Posted by Jack Williams on 11-06-2006 08:11 AM:

Confusing Baluch-Turko-Kurd (?)

Good Morning everyone:

I recently purchased this on the internet. It was advertised as “Baluch,” though I suspected a possibility of it being something else. But, upon examining it, I am left with considerable confusion.

The rug is worn low in the pile, but very evenly, not quite to the knots anywhere. Of note, it strongly smelled of moth balls when it was delivered from its previous home in Europe, possibly indicating it had been stored away. The intracacy of the border, especially, but also the field is really something to see in the wool. Please note the checkerboard-colored selvedge and the multi-color flat weave ends.

Here are the specifications as best I can determine

Size: 5’ x 3’1.”

Knots: Asymmetric, open left; 140-150 kpsi [11 horizontal (warp) x 13 vertical (weft)].

Warp: Double twist, one being off-white wool, other being brown something. Not all warps have the two different colors.

Weft: Mostly two shoots, thin medium brown-gray wool, though occasionally 3 shoots are used. Here and there, one finds a 1” section of wefts that are dyed turquoise-green or blue.

Selvedge: 2 bundles of 3 (or 4?) braided (?!) warps wrapped in wool (not goat hair), checker boarded in alternating 1" strips of turquoise-blue/green and aubergine/burgandy.

Ends: Straight flat weave with colored stripes, no brocade. The selvedge only has one bundle extending along the edge of the flat weave.

Colors, 8: Aubergine/burgandy (ground); medium blue; red brick/rust; turquoise/green; gold/orange; pinkish/tan; brown; White (natural wool)

All colors look to be very good, I can find nothing that would indicate anything other than good natural dyes, with the wool quite saturated. Even the orange/gold is natural as it has sun faded (see pictures, front-back).

I know that the Baluch weave attractive Turkmen-themed rugs, usually identified as being from the Zabol/ Nehbandan area in Sistan/S. Khorassan. The characteristics of these rugs have been described by both Edwards and Wegner. Indeed, I have a couple of Turkmen-themed Zabol-Baluch rugs (an archived line partially deals with these rugs, see archives: Here is one for comparison that seems to me to be a good example of Zabol-Baluch. The colors and design match Edwards’ and Wegner’s descriptions, as does the knot density of about 60 kpsi:

However, I don’t think my new Baluch-Kurd-Turkmen(?) necessarily falls into the “Baluch-Zabol” category. It seems to be too finely knotted and the color/design combination does not fit the descriptions by Edwards or Wagner that closely [it should be noted that Baluch in other areas, particularly around Sarakhs, do weave the Tekke gul...but most of the area north-west of Herat weaves the Salor gul rather than tekke].

So what is my new rug if not Baluch? Well, when I purchased it I thought there was a real possibility that it could be a Kurd-Quchon (eastern Kurd) rug. Use of Turkmen symbols in Kurdish rugs from this provenance is apparently common.

Here are pictures of six Kurdish rugs identified as being from the Quchon area (I guess we will have to accept the internet attributions...though this is not very satisfactory from an academic standpoint), taken from various sites on the internet. Also included (last 2 pictures) is a 19th c. Baluch and a Baluch-Turko from the Sarakhs area scanned from Edwards, for comparison of colors, composition, etc.

My new rug seems to fit the composition of Kurd-Turkmen rugs, though the scanty number of analog examples make it difficult. Only trouble is, my rug is woven with asymmetric knots open left. What little literature is available on Quchon-Kurd rugs notes them as being symmetrically knotted.

So, now I am a little perplexed. My rug has very slightly depressed warps, but is finely knotted for a Baluch-Turkmen, >140 kpsi. Perhaps the handle can provide a clue. The rug seems old and is considerably but evenly worn (see pics) with almost a paper light-weight feel. But instead of a floppy feel usual for old Baluch rugs, it is a bit stiff to the handle…something like handling three or four sheets of news print. It almost feels like it would crack if crumpled.

Another thing...the rug is parchment thin, but the selvedges and ends seem to be original and are mostly intact. I have a hard time imagining a use for this rug that would evenly wear the pile but leave the original selvedges and ends pretty much with minimum wear...though perhaps careful use by only bare feet, or as a table covering or something could explain it.

If it is Baluch (I have no problem with it being Baluch, on the contrary...but I would like to be able to place it better than just "Baluch"), I suspect it may be quite old, possibly early 20th c. - very old for a Baluch. However, I am tempted to explore attributing it to Ersari weavers, or even defaulting to thinking it a Kurdish-Quchon rug despite the asymmetric knot.

It seems that the rugs woven by the eastern Kurds have not been explored very deeply, independently from Kurd rugs in general, at least from what I can find in the literature. Most books seem to pretty much default to the same wording saying they are quite similar to Kurdistan rugs (questionable?), and that the eastern Kurds were settled around Quchon by Shah Abbas (also questionable?). Are there any Eastern Kurd experts out there that can comment on the possible use of asymmetric knotting in Quchon rugs and on eastern Kurdish weavings in general? Any thoughtful opinions, ...heck... even "un-thoughtful" opinions..., would be welcome.

Regards to all,

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-06-2006 10:53 AM:


"All colors look to be very good, I can find nothing that would indicate anything other than good natural dyes, with the wool quite saturated. Even the orange/gold is natural as it has sun faded."

I am sure the ( hot ) orange is a synthetic dye. And probably also the pinkish color.


Posted by Jack Williams on 11-06-2006 11:16 AM:

Thanks for your comments Rob,

However, there is no "hot orange" in the rug. The bits of orange used have a different hue (not different color), front and back, with the front somewhat lighter, more muted, indicating sun fading....something that does not happen with synthetic orange, but does happen with natural orange. I have quite a few Baluch rugs, some with natural and some with artificial orange...and I would be surprised if this orange were not a natural dye.

Any "hot" look is likely a result of color enhancement from computer technology. The pinkish/tan is also quite muted with a slight different hue (not color) front an back. As I said...after careful critical examination, I would be surprised to find any synthetic dyes in this rug. Please keep in mind though, common use of synthetic dyes of any kind did not infiltrate into the Baluch community until after WWII. The beginning of general use of synthetics among the eastern Kurds is not known.

But for help in attribution, I would suggest assuming these are good dyes...though you may have to trust me on this.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-06-2006 01:26 PM:


I have a couple of rugs that resonate with yours, one in particular. It will take me a day or two to pull them into line, but I'll try to get something up. I've always called them Baluch, back in the days when everybody thought there was Baluch, and that's it. A few subcategories in there to account for. Now, as I understand it, these rugs were woven by just about everybody, with the possible exception of the Baluchi people.

Anyway, I'll try to get back on this with reasonable promptness. Incidentally, regarding your postings for comparative purposes, my instinctive reaction to those for the most part is that the supposed "Kurd Quchan" examples are not in the greater Baluch family (with the possible exception of the upper right one) and the other two are in the Baluch camp.


Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-06-2006 05:14 PM:


"... with the front considerably lighter, more muted, indicating sun fading....something that does not happen with synthetic orange, but does happen with natural orange."

I always presumed extreme colour fading had to do with a synthetic element in the dying stuff.
I never heard about this apparent trick orange is playing with us and doing it the other way around.
Any back-up for this orange theory?



Posted by Tim Adam on 11-06-2006 05:21 PM:


The images of the back of Jack's rug show that there are two oranges: one 'regular' one and one hot one used in just a few details. I thought this is the "(hot) orange" you were referring to.



Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-06-2006 06:04 PM:


There is a peach shade of orange I associate with these rugs that I see in Jack's. It is prone to slight surface fading, but I have always considered it a natural dye. Besides that, I can see what appears to be another orange, sparingly used, that I assume to be the one Tim is pointing out. It looks hot. I'm not confident enough of the image on my screen to be sure, however.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-06-2006 09:43 PM:


Hummmm...I asked help in determining provenence...does anyone like the rug?... Rich, I look forward to seeing your analagous examples.

Some things I think I have learned over a considerable time spent amid Baluch rugs (if you are a Baluchophile, you look at a lot of orange)...

1. Don't believe a lot of what you hear...research it yourself and this goes for a great many things in the rug hobby. Most of the rules of thumb, especially those derived from other regions where synthetics arrived early, though useful, are often wrong in specifics including "natural dyes don't run," "synthetic dyes don't fade," "bright dyes are synthetic," "this or that color can't be produced naturally," "you can tell a synthetic dye by.....[fill in the blank]," etc.

2. Dye quality depends a great deal on a huge number of factors including what is being dyed; how (you can dye products at several points in the process including shear, thread, yarn, or piece...heck, you probably could throw a live sheep into a dye vat before shearing it!); with what (direct, mordant, flavonol or flavone dyes); what mordant; what process including rinsing; what material (cotton and silk are very different from wool in the ability to take dyes, even in the resulting colors and "fastness"); etc.

I will share one absolute truth about dyes....light decomposes most mordant dyes...which is why museums keep their carpets in dim light. Almost any color will lighten or fade in reaction to light, which is why a great many carpets look "bright" from the back. And a great many natural dyes, including some of the better natural yellows (which can be used to make orange), are quite intense...until light reduces that intensity or causes them to fade completely away (which is a major problem with a lot of natural yellows).

The knock on chemical orange dye in Baluch rugs has been that "it doesn't soften with age" and thus is a jarring color when the rest of the composition has acquired a patina. But maybe when questioning a dye, one should be a little careful with logic. It doesn't make a lot of sense to say about the same dye in the same old rug... "the color is hot therefore it is synthethic," and simultaneously say "the color has softened with time therefore it is synthethic."

In this carpet, the closeup of the gold/orange color you see outlining a few arrows and stars (I guess that is the only real question...surely the salman pinkish-tan color is not in question?) is a view from the back of the rug. The front shows the same color, just a softer hue...which means to me it is likely a good, natural orange, which is one reason I went to a great deal of trouble to create and post multiple front-back pictures. But, if it will help, I'll post a couple of more comparisons, close-ups of the portion of the carpet with the most "gold/orange."

Funny, no one has asked about the possible info-bomb I planted in the original message regarding the origin of the eastern Kurds.

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-07-2006 12:38 PM:

Hi Jack,

The info bombs that hit me from your first post are:

1. That out of the blue you suddenly know that the selvages of your new rug are wrapped in wool and not goat hair. Have you ever seen kid mohair or compared it with first year luster longwool sheep wool? Did you use a microscope in your determination? What's the deal?

