Posted by Anas Al Akhoann on 11-28-2006 06:18 PM:

The Dating Game, featuring "Baluch" rugs

Hello to every one ,
this is Frank`s dated baluch rug.

many thanks

Posted by Steve Price on 11-28-2006 06:28 PM:

Hi Anas

The inscribed date is AH 1301, which corresponds to 1883 AD.

Steve Price

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 11-28-2006 07:27 PM:

Thanks, Anas, Steve.

Now then: In this rug, the dyes are all natural, and slightly stronger than my present screen suggests, and with one exception: The date and inscription are knotted in what appears to be an early synthetic dye, with an orangy tinge. Clearly, without the date, I would never have dated this rug to before 1910, i.e. I would have said a typical 5th quarter example, boring sedentary production repeat design.

Dating "Baluch" rugs from anything other than one's own opinion is difficult. Here are just a few ideas, to be read in addition/as repeats of what I wrote elsewhere. There are the following clues, pieces of a puzzle:

1. Baluch rugs in early rug publications (Richard listed a few examples in another thread). There are quite a few!
2. Baluch rugs in paintings. I know of a very exact painting of a stil with a Baluch animal tree bag face, and a Timuri main carpet, both painted just before 1900, I think.
3. Baluch rugs in old photographs. Hard to make out in b/w.
4. Dated (inscribed) Baluch rugs, like this one. Since I published TBP, a few more than those I listed there have come to my attention, like the one above, the Timuri trapping shown in the Timuri prayer rug thread, and the PAIR of dated Baluch rugs unearthed by Clive Loveless and shown (in part) in Hali (can't recall the issue number off the top of my head, I believe one of the 80-90 issues).
Most dated Baluch rugs bear dates from 1880 or later, but many look stiff and unimaginative, not very tribal, if you like, and to mesuggest that they are at the latter end of a long weaving tradition.
5. Baluch rugs with documented acquisition dates, like the two pieces now in the V&A (again, shown elsewhere on this site), and the one given to the Prince of Wales in 1875, partly shown in OCTS vol. V part 1, page 121 (Pittenger).
6. Baluch rugs in early, documented collections, like the ones collected by Hummel around/just after 1900 (shame Benardout did'n do a better job when publishing this important collection in his digitally printed " .. Bygone Era" catalogue), and the ones Dudin bought roughly the same time. (He is said to have bought 20-25 Baluch rugs, said to be in Leningrad/St Petersbrg; Tzareva showed a few in Rugs &Carpets of Central Asia, but does not say if those are Dudin pieces, and the others have never seen the light of rugdom, to my knowledge).
7. Dye/material analysis. Difficult. We are eagerly awaiting Rageth's publication on Turkoman rugs on that matter (i.e. the proceedings of his Turkoman Symposium in Liesthal, in, I think, 2001. This should serve to shed some light on Baluch rugs as well, as, of course the proceedings of the 2003 Baluch Symposium in Liesthal. I met the authors in Berlin a few weks ago (at the opening of the Transsilavanian exhibition; great event!!). They said both books will be a while, I can't wait, and if you know his Kelim Symposium proceedings, you know it will be worth waiting.

Let me finish with that quote from Jon Thompson (in: Black/Loveless: Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, p.31.) that, since "there are no methods for finding out the exact age of a rug, everyone can rest content with the reassuring confirmation of what he has known all along: that there is only one person that realy understands these difficult questions, namely himself."

Over to you,


This is just an uneducated guess!!

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-28-2006 08:49 PM:


Great stuff. In your item #2, you mention a painted "stil." Could you clarify that? Can you say where you saw it (i. e., is it generally accessible)?

Those funky Baluchis did it again. I refer to the enormous discrepancy in the width of the two side borders.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 11-28-2006 08:59 PM:


As to 2.: It is in an auction catalogue, and the painting (German term "Stilleben", don't know the English term) was, unfortunately, more expensive than an actual animal tree bag face, so I did not buy it.
The Timuri was shown i Hali by Pittenger, can't remember the issue number.


This is just an uneducated guess!!

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 11-30-2006 01:00 AM:

Here are a few closeups, perhaps someone can decipher the inscription?


Posted by Gene Williams on 11-30-2006 01:20 AM:


Bottom two words likely are ""Mohammad Jamal." Top word is so far indeciperable.

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-30-2006 03:55 AM:

Hi Frank and all,

I like Frank's summary of some of the clues to dating Baluch rugs, but also appreciate caution implicit in the quote from Jon Thompson.

I had mentioned in a previous thread that a noted Baluch collector, writer and dealer had communicated information to me about a Baluch-type rug I own. Specifically, he mentioned that the presence of "Canary Island cochineal" suggested that the rug was woven around 1880. The aformentioned dye creates the rich pink colour seen in the pictures below.

Can anyone shed more light on this information, and specifically about the use of "Canary Island cochineal" by Baluch weaving groups and how that might help in dating?


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-30-2006 08:20 AM:

Hi James,

Cochineal was imported from the Americas as early as the 16th cent. by the Spanish and used in Asian textiles from that time on. There were by that time red insect dyes present in the old world, such as, so called, "Polish cochineal" and "Armenian cochineal" and Kermes, but they have a different hue being different insects.
The Spanish defended their monopoly with vigour, but the French found out about their source ( being the Opuntia cactus ), and soon after that the first attempts to start breeding centres in the old world took place. One of them being the Canary Islands, at the begin of the 19th. cent. and which still exists untill now.
This became a main export product for the Islands during the 19th. cent., untill the rapid decline at the end of the 19th. cent. by the introduction of the synthetic reds.

So, what this Baluch collector probably was meaning, was that the use of cochineal ( wether American, or Canarian, it is the same stuff ) in Baluch textiles stopped around that time, by the introduction of synthetic dyes. But this seems quite obvious,no?



Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-30-2006 08:31 AM:

Great rug, by the way!

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-30-2006 09:54 AM:

Hi Rob,

Thanks for the interesting information. I have seen it often written that Baluch group weavers continued to use natural dyes after many other tribal groups, most notably the Turkmen, had switched to synthetics. The implication is that the presence of all natural dyes is not as reliable an indicator of older age as it might be for other weaving groups. However, if there is evidence that a particular type of dye, such as you have described for cochineal, became scarce and therefore very uncommonly used after a certain period of time, then that might help us to place rugs along the date continuum. Would this rubric for cochineal and dates also hold true for other weaving groups such as the Tekke?

I also like this rug. Among those of this general format, I was really drawn to the proportions of the border and the field. I often find the field to seem a bit crowded out by the border in this format. I also like the colour (especially the pink) and the birds.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-30-2006 10:01 AM:

Hi James,

Yes, it's really nice.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-30-2006 10:18 AM:

Well, nice sounds a bit dismissive. That’s a great rug! It wouldn’t be out of place among the Boucher collection.
…or mine


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 11-30-2006 10:53 AM:


"Would this rubric for cochineal and dates also hold true for other weaving groups such as the Tekke?"

In Tekke piled items there is indeed a tendency detectable for the use of much more cochineal as in most other Turkmen piled items.
This was first of all a matter of choice, at least in the early days of synthetics coming on to the market. Later, if there were still some "dye hards" left over anyway, availability became the problem.
Roughly it is possible to draw some date lines there, but very depending on the area. And this is also true for the use of many other natural ( and synthetic ) dyes.
For instance in my experience Turkish weavers stopped much earlier with the use of cochineal then the Tekke did.
But for the Tekke it will be about the same as for the Baluch: it all changed from ca. 1880 onwards.



Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-30-2006 03:00 PM:


"Canary Island cochineal." It trips off the tongue. I can do a lot of damage with it. Thanks. And to make it better, I like the color.

On the inscription: I agree with Gene (from whom, good to hear!) on the names. An alternate possibility for "Mohammed" is "Omar." The penmanship of some of these weavers leaves a lot to be desired on occasion.

Frank: Is it possible to get a look at the back of the written inscription part? Sometimes that helps to clear up ambiguities.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-30-2006 03:22 PM:

Distinguishing Canary Island cochineal is a flight of fancy.


