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Joy Richards June 30th, 2018 02:52 PM

Caucasian Prayer Rug
I'm an amateur at this and have looked through Kaffel but came up only with a hint (page 33) that the handwritten note may be right in the comment about the Lesghi connection. So here are my pictures, including the note which was attached. Some of the words are indecipherable but the paper on which it's written, seems quite old!

I would be very grateful for any comments, thoughts, attribution, dates, anything. At the very least, I hope it is of some interest and I hope I can answer any potential questions.





The note:


Rich Larkin June 30th, 2018 05:47 PM

Hi Joy,

That is a sweet little prayer rug! The size is unusual, and very portable. If you were taking it to the mosque, you could put it in your handbag. :angelic:
I particularly like the inner border on red.

You must have looked into the significance of the two cartouches with numbers. To take the obvious line, it is the same number twice, viz., 134. But other possibilities could be advanced, based partly on the slight differences in the way some of the numerals are written.

If a fourth numeral were added, one would think it was an Islamic date in the 1920s.

I tend to take all the regional attributions in the Caucasus with a grain of salt, so it is interesting that the writer of the label places the rug in West Lesghistan. I wonder what diagnostic characteristics one would look for in East Lesghistan. BTW, is the label paper? It looks like cloth on the screen.

Congrats if it is your rug!


Joy Richards June 30th, 2018 06:31 PM

Caucasian Prayer Rug
Thank you, Rich, for your enthusiastic comments! It is indeed mine, as of yesterday.
Now that you mention it, we've looked at the note again and my husband says it's definitely cloth, and it looks quite aged.
Given the comments in that note and the mention of 'Armenian characteristics', perhaps it explains why the date is a little strange. You read them as '134' but in what language?
I wonder too about the horizontal line about two thirds down of a different colour. The back doesn't appear to show that this is a repair. Is it intentional? And if so, is it where the knees go?!
The real colours are much nicer than what shows up in the pictures and is one of the very appealing things about it.
You may also have noticed how the fringe has been repaired part of the way with a diagonal stitch.
I love it and can't wait to hang it.

Rich Larkin June 30th, 2018 07:52 PM

Hi Joy,

Armenians have been closely involved with handwoven rugs in several contexts historically, and especially with Caucasians. (Just to be clear, your rug is without question Eastern Caucasian, produced north of Iran and close to the western shore of the Caspian Sea.) There is a lot of opinion with competing claims in those regards (i. e., the precise roles of Armenians), and I have no extensive knowledge about it. I would speculate that the writer of the label (very possibly, a dealer) was Armenian, and had opinions about specific designs favored by Armenian weavers.

The numbers are of the Arab form, which is employed by many Middle Eastern language groups (including the entire Arab world, though your rug is not Arab). The 'four' in particular (which takes two different forms) might be thought to indicate Persian influence, though I wouldn't push that notion too hard. However, numbers in Armenian script would be nothing like that, but rather in the form with which Europeans would be familiar (albeit a rather 'stately' version thereof). That is, the Armenian alphabet is unlike either the Arabic or European, but their numerals are European in form.

Rugs with dates often reflect the Islamic calendar, which started in 626 M. E. There are (at least) two versions, depending whether the year is solar (365 days) or lunar (354 days). That is a whole 'nother can of worms! Rugs from the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries tend show 13-something; thus, my suggestion about your rug. I would say those numbers are trying to be a date, but missing a digit.

This sort of thing is not unusual. For starters, '1340' would have required only a simple dot after the last number, one knot in the rug. Furthermore, it is very possible the weaver was illiterate, and copying the date from some other source; and she didn't see the dot! Who knows. Anyway, this gives you plenty of material with which to mesmerize your dinner guests.:groucho:

Almost certainly, the horizontal bar of lighter color was not intended for a functional reason, and rather reflects a dye aberration of some kind. Does it show similarly on the back?

The cross stitching at the ends is the most frequently encountered method by which professional repairers secure ends so that they will not unravel (any further than they already have!).

There are some Caucasian mavens on this site who may jump in here and give you additional commentary. Good luck with your rug!


