Posted by R. John Howe on 03-15-2002 06:05 PM:

Tent "Strut Covers" Were Used For That Purpose

Dear folks -

I have occasional email conversations with Peter Andrews, the English rug scholar, living in Germany and who may be the reigning world authority on the various types of Middle Eastern nomad tents.

His two-volume "Nomad Tent Types in the Middle East," is likely definitive and he recently published another book examining more sumptious Turkish tents.

We had a recent conversation here on Turkotek, started by Yon Bard asking about a flatwoven tent pole cover he had purchased.

In the ensuing discussion, the question came up again of how do we know that they were, in fact used for that purpose since we don't seem to have a picture of one in use. Richard Isaacson, who guest curated, a Turkmen bag exhibition at The Textile Museum has also questioned whether what we call (it appears incorrectly) "ok bash," were in fact used to cover tent poles when these were loaded on an animal. At one point the question was asked of why, if there were photos of tent pole covers in use, the relevant scholar had not published them.

Peter was not moved to post himself but the comments on our board, which seemed sometime to refer to his research, did lead him to write to me. He has given me permission to quote him on what follows.

Beginning of Peter Andrews comments about the "ukbash" or "uukbash."

"...1. An ethnologist who has spent enough time and trouble to get to a group, learn their language, and spend several months, if not years, with them, does not feel obliged to prove his findings: his statements are, as a matter of courtesy, taken at face value by his or her colleagues.

2. Even if I had photographs of their use, I would not feel obliged to publish them: we have some 10,000 slides from our fieldwork in the Middle East, and very few of those have ever been published (perhaps fifty in all?). This is partly a question of funding, partly of time. On the other hand, I have used them extensively in lectures, notably at the IOCC, but in many carpet groups in Britain, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Denmark.

3. My identification of the purpose of these pouches is by no means new. A simple reference to Baskakov s dictionary of Turkmen will, if I remember, turn them up, and there are several references in Soviet ethnographical literature. Azadi s Hamburg catalogue, which appeared at the same time as our research, confirms it, as do Turkmen carpet books.

4. My informant on this subject, who was the most articulate and
well-informed informant I had the pleasure to work with, was quite explicit that their main purpose was to keep the points of the struts out of the following camel s eyes in the camel string. He also said, though, that they could be used on both ends of the struts. As the struts are packed on a camel with the thinner points to the rear, the pouch is fitted
over these at least. As pouches are made in pairs, it is probable that in most cases they were used there only. The term uq uc was given by manyTurkmen with whom we worked.

5. Uq uc (or uq bash) are often made in sets with asmaliq and dizlik, so it is clear that they were then primarily trappings for the bridal procession. Since we never saw a bridal procession, not surprisingly we had no opportunity of photographing them in use, though we did find them in tents, where they were correctly identified. It is nevertheless true that most of these customs (including the use of the engsi!) have fallen into desuetude: Azadi found it impossible to discover how the haliq was

6 These pouches are not unique to the Turkmen. They are found among Qazaq and Qirgiz too (and there are even pouches for the trellis sections, kerege qap), though the usual material in these cases seems to be felt. The earliest illustration of their use that I know of is in the book Turkestan, by Schwarz, the astronomer in Bukhara, published at Freiburg in Breisgau in 1900: there they can be seen very clearly in a wedding procession, so far as I remember on both ends of the struts, in a Qazaq wedding train.

Thus there really is no ground for dispute at all."

End of Peter Andrews' comments about this matter.

I want to thank him for permitting me to quote him in this way.

I am especially taken with the notion that they may have be covers for the trellis sections as well. I wonder what they would have looked like. Perhaps just larger?

I thought our group would be interested in this very informed comment from a scholar with lots of field work in the area of our interest.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-17-2002 09:33 AM:

Dear folks -

Mr. Andrews comments above have not so far drawn any public comment here but I have received some messages on the side.

Here are some of the thoughts provided in them.