Posted by Steve Price on 12-01-2006 06:11 AM:

Hi Wendel

I sort of agree that being able to identify a dyed piece of wool as having been dyed by cochineal from the Canary Islands is not likely to be supportable. But it also strikes me that, with the proper background information (there's the rub!) it might be possible to identify a color as being a reasonably reliable marker for a more or less specific period and place, and that it is further possible that the marketplace has given that color the name, "Canary Island cochineal". Again, the challenge wouldl be to find the foundation of the attribution criterion.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-01-2006 06:28 AM:

Hi all,

I can't pretend to know about "Canary Island Cochineal", or other dyes for that matter. However, I think the issue is not so much whether one can tell the difference between cochineal from different sources "in the wool", but rather having some knowledge about the trade practices and dyes sources for different weaving groups at different times. For example, if a weaving group in a particular area are known to have mostly used cochineal from a given source (e.g. Canary Islands), then I suppose it is logical to hypothesize that if you see cochineal in a weaving from that group it probably is "Canary Island". Similarly, if it is known from other historic sources that the availability of this source of dye decreased dramatically during a certain era, then that might be at least one "inflection point" that could help with dating. It is the converse of the argument that if a rug has this or that synthetic dye it must be at least so young, because something is known about when those dyes were introduced into certain areas.

Anyway, that is what I have understood when hearing from people who use the presence or absence of specific dyes as one criterion for assessing the age of a rug.


Posted by Steve Price on 12-01-2006 06:54 AM:

Hi James

I think Wendel's point is that there is no way to distinguish between cochineal from the Canary Islands and cochineal from other sources (as Rob points out, they are the same thing). This doesn't mean that the presence of cochineal can't be a date marker in certain weaving groups, only that calling it "Canary Islands cochineal" isn't really justified. Unjustified descriptors are not unusual in Rugdom, of course.

Steve Price

Posted by Bob Kent on 12-01-2006 07:28 AM:

another dated baluch rug - 1230/1815?

Here's a damaged mina khani baluch rug bearing a date in the upper right hand corner of the main border.

I have been told that this date is 1230, which translates into about 1815. If that is a correct reading of that date, I would not have guessed that this rug was that old. I think the dyes are all natural, do we know enough about these rugs to say that it couldn't be that old?

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-01-2006 07:36 AM:

Hi Steve,

I think I understood Wendel's point. Mine was that if you know that all cochineal used by a certain weaving group during a certain era was imported from the Canary Islands, then it is logical to call it "Canary Island cochineal". This appellation becomes relevant if and when that weaving group stopped using cochineal when the supply from the Canary Islands was disrupted or curtailed.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-01-2006 07:53 AM:

Hi Bob:

The rug does look old to me, but 1815? Wow!

Rich Larkin

Posted by Bob Kent on 12-01-2006 07:57 AM:

based on the rug literature etc

I'd have said that it may be a last-quarter rug, and maybe it is?

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-01-2006 09:18 AM:

Hi guys,

We are assuming that the dates are in A.H.(year of Hegira) a.k.a. hijri qamari the lunar Islamic calendar.

What about the hijri shamsi a.k.a. Persian calendar or Jalâli Calendar which is a solar calendar currently used in Iran and Afghanistan?

The date in hijri shamsi is converted to A.D. by simply adding 622.
So Frank’s rug could be 1301+622= AD 1923. Much more reasonable.
And Bob’s could be 1230+622= AD 1852

Wikipedia says, about Persia that:The Islamic lunar calendar was widely used till the end of the 19th century. During the early Pahlavi era in 1925, the lunar calendar was officially replaced by the modern Iranian calendar.

The trick is in the use of the word widely which let me assume that someone somewhere in Persia still used the old, traditional, solar calendar.

We could assume the same for Afghanistan: a mixed use of solar and lunar calendars.

Uh, and don’t forget the Zoroastrian Calendar:



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-01-2006 09:34 AM:

From the same article in Wikipedia:
The Iranian calendar was revised in the 11th century by a panel of scientists, allegedly including Omar Khayyám. The recalibration was completed during the reign of Jalaal ad-Din Malik Shah Seljuki, one of the Seljuk sultans, and named in his honor.

If at the time of Omar Khayyám the Persians felt the need to recalibrate the solar calendar, it means that it was still in use… well after the Arab invasion, the introduction of Islam and the lunar Islamic calendar, no?


Posted by Bob Kent on 12-01-2006 10:31 AM:

thanks / depressed warps in nomad rug?

Thanks Filiberto, that was great, and I usually can't even figure what time it is in Indiana! Ignoring the date, I would not have guessed that my inscribed rug - shown in the center of the three-rug image below - was as old as 1850, or 1815. One thing I would note about this dated rug: like many similar mina khani baluch rugs, it has heavily depressed warps. Since I think of the baluch as people living a a rather isolated, nomadic existence, these depressed warps always struck me as odd. I don't really understand weaving, but isn't warp depression a surprising thing for an isolated nomad to achieve on a rug of this size (7 feet long)? So maybe, despite the image we have of the baluch and bluch rugs, this is really more of a workshop rug than a real nomad one. If so, perhaps an inscribed date is somewhat more logical and reliable from a workshop than it would be on a rug from a true rural nomad?

Also, if the dated rug in the center of this image is 1850 or even 1815, maybe its fellow fragment on the left, which in conventional rug dating terms looks older (more spacious, more color), is in fact older than I assumed? Or perhaps this usual method of dating rugs by such features as color and drawing doesn't deserve the emphasis it gets...

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 12-01-2006 10:58 AM:


Three very good rugs on that wall - are they yours?

As to the dated one, would be interesting to se a shot from the back, to see if the 2 has been created from a 3 by pulling out half a dozen knots.
Without a date, I would have said al of those were made around 1860-80, and all those on that wall look of similar age to me (from this distance, and I very much like this type)...
As to the solar calendar; I had always asumed that the solar calendar was only introduced in the 1920s and only widely used by the 1940, because people were quite reluctant to switch to the new system - is there anyone with more information on this?


Posted by Bob Kent on 12-01-2006 11:44 AM:

date and depressed warps

Hi Frank: Yes, these fine specimens are in Bob's Baluch World. Here are details, front and back, of the date. They should show warp depression also, maybe this sort of "baluch" is not a nomad rug? Also images of design/color the two similar rugs (dated one looks more crowded, has less action in the red dyes, if it is 1850, maybe the other one's older?)

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-01-2006 11:53 AM:

Hi Bob and all,

I agree with Frank; very nice rugs in "Bob's Baluch World"!

Regarding structure, my "Mina Khani" type Baluch (shown earlier in this thread) has a completely flat warp structure (i.e. no warp depression). I'm not sure if their is significance in that structual information with respect to who wove the rug, when it was woven, and under what circumstances.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-01-2006 12:34 PM:

nice rugs

Bob, et al:

How can a guy who "...doesn't understand weaving..." land three like that and start "Bob's Baluch world?" It ain't fair. They look pretty old to me.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-01-2006 12:39 PM:

Chinese-Uighur calendar

The situation gets more complicated:

Again, quoted by Wikipedia:

“In 1258, when both China and the Islamic world were part of the Mongol Empire, Hulagu Khan established an observatory in Maragheh for the astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi at which a few Chinese astronomers were present, resulting in the Chinese-Uighur calendar that al-Tusi describes in his Zij-i Ilkhani. The twelve year cycle, including Turkish/Mongolian translations of the animal names (known as sanawat-e turki) remained in use for chronology, historiography, and bureaucratic purposes in the Persian and Turkish speaking world from Asia Minor to India throughout the Medieval and Early Modern periods. In Iran it remained common in agricultural records and tax assessments until a 1925 law deprecated its use.

Now the question is: did Muslims used the Chinese lunisolar calendar counting the years from the Hegira? I’m going to look further on the Net.


Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 12-01-2006 01:57 PM:

Let me remind you that I was quite weary about starting this thread, as I think the actual age of a rug is not very important. Of those three beauties in Bob's Baluch Heaven, we probably all agree the one on the left is the most attractive, but that does by no means mean it has to be the oldest.
As to dating, especialy in my second publication, where most of the rugs are actually mine, so I could handle them, there are some which I date to the mid-19th, and some even to 1st third, even possibly around 1800, and the patchy "evidence" of this thread, and what I experienced in many years collecting Baluch rugs all suggest that a great number of Baluch rugs from all quarters of the 19th century are still with us, many of then in poor condition, but still there and appealing.