2. "all colors look to be good...natural dyes..." Have you taken on natural dyeing for your basis of understanding such things? Have you submitted the rug to a lab for dye tests? What's the deal?

The origins of eastern Kurds is outside my interest range. I have read, in passing, from the human genome project, that certain Jews, (All I recall is that they were not Sephardic.), are more closely genetically linked to Kurds than any other ethnic group. I took no notes but it should be an easy thing for anyone interested to look up. Sue

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-07-2006 12:44 PM:


One of the most important things one has to learn to survive on Turkotek is to check one's sources and resources before opening up one's big mouth (or word processor). Unfortunately, I haven't taken that lesson to heart as well as I could have. Which is to say, that Baluch rug I foretold isn't as reminiscent of yours as I thought. I hadn't looked at it for a few years, and I had it as a Turkoman design in my head. It is a latticework with repeating device scheme, in keeping with the Baluchi code. Sorry to get your hopes up.

It and another one (I haven't yet resurrected from the attic, it does have an erzatz Turkoman design layout) do show that lighter and broader coloration of certain Baluchis, however, among which are your example. I consider them all part of a larger attribution puzzle. I will try to post them up, but don't stay up late waiting for them.

About the synthetic dyes. Yes, there are various oranges that could be OK, but I think that most of the ones that experienced eyes say are "hot" are just that. I know that I have my own rules of thumb in my head on color, as do most other wandering afficionados. I used to assume I was infallible until there was a series of articles in Oriental Rug Review several years back in which Paul Mushak (I think) was saying a lot of them don't test out the way you'd think. That, and I recall him writing that he found examples of synthetic dyed over natural. (Why would you do that?) Even so, I'm still an expert at the drop of a mat. (My less than Turkomanized Baluch, above, for example, looks right except for a telling pinkish color.)

On the Eastern Kurds around Kuchan. I've always taken rugs from that provenance to be essentially heavier than most Baluch, and colored more like Kurdish/Caucasian hybrids. I've never encountered one I thought was from that line with other than symmetric knotting. Where there might more likely be some apparent overlap, I would think, would be symmetrically knotted rugs that look more like traditional Baluch production, both in design and in the limited coloration associated with mainline Baluch. I find them frequently to be on the heavier side, like Quchans.

I read back over your post and didn't see any info bomb. Can you explain?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-07-2006 02:19 PM:


Thanks for your thoughts.
Didn't find them convincing, though.

Let me give you a thought of mine, it will not convince you either, I guess, but anyway here it is.

All 19th. c. rugs ( and before ) do not show this hot orange.
And then, at the beginning of the 20th c., suddenly a new natural hot orange is invented, exactly at the same time synthetics are on the market.
What an amazing coincidence, don't you think?



Posted by Steve Price on 11-07-2006 02:43 PM:

Hi Rob

I know and understand that argument, and that it is nearly universally accepted in Rugdom.

The problem with it is that most ruggies will call something 20th century if there is a "hot" orange amid an otherwise "mellow" palette. The argument becomes circular when we try to say that all "hot" orange is synthetic because we only see it on 20th century rugs, since we identify rugs with a "hot" orange as 20th century on the basis of that color.

There seems to be little doubt that you can produce nearly any color, including a hot orange, with natural dyes. The question is whether wool dyers actually did so before the 20th century. I don't know the answer, but when chemical analysis of dyes is done, the results are often surprising.

Since there are very few rugs whose ages are actually known, there isn't much of a database of rugs with known ages from which to draw firm conclusions about which colors occur infrequently a various times.

I don't know of any simple solutions except to keep reminding ourselves of how limited our ability to make accurate attributions really is.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-07-2006 08:07 PM:


Amen to that. A phenomenon that has always amazed me (and continues to do so) is the readiness with which many observers attribute age to a rug. It is not hard to find instances where a weaving of unknown provenance will show up, and after discussing that aspect of the matter thoroughly, the commentator will assign it to some quarter of some century. I don't get it.

Incidentally, one place where one can find examples of rugs with reliable attributions of age is the V & A. They allow the civilians to handle the merchandise and the tags are coded so that the year of the museum's acquisition can be easily discerned. Thus, one has a "no later than" frame of reference with which to work. There was a recent thread put up by John in which the matter was discussed.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Marty Grove on 11-08-2006 08:15 AM:

Quchan Kurd knotting

G'day all,

With reference to which knots are generally used by the Quchan Kurds - the rug I posted some time ago with the two large guls which had dogs as the motif within the guls; this rug is woven with asymmetric knots which goes to show that sometimes the general rule is not followed with these anymore more than others.

It has all the characteristics of the Quchan type products, and although it has been said that Baluch perhaps may sometimes weave these pieces, my particular one doesnt have anything which would suggest Baluchi were involved in its making.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-08-2006 07:34 PM:


When and in what thread did you post that rug?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Marty Grove on 11-09-2006 07:15 AM:


G'day Richard,

The Gochan Turco styled two big guls within which were quartered by mobs of dogs was posted months ago in the Miscellaneous threads.

You said at the time you liked it!? Apart from being asymmetric knotted, it is also open left.

It is a nice thick lovely wooled, heavy rug which is naively decorated but well woven. It has the typical Gochan minor borders, and the centred portions of the two guls seem to represent to me, the weavers interpretation of a nomad tent.

Speculative sure; but almost perfect drawing of the outlines of tarp tents which we would erect on bush trips.

Who knows the mind of a weaver? At least in this instance the weaver may perhaps still be alive, the rug purchased in the '80s and while used, certainly not old.

Sorry to draw away from Jacks Turco Baluch, just only to confirm other than symmetric knotting from Gochan.


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-09-2006 12:04 PM:


Quote :
"Since there are very few rugs whose ages are actually known, there isn't much of a database of rugs with known ages from which to draw firm conclusions about which colors occur infrequently a various times."

I don't agree with you in a broader sense.
It would mean that trying to gain knowledge about rugs is effortless, because there is always a chance you are wrong in any kind of statement about this issue in the end.
One never can be 100% sure, as with most things in live, but that does not mean : "Better stop looking and thinking."

It is definitely possible to narrow down all kinds of different clues by handling and observing all kinds of rugs during a longer period of time. And then to make cross connections between the observed clues!

If you were confronted with 10 rugs, say 5 from 1860 and 5 from 1960, I am almost 100% sure you are able to score ( at least ) 9 out of 10 right. How are you doing this, Steve? What clues are you using? (B.t.w.there are people who can do this easily blindfolded.)
For any of the clues you are using seperately, you could be argued with the same argument you put up. It is through the combination of the clues, however, you are able to narrow down the probabilities to such an extent you are able to score the 9 out of 10.
The circular argument you are referring at, done by 'most ruggies' as you put it, is neglecting the fact that it is actual possible, by the principle mentioned above, to discriminate between a 20th rug without hot-orange and a 19th. ( or earlier ) example.


To get the thread on your track again, here is another one.

The hot-orange is not as hot as in yours, but still synthetic.
It is shown in the small squares on the right.
The orange brown seen in the gul is a natural dye.



Posted by Steve Price on 11-09-2006 12:54 PM:

Hi Rob

I'm having trouble following your reasoning. In your first post, you wrote,
All 19th. c. rugs ( and before ) do not show this hot orange.

I pointed out that although this is conventional wisdom, and may be true, it runs into the problem of circularity because the presence of a hot orange is a nearly universally applied criterion for something not being a 19th century weaving. If we use it to classify rugs as not being 19th century, not finding it in any of the rugs that we do classify as 19th century isn't evidence of anything.

This doesn't mean that trying to find things out is pointless, but it does call for caution in drawing conclusions. You wrote,
The circular argument ... is neglecting the fact that it is actual possible, by the principle mentioned above, to discriminate between a 20th rug without hot-orange and a 19th. ( or earlier ) example.
It is possible, but with levels of reliability that vary with the type of rug under consideration.

You last post closes with,
The hot-orange is not as hot as in yours, but still synthetic. ... The orange brown seen in the gul is a natural dye.
You're probably right, but in the absence of chemical testing of the dyes, I think both statements convey more confidence than is warranted.


Steve Price

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-09-2006 03:19 PM:

Hi Steve,

Quote: "The argument becomes circular when we try to say that all "hot" orange is synthetic because we only see it on 20th century rugs, since we identify rugs with a "hot" orange as 20th century on the basis of that color."

Purely logical considered you are of course absolutely right. Ruggies doing this should be stopped.
I tried to make invisible, that an assessment about a rug being 20th. c. solely on one clue only ( e.g. hot orange ) is not much worth on its own. This clue has to be calibrated with other clues which are present in the rug, and then the statement : "Hot orange, ergo 20th. century", is just another way of saying: "By looking and studying loads of rugs, building up a 'reference of different clues', the conclusion in general can be made: "Hot orange, ergo 20th. century."



Posted by Steve Price on 11-09-2006 03:49 PM:

Hi Rob

In the final analysis, everything depends on the accuracy of the database on which the attribution criteria are built. I think our only difference of opinion here is whether it's accurate enough to be extremely confident of what we conclude when we apply the criteria. You think it is, I don't.

You might turn out to be right, when all the dust has settled and all the facts are in. I'd feel much better about the whole thing if, for example, there was a large number of rugs, documented to be of a range of ages, in which there were chemical analyses of the reds and red-related (orange and violet) dyes.

I don't know of any way to stop ruggies from looking at rugs and immediately attributing those with a hot orange to the 20th century. Someone has been doing exactly that in this very thread, and my efforts persuade him not to do so have failed.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-09-2006 10:21 PM:


I agree with you that experienced observers handling large numbers of rugs over a period of time, and supplementing that experience with other inquiries (books, discussions with others of experience, etc.), can develop a considerable working knowledge of the subject. As you put it, the keen observer learns to spot clues that can lead to conclusions that are worthy of respect. Among such conclusions can be estimates of age. Often, the clues one notices are characteristics that one believes identify certain rugs as older than others of a similar type. Sometimes, the clues involve the use of dyes, sometimes other things. By stringing clues together, one may find it possible to suggest that this rug or that was woven in the third quarter of the 19th century, or whatever. It is done all the time. In the end, however, it is mostly guesswork in my opinion. Educated guesswork, but guesswork nevertheless. As Steve pointed out, there is not a large body of firmly dated rugs to use for comparison in this sort of exercise. Referring to the example you gave Steve, of a collection of five rugs from 1860 and five from 1960, I would say the trick is to how to know that the first five were woven in 1860 in the first place.