1. Some feel that Mr. Andrews in his first comment above asks for us to trust ethnologists too much. There are such thing as being mistaken in both observation and choice of sources and in interpretation. I think this is fair but I think Mr. Andrews' likely feels that the direct first person observations of a field researcher like himself do provide actual evidence that moves beyond assertion or speculation. Murray Eiland, who is quite skeptical about much of what is written in rug books, will accept as evidence a statement by someone who calls him or herself a member of a given tribe and who says that such and such is true. I think this is perhaps the center of Mr. Andrews first point. He was there in the field observing. He had informants who were members of specific Turkmen tribes. They reported things to him about traditional practices and he saw some evidence of these thinngs himself during his visit to their tents. I think he is right especially to contrast things he might say on the basis of that experience with those most of us who have not done such field work might say.

Second in his comment 3. Andrews cites Siowasch Azadi in support of this indications about the use of the uk bask. Side commentors have felt that this is rather weak support since Mr. Azadi is seen by many to be less than accurate in his own reporting, even a shade romantic. One recalls Ned Longs' comments in ORR in his review of the book (in which the "eagle" group was first defined) by the Rautgenstengels and Azadi. Mr. Long was scathing about Azadi's work in this instance.

Third, one writer questioned the extent to which the Turkmen were nomads at the point that the great pile weavings that many of us collect were made. This writer compared the items produced by Turkmen weavers with those by nomads in Turkey as asked where are the flatweaves? particularly such formats as the jajims, good brocades or zilis. He feels that the Turkmen who wove the pile pieces were largely settled and who have little need to protect the eyes of the rear camel. Peter did indicate himself that the uk bask is part of the wedding decoration and is a special occasion piece.

And in possible response to my correspondent who questions whether the Turkmen were really nomadic, I have been reading again, James Wheeler's abridgment of Eugene Schuyler's fine work "Turkistan." Schuyler's report is of a visit he made to Turkestan beginning in 1873. On page 54 Schuyler writes this sentence: "...The whole population of the Russian province of Turkistan is estimated at about 1,600,000 of whom fully 1,000,000 are nomads..." This would seem to suggest that even if nomadism was practiced in some attenuated form, that it was the way of life of almost 2 out of 3 people in Turkestan at this time. That is not a small proportion. So I wonder about the "largely settled" indication.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 03-18-2002 06:21 AM:

Hi John,

I agree that when someone with Andrews' expertise and professionalism says he knows from his fieldwork that
uk bash were used as tent strut covers, it is offensive and unreasonable to insist that he can only be considered to be telling the truth if he produces photos demonstrating this. Indeed, anyone can produce convincing photos of anything nowadays, and one might take the position that photos are only as convincing as the person who produces them.

I might add, also, that Peter's wife is Yomud, so he is not exactly an outsider among the Turkmen with whom he works. Finally, Jon Thompson, another anthropologist who has worked among the Turkmen extensively, says he does have such photos.

To me, the notion that
uk bash are tent strut covers seems to be supported by much more solid evidence than most of the things ruggies accept without question.


Steve Price

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-18-2002 09:32 AM:

Question: what are tent-poles doing in the wedding procession? There are depictions of wedding processions on several asmalyks and tent-bands, but I see no trace of tent poles.

Comment: I am perfectly willing to take Mr. Andrew's word, but that does not negate the desirability of having photographs published if they exist (a picture is worth a thousand words!). This need not be expensive: a letter to HALI with photo attached will do it.

Regards, Yon

Posted by Steve Price on 03-18-2002 11:06 AM:

Hi Yon,

No argument. Pictures are better than no pictures, but the source is impeccable even without them.

I doubt that the reason Jon Thompson hasn't published the photo (or photos) is difficulty in getting them into print. He probably hasn't had an occasion on which he needs them to illustrate a point or, perhaps, they just aren't publication-quality photos. Some guys have high standards (not like me )



Posted by R. John Howe on 03-18-2002 02:02 PM:

Dear folks -

Two separate things.

First for Yon: I have read in a number of places that a new tent was sometimes given to a recently wedded couple (although not at the time of the wedding; the newly wed couple seem to have usually lived initially with the groom's parents, since special provisions (the "tutti" curtain) were made for the bride to "hide" herself from the rest of the family members for a time.). Anyway, if this does occur there would be an occasion for transporting this new tent, and likely that would be seen as a ceremonial occasion. So I see no contradiction as the result of the fact that we don't see tents being transported in the wedding depictions on asyaliks. That's not likely when they would have been transported.

Second, Peter Andrews was writing without referring to actual sources in the passages I quoted from him at the beginning of this thead. This morning, he sent me another email in which he made some corrections and additions.