From the back, the date seems to be unaltered, and I have few doubts calculating 1230 into 1815, making it the oldest dated Baluch known (to me, at least).
Why not show it to a few more ruggies in the flesh, and if they agree on the date being untouched, I think it is a case for Hali, or even all those three rugs you showed us here (I could assist you getting it in if you like). Hm, we share the same taste in Baluchis.


Posted by Bob Kent on 12-01-2006 04:16 PM:


for the nice words about the wall o' wool! I like mina khani Baluchs very much also... I found the rugs separately, but they look good together. I looked at the back of the dated rug, and I don't see any signs that the date has been altered. (The date also was not mentioned in the sale; I bought it as an inexpensive damaged rug.)

Interesting that a baluch might look 1860 or 1875, but perhaps be older. It's only one rug, but this fits with the idea that if some technology were ever to be developed to precisely date old rugs based on materials, etc., there would be some surprises in both directions...

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-01-2006 08:11 PM:

Hi all,

I agree with Frank that these dated rugs should be considered seriously. It seems as though much of the assessment related to dating Baluch rugs is based on the notion of "design degeneration" using the analogy of the Turkoman weavings, or even less supportable, the notion that Baluch rugs from pre-1850 are no longer with us because the Baluch didn't preserve their rugs. But where is our evidence for either of these suppositions? Surely a couple of dated rugs that seem to contradict those notions should at least raise the curiousity of rug collectors and experts and perhaps stimulate thoughts about a somewhat different rubric when assessing age in Baluch-type weavings. On the other hand, we could just say that the dates are wrong and ignore these examples and carry on with previous hypotheses, however unsubstantiated. But that wouldn't be very satisfying intellectually.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-02-2006 03:27 AM:

JA on Dates

Hi all,

I don't own a dated Baluch. I never saw one in Jerry Anderson's possession and we never talked about dates in rugs. But, its worth recalling what he had to say about the subject in the Hali interview by Tom Cole "From the Horse's Mouth."

HALI: And no.2 in the HALI Baluch poll article?
JA: Arab, just like he says, but from Firdows (26). I’m sure it is woven on a cotton foundation. It’s more Baluch than most rugs from Firdows. As I said before, they are usually a Persian type of rug. What is this about a woven date here? I really doubt it – for a start most Baluch have no concern for dates and when they do, the inscribed dates in what are normally workshop rugs are usually placed in or near a corner, not floating freely in the field. I used to buy fragments of rugs which had woven dates, just to get some idea of how to date rugs in general. I had a whole collection of Turkoman and some Baluch fragmented prayer rugs with dates. But they’re all gone now.

JA appeared to think there was at least some truth to the dates in the rugs.


Posted by Steve Price on 12-02-2006 07:03 AM:

Hi Gene

My own view on inscribed dates is that they ought to be taken seriously unless there is some obvious reason not to do so (i.e, an early 19th century date in a rug with unambiguously synthetic dyes). I'm aware that the inscribed dates are not always the dates of the weaving. But every dating criterion I know is subject to the same criticism, and I'm not aware of any groundswell of opinion opposing date attributions.

I don't think I've ever seen a dated Belouch group rug, and very few Turkmen inscribed rugs. Some years back, I assembled a little database of inscribed rugs from Iran and the Caucasus, correlating the date with the presence of a corrosive black dye and a fugitive violet. My recollection is that the dyes and the inscribed dates were completely consistent. That is, I never found one with corrosive black and an inscription later than, perhaps, 1925; never found the fugitive violet in any dated before 1875 or after 1925. Again, no Belouch group rugs in the database, but it did lead me to believe that the inscriptions are probably accurate recordings of weaving date most of the time.


Steve Price

Posted by Anas Al Akhoann on 12-02-2006 09:19 AM:

Iranian calendar

Hello everyone,

I agree with Filiberto Boncompagni, the date on Frank's Baluch rug is more probably related to the Iranian (solar) calender dating system, which is the official dating system widely used until the present day throughout Iran - this includes the North East, South East areas of the country. The current date in Iran is 1386.

Therefore 1386 - 1301 (Frank's dated Baluch piece) = 85 years old

The Hajritic (lunar) calendar date is currently: 1426. So I doubt that Frank's piece is linked to the Hajritic date, as this is mainly used by the Sunni Muslim people and, in general, they do not date, write or include any figurative objects in their woven pieces - especially in Frank's piece, which includes the name 'Mohammed' - even though this is the name of the actual weaver of the piece, it is regarded as a holy name because it is also the Prophet's name and therefore held in very high esteem and regarded as auspicious by the Muslim people.

This could maybe explain as to why this piece is still in a very good condition and not worn in the middle, as it may have been 'hung' rather than laid on the floor, gathering foot traffic.


Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 12-02-2006 09:30 AM:


And what are your thoughts on Bob's dated Baluch? 1230, but the line meaning "year" is missing, and would that date be in the solar or lunar calendar?


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-02-2006 10:02 AM:

O.K. –
I couldn’t find more on the Chinese-Uighur calendar. Only dozens of web pages with the same text I found in Wikipedia.

Dates on rugs have been considered several times in our forum, the last one was when we discussed it with Gene, but the “solar Persian calendar” was already presented by somebody else - perhaps it was John Howe – quoting, if memory serve, an Iranian acquaintance.

The fact that a date doesn’t seems to correspond to reality has been ascribed (or dismissed) to various possibilities, as copy of an older carpet, illiteracy of a weaver and so on… All reasons perfectly plausible. But we have also to consider the simpler possibility that there are other calendars that could have been used besides the Islamic Lunar hijri qamari, like the Persian Jalâli calendar and the “Chinese-Uighur”.

In fact, the dates on these two carpets makes more sense if the year was respectively correspondent to AD 1923 and AD 1852 (still a very respectable age, Bob – AND great rugs, by the way)
Unfortunately the weavers weren’t so kind to weave the “hay” that should indicate the solar year – as Gene wrote in our previous (and deleted) discussion.

Of one thing I’m sure: Bob’s dated rug is an important “document”. It deserves publication.



Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-02-2006 10:03 AM:

Hi Steve,

You're right on as to the point that inscribed dates are no less susceptible to uncertainty than any other dating criteria. There are legitimate variables, as we've discussed, as well as unknowable questions about what the weaver may have been trying to do. And tampering, though I have no doubt in that regard on either Frank's or Bob's. We have to accept that dating rugs woven in the last couple of hundred years or so is an inexact science, and short of some yet to be developed technology, it's apt to remain so. Your own effort in compiling and comparing within a database, though seeming like a daunting task, at least represents the studied application of objective criteria to the problem. I doubt that many of the dating estimates we encounter have that kind of analysis behind them.

Rich Larkin

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 12-02-2006 10:04 AM:

Hi Bob

The drawing on these three of yours sure look old to me.
Very nice.


Posted by James Blanchard on 12-02-2006 10:19 AM:

Baluch cochineal...

Hi all,

Just a quick reference regarding cochineal and age in Baluch weavings. In his article "Baluch Aesthetics - A Discussion on Rugs Made in the Baluch Style" Tom Cole writes: "Cochineal, while eschewed by Turkmen enthusiasts may be considered an earlier feature in Baluch pile weavings" . The link for the article is here: .


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-02-2006 10:47 AM:



I haven't yet perused James' promising link to the Tom Cole article on cochineal, but here's a question for anyone with knowledge on the subject. Is cochineal a dyestuff with fixed and invariable properties (though subject perhaps to the effects of other agents, such as mordants or contaminants); or is it more like (say, by analogy) coffee, of which there are many related varieties? I have always thought of cochineal, somewhat suspiciously, as a highly saturated color, such as we find in certain Turkoman pieces. It is similar to what we find in recent chrome dyed pieces. The Baluch that James posted a few days ago, with the (possibly) "Canary Island cochineal," exhibits a different (and, to me) preferrable quality reminiscent of black raspberry ice cream.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Gene Williams on 12-02-2006 11:11 AM:

What is holy and what isn't in Islam

Hi all,

Anas made an interesting observation on Sunni-Shi'i differences in rug motifs and production. I'm not willing to go along with his thesis without more persuasion. There are a lot of assumptions about what is and is not permitted in Islam and I'll remain skeptical unless one can show me that he is a religious scholar.

