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Go Back   Turkotek Discussion Forums > Miscellaneous (rug-related) Topics > Jürg Rageth’s “Turkmen Carpets, A New Perspective”

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February 18th, 2018 01:49 PM
Steve Price Hi Andy

We get lots of mundane topics and a few that have real meat (like this one). These are beyond the expertise of all but a handful of our Merrie Bande, and they move slowly for that reasons. They are also the ones guys like me value the most because we can really learn from them.

Thanks for your patience.

Regards, and hoping all is well.

Steve
February 18th, 2018 06:04 AM
Andy Hale
Bronze Age

I have been holding off on responding in hopes a few more people would add their thoughts. Turkotek seems to move at a very slow pace!
First I should apologize for my brusque dismissal of the Sogdian/Zandaniji/Turkmen rug connection. While I don’t accept the theory, there are many who do, including such respected scholars as Dr. Jon Thompson and our own Martin Andersen so it shouldn’t be disregarded out of hand. That being said, I have learned, from my own past mistakes, to be wary of proposing linear relationships in art based largely on formal resemblance. Still, I will try to keep an open mind!
Pierre: You mention the “Bronze Age”. I am not sure WHOSE Bronze Age you are referring to but if one wants to go back to the earliest design analogies for Turkmen rugs, it would be to the Central Asian Bronze Age-c3000-1500 BC. There you can see, in ceramics, sculptures, bronze casting and even architecture, most of the designs seen in the later traditional Turkmen carpets.
Especially relevant to our discussion are the bronze compartmented seals. As I wrote in “Ikat, Silks of Central Asia, The Guido Goldman Collection”:
“The graphic abilities of the Bronze Age artist are best seen in the bronze belt studs of 2000 BC (figs 108 – 112). The stylized human, animal and floral forms were usually framed within a medallion, and the tendency toward reticulation was very strong. The arrangement of opposing figures within a medallion is one of the most enduring conventions in Central Asian art, and occurs frequently in later carpets and textiles” (Pg 179)
There are five of these seals illustrated in the book. There is also a seal, with opposing goats facing a tree, formerly from our collection, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. You can find it online: https://goo.gl/images/WjUWrK There are other related pieces in their collection that might be of interest as well.
My point here is that the Central Asian tendency towards arranging symmetrical or reticulated figures within a roundel goes back much further than the Sogdian period. And that you don’t have to leave Central Asia to find its roots!
Oddly, for someone so interested in tracing archaic forms, Rageth seemed to have very little interest in the Central Asian Bronze Age.
January 26th, 2018 11:53 AM
Pierre Galafassi Hi Andy.

I am in full agreement with your statement about a Central Asian common language of design with various «dialects». There are enough clear examples of that and also several cases of astonishing survival of such motifs through millenaries.

As far as the roundels are specifically concerned, it is also good to remember that it was a popular motif, not only in Sogdian textiles (and in textiles and metalworks attributed to the Sassanians, their overlords for quite a while), but in contemporaneous Byzantine art (textiles and mosaics) and even before that in Roman mosaics. Attributing an invention of this particular motif to the Sogdians is therefore walking on very thin ice. It was only one of their (or their Asian customers’-) favorite ones to which they gave a recognizable flavor .


Bdw, the Sogdian-/Sassanian- roundels very often contained a pair of opposed animals, a motif which, again, was not rare in Byzantine art, but was as well used by various other Asian civilizations, including some dating from from the Bronze Age, for example in form of two animals facing a tree of Life.

Best regards
Pierre
January 25th, 2018 11:05 PM
Andy Hale You can read his "daring theory" that the Salor were either themselves Sogdian or that the Sogdians were "absorbed by" the Salor, thereby merging their weaving traditions on page 436.

In any case, he suggests a direct linear relationship between earlier, commercial Zandaniji fabrics and later tribal Salor main carpets based on a number of, IMO, very weak suppositions. Sorting through designs based only on form without an understanding of historical context will often produce what, in linguistics would be called "false cognates". In this respect, it is important to remember that Central Asians shared what might be called a "language of design", with different groups using different dialects, all of which evolved over time. Does anyone really believe some guys in Zandaniji were the first people in Central Asia to ever make a weaving with roundels arranged symmetrically within a border? And that the Turkmen were so lacking in imagination, they could think of nothing better than to copy it for centuries afterward?

There are an endless number of questionable or incorrect ideas in the book. I am not surprised it was never formally reviewed in Hali. It would have taken forever!
January 24th, 2018 05:48 PM
Pierre Galafassi Hi Andy,

Although I have bravely completed the reading (it took me only 5 months), I must confess that I agree with your post:
While the dye - and C14 analysis parts are highly interesting, appear to me to be solid and surely do open new perspectives, Rageth’s wandering in design interpretation is less satisfactory. I especially did regret that he was not much more interested in the history of Central Asian people’s migrations.

I failed to notice his hypothesis of a direct descent of the Salor tribe from the Sogdians, already mentioned by Martin (could you please indicate in what chapter this strange claim was made) but it seems obvious to me too that it is an extremely unlikely origin:
As stated by various 19th century visitors
The Salor themselves claimed a descent from the Oghuz (a strong Turkic confederation which actively contributed to the (very lively) history of successive Turkik Khanates East of Transsoxiana).
Other Turkmen tribes fully agreed with this Salor claim. (As lineage was a very serious matter for the Turkic tribes, it is highly unlikely that they would err on this point).
Physically the 19th century Salor showed more clearly a Turko-Mongol origin than most other Turkmen tribes. ( The Turkmen hobby of capturing Persians, to be sold mainly on the Bokhara and Khiva slave markets, but occasionally to keep Persian concubines for themselves, had, according to O’Donovan and others, contributed to change the racial characteristics of many Turkmen, though much less so, apparently, among the elitist Salor tribe.