Here is what he said:

Beginning of Peter Andrews email:

"...I checked quickly on the stut pouches. They are not mentioned in Baskakov s dictionary, though uuq of course is. They do appear in Khodjamuhammadov's book (1986?) on Turkmen carpets, published in Turkmenistan. The author of the early attestation is Franz von Schwarz, astronomer in Tashkent, not Bokhara: the full title of the book is Turkestan. Wiege des Indogermanischen Volkes, or something similar (cradle of the Indo-European peoples), place and date as given before, p.85, I think.
The picture, in black and white, seems to be based (according to a note I made) on a photo by Vereshchegin, which would date to the 1890s or so: he took a lot of ethnic pictures.

Other references would emerge from my tent vocabulary, which I have not had time to look at."

End of Peter Andrews' email addition.

My thanks to Peter for this additional commment and information.


R. John Howe

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-18-2002 02:50 PM:

John, I was just responding to your quotation "5. Uq uc (or uq bash) are often made in sets with asmaliq and dizlik, so it is clear that they were then primarily trappings for the bridal procession."

Regards, Yon

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-18-2002 08:41 PM:

Yon -

Yes, he did say that. The question may still be (and I haven't asked him) is whether the "bridal procession" in which the tent is transported is also the "wedding procession." If so, (and that would be the common sense interpretation of "bridal" but some explanation would then be needed of what was done with an unoccupied tent for the period when the couple initially seems to have lived with the groom's parents) your question has real merit, and would require explanation. If not, there would be no real contradiction.


R. John Howe

Posted by Yon Bard on 03-18-2002 09:05 PM:

John, when I used the term 'wedding procession' I misspoke; there probably is no such thing. I should have said 'bridal procession' which I understand to be the procession that takes the bride to the wedding ceremony at the groom's tent. I cannot envision tent poles carried in that possession, but it may well be that the bride or her entourage bring the ok bashes along with the other components of the trousseau.

Regards, Yon

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-19-2002 06:46 AM:

Dear folks -

As I said in a post above I'm rereading Wheeler's abridgment of Schuyler's "Turkistan" about a trip the latter made in 1873.

In his chapter on "Musselman Life in Tashkent" Schuyler talks about weddings. Here is an interesting passage:

"...The bride and bridegroom are not present at the actual marriage ceremony, which is conducted for them by their witnesses, who are in all cases male relatives. The witness on the part of the woman is her father or uncle, or some one of that generation, no other persons being allowed to act for her without special power of attorney to that effect....The Mullah, who is in the same room with the witnesses, asks them if the persons whom they represent consent to marry each other, and then enquires waht the "kalim" (gift to the bride) and the "dowry" are, an if they have been properly given; he then recites a prayer giving praises to the Prophet and his descendants, draws up a marriage contract and repeats a prayer, which is placed at its head: "Praise to God, wh has allowed marriage, and has forbidden all adultorous crimes; let all heavenly and earthly existences praise Mohammed and his pure and honorable posterity." He then pronounces the words "I have accomplished the marriage between a man and a woman, according to the power given to me by their witnesses, and in accordance with the conditions set forth in this contract." Immediately, after he again says: "On behalf of the husband and wife I declare this marriage according to the commissions given by the witnesses, an dthe conditions expressed in the contract." The Mullah and witnesses then place their seals on the contract, ask the assistance of God and recite the "fatha" or first chapter of the Koran. The marriage contract is given to the wife or her witness. The marriage fee is given by the husband, and cannot be demanded from the wife. The bridegroom then goes to the apartment of the bride...etc."

Now this is a city ceremony and no doubt things are somewhat different in a nomadic situation, but I thought it interesting that in Muslim law, apparently, neither the bride nor the groom need be present at the marriage ceremony. So much for the romantic image some of us no doubt have of the bride and groom standing on a "wedding rug" during the ceremony.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 03-19-2002 07:13 AM:

Hi John,

That's a very interesting thing to read although, as you note, it is an urban setting, not a nomadic one. As the site is Tashkent and the parties are obviously Muslims, is there any further description of the ethnicity of the people involved?