For example, In 1978 I had a famous dealer in London claimed the green wasn't used in Islamic carpets because it was "holy," while he was standing not 10 feet from a carpet with 3 shades of green in it.

Contrary to what Anas said, You can certainly find figurative representations in Sunni carpets, Baluch included. You can find totems and zoroastrian symbols, opium poppies, and a lot of other stuff too.

Of course the Shi'i are different. In certain Shi'a sects Zoroaster and his ideas are very much alive. In twelver Shi'a (mainline) the three mainpins of Islamic thought Tawhid (Devine unity), Nabuwwa (prophethood) and Maád (resurection) are expanded to include Imami (belief in God's messanger on earth..the imams including the hidden one) and Adl (divine justice...which can be interpretted as the Greek/Zoroastrian concept of free will to choose). The Hikmat-i-Ilahi school (Isphahan school) of Shi'i thought was even more specific in its use of suhrawardi - zoroastrian angelology, neoplatonic cosmology and metaphysical speculation - dominent 1600-1800. There were early Shi'a sects which was even more specific than this. (and remember Shi'i thought was a work in progress until 1200 and beyond).

And, there are similar schools in Sunni including the Qadirites who emphasized like the Shi'i the "free will of man to choose between good and evil," and you haven't even begun to touch the Sufi mystics (Shi'i have a problem with Sufis based on the concept of Imami) which is the school followed by most of the Sunni in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now Anas may indeed know Islam.I'll assume he does. But I still don't agree with his assertion re use of the name Mohammed in a rug etc. This seems to me to be yet another area culture issue without a knowledge of which you may not be able to understand the whole picture. (and we have to assume rugs were being made from the Oxus to the Tigris long before 622 AD).

Ergo...You may recall that when I suggested Jerry might be right about his comments on Zoroastrian and Aryan sympols in Baluch tree-of-life carpets, I was run off the board. Perhaps all shouldn't be so hasty next time. Take a look at Islam first...then make assumptions about what can be and can't be woven into the carpets later.


Posted by James Blanchard on 12-02-2006 11:44 AM:

Hi Rich,

Eiland indicates that the colour of cochineal in the wool depends on the mordant used. I have a few Turkmen pieces with cochineal on both wool and silk and none of them have the rich pink that is found on my Baluch. Like you, I much prefer this colour to the typical "Turkmen cochineal" that I have seen. I would also note, that this pink is qualitatively different from other pinks that I have seen in Baluch and other weavings, being deeper in colour and richer in tone. As I hope you can see from the picture, this pink is very nice, as are the two blues -- very saturated and best seen in bright, natural light. I think this is due in part to the very lustrous wool.


Posted by Steve Price on 12-02-2006 01:29 PM:

Hi Gene

I'm glad you're safe, and you are still welcome.

Nevertheless, your statement ... when I suggested Jerry might be right about his comments on Zoroastrian and Aryan sympols in Baluch tree-of-life carpets, I was run off the board is about as far from accurate as one you made awhile ago to the effect that we forbid mention of Jerry Anderson's name here.

I have all the self-proclaimed victims on my hands that I care to deal with at the moment. Re-enlisting in that group does nothing to advance the discussion.


Steve Price

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

ok ok

Hi Steve,

Ok, we had a misunderstanding. I took it badly. Lets forget aboiut it..its really small beer ego stuff. I'll try to provide some observations mirroring Lad Duanes to try to let people know what's going on in rugdom in Afghanistan. Maybe Lad will come back on too. (and I'm trying to locate the promised spindles for Sue)

In the meantime, on the subject of the name Mohammad"" being used (or not used) on a carpet...There was a thread last spring on a Caucasian carpet Jack bought..its archived. We had a long debate on whether it was solar or lunar date based on the word at the end of the date. Last we heard, I'd concluded it was solar meaning 1935 or so...while Rich and others said the carpet had to be lunar calendar, 1896. As a follow on to this...I've had a number of Dari and Farsi speakers look at the inscription. They've finally reach consensus that the date is lunar and the character at the end of the date is not Shamsi but rather the name "Mohammed." (which bears on my post above, re what can and cannot be in a carpet).

I mention this for reference purposes. Iran formally changed to the solar calender in 1925?, Afghanistan in 1953?. Also I mention it because of the name on the carpet "Mohammed.

I'll "do some more research here and let you all know what turns up. In the meantime, in Afghanistan north and west of the Hindu Kush...its all solar calendar. East of the hindu Kush...more likely than not is Western calendar.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-02-2006 02:51 PM:


Hi all,

More Dari/Farsi scholars have looked at the Baluch incription on Frank's rug posted by Anas which started the thread. The consensus now is (As Rich proposed): "Omar Jamal Khel" (Khel means sub-tribe - or in some cases "tribe" -- I'm thinking for example of Uthman Khel, a Pashtu tribe located between the Tarklanris and Yusufzais in the Swat area).

(This is something I need to check into. I always thought "Khel" was a Pashtu word...not sure at all that it is Baluch..although all the linguistic/tribal groups might have adopted similar terminology..."sept," etc.) (edit: one reader proposed that it should read "Omar," "Jamal Khel," giving name of weaver and sub-tribe.)

Edit 2: That still leaves the pesky word "Khel" in there. Might this be a Pashtoon copy of a Baluch original..which might account for the date and the strange regular variation in the design? I'll ask some Baluch friends here.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-02-2006 05:11 PM:


As I mentioned a few posts ago, good to hear from you.

I don't recall taking a position on a lunar/solar question about a date, although I could have. I never thought much about solar dating on dugs, but I should have, as I see the issue. I don't hnow how to resolve the question convincingly.

I can speak to the "line" that often appears under dates. It is the Arabic word "sana," which simply means "year." I don't know that it necessarily refers to a solar or lunar year. The Arabs I lived among either referred to the Islamic calendar and a lunar year, or employed western dating under the Gregorian calendar. However, there's no reason I know of that someone else couldn't have used the term starting from the hegira but using a solar year.

The "line" mentioned above is just a streamlined version of the script, often used in handwriting. A more formally printed version of it gives the "s" three peaks, which is the correct form, and I've seen that used in rugs many times as well. Invariably, there is also a little dot in there, which is a diacritical mark denoting the "n."

I've always assumed that the use of the Arabic word in this way by other language groups was a borrowing, and perhaps an islamic influence in the usage. I can't say, however, whether any of that compels a lunar vs. solar interpretation.

Incidentally, it has often puzzled me why weavers who have mastered complex patterns frequently do a poor and clumsy job on script and numbers. It must reflect something about the dynamic of weaving and the memorization of patterns

Rich Larkin

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-02-2006 08:01 PM:

Hi James,

I know what you mean by the special quality of that pink. It is particularly good in your example. One might say any color would look good in that luscious wool. I also relate it to certain pieces that I vaguely call Kurd...they may be Shah Savan, Veramin area, something like that. One sees bagfaces and what not with the color. Anyway, it is way ahead of the latish Turkoman version of cochineal.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-03-2006 12:44 AM:

Hi Gene,

About the calendar matter, read my posts in this thread.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-03-2006 09:37 AM:

Frank's inscription and calendar matters

Hi all,

I've discussed the inscription on Frank's carpet with several knowledgeable persons in Herat including the oldest carpet dealer in Herat. So far all agree with the inscription reading:

Omar, Jamal Khel

All agree that the word "Khel" is a Pashtoon word. They say it is not used by the Baluch. (However, none of the people I've talked to so far were Baluch themselves...I'll check further on this). Most believe that the carpet was commissioned, probably by a Pashtoon, from a Baluch carpet maker, for some reason.

On the subject of lunar calendar/ solar calendar, in Afghanistan the solar calendar began to be widely used about the time of Aminullah Khan's reforms...around 1920. The Taliban tried to force people back to the lunar didn't work. Most people I've talked to so far believe, however, that the women who wove carpets were uneducated generally and that if they put dates in carpets, it was likely to be the lunar year (unless it was specifically commissioned). All this is verbal tradition and opinion only of Afghans.