Incidentally, regarding the use of dyes specifically, it has been my understanding that there has been some research done in regard to documenting the introduction of certain synthetic dyes into the rug producing world. Does anyone know more about that topic?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-10-2006 04:05 AM:


When you take a random bunch of, for example, a 100 ruggies, I bet the coherence in the dating of the 10 presented rugs would be something like 98%. ( You could repeat this with ( unclosed ) dated examples, but the outcome would surely be the same ).
One could still insist, of course, that in the end it stays just guesswork, but, for me nevertheless, this would add another clue to my framework of clues.

I think a much more bigger problem ( probably the main problem ) is lurking in the dark, and this is the distortion of the data by business involved ruggies.
When all 10 presented rugs were owned by dealers and they were among the 100 ruggies for the age assessment, It wouldn't be surprising the 98% would go down.



Posted by Steve Price on 11-10-2006 05:45 AM:

Hi Rob

One point: dating rugs isn't a democratic process, and the fact that everyone agrees just means that we were all taught the same (or similar) criteria.

One problem with date attribution from an image on a monitor is that the ability to apply tactile criteria is virtually eliminated. All we're left with is design, layout and color, and color reproduction isn't always good.

You raise the issue of commercial interests distorting things; I agree. We should also remember that a significant proportion of what we think we know about attribution came to us through dealers, who learned it from other dealers, who learned it from dealers in the bazaars. Errors at the source (intentional or not) get repeated, propagated, and become part of conventional wisdom. But they are still errors. And dealers aren't the only ruggies who have motives for aggressively dating their rugs. Turkotek gets lots of examples of people adopting criteria of age in an apparently ad hoc manner and using them to justify a belief that a particular rug is of considerable age. This practice and its aggressive defense is probably the source of the majority of the unpleasantness that I find so unpleasant to deal with as a moderator.

None of this should lead to agnosticism, just an awareness of uncertainty.


Steve Price

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-10-2006 06:52 AM:

Hi Steve,

I didn't claim dating rugs is a democratic process.

But one last question, because I think we are loosing Jack's thread.
Could you make a score yourself of at least 9 out of 10 right ( dated examples )?
If this would be the case, then would you say: this is 1960 and this 1860 or, if I understand you right, you would rather say: this is likely 1960 and likely 1860?
Is this wat its all about?

If so, maybe you, as moderator, can put in a smart device in Turkotek that , whenever "it is "comes up, it would automatically be changed in "it is likely". Would save you a lot of unpleasantness.



Posted by James Blanchard on 11-10-2006 08:38 AM:

Hi all,

Does it strike anyone else how many "late 19th century" and how few "early 20th century" rugs there are? There must have been some sort of cataclysm that caused a wool shortage in Central and West Asia around 1899 or 1900. Perhaps a historian can enlighten us.

Actually, I have found less of this tendency among dealers who are from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and are still working here. They don't seem as bashful about saying "this is 80-90 years old". I get the feeling that they see more of a smooth continuum in weaving patterns, styles and materials over that time period.

In the end, for rugs that seem to fall within that late 19th through the first part of the 20th century the real issue is not so much exactly how old the rug is, but more how interesting and beautiful it is (using Dave Hunt's descriptors). In that regard, some collectors will be really put off by a harsh colour on the front of a rug that spoils the overall colour scheme or harmony. That seems reasonable. What seems less rational is someone who finds the colours on the front of a rug pleasing, but then is turned off upon seeing that one of the colours started out as a harsh synthetic dye when examining the back of the rug.

Here is a case in point. Recently I saw this Baluch mat. I really liked it's look, and liked the luxurious pile even more. It even had some nice "relief" due to some corrosion of some minor elements in the border. When I turned it over I noticed that it had a VERY hot pink (definitely a colour not found in Nature), that were not visible on the front because the colour had faded or evaporated or washed away to almost ivory colour (see photo 2). What interested me was that I almost instantly recoiled at the sight of this obnoxious pink, even though it was not visible on the front and I didn't think the rug was older than 40-60 years anyway. I realized how irrational that was, and bought the mat for a very reasonable price and am happy with it. More importantly, I was happy that I could quickly realize the irrational fear of hot, synthetic dyes, but I am exhibiting some dangerous tendencies that need to be watched closely.

If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody hears or sees it...

Getting back to Jack's rug, I think that if Jack finds it attractive and likes the colours, I am not sure how the presence or absence of a synthetic dye makes that much of a difference.


Posted by Steve Price on 11-10-2006 08:52 AM:

Hi Rob

I think we're on the same page now. As King Chulalongkorn (Yul Brynner) sings in "The King and I", In my head are many facts of which I wish I was more certain I was sure.

James - You're right, the aesthetics should be independent of whether a rug is 10 years old or 200 years old, a color is what it is regardless of whether it's natural or synthetic. And to everyone except ruggies, that's How Things Are. The art collector sees the Picasso he bought on eBay as unbelievably beautiful and moving. Then he finds out that it's a fake, and everything changes.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-10-2006 09:59 AM:

Hey folks:

Good point by Steve on (among others) trying to date rugs on a monitor. The clues Rob mentions that help one to estimate a date must surely involve handling the rug. I remember when the first DOBAG rugs came out, some of them looked 125 years old from thirty feet distance. I frankly don't know how people like our intrepid friend, Jack, (and many others I'm sure) can see their way clear to paying real money for a rug based only on seeing it on the screen. I realize of course that it's my problem there, and the world is passing me by. Even so, I know that once or twice a year, I look at the SKINNER sale catalog on the screen (hope that isn't too commercial) to size up the rugs. Then I run down to Boston for the preview. I always revise my assessments up or down on many pieces.

Rob, much of what we are discussing here is academic. I have no doubt that Steve would score ten out of ten in sorting out a group of rugs, five from 1860 and five from 1960. In truth, in my opinion, 1860 is very old for a rug. There aren't a lot of them floating around for the picking. The real challenge is deciding whether we are talking about 1885 or 1915. And as James so aptly noted, it appears the weavers got a ton of them finished before the turn of the century.

I'm sure just about everyone reading these threads assumes the caucasian prayer rug with the harsh orange color is younger than the other one with the seven natural colors. And they probably think the latter is late 19th century. But it is still largely guesswork.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-11-2006 04:29 AM:

Hi All,

Of course to draw the line between "end of 19th.c"and "begin 20th. c." is highly questionable to have some value, but only for the dealers advertising it. As is the case with advertising doubtful colors being natural.

I am also sure, Richard, Steve would score 10 out of 10, however you are ending with : "But it is still largely guesswork"
I have put up this extreme example ( 1860/1960 ), just trying to show there is a contradiction between these two statements.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-11-2006 05:02 AM:

Hi guys,



Posted by Steve Price on 11-11-2006 07:54 AM:

Hi Rob, Richard, et al.

I think probability statements have been confused with guesses. Nearly every assertion of anything significant carries an implicit probability statement within it. That probability can be close to certainty (as it is for an experienced collector sorting 5 mid-19th century rugs from 5 mid-20th century rugs), but never reaches 100%. Indeed, a fake antique fooled most of the experts at an ACOR or ICOC (I don't recall which it was at the moment), so we know that there is a finite (albeit small) probability of error even in what would seem so straightforward a task.

That doesn't make it what most folks think of as a guess, though. What we usually mean by that is a probability statement not much better than equally likely to be correct or incorrect. Date attributions and visual determination of whether a dye is synthetic or natural are better than guesses, but far from certainty. That's why there are differences of opinion, and it's what makes me react to expressions of absolute certainty with skepticism.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-11-2006 12:19 PM:

Good morning, Steve. You're absolutely right about the distinction between guesswork and probability. I was being sloppy. The more educated the guesswork is, the higher the probability. I sense that the application of well-developed probability factors (Rob's "clues") in a systematic and studied manner is honored at least as much in the breach as the observance. As James implied, a lot of rugs get themselves assigned to the nineteenth century on the basis of wishful thinking and the lack of conspicuously bad dyes.

I have heard it said by old time dealers, and I've repeated the lore myself (and this is how the damage accumulates), that some rugs can be dated fairly reliably by noting the sparing use of one or two early synthetics. A purple that faded on the surface to grayish was the usual example. The idea was that these early colors found their way to remote production areas soon after their development in Europe. Rugs that otherwise had the indicia of age (whatever that was) but had the one bad color were early examples of the infiltration.

I have no notion whether this is valid. It seemed plausible to me. And it definitely has been in the thinking of people who shaped wider popular knowledge of rugs. I think it is exemplary of the kind of thinking that makes up the approach of afficionados to the subject of rugs and saying things about them. I think a lot of the clues Rob mentions become established in this way. Thus, a lot of dating gets done on the basis of a virtual reality.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-11-2006 01:52 PM:

Hi Filiberto,

The JAIC link you provide is very dated, cursory, and barely even scratches the surface of the subject. I doubt that it matters. Few will ever dare to try. Sue

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 11-11-2006 04:03 PM:

5th quarter 19th century

Just because 100 ruggies agreee on the age of a rug, based on their experience, does not mean it is truly that age. And the number of rugs from the 5th quarter of the 19th century is huge.
I told this story a few years ago, but it bears repeating:
A dealer showed me a Baluch rug and asked how old I thought it was. The colors, especially the darker green, led me to say 1925. He said everyone else he had shown it to all had said 1900 or before. Then he showed me the date woven into the rug - 1925 - which he had covered up.
Now, this may be relevant only to Baluch rugs which are said to have used natural dyes into the 2nd quarter of the 20th century, but fudging dates 25 years early is quite common. I often see Baluch rugs of this type and with similar colors dated to pre-1900.
I have a Shirvan that was dated to 1914 by the dealer. It has exactly 4 knots of synthetic orange in a small square in the border. Without those knots, most of us would date it to the 19th century without hesitation.
He said some people would be tempted to replace those 4 knots.
I agree with Steve that it would be nice if we had a corpus of rugs whose colors had been determined by testing, but I seem to recall that the cost of testing just one color is higher than the cost of most of the rugs worth testing.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 11-12-2006 06:13 AM:

Originally posted by Sue Zimmerman
Hi Filiberto,

The JAIC link you provide is very dated, cursory, and barely even scratches the surface of the subject. I doubt that it matters. Few will ever dare to try. Sue

Hi Sue

I read the article. It looks to me as though some of what the author refers to as preliminary tests are simple enough (and safe enough) for many people to use, and informative enough to be worthwhile. Would you mind posting more recent references to methods that you like better, or to the critiques that lead you to dismiss these completely?