The notion of the bride and groom not being present at all is a new one to me, although the tradition of the wedding being arranged by their parents isn't, and was the normal mode in many societies including the rest of what we may think of as the Judeo-Christian-Moslem line. My guess is that whether the bride and groom were present during the ceremony is part of local tradition, not an institutionalized element of Moslem law.

The so-called wedding rug is, to the best of my recollection, attributed to the Turkmen. If so, unless these are Turkmen people, the things being done at this wedding have no bearing on whether the "wedding rug" and its use is fact or fantasy.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-19-2002 07:39 AM:

Steve -

This passage was from his chapter on the "Musselman Life in Tashkent." Schuyler is generalizing about his observations of many sides of Muslim life there, and does not refer to any particular wedding ceremony.

In the preceding chapter, entitled "Tashkent" Schuyler talks about the ethnic breakdown in that town. He says that while there is no accurate census, it is estimated that there "about 120,00."..."It consists chiefly of Uzbeks, although there are some Tadjiks, and a number of Tartars, Kirghiz, Hindoos, and others. The natives, here, as well as in many places of Turkistan, are known by the name of Sarts, but this name has no ethnological significance. According to the natives, the whole population of the country is broken into two classes---settled and nomad; the nomads are called "Kazak" (ed. the Russian called them "Khirgiz" incorrectly in order to distinguish them from "Cossacks)," vagabond, or wanderer,...and the settled population go by the name of Sarts....As used by the nomad tribes the word 'Sart' is almost a word of abuse, and synonymous with cowardly and effeminate person."

It's not certain, but I'd guess that this is a description of how marriages were made in Tashkent between Muslim city dwellers without much regard to ethnicity. Uzbek seems numerically mostly likely. My only thought was that Muslim law apparently premitted marriage ceremonies at which the principals were not present. We do have to be careful about the extent to which we project on to the nomads rather than collect information about them.


R. John Howe

Posted by Stephen Louw on 03-19-2002 03:39 PM:

Dear John and Steve

Regarding the presence of the bride and groom at Muslim weddings, I suspect the recorded absence of
both is either a local custom or a mistake on the authors part. Certainly, the Muslim weddings I have been to have been conducted by the groom and his relatives, after which we (i.e. the men) have returned to bring the good news back to the wife and her friends/relatives, typically waiting in a separate tent. My wife, who grew up in a largely Muslim environment, believes that marriages completely "by proxy" do occur, but only on exceptional occasions when the couple are for unforseen reasons separated physically at the time of the wedding, eg. both have to travel to different countries.

But a great post, nonetheless, John. I wish Andrews would publish more of his work and photographs.


Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-20-2002 12:20 AM:

The Tent? What tent?

Dear all:

Most of the documention I've read about Turkmen weddings indicates that the bride and groom move into his parent's tent. Among some tribes I believe it is customary for a portion of the tent to be cordoned off (purdah/ensi?) from the rest - this is for the use of the new bride, so she can gradually get used to her new family and also to keep her out from under her mother-in-law's feet. Nobody is allowed to visit her except family members even lower on the totem pole than she is.

Eventually, with the acquisition of sufficient wealth and children, the son is able to break free from his parent's home and establish his own tent.

Therefore, I believe it's possible that tent strut-pole covers, or poles themselves, might have had a ceremonial significance - whereas an actual tent might not have been constructed.

Heaven knows where the young couple found any privacy - outside, I suppose.

For what it's worth - I received a proposal once by proxy. As you might imagine, the romance didn't work out - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - and have been doing plenty of both ever since!

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-21-2002 08:15 AM:

Hi Sophia -

In the little O'Bannon catalog "Vanishing Jewels" on what was once Marvin Amstey's collection, there is an article by William Irons that I cited above. His indications are parallel with yours here and he says that the "curtain" behind with the bride sat is called the "tutti."

He also says explicitly that while the groom avoided the bride during the day (as one of the more important family members) that he slept with her behind this curtain. I suspect that our own notions of privacy are a little misplaced in life in a trellis tent. Lots of conception must have gone on within the hearing of others.

And my Persian dealer friend here says that the "Muslim" marriage practices are largely based on the previous Jewish ones and early on these were seen mostly as economic arrangements between families. For this reason, it made great sense that the actual couple might not be present since it was "land" that was really being arranged. Maybe in your case either you or your suitor didn't have enough of it.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 03-21-2002 10:59 AM:

Hi John,

Marriage as an arrangement for the mutual benefit of the families of the couple was the norm in most societies, including our own, until fairly recently. Not peculiar to the Jews or Moslems, I suspect.

