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Old August 20th, 2016, 09:42 PM   #17
Pierre Galafassi
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Hi Joel,

I can’t remember either having met any paper proving that nomads performed indigo vat dyeing themselves, and it seems quite probable to me too that they often purchased dyed wool from urban, specialized dyers rather than buying indigo and using it themselves.
Khiva, Bukhara and Persia were certainly supplying indigo dyed yarn to the Turkmen. In Bukhara it was a specialty of the local Jew community. There was also a small settled community of Jews (dyers, business people and artisans) in the Merv oasis when O’Donovan and de Bloqueville stayed there.

However, I would not exclude that Turkmen nomads were quite capable of performing competent vat dyeing too. Just remember the outstanding reds performed by the Salor dyers, which required a quite sophisticated knowledge of mordant dyeing.

Besides, the Turkmen were also documented as excellent forgers of Persian coins, as making their own gunpowder, building dams and huge adobe fortresses (Porsa kala, Yengi sheher,..) and doing quite passable agricultural work, activities little compatible with full nomadism.

Surely, keeping a stable vat liquor while following sheep or camels from pasture to pasture is not at all practical, but remember that many 19th century visitors of Transcaspia, like general / governor von Kaufman, O’ Donovan, Moser etc… did mention the dual social structure of Turkmen tribes:
While part of them, the so-called « tscharwa» (Mainly younger and / or poorer fellows, probably assisted by slaves) took care of the animals and had a truly nomadic life during most part of the year, another part, the so called «tschomrri» (mainly the older and middle- to upper class) remained encamped for long periods of time or even permanently at the same places and were keeping (relatively) buzzy with some agricultural work, the occasional raids into Persia and especially with contemplative laid-back «*activities*» (the males, of course). The ladies, next to feeding their husbands, taking care of the kids and weaving, may have welcomed a good vat dyeing for a change.

Best regards
Pierre

P.S. I vaguely remember now that V.G. Moshkova in «*Carpets of the People of Central Asia*» claimed that most indigo yarn was purchased, but mentioned a certain number of Turkmen communities which kept doing indigo vat dyeing.
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