ( Northern Afghanistan ) not Abivard, Southeast of Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan today, the other home of the AE post 1750's.
A nice piece !
all the best

June 26th, 2016 11:19 PM
Chuck Wagner Hi,

Here are the drawings from Parviz Tanavoli's "Kings, Heroes & Lovers - Pictorial Rugs from the Tribes and Villages of Iran". He has a pretty good system for coding knot geometry:

Chuck Wagner
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