Among European royalty it was essentially a political coalition.


Steve Price

Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-21-2002 07:06 PM:

Lack Of Land Department

Dear John,,

See what you get for being poor?

And to think some clown on Cloudband thinks I'm related to Bill Gates.

It is to laugh

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-22-2002 01:34 AM:

Pardah karo ya goli lay lo

Which means: Use the veil or face the bullet.

What does this have to do with Turkoman weddings, you ask ? Well, the comments about the bride waiting behind the curtain reminded me of a thought that has been rattling around in my head for some time.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, "ensis" are called "purdahs". Purdah (pardah) is the term used to describe the generally Islamic phenomena of separating women from the world of the men. Some refer to it as lifelong prison and slavery. The men, on the other hand, do not.

Regardless, I propose the reason that we have no photos of ensis being used as tent/oy doors is because they weren't used as tent/oy doors. I think that they were used as doors for internal dividers within the tents/oys that separated the womens space (or private adult space) from other areas within the tent/oy. They may well be the bridal curtain, which could explain the very special, and entirely different appearance, that ensis have compared to other Turkoman weavings.

I think this because of 1) the liguistic connection, 2) because the dimensions of ensis and purdahs are consistent with the larger Kirghiz reed screen dividers, and 3) because the looped hanging straps (that I've seen in photos) are just right for hanging on a line strung across the interior of a stick frame oy.

Getting back to weddings for a moment, when it comes to understanding Turkoman wedding customs, my money is on the Turkomen. Here are a couple of interesting reads:

Regards... Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Steve Price on 03-22-2002 06:24 AM:

Hi Chuck,

Those really are great articles. Thanks for the links.

There are some traveler's drawings (19th century) of what appear to be ensis in use as coverings for the portals to tents, so I suspect that this was at least one use for the things. It seems reasonable to me that they would also be used as dividers inside the tent in the way you describe, especially in view of the common terminology.

That reminds me, we have wooden things on hinges between the outdoors and the inside of our house, and some within the house, too. Mighty nomad-like, don't you agree?


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-22-2002 10:00 PM:

Dear folks -

Chuck Wagner in his informative post above writes in part:

"...I propose the reason that we have no photos of ensis being used as tent/oy doors is because they weren't used as tent/oy doors. I think that they were used as doors for internal dividers within the tents/oys that separated the womens space (or private adult space) from other areas within the tent/oy. They may well be the bridal curtain, which could explain the very special, and entirely different appearance, that ensis have compared to other Turkoman weavings.

I am not going to put it up at the moment but there is at least one picture of a pile engsi in use on a Turkmen tent that is known. It is a drawing made on site (Pendeh) by an artist. It was published in 1875 in The Illustrated London News and I have been pursuing it for several months and now have it.

I will put it up in my next salon which will be entitled "What Can We Say About the Engsi?"

So it is not correct to say that there are no such "pictures." There do not seem to be "photos" but one drawn on site "picture" exists. It may still be the case, as Chuck suggests that engsis had multiple uses. Eiland and Pinner leave this door pretty explicitly open in their discussion of engsis in their catalog on the Weidersperg collection.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-22-2002 10:59 PM:

An addendum

Greetings all,

One of the things I dislike about getting older is forgetting things in subject areas that are of current interest to me; I should have remembered that John mentioned he was putting a salon together on engsis. So I'll hold offf on further discussion, other than to mention that the Turkish, and Turkmen, word for curtain is: perde.

So John (if there's anything available) would you try to put a little something in your salon about the derivation of the word "engsi", or "ensi" ?

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Steve Price on 03-23-2002 06:26 AM:

Hi Chuck,

John's Salon is a few months off, at least. A new one will open tomorrow, and we have things in the hopper for April 24 and May 24, so the soonest John's ensi Salon will appear on line is June 24. It could be later than that.

By then, guys my age (and there are many of us) will have forgotten what was said in these discussions, which are unlikely to be archived except in special circumstances, so anything you say about ensis now will be fresh and new to us again then.