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-12-2006 02:18 PM:

"Orange" you sorry you started this line?

Some quick bon-mots: It is possible E. Kurd rugs can have asymetric knots. My rug is probably not E. Kurd, possibly Turkman, but probably from "the Baluch family." It is possible, maybe probable, the E. Kurds did not arrive near Quchon when is commonly supposed.

I’ve watched how a question about rug attribution became an interesting discussion on orange dyes. Through some research, I am now more confident that my rug in question is probably from the general “Baluch” family. And I have yet to reveal my Eastern Kurd sociology information. But, before we can even begin to address attribution, perhaps a quick review of the original post would be useful.

The original post said the following: "All colors look to be very good, I can find nothing that would indicate anything other than good natural dyes, with the wool quite saturated. Even the orange/gold is natural as it has sun faded the dyes" [which I concede should have read "...even the orange/gold LOOKS natural...."]; “I suspect it may be quite old, possibly early 20th c" [I made no claim of it being 19th c., on the contrary]; “warps wrapped in wool (not goat hair)” [Sue, it was poor use of language… I should have said “the selvedge does not have the same appearance and feel of the apparent goat hair used in about 30 other Baluch rugs I own, therefore may be wool].

Allow me to re-affirm something else: in the wool, to my modestly experienced Baluchophile eyes, there is no hot orange in the subject rug. Assuming the question is about the outlining of the arrows and stars and a few knots here and there, the color on the back is a nice clear gold/orange, and a faded orange on the front, some that has a pinkish tinge. The color does not take a flying leap at you when front or back is viewed in toto.

That does not mean the gold/orange is not synthetic. It does mean that it is probably not from the family of the synthetic aniline "hot" orange dye that was used extensively in Caucasian and West Persian tribal rugs in the late 19th and early 20th century…the color that so traumatized ruggies decades ago that to this day some freak out at the mere sight of orange (again…to be a Baluchophile means to live with a lot of orange).

Here is what Eiland said about that dye,: “The two most obvious synthetics, found frequently in Anatolian, Caucasian and some Persian rugs, are a bright orange and a mauve-magenta…the orange was apparently impervious to …chemical agents, [paraphrase: ...and bleaching, acid washing, sunlight, artificial wear], and in many Caucasian rugs it glistens brightly from a field on which the reds have been removed" [my note: I believe he is referring to the look on the FRONT of the rug].

He also makes another good point. The common use of synthetic dyes began at different times for the major so-called ‘tribal’ groups, thus the “marker” problem synthetic dyes for each group are somewhat different. It is generally conceded in most literature, including Edwards, that the Baluch weavings did not affect the common use of synthetics until possibly post-WWII. This means IN GENERAL (exceptions excepted) that when the Baluch began to use synthetics, the azo-acid aniline dyes were being replaced by chrome dyes. The primary synthetic dye problem with older Baluch weavings is therefore not synthetically fugitive colors, or colors that muddy-up or change, but colors that remain "hard," front and back, forever.

In my humble opinion as a “Baluchophile,” to the western eye trained to appreciate the patina old rugs the appearance of the true color of natural dyes is often quite brilliant, especially yellows from weld or saffron, and oranges. But, "natural" orange can be made in many ways. Generally for Baluch weavings, the color is derived from henna (a natural orange that is thought (?) to be stable) or from a combination of yellow from vines, leaves, etc. with a weak red dye.

Again, let me state that all mordant dyes fade in sunlight, which is why it was once common to age rugs by leaving them on roof tops. Natural yellow dyes, being a flavonol (which reacts faster to sunlight than the flavones) is notoriously one of the most fugitive of natural colors in sunlight. It is common to find naturally dyed carpets in which the yellow is either completely gone or faded completely to a cream color. With that said....

...permit me to rephrase but basically repeat my original statement. Because of design, wear, weave and dye reasons, I believe this “Baluch” rug is pre WWII, possibly from the early 20th C [darn few Baluch are from the 19th C]. The dyes look natural. The “orange” is likely not a chrome or azo dye, because it has faded…and the resultant occasional pinkish tinge I assume (a very dangerous thing) is caused by the destruction of some of the yellow component of the orange, leaving a weak red. BUT, it could have a synthetic component, just not the unfading “hot” one that traumatizes Caucasian-o-philes.

Rob, with due respect to your opinion, I have trouble seeing in my carpet especially, but also in the analog carpet you posted for that ‘madder’ (pun intended), an automatic marker for a synthetic based orange. [later edit] You did post a picture of the back of your analog rug, but the front color of its little squares on my monitor shows a slightly pinkish, and generally a fairly modest radiance, not really out of sync with the composition of the rest of the carpet. I do wish you had posted what you know about the provenance of that rug however.

And I tend to agree with one of your statements…most of the flames on this board are caused by avowals about dyes. But…it seems to me that curiously, most of those 100 percent avowals come from commentators who for some reason are postitive about the synthetic nature of the dyes in someone else’s opinon derived only from a picture…and their subsequent adamant defense of that position to the last ditch even when the original topic was not about dyes at all.

I doubt I will change your mind, nor will you change mine absent some significant data or referenced Baluch expertise. However, it is ok with me that we agree to disagree. I would most appreciate any data you have on that analogous Baluch-turko you posted. Regards, Jack

[later add: I am open to authoritative references about gold/orange color, the reaction of such a color to sunlight, etc. I'll also acknowledge my base assumptions could be as mythical based as any erroneous assumptions about the relationship between brilliant and synthetic.]

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-12-2006 07:37 PM:

Some like it hot.


It seems you're working overtime on the issue of the naturalness of one of the dyes in your posted, presumably Baluch, rug. What seems fairly likely is that all of the colors look very plausibly natural with the possible exception of the secondary orange. About that one, I would say, having handled many Baluch rugs, that it is a color one does not find in Baluch rugs that appear to have significant age. It is hard to tell off the monitor, but my last guess would be that it is synthetic. It does not seem to hurt the rug in aesthetic terms, however, being used sparingly. It doesn't stick out except to those with a phobic approach to orange. (I may be one of them.) I have no problem placing the rug before WWII.

You have said on a number of occasions in these threads that there are very few Baluch-family rugs surviving from the 19th century. I doubt that is so, in relative terms. What is your authority for the statement?

By the way, I meant to congratulate you for having named the colors of your posting with corresponding colors in the post. That was cool!

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-12-2006 08:28 PM:

Hey Rich:

I almost agree with you exactly...if I have a doubt about the colors in this rug, it would be that gold/orange, but not because it is "hot." If one looks just at the front of the rug, it does not stick out at all. The difference front and back of that dye in particular is one reason I posted so many comparative pictures. When the discussion immediatley lurched toward authenticity of dyes with declaritive statements about "hot," I collected several pictures of Baluch items that I think really do have chrome or aniline based oranges...but it has seemed way too much an effort to post them...and they would probably not be regarded as definitive anyway. Some other time.

Whatever...I am really not too concerned about those dyes, one way or the other, or I would have been more active in the conversation on it, much earlier. Though I started the line, I think this is about my 3rd or 4th post. To me, and I hope to others, the little rug is quite striking and seems unusually intricate for a Baluch-tuko. The weave structure seems somewhat unusual as well, at least in my experience. All in all, it was money well spent [edit: about $15/SF] in my opinion, which I suppose is the one that counts.

My thoughts on the age of baluch rugs are partly deductive, but also based on a lot of reading about the Baluch history and sociologic structure and some second-hand orginal source information.

Here is why I believe that 19th c baluch rugs are not very common at all. Baluch rugs were not widely (if at all) collected by westerners because the peoples were among the most inaccesible of nomads. They were in areas that were not "pacified" by western powers, and baluch weavings were apparently not highly regarded even when they came to the attention of the early "explorers." Heck, I've read that Edwards was somewhat criticized in 1950 for wasting so much space on Baluch weavings, and he had about 2 pages of text and 4 pages of pictures.

The Baluch do not apparently commonly save special rugs for special occasions, which has meant that because of normal wear and tear there were few old rugs still in decent shape when westerners came in contact with the tribes AND got interested in their weavings...which didn't happen until later in the 20th century. Also, the "commercial" (for sale) weavings the Baluch did create were apparently generally absorbed into local Persian regional consumption, not in ecclectic western collections. Therefore, what rugs the baluch produced that made it into circulation generally seem to have ended up...on a persian floor being worn out by use. Heck Edwards mentions no commercial looms dedicated to Baluch rug production in 1950...unlike his survey of the rest of Persia...and he mentions the Baluch as an afterthought mostly.

Since early times, the Baluch have apparently used "Mak" for black, and acid rich natural dyes for brown. These dyes seem to have a relatively rapid destructive effect on wool. As my brother stated, he has some carpets bought newish in the early 1970s, that have been in trunks ever since and have not seen the light of day. Some are quite far along the corrosion road.

The baluch apparently stuck to their traditional ways far longer than the more pacified "nomads" of W.Persia-Anatolia, or the Turkmen. Their weavings well into the 20th C. seem to have the design, dyes, look and feel of antiques, especially compared with contemporaneous rugs from other "tribal-nomad" groups.

True there are some Baluch rugs in the English museums that can be dated to the 19th C. But, the documentation of most Baluch rugs is frequently almost completely blank, especially compared to the early studies and documentation of Turkmen, Persian-Caucasian-Anatolian rugs.

Simply put, I have a hard time seeing how very many 19 C. Baluch rugs would have survived until today. But that doesn't really matter to my mind as a great many first-half 20 C. Baluch rugs were woven, dyed, etc. in a manner that can be reasonably assumed to be quite similar to their long worn out ancestorial rugs.

Does that all make sense?

Regards, Jack

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-12-2006 09:28 PM:


I certainly agree with you that your rug was a good get. I don't know what you paid for it, but it definitely has attractions.