Filiberto, I talked to several Heratis about the various calendars you've mentioned. Most just look blank. They know about solar and lunar calendars and thats about it. One did say that Most Heratis do know the Chinese year they were born in...year of the Rat, year of the dragon, etc. They can't account for when or why this practice came into being, except that its widely used by fortune tellers in the region.


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 12-03-2006 03:32 PM:

Hi all,

Richard, you're right about the apparent contradiction produced by weavers who clearly can do fine work, yet generate lousy numerals & script.

Here's a classic example of such a puzzlement, from a Baluch group piece, where we see almost illegible numbers and a nicely rendered horse:

And, Gene, you might be surprised at what people will put into text on a rug. Show this one to your friends for interpretation; also, let them know that this rug does not go on the floor:

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-03-2006 09:05 PM:

Hi Chuck:

Those numbers on your Baluch are more than almost illegible, aren't they? That looks like the work of an illiterate weaver. It is more understandable that an illiterate weaver wouldn't get words and numbers right. Perhaps what we see as poorly written numbers and letters represents work done on commission, as suggested by Gene's post. The commissioner gives the weaver something (date, name, etc.) and says, "Put this in it." She does the best she can.

That is a nice horse, by the way. Have we had a thread on neolithic influences in Baluch weaving?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Frances Plunkett on 12-03-2006 11:14 PM:

Insect Dyes and Baluch

Dear All,

I'm surprised that in the discussion of cochineal no one has mentioned Amy Greenfield's recent book A Perfect Red. The author gives a good deal of information about the history of cochineal: she tells us that after 1853 the Canary Islands surpassed Mexico/Guatemala as the largest producer and exported increasingly large quantities; by the early 1870s the Canaries were producing 5-6 million lbs of cochineal annually. After the introduction of synthetic dyes production plummented, but into the 1870s there was a good deal of cochineal around. Unfortunately, the author does not say anything about how or in what quantities cochineal found its way to Central Asia or Persia, and as James Blanchard has pointed out this is key information to a discussion of the use of insect dyes in Turkmen and/or Baluch weavings.

Boehmer provides an interesting insight in his article 'Insect Dyes' in Hali 113 (2000). He had earlier written about a Turkish carpet with an insect dye, presumably cochineal, that it could not have been woven before 1840, since production of cochineal in the Canaries began only in 1826 and initially increased only slowly. However, he subsequently found a reference of 1811 (which he doesn't identify!) 'stating that Turkmen bought cochineal for their carpets in Aleppo [Syria], which lies on the trade route to Persia where Central American cochineal was being used in workshops linked to the Safavid court in the 17th century.'

Then there is the question of lac, an insect-derived red dyestuff from India, which was used in Mughal and Safavid rugs, among others. It is evidently not possible to tell cochineal from lac by sight. At ACOR in Boston in April and at rug society meetings where he spoke, Juergen Rageth reported the surprising test results for Turkmen weavings that the Salor consistently used a red derived from lac rather than either madder or cochineal to quite a late date. Obviously we have a great deal to learn about the sources of red dyes in Turkmen and Baluch pieces.

We also know that the red shades produced by insect dyes (as with madder) vary with the mordant used.

Below are images of two Baluch pieces with blueish-red (cool) shades, presumably from cochineal but we don't really know.

Frances Plunkett

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-03-2006 11:35 PM:

Hi Frances,

Thanks for this further enlightening information. I look forward to seeing the images that don't seem to be posted just yet.

I agree that a better understanding of the availability and sources of certain dyes might help refining dating methods for Baluch-type weavings. I also wonder whether there were particular Baluch groups that used cochineal more than others. You don't see these pinks that much, but some of the Arab-Baluch groups seemed to use them not infrequently in some of their rugs with camel-coloured fields.

The range of colours that can result from the use of different mordants is also interesting. I don't recall seeing a cochineal-derived colour in Turkmen weavings that is pink like in my Baluch, and a few other examples I have seen. Was this an aesthetic preference, or related to different dying traditions and mordant availability?

I have also read that cochineal is difficult to distinguish from some synthetics based strictly on sight. Perhaps some of the "cochineal" colours seen in later Turkmen weavings are synthetic, not cochineal per se.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-04-2006 02:33 AM:

I thought that the old discussion about dates of carpets had been deleted, but I was wrong: see archives: Dates on Carpets - what a difference language makes?

The links posted by Frances are wrong (IMG shouldn’t be followed by numbers) but it's useless to correct them because there are no images “motif_details.jpg” in the show and tell folder. We’ll have to wait for Steve putting them up.


Posted by Unregistered on 12-04-2006 05:58 AM:


I think that Bob's dated Baluch 1230 is the same thing even the line meaning "year" is missing, and i think it is solar calendar,
so it will be like that :

1386-1230=156 years old.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-04-2006 11:59 AM:



You'll recall that I posted a couple of times Jerry Anderson's story about scribbles in carpets. He said occasionally illiterate Baluch would have their daughters weave scribbles into a carpet so they could brag that their daughter could read...

In this respect, the green border carpet you posted with the letters...the one with the opium poppies on the border (It looks Afshar, right?). The word actually means nothing. If the left hand straight line was between the first and second characters it would read "Allah."

Carpet/rugs go on floors. I wouldn't hesitate to use a textile a it was intended no matter what was in the field.

But then there are all sorts of traditions. Here is a story of Afghans using prayer carpets which I'd never heard before (told by a Sunni tadik Kabuli). An Afghan after using a prayer carpet, normally will fold it over partially. The reason? To prevent "Shaitan," the devil, from coming into the rug and taking it over.


Posted by Jack Williams on 12-04-2006 09:00 PM:

Identifying Cochineal, or better read than dead

Interestingly, the Turkmen used a type of local cochineal from insects native to the region...before the new world stuff became available.

I will post two of my favorites...these articles (below and next post) are of huge value. Anyone interested in dyes should read them in their entirety. From this one, (below), I quote a way to distinguish between madder, etc.


"ONE TAKES A SMALL PORTION of the red dyeing, adds a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid, and waits for a few minutes until the dye has colored the acid. Madder gives a dull red solution that fluoresces orange in ultraviolet light; cochineal (and lac dye) gives a magenta solution; kermes gives a dull red-violet solution. If a few milligrams of boric acid are then added to the sulfuric acid, color changes may be observed. If cochineal (or lac dye) is present the color changes to blue; if kermes is present the color changes to brownish-violet; if madder is present there is no change in color. If the solution is diluted with about ten times its volume of water and shaken with a little ether, madder and kermes go into the ether phase, coloring it orange; cochineal (and lac dye) remains in the aqueous phase but can be extracted with pentanol.

"The ether and pentanol extracts can be washed throughly with water to remove acid and used for identification of the dyes by means of thin-layer chromatography. The latter is the only simple way by which one can distinguish between cochineal and lac dye."

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-04-2006 09:45 PM:

Hi all,

I have read in several places about the skepticism regarding the presence of old (i.e. 19th century) Baluch-type rugs. I think I even read, perhaps on Turkotek, some skepticism about Boucher's dating for that collection. And yet it seems as though we have some dated rugs, one of which has an inscribed date that goes back to at least the mid-19th century, along with the V&A museums pieces acquired in the 19th century. None of the rugs that seem dated to the 19th century look ancient compared to many other examples in different collections here and there. There is also the matter of the cochineal dyes, whose disappearance in Baluch weavings seem to mark some sort of inflection point in the latter part of the 19th century. Most of the examples that I have seen with the cochineal do seem to be in the "older" category, which could be seen as some corroboration for the cochineal-date hypothesis. So perhaps there are more old Baluch-type rugs around than has been suggested. What do others think?


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 12-04-2006 10:01 PM:


Actually, it does say "Allah"; the wiggly on the right is the diacritical that goes over the central "L"s. There's a lot of latitude in Arabic calligraphy; this is some of it.

It's actually rather common to see the name of Allah on very fine city and palace rugs, typically in cartouches containing quotes from the Koran.

While you're in the area you should see if you can get your hands on a nide Qala-i-Nau kilim!

