[Editor's Note: In researching the Salor attribution guide, R. John Howe asked Murray Eiland, Jr. about his current view of the relationship between S-group weave structure (e.g., asymmetrical knot, open to the left; decided warp depression) and a Salor tribal attribution. We reprint the highlights of the exchange.]
I note that in your "comprehensive" guide 1980, you indicate that you feel that the linkage between S-group weavings and the Salors is insufficiently established and that there are non-S group pieces that may well have been woven by Salors, including some quite recent ones. In your 1990 ICOC catalog, you still retain the S-group designation for pile pieces that would quite generally now be called "Salor." This suggests to me that you still held the views stated in 1980 in 1990. Is this still your view?
I still have doubts on the matter, but am not yet ready to talk about any kind of conclusions. The evidence, as you may have noticed, is really sparse, and a visit to Turkmenistan summer before last - during which we actually met some Salors - did nothing to convince us that they wove S-group pieces, as the few recent weavings they claimed were indistinguishable from Tekkes. I have always imagined that the S-group was woven along the parts of the Amu Darya, south of Chardjou, where Salors live among Ersaris and Olams, a non-Turkmen group mentioned by Moshkova, but by few others. Ask the Turkmen enthusiasts for their evidence on this matter, and it gets progressively more tenuous. But I'm not sure. We did not get to the areas where I believe these rugs were woven. Perhaps on another trip. What do you think? I'm willing to listen to anyone's ideas on this matter.
Although I'm modestly familiar with most of the English-language literature on Turkoman weaving and try to be a close student of what has been established (I am, for example, impressed with what seems to be the care that is exhibited in Pinner's work in addition to your own) I have no real direct experiential basis (beyond that of handling some of the weavings themselves) for making judgments in this area. That is, of course, part of why I come to someone like yourself.
Maps in the literature often indicate that the Salors were located in the Serakhs area and also Southeast of the Pende Oasis but not near Chardjou. (Cued by your indication I went back to examine Moshkova. Although she seems to be saying that there were Salors in the Cardjou and Deynau areas, her mention of the Kerki Okrug seems to say that this was the market from which small S-group pieces came to light; although O'Bannon's caption on Figure 77, page 183, makes the same conjecture you do and this piece is one of the majestic series that I mention below.). What indications are there that the S-group pieces might have been woven here? (beyond the fact that Kerki seems to be the market in which small pieces surfaced?) Is it that some of their features (e.g., their near perfect execution and the almost total lack of abrash) suggest that they were probably produced by a small number of quite settled weavers? Does you suspicion also include the possibility that the S-Group pieces were woven by the non-Salor peoples in this area? I have not heard that argued that I can recall.
I have seen some "Ersari" pieces with structures similar to S-Group pieces but even the best of the "Beshiri" weavings I have seen (e.g. plate 93 in Mackie-Thompson, 1980) seems quite distinct from the astounding trapping (I have recently had it my hands in Elena Tzareva's company) presented so poorly in plate 14 in this same book.
You can quote anything I've said in print or written to you, but, if so, make it clear that I am not representing anything as being even close to a final conclusion. Robert Pinner recently spent two weeks here visiting, and we had a number of arguments about the identity of Salor weaves. He believes strongly that S-group equals Salor. I keep pointing out to him how tenuous the evidence is. He counters that information gathered today in Turkestan is worthless because it is a century or two after the fact, and we end up not proving the case either way.
What did you think about the Bogolubov Salor-type weave that was shown in Philadelphia and described as something that Bogolubov commissioned to be woven by Tekkes so that he would have an example of that design? The theory that it was commissioned by him is supported by no documentation. What if that piece were simply late S-group work, woven perhaps in 1880? Would that change anyone's thinking? I think it's far more likely to be late S-group work than a commissioned piece.
So this remains work in progress.