I also agree that Baluch rugs are the proverbial poor relations of the rug world, entirely unjustifiably, too. At the same time, they have also always had their champions. Thus, several of the turn of the last century books speak well of them, occasionally in terms of countering the way they were even then given insufficient respect. In that vein, Baluch rugs as a class are something like professional victims. When you look at the Baluch illustrations in those old books, some of which are posited as old at the time, you are left with the impression that a reasonable number of rugs survive from that period. I saw and handled the Baluch rugs in the V @ A collection in the mid 1980's. One or two, perhaps a few, were acquired by the museum in the last quarter of the 19th century. The one point that struck me about them was that I would have dated them more recently left to my own devices. It makes me believe there are as many Baluch from that time as any other group.

Regards, and as to your rug, as the Arabs would say, Mabrook!

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-12-2006 10:13 PM:

Hi Jack and all,

I agree with the point that our assessment of a rug should not be overly influenced by a presumed late-19th vs. early 20th century dating, especially since we often don't have the requisite data to make such determinations with that much confidence.

I do think it is relevant, as Rob and Rich have mentioned, that there are certain colours (including a strong orange) that are generally absent from the Baluch rugs that SEEM to be older. I agree with Jack that this does not necessarily preclude it from being natural. Regardless, I will reiterate that with few exceptions, the most important assessment is how the dye looks on the rug.

I am also a bit skeptical about some of the writings I have seen, including in this post, that suggest that there is a relative dearth of older (i.e. 19th cent) Baluch weavings. I don't really see exactly why the Baluch would not have preserved some of their "special" weavings any less than other groups. What seems more likely is that other weaving groups, notably the Turkmen, seem to have hit a commercial vein fairly early and perhaps scaled up their production. So it seems likely that the Turkmen made an increasing proportion of all weavings in that era.

Regardless, I would note that some well-known Baluch collectors, dealers and writers have no hesitancy in assigning Baluch rugs to the 19th century, and often have quite specific reasons for doing so.


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-13-2006 02:47 PM:


Here are some details and more pictures.

Asym. knot open to the left, H: 8 , V: 8 per inch., very slightly depressed and with a granulair feeling of the back.
Woolen selvedges wrapping.

Colours: natural black and white( both undyed ), dark blue, mid blue, light blue, dark green, aubergine, brown-orange, bright orange (tip faded ), rust red ( tip faded ).

For me it is a Baluch, but without the usual goat hair wrapping, which is a-typical.



Posted by Jack Williams on 11-14-2006 01:30 AM:

Mahdad-Khani (?)

Hey Rob.

I'd be very tempted to call your very nice rug a Mahdad-Khani from Nehbandan. I am sure you are familiar with Wegner's Pile Rugs of the Baluch and their Neighbors (see link below and within archived line... Here is what he had to say about the Tekke gul weaves aroung the Zabol-Nehbandon area (see:

"A rather numerous group of weavers around Zabol uses--besides the tribal or main Tekke gul--a secondary gul, which is most often seen among the Merv-Tekke...Most main and minor borders have patterns of the Turkoman origin. For example, the Volute cross is a heraldic square (“kotshanak aine”), which the Tekke and the Salor use as a field design. In some of the rugs the guls are arranged in three vertical rows, with seven or nine guls in each row. This is clearly a Tekke tradition. The Tekke tradition is less obvious in the colors: Aubergine tints in the field, green and gold orange shades in the borders and in the secondary guls are characteristic of the “Zabol-Tekke.”..., emphasis mine... This color combination discriminates their products from those made by the Mahdad-Khani Balouch, who lived around Nehbandan at the eastern edge of the southern Lut desert in 1950. These Balouch reproduce the Tekke gul and the ghobaghe secondary gul very accurately, but without “vase” motif and with Turkoman colors; i.e., red ground color and no “Zabol” green (Fig. 11). Tekke influence can also be seen in the borders and in pile-woven “herring-bone” stripes on the web-ends. There are never more than two vertical rows of guls, and four or six guls per row are most common" "

Your rug has a lot of the features he ascribed to Nehbandan area, Mahdad-Khani. The barber pole wrap of the selvedge looks a little strange (almost kurd-like), and the number of guls is different, but the weave density, colors, weave design all seem to fit.

Referencing the archived line linked above, you can see a rug that I think is a archtypical Zabol-baluch, as opposed to the Mahdad-Khani. And in my rug that is the subject of this line, I could default to that attribution as the colors are reasonably close to those described by Wegner. However the weave is twice as fine as most of those rugs, and the vine-leaf border is a lot more detailed than the Zabol-tekke rugs I've looked at. Its enough of a difference to leave the issue in doubt. Thanks for the help. Regards, Jack


There are a lot of reasons to wonder about very many 19th c baluch rugs surviving. The Turkmen were swarmed by Russian researchers, collectors, documenters, and buyers after the 1885 pacification was complete. Dudin brought back 2500 artifacts in 1900 or so including many rugs for the museums. The russian army followed by speculators, suttlers etc, looted thousands of carpets at Goek Tepe. So many old Turkmen rugs were carried off to Moscow that they were used to cover chairs.

Who was doing this type thing for the Baluch? Who was saving old rugs? What force acted to preserve 19th C. Baluch rugs for posterity? Heck even the mosque collections of Meshed and other towns did not include Baluch rugs, or if they did at least Edwards failed to mention them. Here is what Wegner says:

"Up to the middle of this century pile-weave and flat weave fabrics were mainly made for home use. The demand was never big, but at least continuous. New pile rugs were part of the customary dowry and served to prove the weaving skills of the bride. In addition rugs wore out soon in a Balouch tent, that does not offer as much protection as a Turkoman yurt, and thus they had to be replaced more often. This also explains why older or even semi-antique pieces are rarely found among the Balouch themselves.

"During good years a Balouch family would weave one or two additional rugs. They were sold in the nearest city bazaars or exchanged for utensils, that they could not make themselves, for tea and sugar, as well as for red calico for dresses, and once in a while for silver coins for jewelery. Many Balouch from central and north Khorassan made those for the Persian New Year, on March 21st according to our calendar. Some of them came from far away to the bazaars of Meshed. Therefore the rugs had to be finished by the middle of March. Corresponding dates were sometimes inscribed into the rugs, e.g. 20. 12. 1319 (see Fig. 13). Also the neighboring Iranian villagers then replaced their worn out Balouch rugs with newer ones. Particularly, richer people in the villages of Djulghe Khaf used to cover the floors of their "mehman-khane", the room where guests were welcomed, with nomad rugs. A new rug was also needed whenever one was damaged by glowing coals falling from the stove. Such rugs from the "mehman-Khane" then substituted for worn out rugs in the "endetun", the living and women quarters, which were inaccessible to outsiders, the doctor excepted.

"Thus only a very limited number of carpets reached the markets in Iran and Afghanistan that were accessible to European merchants. They were not much sought after in the cities because the urban middle class, that was able to afford rugs, preferred larger sizes. But those could not be woven on Balouch looms. The people in the cities also favored more colorful rugs, and if possible floral designs, "to bring the garden into the house".

"Up until recently there was no big foreign demand for knotted fabrics made by those nomads. Pile, pattern and colors of their rugs did not appeal to the prevailing taste of the first decades of this century...."

The source documentation on Turkmen rugs (for instance) is extensive from 1860-1890 or so, and even earlier. For Baluch, we are reduced to quoting Edwards (1950) and Wegner (1968), almost 100 years later. The Baluch being some of the roughest iconoclastic, isolated people around, inhabiting an area that was not really penetrated by westerners to any great extent, even today, with no demand for their rugs, no wave of collecting or interest in their history until recently....the chances of a 19th century Baluch rug surviving until today is about 1/1,000th of the chance for a Turkman rug, at least in my unscientfic estimation.

Maybe there really are a lot of 19th c Baluch rugs that somehow were preserved by chance or some methodolgy that is different from that which acted to preserve the Turkmen rugs. But, I guess I will remain a little skepticial. Fortunately, the 20 C. Baluch rugs are as nomad authentic in every way as 1850 Turkmen rugs...again my opinion.

By the way, I have reasons to be a bit skeptical about dealer attributions, age, etc., especially in regards to Baluch. Reliable second hand orginal information seems to indicate that the source dealers on the ground in Afganistan have been known to dissiminate erroneous ideas...even the Baluch themselves seem to be prone to mislead the outsider on purpose.

Regards., Jack

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-14-2006 09:37 AM:

Hi Jack,

You could be right about the dearth of 19th century Baluch rugs, and you are not the only one, as you have pointed out. I also agree that trying to distinguish between 19th and early 20th century Baluch rugs is probably not very important since that covers a somewhat seemless time continuum across the turn of the last century. So it makes sense to me that the number of rugs preserved from that time period decreases gradually, not precipitously, as one goes further back, with the more special weavings being more likely to be preserved. As I pointed out in my previous post, I also agree that, dare I say it here, the proliferation of Turkmen weavings at the end of the 19th century will have diluted the relative number of Baluch weavings from that time period.

My point was that I think we make some fairly broad assumptions when we say that the Baluch didn't preserve their special rugs. Moreover, I think we need to consider that although the Baluch might not have woven much for distant markets, it was not uncommon for the local Khans to receive a number of special rugs. For example, an experienced collector and dealer I know from Herat, who has been dealing in Baluch rugs for more than 40 years told me that many of the Khans would have 20 or 30 prayer rugs to ensure that all important guests would have one when needed. Even today, he said that it is not uncommon for more well-to-do Baluch and other Afghan families to own several prayer rugs to ensure that relatives and guests have one available. He personally has 9 or 10 Baluch prayer rugs in his house, including 2 or 3 "special" ones. I know this is purely anecdotal and "modern", but still I think we need to consider these practices.

Finally, if late 19th century Baluch rugs are 1000 times more rare than Turkmen, imagine how valuable the old Baluch rugs should be, given the importance of rarity for collectors.



P.S. here are a couple of documented 19th century Baluch rugs from the V & A Museum collection. As mentioned by Rich, neither of them look THAT old compared to other examples floating around. The first was purchased in 1883 and the second (bag face) in 1876. Both look like they had some age when acquired... (photos from Robert Pittenger's article "Mind the Gap", found on Tom Cole's website:

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-15-2006 09:47 PM:

Hi Jack.

Your argument about the (non-)survival of Baluch rugs from the 19th century is interesting; and one cannot dismiss the statements of someone like Wegner. Yet, the suggestion that Baluch rugs were obscure and disregarded until recent decades is not supported by a cursory review of the popular literature from the turn of the old century.