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Steve Price on 12-05-2006 01:05 AM:


One caveat to anyone who decides to try this: concentrated sulfuric acid is very hazardous, and a drop of it on almost anything (including your skin) will result in an ever-growing hole. Adding water to it can generate a surprising amount of heat very quickly, enough to break the vessel if it's in a glass container.

Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 12-05-2006 08:23 AM:

Samanid and Zoro

Above are two pictures of perhaps the most famous archetecural structure in Central Asia. It is The Samanid, located in Bokhara, built by Ismail Samani in about 900 AD. It is widely believed to incorporate pre Islamic, specifically Zoroastrian fire temple motifs and the circle within a square within a square is supposedly a Zoroastrian symbol. Note the shape of the mirhab design. JA could have been right.

Bokhara's name itself quite possibly reflected the former location of pre-Islamic temples such as Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Manicheans, Christian's churches and pagan temples. According to one of the versions the name of the city is derived from "vihara", which means Buddhist monastery, Haflzi Tanish, a sixteenth-century annalist of Bukhara wrote that the word 'Bukhara' is derived from "bukhar", which amidst the Zoroastrian means "source of knowledge".

See - and

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-05-2006 09:43 AM:


I'm not convinced on that "Allah." I'm far from expert on the subject, and can't speak to the "diacritical mark" issue, except to say it seems odd that a weaver would include such a flourish with that detail and in that place, while the word itself is defectively written. As to the principal text, I think it just isn't what it needs to be. The vertical strokes are not connected right, and that horizontal stroke coming off the tallest element has no place in the writing. It is more of a "faux Allah" than the word "Allah."

I allow for the possibility that it represents some kind of stylized version of the sacred word, beyond my ken. I agree with you that Arabic calligraphy is not a simple matter. It's also true that there aren't too many trained calligraphers in the weaving community, excepting at the fancy workshops.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-05-2006 09:59 AM:


Hi Steve,

I'm not sure what you're getting at there. Did you inadvertently send us a note intended for your students? Anyway, the following is to the point:

Here lie the bones of Professor Jones,
He is with us no more.
He drank what he thought was H2O,
It was H2SO4

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 12-05-2006 11:53 AM:

Hi Richard

The poem is appropos, but lots of folks don't realize just how nasty concentrated sulfuric acid can be, and wanted to make sure we had a warning in place before anyone ran out to get some and use it to distinguish kermes, cochineal and madder from each other.

Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-05-2006 01:52 PM:


Aha! I guess I had missed that reference to the use of the harmful agent. Your sense of social responsibility is admirable.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 12-05-2006 02:16 PM:

Hi Rich

Oh, yes, social responsibility. Also sensitive to possible litigation resulting when someone hurts himself doing something recommended here, then claims he was never warned of the hazards.


Steve Price

Posted by Gene Williams on 12-05-2006 03:54 PM:

Year of the horse

Humm...Its midnight here .. the Herati grapes are famous from the Baburnama (Babur...descendent of Timurlame and Ghengis (Chengirz) khan, founder of the Mogul dynasty in India...and maybe this has had an effect... but.

On Chuck's rug with the horse and the indeciperable scribbles...I recall this from previous post:

"One did say that Most Heratis do know the Chinese year they were born in...year of the Rat, year of the dragon, etc"

Ok, there's a beautiful horse in that rug... Now this is a wild hair...but...when was the year of the horse?...I think the Chinese have a 14 year cycle (embarrassing memory lapse since I once spoke to language reasonably well).

There are three interesting threads on Baluch carpets going on in this conversation..dates, cochinal dyes, and zoroastrian symbols. I just hope is preserved or that we can break it out into subtopics. On the latter, I've collected some good stuff.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-05-2006 08:59 PM:


Track down that year of the horse and report. I expect Jack to come in on that issue as we speak! If not Jack, Filiberto!

By the way, I wonder how long the Baluch non-junkies are going to be able to stand all these Baluch threads.


I think there are enough old Baluchi rugs around to amuse the troops. As to which ones they are and how old, that's more problematical. You point out rightly that the two from the V & A have an incontrovertible minimum age. Whether the dated ones can give us as much comfort is another matter. I agree with Steve that woven dates need to be taken seriously, but that doesn't mean they have to be believed. There are too many loose issues there.

Regarding those two from the V & A, I think the prayer rug has a certain "je ne sais quoi" quality that sets it apart from most examples. I can't decide whether I think that that is a function of age, or merely a reason the East Kensington Museum (later the V & A) picked it out. As for the animal tree bagface, It is an impressive example, but I would have to say I have seen many that I would think look as old.

Regarding ironclad dating, I wonder how many other examples are out there with ironclad dating.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 12-05-2006 09:15 PM:

Age ID - from wooly mammoth to wooly booly

Another great article..should be read in its entirety for a basic understanding dyes, age, and fibers. But it also mentions a scientific way to identify the age of wool. . This method may be used by museums (the article was not written specifically for carpets) but I have not heard of it used to ID age of carpets. Food for thought?

by Randall R. Bresee

"ABSTRACT—General effects of five types of ageing on textiles are examined. The types of ageing discussed are physical, photochemical, thermal, chemical and mechanical. Changes in the structure and properties of textiles that result from each type of ageing are discussed in general terms. This paper is expected to provide conservators of polymeric materials (textiles in particular) with a basic understanding of some of the more important changes in textiles that result from ageing.

"…Another interesting aspect of physical ageing is that it proceeds predictably and measurably in samples during ageing times as short as a few minutes or as long as a few million years.1 In one study, microscopic measurements of tensile creep (elongation under a constant load) were investigated as a means of determining the physical age of short lengths of single fibers.6 In favorable circumstances, a textile's physical age may be approximately equated to its chronological age (i.e. Tg has not been exceeded since the fiber was formed), so the technique described may be used to provide an estimate of the chronological age of textiles of unknown origin…."

I cannot recommend strongly enough to read this entire article. I have used some of the information to acquire things others passed over because of erroneous assumptions about dyes and fibers. It is a scientific read...but with effort the non-technical can easily understand the points. I can even explain it so my brother can understand. Of course Steve and I, being scientific-engineering-academic types revel in this type of thing...

Jack Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-05-2006 09:45 PM:

Hi Jack,

It sounds like an interesting article. Unfortunately, I am traveling now and won't have time to dig into the paper for a while. Do the authors indicate the precision of these techniques? In other words, are they talking about dating textiles to the millenium, century, decade or year? Unless they are able to refine estimates to within 25-75 years, I wonder how much application they will have for rug collectors.


Posted by Steve Price on 12-06-2006 09:16 AM:

Hi James

If my understanding of the article is correct, it would be necessary to know an awful lot about the history of a particular fiber (virtually it's full provenence, including the conditions to which it was subjected and their durations) in order to extract chronological age from the properties.

It is a very interesting dissertation on the various things that happen to fibers of the kind used in rugs and textiles over the course of time, though.


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 12-06-2006 10:18 AM:

160 degrees C. "Wool'dn't" you call that hot?

I don't agree, Steve.

From reading this article, testing looking for the markers of physical aging should give us a date that is possibly predictable to within minutes of the wool being formed or dyed, regardless of the use of the fiber.

The paper's point about physical aging seems to be that all fibers age consistantly and predictably so long as they are not subjected to the glass transition temperature (Tg). If they are subjected to Tg, the aging process is halted and chronological age and physical age no longer coorespond.

However, the Tg of wool is 160 degrees C. I don't think even the deserts of central Asia get this hot.

True that the interaction of photochemical, chemical, etc. will intoduce complexity to a fiber's chemistry. BUT...for most cases, I think we can assume that a rug's chronological and physical ages should coorespond. From my reading, the other damages and changes to a fiber should be additional to the purely physical ones.

James....the aging of wool is supposedly begins when the wool is sheared. Of course that is not when the carpet is made, but close enough. From the paper, cronologic and physical age will be the same unless the temperature is raised above the glass temperature when the wool is dyed. In that case, the physical age will begin when the wool is dyed. But I suspect we would take either case...when the wool was sheared or when it was an approximation of carpet age. From reading this article, it might be assumed that age could be predictable to within minutes of the wool being sheared or dyed. .

An age estimate such as this, I would call "close enough for government work."