Steve Price June 30th, 2018 09:19 PM

Hi Rich

It's not unheard of for inscribed Caucasian rugs to have what looks like a date but with only 3 numerals. As you note, the zero is just a dot, and can be overlooked by an illiterate weaver. But it doesn't necessarily have to be the final digit. This one might hav been intended to be 1340 AH (around 1925 AD) or 1304 AH (around 1895 AD). I'm bothered by the absence of the usual handle-looking device that precedes the first digit of a date. My inclination is to not let the inscription absorb too much of my attention.


Joy Richards July 1st, 2018 12:10 AM

Well, she may have been illiterate, but astounding how the brain works its ways. And Steve, whatever date it is, it's older than any of us and it doesn't matter.
And thank you, Rich, for all that information. The stitching on the back is the same colour as it appears on the front, so I think you're right that it's a dye aberration. It doesn't bother me.
The only other scant information that came with it was "South Caucasian Prayer Rug, possibly dated 1912, Late 19th/Early 20th Century."
Have learned far more from you already. Thank you both again.

Rich Larkin July 1st, 2018 03:57 AM

Hi Steve,

The "handle-looking" device would be the letter "h" for hegira. But it doesn't appear in the majority of alleged dates (i. e., years) in my experience.

I do agree that all inscriptions, including dates, must be taken with some skepticism.


Filiberto Boncompagni July 1st, 2018 12:19 PM

Hi Joy,

First, having checked for the meaning of “mavens” (thank you Rich for enriching my vocabulary) I have to state that if there are any mavens on Turkotek, I am not one of them.

I do not deny the “Caucasomaniac” label having spent many of my younger :rolleyes: years buying books on Caucasian rugs and textiles and studying them, perusing the internet on the subject and amassing a lot of related digital imagery.

I scanned most of the above-mentioned documentation and I didn’t find any rug similar to yours.

I am afraid I cannot add more information to the one you already have and I agree with the comments of Rich and Steve.

Which makes this post rather pointless, doesn’t it? :baffled:

Oh, yes, one thing… I bet the colors of your prayer rug are more brilliant of the ones appearing in your photos. This is not a critic: I know how difficult is to capture the vividness of an oriental rug.

So… Joy, congratulations and en-Joy it ;)



Rich Larkin July 1st, 2018 04:22 PM

Hi Filiberto,

I have to state that if there are any mavens on Turkotek, I am not one of them.
Au contraire, mon ami. :fez:

You were right up there when I came up with "mavens." :)

Rich Larkin July 1st, 2018 05:27 PM

Hi Joy,

Not to beat this into the ground (:deadhorse:), but here is another comment that relates to what you were told when you acquired the rug. Assuming the numbers are trying to be a date, there is a reading that can get you to about 1912.

The figure for '3' is most accurately drawn in the middle item in the right hand cartouche, with the three little vertical points off that upper part. (You can see it is slightly skewed in the corresponding version on the left side.) Meanwhile, the figure at the extreme right of each cartouche can be read as one of the two ways to write '4' in this script. Thus, '134'. But if one disregards the curved gizmo above each of the end figures as some kind of stray scribble, or something else illegible (not an uncommon phenomenon on this sort of thing, and the drawing of '4' isn't perfect), it is then possible to read that end figure as another '3'. That is, '133'.

As I mentioned earlier, Islamic calendars begin at 626 M. E. As a rule of thumb for use when encountering dated rugs, I have noted that 1300 in the Islamic system, using lunar years (354 days), lands in 1882 by the so-called Gregorian calendar. Thus, for the vast majority of 'dated' rugs encountered by the average rug enthusiast (i. e., nineteenth century), it is a simple matter to do a little math and get close to the putative year. (For "putative," go to "maven" in the dictionary, then skip ahead three letters. It is somewhere in there. :laughing_2:) So, if your cartouches really contain '133', meaning 1330, you could add the thirty years to 1882, and it gets you to 1912.