In 1901, John K. Mumford (Oriental Rugs) illustrates in color a 5 x 7 Beluchistan Rug that he estimates to be 100 years old. It is a typical repeating tile pattern with an early looking border. It is hard to judge his estimate due to the characteristics of color reproduction of the period, though the rug does look ancient to me. He gives them three full pages of description in the text, mentioning that they were produced in an area criss-crossed by caravan trade, thus finding their way to Turkoman cities. He said, “The modern Beluchistans have fallen about as far from the high standard established by the old ones as any rugs which find their way out of the East today.”

In 1904, Mary Churchill Ripley (The Oriental Rug Book) wrote admiringly of Baluchistan rugs. In a book of 8 color plates, 44 black and white, and over 100 other illustrations, she chose to illustrate in color what we would probably call an Arab type Baluch (courtesy of Tiffany Studios).

In 1910, Eliza Dunn (Rugs in their Native Land) illustrates a Baluch in color, similar in field design to Plate 26 in Black and Loveless, or No. 17, the McCoy-Jones piece, in the 1974 catalog of the Hajji-Babas. Her rug is typical of the genre, with the addition of a remarkable green of which she makes much. It also suffers from color reproduction problems in the illustration. She comments on the unique sheen and high desirability of the best Baluch examples.

In 1911, G. Griffin Lewis illustrated and extolled a Baluch in color (compare No. 18 in the 1974 Hajji Baba catalog or Plate 50 in Amos B. Thacher (1940)); he also showed a typical Mina Khani Baluch in black and white. About the production, he said they were transported to Bokhara for marketing. He said the dyes were usually good “…but nowadays, unwashed ones are extremely scarce.” He explains elsewhere that by “washing,” he meant chemical treatment to soften new colors. He said modern pieces were inferior to antiques. Lewis’s book also quoted typical market prices for all of the (many) rugs described in the book. He made clear that he referred to then currently produced rugs, not antiques. The range of market prices then commanded by Baluch as stated by Lewis was equal to or higher than more than fifty well known types of rugs.

Several others can be cited. Walter A. Hawley in 1913: “…They possess an individuality that once recognized is never forgotten….No other rugs have a surface with a more lustrous sheen, due to the soft, fine wool of the pile, which in old pieces is short and closely woven, giving a…velvety appearance unsurpassed by any other nomadic rugs....Many of the choicest pieces now on the market are the small saddle bags….” A. F. Kendrick and C. E. C. Tattersall in 1922 spoke approvingly of Baluch rugs and illustrated four very typical examples. Rosa Belle Holt in 1901 and W. D. Ellwanger in 1903 are two more.

My point is that these writers, no doubt familiar to afficionados of the period, and probably opinion makers to a degree, were quite conversant with Baluch rugs, generally admired them, and considered them prominent entries in the marketplace. Thus, it is difficult to accept the proposition that few examples survived from the 19th century due to scant numbers from the outset and an indifferent or uninformed buying public, when it is generally accepted that reasonable numbers of other 19th century rugs did survive.

Best regards.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-15-2006 10:09 PM:


Very nice posts of those two from the V & A. Where did you get them, on the Tom Cole site?

I note the repairs in the prayer rug. In another thread, there are some comments on repairs, and someone (Johanna?) mentioned the issue of respect for old repairs. I'm for that, but one of my pet peeves is old repairs to good rugs done with bad aniline colors that have turned awful by the time they reach me.

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-15-2006 10:13 PM:

Hi Rich,

Yes, I did get those on Tom Cole's site, here....

I agree... a repair that mars the aesthetic appeal of a rug is undesirable (to me), regardless of age.


Posted by Jack Williams on 11-16-2006 01:34 AM:

Baluch, Belouch, Beloutchee

Hello Rich:

Since the original subject of the line, the Baluch-turko rug, is generating little in the way of information, perhaps I will enter the lists here one more time. Rich, I appreciate the detail of your footnotes and references. It is valuable by itself to have such a compilation…my compliments.

I know that the academics and even rug enthusiasts of the time were aware of the quality of Baluch rug. I also am aware that the Baluch rugs did make it to market quantities enough to be mentioned, especially Bokhara. Here is a quote I ran into some time ago…see Wright’s article, ...

“…During his 1898-99 trip, O. Olufsen toured Bokhara bazaars:… ‘Far out in the northern part of the town the carpet dealers have their bazaar, Tim-i-Gilam, the principal part of which is made up of an open square place encircled by open shops with stores of thousands and thousands of carpets. Here we find the carpets with nap (gilam) both from Bokhara and the neighboring countries, Persia, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Belutchistan …. …[speaking of ‘Bokhara’ carpets] they can neither as to solidity nor beauty be compared with those of the Turkomans or Persians but they surpass considerably the Kashgar, Afghan, Belutshee and common Kirghiz carpets.’”

But the Baluch were and are the most unknown, unapproachable, unstudied, migratory people in central Asia. Today, we barely know the names of the septs, clans, tribes and we cannot connect those we are aware of today back to ones reported early in the 19th C. or to their particular rugs, artifacts, religious propensities, etc., with any reliability. Of course there are a number of very good reasons including the lack of political unity in any significant numbers, thus no particular attention paid to them by the colonial powers, the geography of where they live(d) the pretty tough nature of the people, etc.

In my opinion, the fact that Baluch rugs were periodically noticed, described, photographed, even admired, by various wanderers does not necessarily mean that a critical mass of interest was generated that could clearly explain the survival of significant numbers of rugs from that era.

Russian, Turkish, English accounts document the essentials of the 19th C. Turkmen including geography, sociology, methods of warfare, culture, etc. There seem to be barely decent geographic accounts of Afghanistan during the 19th C. Does anyone know of a 19th C. map (for instance) that shows the miagratory pattern of any Baluch group? Again, I just do not see the physical and academic infrastructure that actively helped preserve Turkmen rugs, including the way the Turkmen themselves used their rugs, acting on the Baluch universe.

I’m not sure Baluch weavings are properly appreciated today. And of course I have a personal opinion about why (surprise surprise). Most exhibitions of Baluch rugs seem focused partly on yet another tree-of-life, Doctor-e-Gazi, crude mushwani, set of rugs. The really intricate, unique, finely woven, and the color-filled, illustrating the quality of the Baluch weaving artists and their willingness to accept new weaving ideas, don’t seem to get displayed at least en masse. Perhaps curators think those type rugs would be so jarring to public perception of the Baluch that they are reluctant shift focus to the unusual. But, if I could own any single rug in the entire world, it would be the one Tom Cole addressed in his article….

My brother and a friend saw this rug and described it to me. Until I saw the pictures Tom posted, I didn’t believe what Gene had told me. Maybe we need a set of…oh…15 or 20 really WOW Baluch rug pictures on this forum, all something most people have not seen before. Regards. Jack (PS: please read the fine print)

Disclaimer: the above is the unvarnished, unsubstantiated opinion of the author, which is very unlike him as he usually posts copious notes and attributions. No acceptance of the thesis and opinions expressed above should be assumed to exist among the experts. No portion of the above ideas may be reproduced or used for commercial or other purpose without the expressed consent of the author, however that expressed consent is hereby duly rendered, unless said use is for myrth, or ridicule of the author.

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-16-2006 04:10 AM:

Hi Jack,

I don't want to drag this out, mostly because I don't disagree that much with what you say. There are probably a lot more 19th century Turkmen rugs around than Baluch. I just think that we should be a bit cautious in making conclusions since we don't have enough factual, contemporary information (as I recall, Wegner and Edwards were writing after the mid-20th century) to suggest that the good Baluch rugs of the 19th century were "all used up" because they were usually used on the tent floors and Western academics and collectors were not very interested in them until quite recently. My point is that many rugs might have been preserved in this part of the world because rugs were/are highly valued in these societies, perhaps even moreso than in the West. I have often seen even the most mundane-seeming rugs hung carefully on the walls of homes in Pakistan and India. The floors are reserved for machine-made or very crude hand-knotted ones.

By the way, I like your idea of displaying the "Wow" Baluch rugs. I just bought Boucher's Baluch Treasures book here in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan (only $22... new copy, with Opie's Introduction. The shopkeeper had 3 copies). I really like the Timuri main carpet Boucher shows and would rank it up there among my favourite Baluch rugs (though he would not call it "Baluch").

Quetta is an interesting place these days... I have never seen so many high walls in my life, except in the Northwest Frontier Province, but here the walls around every conceivable building or yard. Today there is a "shutter-down" general strike to protest President Musharraf's is visit to the new port city of Gwadar. Despite the fact that there are swarms of army and police personnel, the border is obviously porous enough. You can buy "Iranian petrol" for half the price of Pakistani petrol. The "outlets" are "hidden", but easily identifiable by red cloths hung on the wall. I think this illustrates well how little the national borders actually matter in this region. Any obstacle can be overcome with a bit of hard cash. As elsewhere in Pakistan, most local folks say that most of the "good old rugs" are gone, so no luck for me.



Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-16-2006 09:16 AM:


Hi Jack,

Granted many of the Baluchi tribal groups are remote, and their tribal organization has been complex and obscure. These factors account in large part for why we don't know who actually wove the rugs. But it seems you are reasoning from those facts to a conclusion that not many of the rugs, whoever wove them, made it out of the 19th century. Meanwhile, there seems to be a substantial body of rugs before us that says it didn't happen that way. I say that on the basis that there is enough comment in the early 20th century literature with accompanying pictures to allow us to extrapolate from that material and recognize many other rugs today that seem to have similar characteristics, particularly age diagnostic characteristics. I believe that is mostly the way we venture to assign age to other groups of rugs. We see pictures of older rugs, or handle ones that we can reliably place in a time frame, and we compare them with others that seem similar. I don't see that syndrome operating any differently with Baluch rugs than, say, Shiraz area tribal rugs.

That said, I agree with you that there are probably a lot of Baluch rugs from the 20th century that are casually assigned to the 19th due to the conservative weaving practices that apparently persisted among those weavers.

If they ever get that time machine perfected, I have quite a number of trips I need to take. I think I'll add that Tim-i-Gilam suq to the list.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-18-2006 05:35 PM:


Good evening all;

Encircled above is an example of something I love about Baluch…there is often something whimsical in the weaving that makes you stop and say…why did she do that?