I wonder...what happens to an old carpet if we raise the temperature to the Tg? Does it magically renew itself? Interesting is the proposal to keep your carpets under water, and in the dark. Uhhh....

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Steve Price on 12-06-2006 10:37 AM:

Hi Jack

Yes, I read that part. And I agree that the normal glass transition temperature (Tg) of wool is above anything likely to be encountered in real life. Then I got to this, in section 2.1,

... the Tg's of most natural fibers are depressed to a temperature around room temperature by the absorption of water during wetting.

At least some of the improvement in properties resulting from wet cleaning many aged textiles certainly must result from erasure of physical ageing ...

That is, the age clock is reset every time a rug gets wet at room temperature or above. This seems to me like an insurmountable obstacle unless you can be sure a rug hasn't been exposed to water at or above about 70 degrees F since it was woven. That, I think, would require knowing its complete history, including the year in which it was woven. If you know that, you don't need a physical method to find out when it was woven.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 12-06-2006 10:53 AM:

Hi Jack,

Theories are important, but as a researcher myself I would like to see the empiric evidence that these methods are accurate and precise. It would be good to see if there have been any empirical studies using these methods on fibres of known age. That is an essential step before I would accept the applicability of any scientific test or method. I'm sure the scientists who devised these approaches would agree. Do you know whether they have tested them yet?


P.S. I am extremely skeptical of ANY claim that an instrument or test can measure anything as precisely as these methods would do if they can measure the age of old rugs to within minutes. In a century, a minute is about 0.000002%.

Posted by Steve Price on 12-06-2006 11:18 AM:

Hi James

I think we have to bear in mind that date attribution is a very minor issue in the article. The authors are really addressing the kinds of changes that occur in fibers as they age, and how best to deal with them from the standpoint of conservation.

Accuracy or precision better of even 0.1% is nearly unachievable in physical measurements, or course. But most of us would be excited to see a method accurate to within a 25 year span during a range of possibilities of, say, 50 to 500 years.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-06-2006 11:24 AM:

JAIC 1986, Volume 25, Number 1, Article 4 (pp. 39 to 48)
The article is twenty years old. Where are the results?

Posted by Steve Price on 12-06-2006 11:29 AM:

Hi Filiberto

The authors weren't interested in date attribution, they were interested in specifying the kinds of deterioration that occur over time, and ways to minimize or prevent them.


Steve Price

Posted by Gene Williams on 12-06-2006 12:40 PM:

Chinese Calendar

Hi All,

Tip of the hat to Filiberto. In a previous post (I missed) Filiberto discussed the wide-spread use in the area from Chinese Turkistan to the Tigris of the Chinese 12 year cycle calendar (he called it the Chinese-Uigar calendar) which penetrated into the area with the Mongols around 1250 AD.

I have confirmed that its still in use in Western Afghanistan at least for fortune telling...everyone seems to know the year he was born. I speculated that Chuck's rug with the horse might date it to one of the year of the Horse...12 year cycle.

Here is info on the Chinese fortune-telling calendar taken from .. it of course can be carried back into infinity: (note: one fluent Dari speaker here speculates that the date in the rug might be 1333 - solar calendar - which per my calculations would make it as I put it..1951 - year of the rabbit, not the horse; closest horse would be 1954...1336?)... (edit: I STAND CORRECTED: 1333 is 1954...meaning if the date as read here is correct, the horse certainly could stand for the Chinese year)

(edit: one of the amazing things about this custom..which might skewer more sibbolliths about Islam and that every 12 years..a bunch of people are born in the year of the pig.)


Chinese Astrology Year Chart
As a quick rule of thumb, the principles governing each element and thus the modifications they produce within each sign are:

Metal - Fixity, strength of will, fluency of speech.
Water - Powers of reflection, sensitivity, persuasiveness.
Wood - Imagination, creativity, idealism, compassion.
Fire - Dynamism, passion, energy, aggression, leadership.
Earth - Stability, reliability, practicality, industry, prudence.

Chinese wisdom sees a polarity in every element, a negative and a positive side, an essentially feminine (passive, represented by -) or masculine (active, represented by +) disposition, or in Chinese terminology, Yin and Yang. Consequently, each element is repeated twice in succession so that it presents in the first year its Yang, or masculine side, and reverses the next year into its Yin polar opposite.
This chart, taken from the Chinese perpetual calendar, lays out each year together with that year's animal sign, its element and its masculine or feminine principle.

1900 31 January 1900 - 18 February 1901 Rat Metal (+)
1901 19 February 1901 - 7 February 1902 Ox Metal (-)
1902 8 February 1902 - 28 January 1903 Tiger Water (+)
1903 29 January 1903 - 15 February 1904 Rabbit Water (-)
1904 16 February 1904 - 3 February 1905 Dragon Wood (+)
1905 4 February 1905 - 24 January 1906 Snake Wood (-)
1906 25 January 1906 - 12 February 1907 Horse Fire (+)
1907 13 February 1907 - 1 February 1908 Sheep Fire (-)
1908 2 February 1908 - 21 January 1909 Monkey Earth (+)
1909 22 January 1909 - 9 February 1910 Rooster Earth (-)
1910 10 February 1910 - 29 January 1911 Dog Metal (+)
1911 30 January 1911 - 17 February 1912 Pig Metal (-)

1912 18 February 1912 - 5 February 1913 Rat Water (+)
1913 6 February 1913 - 25 January 1914 Ox Water (-)
1914 26 January 1914 - 13 February 1915 Tiger Wood (+)
1915 14 February 1915 - 2 February 1916 Rabbit Wood (-)
1916 3 February 1916 - 22 January 1917 Dragon Fire (+)
1917 23 January 1917 - 10 February 1918 Snake Fire (-)
1918 11 February 1918 - 31 January 1919 Horse Earth (+)
1919 1 February 1919 - 19 February 1920 Sheep Earth (-)
1920 20 February 1920 - 7 February 1921 Monkey Metal (+)
1921 8 February 1921 - 27 January 1922 Rooster Metal (-)
1922 28 January 1922 - 15 February 1923 Dog Water (+)
1923 16 February 1923 - 4 February 1924 Pig Water (-)

1924 5 February 1924 - 24 January 1925 Rat Wood (+)
1925 25 January 1925 - 12 February 1926 Ox Wood (-)
1926 13 February 1926 - 1 February 1927 Tiger Fire (+)
1927 2 February 1927 - 22 January 1928 Rabbit Fire (-)
1928 23 January 1928 - 9 February 1929 Dragon Earth (+)
1929 10 February 1929 - 29 January 1930 Snake Earth (-)
1930 30 January 1930 - 16 February 1931 Horse Metal (+)
1931 17 February 1931 - 5 February 1932 Sheep Metal (-)
1932 6 February 1932 - 25 January 1933 Monkey Water (+)
1933 26 January 1933 - 13 February 1934 Rooster Water (-)
1934 14 February 1934 - 3 February 1935 Dog Wood (+)
1935 4 February 1935 - 23 January 1936 Pig Wood (-)

1936 24 January 1936 - 10 February 1937 Rat Fire (+)
1937 11 February 1937 - 30 January 1938 Ox Fire (-)
1938 31 January 1938 - 18 February 1939 Tiger Earth (+)
1939 19 February 1939 - 7 February 1940 Rabbit Earth (-)
1940 8 February 1940 - 26 January 1941 Dragon Metal (+)
1941 27 January 1941 - 14 February 1942 Snake Metal (-)
1942 15 February 1942 - 4 February 1943 Horse Water (+)
1943 5 February 1943 - 24 January 1944 Sheep Water (-)
1944 25 January 1944 - 12 February 1945 Monkey Wood (+)
1945 13 February 1945 - 1 February 1946 Rooster Wood (-)
1946 2 February 1946 - 21 January 1947 Dog Fire (+)
1947 22 January 1947 - 9 February 1948 Pig Fire (-)