To make a long story short, there is no reason to withhold relevant information now in anticipation of the topic being raised again later. In the words of a former colleague, "Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Then, if you like it, you can do it again tomorrow."


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-23-2002 09:27 AM:

Dear folks -

Good try, Steve. But I'm still going to save the picture for a salon. Partly because I can't tell what the fate of posts on this particular board will be. If they are to be treated as the show and tell board then things posted here will not be archived.

And I can't answer Chuck Wagner's question about the derivation of "engsi," but I could ask Peter Andrews, who either knows or could very likely determine it. Meanwhile, though, here are a couple of snippets I do have.

Peter Hoffmeister, the German Turkmen collector and one of the two folks curating the Turkmen (engsi only) exhibition for the ICOC X next year almost to the day, has proposed that the exhibition be entitled "The Engsi: Doorway to Paradise." He claims that this is what the word "engsi" means and in a sense was to the Turkmen. Here is his sentence: "...An Engsi is an ikon, a symbol for the passage from one "world" to another "world", similar to the Islamic prayer rug, they have the same root, therefore the title should be: Doorway to Paradise. Hoffmeister said that Elena Tsareva has responded that this exhibition title is "perfect." I thought it would likely sound like a Middle Eastern exaggeration to many Western ears and have suggested that it will require explanation.

Secondly, I noticed early that Hoffmeister insists on the spelling "engsi" while most recent rug publication usage has moved to "ensi." I asked Peter Andrews whether this difference was important. Here is his response.

"..Hoffmeister is correct. the word is engsi, in the easiest
English spelling: the ng stands for a nasalised n, which would
phonetically be written with a downward hook on the second leg of the n. In Yomut pronunciation the s is lisped, as the th in thing, so the whole word might also be engthi. Engsi however corresponds to the official Turkmen spelling in the cyrillic dictionaries."

Now none of this really speaks to Chuck's derivation question but it's what I have at the moment.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 03-23-2002 11:00 AM:

Hi John,

Posting the picture right this minute is not terribly important. I mentioned its existence a few messages back, you confirm its existence; there can be no doubt that it does exist. I have a copy in my office someplace, and if I can find it on Monday I'll scan it and put it up.

As I mentioned earlier in this thread, this discussion is unlikely to be archived, but that is not much of a reason to hold back anything for a future Salon, especially one that is several months off. There is no reason at all why a picture posted here can't be posted again in the future, or why something said here can't be repeated later.


Steve Price

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-23-2002 02:04 PM:

For the "n"th time

Perusing an old Oriental Rug Review, August/September 1991, this letter to the editor jumped out at me:
"Dear George,
Only recently I became aware of ORR's spelling the Turkmen door hanging as ensi. Having known only engsi for years and finding only that spelling in the rug books I have, I wondered why you're using ensi and it set me off on a bit of research. I think I may have found the answer. Here are my findings and thoughts.
See the publication Turkmen Tribal Carpets and Traditions. On page 56, Andrews has "...door carpet (ensi) which..." So I assume you get your ensi spelling from this or a similar source. However, note page 40 where Andrews gives pronunciations/sounds for various letters. Here he says that "n is pronounced ng as in sing." Note also that every plate in the book showing the door carpets has used the engsi spelling (plates 24,53,78,79,91). From this I conclude that I prefer the traditional engsi spelling for English language readers. Unless you have some later guidance that refutes Andrews, I wonder if you won't consider reverting to the old engsi spelling for ORR usage...."
Gil McDonald

The editor continues:
"Our readers are certainly an erudite group! We feel
ensi is a closer transliteration of the word as English speakers are inclined to pronounce ng too harshly to correctly produce the appropriate sound. Our pet nit for picking is the widespread use of the plural pronoun they as a neuter singular replacement for pronoun he or she. Another tooth-gnasher is the pronunciation of the words realtor and realty as relator and relaty."

I guess the editor was buying a new house at the time!

Pat-a-rick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-24-2002 05:38 AM:

Middle Ground

Greetings all,

OK Steve. I'll add a little something to the things-to-consider heap, but mainly to get it on the record because I can't be assured of having the book or a working computer later on. We'll discuss the picture later, when John is ready.