From literature and some original sources, the Baluch wove Turkman symbols until the Turkmen ceased to dominate the region after the Russian conquest. From 1900 to about 1925 the weaving of Turkmen symbols reportedly declined until the use of such symbols were relatively rare (apparently revived fairly recently possibly for commercial reasons). I’ve read speculation that the reduction in the frequency of using Turkmen guls was related to the elimination of physical intimindation by the raiding, slaving proto-totalitarian-mafia Turkmen.

I wonder if the above mutation in my rug, the simple turning of one "arrow" 90 degrees, in only two rows of guls, wasn’t a way for some Baluch "little woman" to thumb her nose at the terrorizing Tekkes.

Re: Age of Baluch rugs. Both James and Rich make good points, and it is probably not that important to resolve age in Baluch rugs, and it might not be possible anyway. In my opinion, formed from information from several people interested in rugs who have spent a lot of time in the area, the most important dividing line in Baluch rugs is roughly WWII. It really isn't necessary to compete with the Turkmaniacs to claim old, older, oldest. Pre WWII can probably usually be considered the equivalent of authentic antique.

Re: The Boucher book James found in Quetta.. The following is from reliable on site information, though this info was qualified, some being second hand but from the original source, verbally received long ago (however, some of the facts are mentioned in the interview on T.Coles site, "From the Horses Mouth" and some is from primary participants).

Apparently, Col. Boucher was posted to Iran in the mid-1960s. He reportedly didn’t speak any of the languages and there could be a question whether he traveled extensively in E. Iran-Kurrason. From a person who conversed with him and McCoy Jones when he began putting his book together and gathering Baluch rugs, etc., he reportedly first relied on pretty conventional ruggie-judgement of the times. However, it is a fact that beginning in the mid-late 1970s, he corresponded extensively with Jerry Anderson (as did McCoy Jones, apparently). Supposedly, in the end to a great extent if not completely he accepted and used the attributions of JA…so his book might have special value because of completely original “local knowledge.”

Re: Quetta, Pakistan.. James, as we know, “Baluchistan" has been a misnomer since the British days. From information passed to me from on-site people with some knowledge, in the 1900 census, just short of 1 million Baluch were in Sind and the Punjab, and only 30,000 were actually counted in Baluchistan (though counting Baluch might have been like counting illegals...hard to find, hard to document). Reportedly, at that time there were 350,000 or so Brahui and about the same number of Pathans in the provence. Quetta in fact was mostly a Pathan city and as such may not have been an especially active rug collection center at that time, and maybe not even now (then again, it might be...your opinion is solicited).

Re: The Brahui – “Kurd.” Now something interesting. In the breakdown of the major sub-groups of the Brahui, one of them is (or was) apparently called “Kurd.” My sources tell me that no particular reason was found for this….might or might not be related to a Kurd tribe that was integrated into the Brahui at one time. It could be something interesting to look into while in Quetta.

Re: My Kurd Quchon bomb. Just about every reference everywhere notes that the Kurds of Khurrasan around Quchon were imported by Shah Abbas to form a barrier against the Turkmen. Roughly, that should have been about 1600 AD.

HOWEVER, In a journey lasting from 1402-1406, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (d. 1412), was sent as ambassador to Tamerlane by King Henry III of Castile and Leon in Spain. Clavijo's journey took him through Constantinople, Trebizond on the Black Sea shore of Anatolia, and then inland across northern Iran and into Central Asia, where he was received by Tamerlane in Samarkand. The return journey followed approximately the same route but took a swing up into the southern part of the Caucasus.

On his outgoing journey he described interesting facts including crossing the desert to Merv., etc. (helped influence my thougths of Turkman miagration routes) and his route took him right across the Quchon area. Here is what he found there and wrote in about year 1403 AD or so…almost 200 years before Shah Abbas:

“About a league before coming into Nishapur the road crossed a district where there were many orchards well irrigated by numerous streams of water, and in this plain we saw a great camp of some four hundred tents. These we found were not of the common sort, but long and low and made of black felt.. In occupation of the same were folk known as the Alavari [who are nomad Kurds]. They own no other habitations than their tents, for they never take up their abode in any city or village, but live in the open country~side, both summer and winter, pasturing their flocks. These consist of droves of rams, ewes and cows, and the people of this particular tribe possess some twenty thousand camels.

"They wander over the length and breadth of all this province living under the juridsiction of Timur, and they give him yearly as his due in tribute three thousand camels, also some fifteen thousand sheep. These they deliver willingly for the privilege of pasturing their flocks on his lands.”

You can read this yourself on this web site…it is worth reading for the feel of this huge region, including the Caucasus Mts. and Armenia on the return trip, at the site below.

I hope this is enough “bombs” for one post.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-19-2006 01:02 AM:


Hi Jack,

Almost any discussion or fact or figure about the Pakistani province of Baluchistan is steeped in politics. Baluchis will claim that the province has about 5-6 million Baluchis (out of around 7.5 million), and some advocate for the establishment of "Greater Baluchistan" which would unify territories across SE Iran, S and W Afghanistan and SW Pakistan.

I don't know much about Quetta's longer term history as a rug collection centre, but dealers in Pakistan said that 20-30 years ago, Quetta was one of the first stops for good rugs coming in from W. Afghanistan (after the Soviet invasion).

The region of Quetta does have a very ancient history. French archaeologists have researched the remnants of a civilization (Mehrgarh) that is said to extend further back than the Indus civilization (7000-3200 BC). . They were active in making pottery pots with various geometric designs and figures of humans and beasts (especially bulls). It brings to mind the work of James Opie in relating Luristan bronzes to designs in tribal weavings.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-19-2006 12:48 PM:


Hey Jack,

Forgive me if this has been mentioned, or if I've missed something. In looking at Edwards, I noticed that one of the pieces in his Plate 182 is very similar to your post, at least as to design (the picture is black and white). He attributes it to the Sarakhs area. My volume is the 1975 reprint, if that makes a difference (which I think not).

I share your amusement and fascination with the funky little things the Baluchi weavers often found the inspiration(?) to stick into their rugs. Jabbing a finger into the eye of the nasty Turkomen seems a leap, but who's to say? That old "avoiding the evil eye" explanation grew trite with me a long time ago.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-20-2006 01:13 AM:

Where we are now

Hello all.

Rich, I inserted that Edward's rug example in the original post for this line, but thank you for bringing it to our attention again.

Take a look at this map in an archived line of discussion about "Turkmen symbols in Baluch rugs" (see archives: It is one I created and previously posted attempting to convert Wegner's writings into the visual...which was hard to do because Wegner was a little imprecise.

Here is where I am...

The extensive use of Turkmen symbols in Baluch rug was noted by Wegner in detail, that being one of the themes of his disertation. He is responsible (I think) for subsequent references to the area around Zabol being the source of a lot of these rugs, and his writings are paraphrased in the above mentioned archived line. In 1973, Eiland also mentioned this area as known for weaving precise Tekke guls. Here is what he said:

“The rugs of Chakansur are an anomaly, as they are brightly colored and apparently all based n designs borrowed from Turkoman tribes to the north. They come in an unusual array of sizes, with some room-size pieces and a small number of prayer rugs. The fabric is of a medium quality, as baluchi rugs go, but the colors are strikingly vivid. Bright green, orange, and purple are common, although there is relatively little white and yellow. The field pattern is almost always an adaptation of a Salor or Tekke-like gul, usually somewhat squarish.”

But, Edwards did not mention Sistan as being an area that could be the main source of Turkmen-symbol rugs and his example was attributed to the Sarakhs area .

Wegner does mention a group near Sarakhs that also weave the Tekke gul, though stating that region was primarily using the Salor Mar (Merv) gul as decoration in their rugs. (see the above map). Trouble is, few other commentators have mentioned an area that specializes in the creation of Turkmen symbol-ed rugs recently. Tom Cole, who I regard as a leading Balucho-expert, has written extensively about the area of Sistan provence, and posted numberous examples in articles on his web site. But he has not mentioned the Zabol-Baluch turko symboled rugs at all. Neither has anyone else recently.

My problem with this rug is that it seems to be a far finer weave, greater than 140 kpsi which is close to the upper limit of Baluch for the most part and considerably finer than anything I’ve seen that might be one of Wegner's "Zabol-Baluch-Turko." Plus, it uses the Tekke gul, which was thought to be mostly from an area that does not necessarily use a fine weave,…it is obviously old. Fortunately, I may be about to get some help. More later.

By the way, I have some ideas about why certain guls are used in certain areas by the Baluch. And, I have a huge amount of sociological information on these people that I will post soon. It is fascinating reading...and proposes a relationship between baluch, bruhui, and kurd.



Posted by Jack Williams on 11-20-2006 12:59 PM:

Orange dye (?) and fading

Good afternoon all:

I don't want to open a pandora's box again, and I am NOT claiming the orange in the rug is not some type of synthetic...though I am still holding that it is not the "hot" unfading orange that terrorized Caucasus rug collecting.

You may recall I noted a deductive conclusion that the orange is not "hot", and the pinkish color is likely the result of the flavenol yellow component of the orange being destroyed.

Here is something I just found on the internet dealing with orange in two Saryk rugs. It has some interesting information all might find of benefit and useful.

See:, an article from Oriental rug review entitled, "SELECTED DYE ANALYSIS IN TWO OLD SARYQ MAIN CARPETS," by Dr. Paul Mushak

Re: madder and orange.

"...The orange shades from both main carpets consist of a mixing of madder and a yellow, rather than the more often employed selective madder and mordant mixing. Furthermore, the madder is of the same composition as that used for red, rather than madder being used for orange shades. Secondly, the choice of the yellow as isparyk, an unstable flavenol, yields a gradual deterioration in the purity of the orange shade with time as the yellow component fades. This is analagous to what happens with green over time, when the yellow portion fades..."

"...Overall, these main carpets appear to be attributable to the middle period of Saryk production and the overall red effect springs from the dye composition described above. The mellowed oranges clearly relate to the use of a fading yellow and a madder inclining more to deep reds to begin with ..."



Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-21-2006 07:19 PM:


Going back over your post with keener attention, I see the basis of your perplexity about the rug. I think the most remarkable feature about it is the fineness for this type. I would imagine most of the copying in this context is the Baluchi group weavers copying one another, rather than all of them copying one Turkoman group or another. It is a studied version of the Tekke gul, given the proportions. It seems this "square" version of Turkoman guls is the more prevalent style among Baluch group copiers.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 11-28-2006 11:25 AM:

“Palette Equals Provenance”

Good Morning all:

I hope now to bring this line to a definitive conclusion. My thanks to all who have been interested and who have contributed.