Now, the truth is, if all that were true, the intervening thirty Islamic years between 1882 and the date when your rug was woven add up to only about twenty-nine years on the western calendar, because the former years lose eleven days annually. So, you might be able to squeeze 1911 out of the deal. :sherlock: Since every ruggie I have ever met is desperate to make his/her rug as old as possible, you might want to consider it.

If you have followed all of this, you may have gained some insight into how insidiously dangerous this hobby can be. :devil:


Joy Richards July 1st, 2018 06:31 PM

I am so grateful that the little carpet is of some interest, and am intrigued that you Filiberto, maven or not, have been unable to find anything similar, despite your thorough search.

You're quite correct that the true colours are not represented in the pictures. They are very strong but without that brashness that we mostly see in new carpets. I wish I could better convey how they really look. They have that lovely patina of age.

And Rich, I've taken two more pictures, hopefully showing the two cartouches more clearly (the pile hides the full figures) but have sent them to Steve because I fail miserably at posting them myself.

It's the aesthetic beauty of these works of art that I love so much. Finding TurkoTek years ago has given me so much pleasure and so many laughs, and I would like to thank all of you for continuing to share your vast knowledge and your humour.





Rich Larkin July 1st, 2018 08:15 PM

Hi Joy,

Well, cancel all that blather about '133'. The final digit there is clearly '4' in the Arabic script. If you would miss the madness by removal of that variable, you might want to focus on the hint of something immediately to the left of the vertical line of '4' in the upper of your two latest images; but I would not recommend it. :rant::madgo:

BTW, one last comment on the shards of info you have about your rug. The label writer called it "______(West?) Lesghistan small prayer rug." Your supplier called it "South Caucasian." Lesghistan refers to an area towards the northern part of the Caucasus, named for "Lesghi" tribespeople who apparently reside there. So, there is an apparent inconsistency there. BTW, I called it Eastern Caucasus; but that would not be inconsistent with the opinion of your supplier, as if it is southern Caucasian, it would likely be the southeastern part.

If these kinds of inconsistencies make you crazy, don't worry about it. I spent many years trying to understand and coordinate much of this sort of theoretically learned commentary until I figured out that it often cannot be reconciled, and is frequently just inaccurate.


Filiberto Boncompagni July 1st, 2018 08:49 PM

Hi Rich,

To be precise Lezghistan should be in part in the Azerbaijan Qusar District:


and the other part should on the other side of the Daghestan border:




Rich Larkin July 2nd, 2018 12:00 AM

Hi Filiberto,

Thanks for those links. Very maven-like research there. :cool: :wizard:

I see that the 'real' location of Lezghistan is an adventure if you look in enough places. Anyway, it seems to run in a diagonal direction from northwest to southeast, with the southeastern part (in the Qusar District) being in the general vicinity of many of the 'usual suspects' of eastern Caucasian weaving, such as Kuba and Shirvan. It is this sort of confusion (to me :errormonkey:) that keeps me from delving into this stuff too much.

I guess one can throw in the notion of Lezghi anytime without getting into too much trouble, as the place is everywhere. :felix:

Aside to Joy: whatever the above means, I would note that if the reference on your label is to "West" Lezghistan, it does not seem to me a likely provenance for your rug. As I mentioned, Lezghistan seems to run diagonally, and the northwest end of it would not seem a place such a rug would have been produced. Maybe I am not reading "West" correctly there. Any other suggestions?


Joy Richards July 2nd, 2018 04:59 AM


That word before Lesghistan has proven to be indecipherable and unguessable. I don't think the first letter is a 'W' and having also checked the whereabouts and location of the Lesghi tribes, 'west' doesn't make sense as you mention.

I also Googled 'antique Lesghi rugs' and from looking at many of then, the writer of the note may have felt that the Lesghi Star, in a modified form, is the connection.

So I am going to believe it is from the western side of the Caspian Sea in the area of Daghestan going down into northern Azerbaijan. Basically the area described by Baron de Bode to the Royal Geographical Society on March 26, 1860 after his visit to a wild and difficult but fascinating country:


Filiberto Boncompagni July 2nd, 2018 07:46 AM


Thanks for those links. Very maven-like research there.
Well, it was very easy thanks to Richard E. Wright, in particular for his translation of M. D. Isaev. I had posted the link quite recently, here it is again:


Isaev mentions “Lesgistan” and several villages in it. Looking for the villages it was easy to find the Qusar Rayonu (district), I did it years ago.
I found the Qusar page on Wikipedia just yesterday, though.