I have laid hands on a book entitled "A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus", by Capt. John Wood, Indian Navy (Reprint: Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1976). Capt. Wood took a 3000 mile excursion up the Indus to the upper reaches of the Pamirs in 1836. No illustrations but a couple of nice maps. His attention to detail is remarkable.

He visited a Kirghiz encampment, and the following are some excerpts from his text (he wasn't one for small paragraphs):

"We now asked permission to rest awhile in one of their kirgahs, and were immediately led up to one of the best in the encampment. Its outside covering was formed of coarse dun-coloured felts, held down by two broad white belts about five feet above the ground. To these the dome or roof was secured by diagonal bands, while the felts which formed the walls were strengthened by other bands, which descended in a zig-zag direction between those first mentioned and the ground. Close to the door lay a bag filled with ice-the water of the family. On drawing aside the felt which screened the entrance, the air of tidiness and comfort that met our eyes was a most agreeable surprise. In the middle of the floor, upon a light iron tripod, stood a huge Russian cauldron, beneath which glowed a cheerful fire, which a ruddy-cheeked, spruce damsel kept feeding with fuel, and occasionally throwing a lump of ice into her cookery."


"The kirgah had a diameter of fourteen feet, a height of eight, and was well lighted by a circular hole above the fireplace. Its frame-work was of the willow-tree, but between it and the felt covering, neat mats, made of reeds, the size of wheat-straw, and knitted over with coloured worsted, were inserted. The sides of the tent, lined with variegated mats of this description, not only looked tasteful, but imparted a snug and warm appearance to the interior. Corresponding to the outside belts were two within of a finer description, and adorned with needle-work. From these were suspended various articles appertaining to the tent and to the field, besides those of ornament and the sampler. Saddles, bridles, rings, thimbles, and beads, all had here their appropriate places. One side of the kirgah had the family's spare clothes and bedding. In another, a home-made carpet hung from the roof, making a recess in which the females dressed, and where the matron kept her culinary stores and kitchen apparatus. The opposite segment was allotted to the young lambs of the flock. A string crossed the tent to which about fifty nooses, twenty-five of a side, were attached, to each of which a lamb was fastened."

--- End of quotes ---

Lots of information in there, and I'm wondering if the carpet mentioned might have been an engsi .

Regards, Chuck

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Steve Price on 03-24-2002 07:49 AM:

Hi Chuck,

Interesting report. It occurs to me that the question of whether the rug screening a dressing area for the women is an ensi could become a semantic argument about the definition of an ensi.

If the definition is that it is a rug (pile or felt) that covers the portal to the tent, then the thing inside the tent can't be an ensi unless it was also used as a doorway covering. If, on the other hand, the definition has to do with the fairly distinctive layout of the article - which is the way the term is used in the marketplace - then the rug inside the tent is very likely to be one. I say this, because few Turkmen textiles have the right dimensions to be used this way. Not a whole lot of privacy in the dressing area if the thing is the size, say, of a torba or a chuval. The divider could, in principle, be made of almost any kind cloth, of course, but Capt. Wood does specifically use the term "carpet" in his report.

I'm comfortable with both definitions, and consider something to be an ensi if it fits either one of them.


Steve Price

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-24-2002 09:46 AM:

Hi Steve,

Yes, the "spatial footprint" of a typical ensi is certainly one topic for further thought. Also, for any True Believers in the reading audience, note that in my initial post on this topic I said "propose", not "insist". I'm certainly willing to believe that ensis were used as door flaps. I'll be interested to see the image John is holding in escrow, as what I've found in literature seems pretty heavily biased toward felt materials.

Regards, Chuck
Chuck Wagner

Posted by Sophia Gates on 03-24-2002 02:01 PM:


The Afghans use the term "purdah" to define Rugs That Look Like Ensis. When you consider this, the idea of the rugs hanging INSIDE the tent makes a lot of sense.

And perhaps, they were used as door covers for special occasions? I'm thinking, given how much labor & material went into these, and their general special nature, they wouldn't in any case have been used on a daily basis. They'd have all perished by now, I think, in wind and the abrasion of sand and dust.

And given their beauty, it makes sense that they might have been among the most desirable of trade items.

Finally, looking at ensis/purdahs one can't help but feel they may have reflected a sort of cosmology in their designs. I hope we can discuss this last point more thoroughly when we have the ensi salon.

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