I contacted a friend in California who I regard as one of the most knowledgeable Baluch researchers around. He asked I not reveal his name, which I will honor of course. I will say that he is highly regard in the hobby, has published and spoken extensively, and has spent considerable time on the ground in the heart of region.

Here are some of his comments. He studied my rug and concluded it is from Sistan Province (Persian side of border), notwithstanding the fine-ness of the weave. He also told me all the dyes look good, i.e. natural. His estimate of age indicates it is a 1900-1910 weaving.

His conclusions were partly based on the following (I will limit my summary of his thorough analysis to bullet-type comments for reasons of professional and personal courtesy): In early Baluch rugs, he believes an important tendency, worth noting in everyone’s data base, can be expressed simply as “palette equals provenance.” He holds that color combinations were specific to regional production of earlier Baluch-group rugs.

This one does not have a typical Khorasan pallet or one that speaks of Bagdis-Farah even Nimruz Province in Afganistan. But it does have the palette that closely ties to that identified from Sistan. He noted the unusually fine design detail and execution as being something of a mystery. But he indicated that is most easily explained by individual weaving artistry rather than being indicative to a certain sept or clan. He agreed that the weaver of this rug was quite accomplished both in design conception and execution.

He noted the small outside border as being a marker for 1900-1910 (see picture) saying that type of border rarely appeared pre-1900 and was less used later. He also noted the checkerboard selvage and colors of the checkerboard as being found in the Sistan region and of earlier provenance, the checkerboard having a different set of colors later.

I told him about the apparent braiding of the warps inside of the selvage wrap. His comment, in my opinion was unusually preceptive and intelligent: it was simply a non-commental, ".... hummmmm? ...." He seemed somewhat startled by that piece of information, so much so that I will doubt what I think I observed until I get home and examine and photograph that feature. If it proves true (imagine if you will how this would be possible to accomplish) I will add a picture of that feature to this post later. close the line (at least from my perspective), the most likely conclusion from a preponderance of evidence is that the rug is Baluch, from Sistan area, Persian side of the border, possibly near Zabol. It was woven 1900-1910, and used all natural dyes and is an unusually fine weave for this type.

Hope this has been interesting to everyone.

Regards, Jack

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-28-2006 12:53 PM:

Sistan palette...

Hi Jack,

An Afghan collector and dealer that I know in Pakistan tells me that you can tell a Sistan from the "green colour". Here is a Sistan Baluch prayer rug as an example. It was shown to me a while back in Pakistan. Note the palette and the edge finishing which have some similarities to yours.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-02-2006 02:18 AM:

Camel Wool in Kuresan and Herat


I'm in Herat for the moment...there is a dealer here (known to Lad Duane and James) who is old school and knows quite a lot. His son is, how to put this politely, a "rug salesman." The son is showing (pretty bad) rugs to various Americans claiming they are camel wool...the wool in them is dyed. He gets quite nervous around me unfortunately.

I have a meeting set up with his father to ask him privately about this. If the father also says he uses camel wool in hi carpets, then I want to see the camel, the wool, the spinning equipment and the factory. Then I'll believe what is being claimed. I think I can talk him into it.

In any event, the shearing season for local sheep here is in April..I assume the camel molt is about the same time (and there are only dramadaries here, no Bactrian camels that I've seen). I may be back here then. If so, I've been guarenteed a trip to the border to watch the shearing process, both by Kuchi nomads and settled Baluch and Pashtoons. I'll try to collect spindles at that time. (by the way, re that Black tent which was pictured with its belongs in a previous thread likely was a Kuchi tent, not Baluch.)

One other thing, Baluch families are still here in Western Farah and Western Herat provinces..not a lot but enough...and are in contat with their relations across the (now fenced and fortified) border with Iran. They are living in villages right up the border from Seistan to the Turkmenistan border. But they're not nomads. They are all settled and many an be found dealing in a "cash crop" rather than rugs these days.

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-02-2006 03:06 AM:

Hi Gene,

Just to clarify, I know dealers from Herat who are now based in Pakistan. The dealers I know are enthusiastic about their rugs, but I think they are genuine in their dealings with me. For the most part they have given age estimates to their rugs that are younger than other collectors and dealers that have seen the rugs after purchase. In fact, they have rarely claimed a rug to be from the 19th century with me. They have not often specifically referred to "camel wool" in their rugs (perhaps because they know my wife and I are not big fans of camel ground rugs), and when they do point out camel wool they usually turn it over to show the "fuzzy" wool in the bottom of the knots.

I have never been to Herat and don't know any dealers based there (as far as I know).


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-02-2006 03:20 AM:

got it


Sorry..I misinterpreted one of your previous posts when you referred to a Herat dealer...I recalled you were planning to write something with him along the lines of Jerry's Anderson's Hali interview "From the Horse's Mouth" by Tom Cole. Hope you get a chance to follow through.

Unfortunately I'm not as free to roam about as in years past which puts a crimp in the fun. I'll let you know what I find about about the supposed use of "camel wool" in modern Herat carpets.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-03-2006 09:43 AM:

Opinion of Herat Dealer


I showed your carpet to the oldest dealer in Herat. He said without hesitation that it was a Baluch made by the Mahdad Khani. He identified the Mahdad Khani as occupying both sides of the border area of Iran due west of Shindand.

He said he felt it was likely 80-90 years old...he didn't say why.

Most in the carpet bazaar in Herat defer to this man. However, I found his horizons a bit limited ... I didn't feel sure I could rely on what he said if it was outside of the Farah-Herat-Badghis area and he tended to use a lot of market-trade names. I'll ask some others as the opportunity arises.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-03-2006 10:09 AM:


When you refer to Jack's rug in the previous post, I assume you mean the one with which he began the thread, no?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Bob Kent on 12-03-2006 11:42 AM:

the cole/hali/"raising the bar" rug

is described in Hali as having very surprising size, color, and design, and mentioned here asa dream rug. The 15 ft. size of that rug certainly shows that there are "baluch" rugs of that "timuri" type that weren't made by moving nomads. As for the color, I have only seen images, not the actual wool, but rugs of this type can have multiple reds, blues, blugereen, etc. see O'Bannon in Arizona Collections book on colors in these rugs. And the design is actually similar, "older looking" (fewer borders, etc), to another rug once published in Hali in the early 80s, I'd guess about 1983 ... I copied the page without page #s and have only a dark b-w copy, but the text on the page suggests it is from the DeYoung and was a McCoy Jones gift

the deyoung has a micro-image of this rug here, you need a decent image to see the design commanilities between this rug and the raising the car one, anyone have a decent image of this rug?

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-04-2006 03:21 AM:

Hi Bob,

You are lucky: I have eleven issues of Hali , and it’s in one of them.
Hali # 25, 1985, “The Real McCoy” article, page16:



Posted by Gene Williams on 12-04-2006 04:16 AM:

Mahdad Khani


I was indeed referring to Jack's original rug. When I was in Karachi, JA always referred to this design as (phoenetic) "Mulhid Khani." I realize now that he was saying "Mahdad Khani." The name has been used in several publications...Jack mentions it above in his post per Wegner's "Pile Rugs of the Baluch and their Neighbors."

The old man I talked to as I said knew his trade names but seemed to have very limited horizons... He said the Mahdad Khani occupied an area southwest of Adraskhan and West of Shindand. That theoretically would put it 150 miles north of the Seistan area.

Well, directions are sometimes mixed up here. The river which runs through Shindand, continues SW to the Rud-e-Farah and then both run into the Seistan basin swamps and lakes. Nehbedan, which Jack refers to above, is almost due west of that area...find the area where the Iran border makes a sudden 90 degree turn east and crosses the lakes...then go due west and voila Nehbedan...which is where several books place the Mahded Khani. This would be more logical to me than putting them into the Koh-e-Ahdasman mountain area east of Birjand...which is where they wouldl be if you went over the Iranian border traveling in a true cardinal west direction fom Shindand.

I assume that when the old man said "west of Shindand" that he was following in his mind the trade routes which would have gone southwest.

I'll find some Baluch here (they can't all be narcotics traffickers) to explore the subject with further.

I also asked the old man about the finness of the weave of Jack's original carpet in the thread. He didn't have anything to say about it...but did comment on the finness of the weave of the "Bahluli"'s which he put down around the Zahedan area. I'll go back over there with my own interpreter and see if I can spend some more time with him.

But better yet, i'll find a professor here...rug merchants tend to want to tell you what you want to hear and to tell you "urban legends" or tradenames, even out here.

Whatever, the 27 years of war have irrevocably altered the landscape and much which was once known about rugs in Herat and W.Afghanistan is now lost...the Iranian border is totally closed (except to crafty smugglers) nomads wander across though Kuchis can be found on the Afghan side. Its sad in a way.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-04-2006 04:46 AM:

Hi Gene,

But better yet, i'll find a professor here...rug merchants tend to want to tell you what you want to hear and to tell you "urban legends" or tradenames, even out here.

That’s a well-known truism, pointed out by several authors. Let’s try to keep it in mind.

If you find a “professor”, don’t forget to ask him what he knows about the kind of calendar(s) used in the region in the last two centuries… (I was thinking to make a joke about the Playboy Calendar, perhaps better not)


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-04-2006 05:05 AM:

of course

Will do Filiberto. That was on my mind too. I've had Heratis tell be they've informally used Hidri Shamsi for longer than the official changover in 1953 and the efforts of Aminullah in 1919 to do the same...perhaps for hunderds of years (Herat to Mazar-e-Sharif was Persian for many years...Herat was once the capitol of Persia and is very Persianized..except for the Pashtoons). Heratis will show you the two characters which deliniate the two dates..."shin" being the one for Shamshi as previously discussed. I'll ask about government documents too and whether they had ways of differentiating the dates.

(the feeling on Frank's carpet is..that if it were commissioned, it used a solar calendar date... will check this out as well as use of the word "Khel").

As for playboy....welll...we had a thread "Nudes in Carpets" I believe.


Posted by Bob Kent on 12-04-2006 09:26 AM:

thanks filiberto

that's the one ... not sure that raising the bar rug is really so different in design, color. they're in the same museum now, maybe I can see them some day...