Let's not forget that Lesghis were reputed mainly for the production of those nice Caucasian Sumaks, by the way.

My turn to thank Joy for her link. I am going to explore it later.



Rich Larkin July 2nd, 2018 02:40 PM

Hi Joy,

I think you have been holding out on us. :cool: You are an advanced ruggie in disguise. Anyway, that Royal Geographic Society stuff is very interesting. I was generically aware there was enormous ethnic diversity packed into the Caucasus, within an area about the size of New England, USA. That material provides a specific glimpse.

Regarding the key word on the label of your rug, my original thought was that it said, "truest" (i. e., "most true"). It would fit. That being said, it is an interesting comment. It is quite likely the writer of the label was a rug dealer, and we cannot dismiss those folks.

Looking at the Richard Wright article Filiberto posted, in which there is a distinction made between thin Caucasians with thin yarn, and higher pile rugs with thick yarn, which category do you think your rug falls under?


Thanks for that link. You can't do better than Wright for this kind of stuff.


Joy Richards July 2nd, 2018 06:27 PM

And here, of course, is where it shows what an ignoramus I am about these things. How can I determine whether it is a Caucasian with thin yarn, or a higher pile rug with thick yarn? I can only compare with the rugs I have, especially with how they feel to the hand.
It's soft and flexible to the touch, much more so than my not so old Baluch, but closer to the much older and more used Baluch which has little pile left on it. My large Heriz carpet has what I would call a high pile, but nothing like a Gabbeh.
If I measure the pile, it's a lot less than 1/4" and the pile is even across the whole rug. There is more wear and tear on the top fringe and a bit on the edges, but actually, it may not have seen that much use, given the very vibrant (but not garish) colours. I understand it came from an estate and may well have been rolled and kept out of the light for many decades. Would it help if I took another picture of a fold and a thumb or coin beside it?
We are about to hang it, between the two very worn Khusraw and Shirin rugs that saw a lot of action on Iranian tea room floors but at least Khusraw is sitting on his horse rather than hovering over it as in the example at page 184 of Parviz Tanavoli's Kings Heroes & Lovers.
I have lots of books, but hopeless at recognizing or identifying anything.
Two weeks ago I was ready to head for Uzbekistan and feast on the old suzanis and the probably overly resuscitated mosques, but that Caucusus region is now much more attractive. Will have to dig up a friend who speaks Russian.

Steve Price July 2nd, 2018 06:55 PM

Hi Joy

I'm not sure how useful Russian will be in the former Soviet republics. They were all required to learn Russian in school and all street signs were bilingual (Russian + the native language) - there was and still is a lot of resentment toward Russians.

I was there as a guest of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1979, and spoke Russian pretty well at the time. Except for people from Ukraine, every non-Russian I met refused to speak Russian. When I arrived in Vilnius with my personal KGB agent, I was greeted at the airport by the director of the institute I was scheduled to visit. He spoke Lithuanian and had a translator who put his words into English. I replied in Russian. He looked me in the eye and asked me in German if I could speak German. I could, and told him so. "Good", he said (in German). "We will speak German. Russian is a foreign language."

Two years ago, I visited Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The anti-Russian sentiments were still obvious, and expressed openly. Educated people all spoke English or German in addition to their native language.

Anyway, if you still want a Russian speaking lackey, nobody works for less than I do.

Steve Price

Ken Shum July 2nd, 2018 07:04 PM

I think it is rare to have the harshang border on a prayer rug. This type of border is more associated with the Karabakh region.

I am unfamiliar with the inner border pattern.

The flowers (shield) in the field are associated with the Eastern side of the Caucasus (Kuba, Shirvan, Derbent)

The 3 cord naturally colored selvedge also reminds me of Kuba rugs from the 1920's.


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