The Turkic Salor had clearly nomadic and warlike traditions and had therefore very little in common with the Indo-European Sogdians, which were the most successful merchants of their time and were enjoying prevalently a settled, urban lifestyle. The Sogdians’ constant policy was to accept the political rule of stronger military powers (China, Persia, Gökturk khanate etc..) and to care instead only for their own business along the Silk Road.

I am less critical than you about the hypothesis that Sogdian design may have influenced (indirectly of course) the design of Salor- (and other Turkmen-) rugs:
An influence of Sogdian/Sassanian Persian textile design on later Timurid rugs (as seen in dozens of miniatures) appears quite credible to me. And these Timurid rugs really could have been an inspiration for, later still, Turkmen main carpets.

The Turkmen nomads have lived during 800 years directly at the borders of these successive urban civilizations, their ancestors had even been for a while the overlords of the Sogdians, later -around 1000 AD-, one center of Oghuz power was situated in the area of the lower Syr darya and Amu darya rivers. Offsprings of these Oghuz had destroyed and created several Central Asian great empires and meddled in all possible ways in the region’s history. IMHO commercial and some artistic influences would seem quite likely too.

But I am certainly not competent in this matter of design filiation.
Perhaps our friend Martin Andersen could share with us his much more valuable and professional opinion about this interesting question.

Best regards
Pierre
January 22nd, 2018 11:01 PM
Andy Hale
Tough Going!

I borrowed a copy and read about a quarter of it. I am really into this kind of stuff but doubt I will ever be able to get through the whole thing. Probably just skim the and say I did!

My main interest was to see his take on design history. I found most of his arguments on design sources for Turkmen rugs both tedious and unconvincing. The popular idea that Sogdian textiles were the inspiration for Salor Turkmen main carpets is, IMO, rather facile. Of course, if you believe, as Rageth appears to, that the Salor were themselves the direct descendents of the Sogdians then I guess it makes more sense.

He seemed more interested in the cultures around the Turkmen than the people themselves. Seemed a lot more interested in rugs than the people who made them. I may be wrong but I got impression that he didn't spend much or any time doing research in Central Asia.

Well, if you believe that Turkmen textile art is no more than an artistic "Cargo Cult" of designs taken from older/higher cultures recycled mindlessly for centuries there is really not much point in going too deeply into its essence!

I do admire his passion though! Huge investment of time and money. I think in the end, his dye analysis will be the most rewarding for future researchers.
July 12th, 2017 07:37 AM
Filiberto Boncompagni Yes, thank you Joel.
And, of course, many many thanks to Mr. Rageth!
Regards,
Filiberto
July 11th, 2017 08:42 PM
Pierre Galafassi Thanks a lot Martin and Joel!!!

Indeed a fantastic job by Rageth and his colleagues.

As a scientist, I always was a great fan of Rageth’s unique approach to rug research.

These two books will be a great enjoyment to read and surely trigger some interesting discussions here on Turkotek, after we will have digested the (superbly illustrated) 800+ pages

I already had the pleasure of reading several scientific papers by two of Rageth’s collaborators, for example in Jo Kirby’s outstanding publications «*Dyes in History and Archeology*» : Jan Wouters (surely one of the world stars in analysis of dyes in archeology) and Georges Bonani (a top expert in C14 analysis).

Imho Rageth has teamed with people who know what they are talking about. (Not such a frequent occurence in so-called Rug Science).

How awfully generous of them to supply free downloads!

Best regards
Pierre
July 11th, 2017 06:37 PM
Martin Andersen Thanks a lot Joel, I wasn't aware of this.

Its a great gesture of the publisher to put the entire publication online (it looks like its an official homepage)

best Martin
July 11th, 2017 04:38 PM
Joel Greifinger
Free pdf

Quote:
I can highly recommend the book (even though it has a hefty price tag).
Hi Martin,

A free downloadable pdf of the book can be found here: http://turkmencarpets.ch/

Joel Greifinger
July 10th, 2017 11:58 AM
Filiberto Boncompagni Hi Martin,

No problem, it's done.

Regards,

Filiberto
July 10th, 2017 11:24 AM
Martin Andersen (sorry this should probably have been posted in "Miscellaneous (rug-related) Topics". best Martin)
July 10th, 2017 11:18 AM
Martin Andersen
Jürg Rageth’s “Turkmen Carpets, A New Perspective”

Has anyone been through Jürg Rageth’s “Turkmen Carpets, A New Perspective”? It could perhaps be interesting to discuss it here on Turkotek?

Anyway I can highly recommend the book (even though it has a hefty price tag). Its a beautiful and very very thorough description of both individual rugs, and of their connections in a broad perspective of historical design developments. It to me seems to be the most ambitious book on the Turkmen rug in a long time, if not the most ambitious ever.

Some of Rageth’s highly interesting suggestions might be disputable, for example the suggestion of a direct lineage between specifically the Salor tribe and the Sogdians, but sure a very interesting thesis based on both design development and lingustics.
Rageth also have a focuspoint on the Peikam border and its relation to Kufic ornamentation and the niche/prayer rug, a subject which I personally stil find highly fascinating

The heydays of interest in the Turkmen rugs may be over, but if so Jürg Rageth’s book sure is a worthy and beautiful finale

All the best
Martin

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