1948 10 February 1948 - 28 January 1949 Rat Earth (+)
1949 29 January 1949 - 16 February 1950 Ox Earth (-)
1950 17 February 1950 - 5 February 1951 Tiger Metal (+)
1951 6 February 1951 - 26 January 1952 Rabbit Metal (-)
1952 27 January 1952 - 13 February 1953 Dragon Water (+)
1953 14 February 1953 - 2 February 1954 Snake Water (-)
1954 3 February 1954 - 16 February 1955 Horse Wood (+)
1955 24 January 1955 - 11 February 1956 Sheep Wood (-)
1956 12 February 1956 - 30 January 1957 Monkey Fire (+)
1957 31 January 1957 - 17 February 1958 Rooster Fire (-)
1958 18 February 1958 - 7 February 1959 Dog Earth (+)
1959 8 February 1959 - 27 January 1960 Pig Earth (-)

1960 28 January 1960 - 14 February 1961 Rat Metal (+)
1961 15 February 1961 - 4 February 1962 Ox Metal (-)
1962 5 February 1962 - 24 January 1963 Tiger Water (+)
1963 25 January 1963 - 12 February 1964 Rabbit Water (-)
1964 13 February 1964 - 1 February 1965 Dragon Wood (+)
1965 2 February 1965 - 20 January 1966 Snake Wood (-)
1966 21 January 1966 - 8 February 1967 Horse Fire (+)
1967 9 February 1967 - 29 January 1968 Sheep Fire (-)
1968 30 January 1968 - 16 February 1969 Monkey Earth (+)
1969 17 February 1969 - 5 February 1970 Rooster Earth (-)
1970 6 February 1970 - 26 January 1971 Dog Metal (+)
1971 27 January 1971 - 15 January 1972 Pig Metal (-)


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-07-2006 03:38 PM:

Islam solar calendar and Chinese 12 yr calendar in one rug

Hi all,

I want to break out the conclusions from several locals on Chuck's Baluch. 3 have looked at the date scribbles....all sort of agree that it is quite possible 1333...all agree that if it is a date, its solar calendar. Per my friends, 1333 hidri shamsi is 1954 in western calendar, Chinese year of the horse. One who saw the carpet thinks that the weaver deliberately put both the Islamic solar date and the Chinese date symbol on the carpet.

If so, this is the first confirmation that I've ever seen on a carpet of this practice...i.e. the use of the Chinese calendar for fortune telling in Central Asia carpets.


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 12-08-2006 07:30 AM:

Hi all,

Here are some closeups of the date and the herd; the horse originally posted is at the top center of the rug; date is at the top left, and this tired looking nag is to the right:

The healthy horse:

The date (note dots), which could be a Gregorian 1955, I suppose...:

Interesting notion, this Chinese calender concept. Now I have to go back and read Gene's posts again...


Chuck Wagner

Posted by Richard Larkin on 12-08-2006 01:15 PM:


That's a date? Wow. Can we see it from the back of the piece?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Gene Williams on 12-09-2006 03:41 PM:

Date and Zoroastrian symbols

Hi Rich,

Second look at the date of Chuck's carpet does reveal a no smoking gun yet on the relationship between Hidri Shamsi dates and the chinese fortunetelling calendar. I still think its possible.

on Another subject, here is the mirab (persian zoroastrian word?) for the Baluch prayer carpet which was on a previous tread and the Samanid decoration allegedly associated with Zoroastrian fire temples. Ok, there are only so many decorations...but coincidence?


Posted by Steve Price on 12-09-2006 05:15 PM:

Hi Gene

A square standing on one of its corners seems to be the extent of the similarity. Except for that, they look dissimilar enough to allow me to contain my excitement.

Minor point in passing: the image code lines I send you begin and end with stuff enclosed in square brackets. The square brackets and their content are part of the line. Leaving them off results in links, not display of the images. Also, the software really is case-sensitive - I didn't make that up. Upper and lower cases in file names in the code lines have to match those in the actual file names, or you'll just get a little box with a red X in it instead of the image. Personally, I use lower case only. Makes life simpler.


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 12-12-2006 11:05 AM:

Baluch use solar calandar, when used at all?

Here is rug from Wegner, fig. 13, that supposedly has a date, "1319." woven in it. Comments by Tom Cole are included below the original Wegner notes. See:

I'll be darned if I can find the date. BUT below is a quote from Wegner about that date. It implies the Baluch used the "Persian" calandar... and because this calandar apparently makes note of the spring equinox (March 21), it was possibly a solar calandar....equinoxes being strictly a solar year function. If this deduction is correct, the date of the carpet is not 1905 AD, but 1941.

"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... ...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). "

Regards, Jack Williams

("elementary deduction, my dear Watson")

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-12-2006 12:01 PM:

Hi Jack,

Yes, but 1319 in the Islamic Lunar calendar corresponds to AD 1901, while in the Persian Solar calendar it’s 1319 + 622 = 1941 AD. We cannot see the date on rug # 13 so we should assume that Wegner was making a bit of confusion.

Anyway, now I remember having been invited years ago by some Persian friends to the “Noruz” (new year) celebration on the 21th of March… They have quite of a tradition for that, and it comes from Zoroastrian times. I remember they told me that the Persian Islamic “clergy” had always tried (and failed) to discourage the tradition, being it of pagan origin.

And that is a indisputable proof that Persians – and surely other populations in the Persian cultural influence – have always followed also the solar calendar…

Note that the Islamic new year is always a “moving “ holiday, given the fact that the lunar year is shorter than the solar.



Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 12-13-2006 06:34 AM:

Wegner's dated Baluch

In my first book, p. 14, I mention Wegner's rug, as dated 1905 / 1322. When I went to see his rugs and interview him for my book, we also looked at this rug, and, again, he said it was woven in 1905 (which is what he had stated in the German original article, published in Tribus, where he also just said fig. 13, "Belutsch, Djulghe Rokh, Salor-Göl, 1905"). (Djulghe Rokh is a place name.) In that article there is no further reference to the inwoven date (as far as I remember, can't re-read it now.)
When we looked at the rug, unfortunately, we did not discuss it much, since I did not like it, but from his repeated statement that the date should be calculated as 1905 he clearly thought it to be lunar calendar (and he actually lived in Persia and Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s, when the solar calendar had come into use, he must have known the difference. If my memory serves me right, it was me who deciphered the date as 1322, but I can't really remember, that was about 12 years ago, and meeting him was an intense (and not always easy) experience, I might have the tape and notes somewhere.

Anyway (and that should be my final uneducated guess on the matter of dated Baluchis for now), with the exception of the rug with the horse, I belive all dated rugs mentioned in this thread to be dated according to the lunar calendar.


This is just an uneducated guess!!

Posted by Jack Williams on 12-13-2006 09:02 PM:

LET"S SING: "I'd like to buy the world a rug...."

Frank, your opinion is quite respected. I've come to appreciate that the dynamics of this business-hobby-academic profession sometimes do not seem to promote respectful discussion, much less “world peace,” “holding hands,” and/or singing “kumbaiyah.” I can visualize the difficulties of certain interviews.

I have been skeptical of dates in Baluch rugs for all the usual reasons…one being illiteracy, another being that there just did not seem a reason to put a date in a nomadic rug. I get the impression that you are also somewhat wary of dated Baluch rugs, as is Tom Cole (it seems), and as was Jerry Anderson. [Note: Tom Cole's comment on Wegner's fig 14 is, "(Again, one wonders on what information such a precise dating is based. Is there a woven date in the rug? If so, most of those seen in Baluch weavings are spurious. - TC)"; see

But Wegner, perhaps inadvertently, gave what seems to be a reasonable explanation for a Baluch rug to contain a date…that is…a rug woven specifically to be sold during celebration of the Persian New Year on the spring equinox. Well…the inescapable fact of a calendar is that there are four dates known to every civilization that are indisputably sun related…the two equinoxes and the two solstices.

It seems reasonable that the Persian New Year, corresponding with the equinox, would not be dated by the lunar calendar. It almost couldn’t be. Therefore, again it is reasonable that for a solar year celebration of importance and antiquity, a yearly numbering system would almost have to be in place based on the solar calendar…and if a Baluch rug was to be sold during the New Year celebration, it could very well contain that solar based number rather than the lunar based one. It is even reasonable to suppose that given the commercial intent, literacy was available in the villages.

This is the first time I have felt like a reason might exist for a date to be on a Baluch item. But, you seem of the opinion that the dates you have seen are lunar based dates. I would be appreciative if you could shed some light on your thoughts…why.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 12-14-2006 05:15 AM:


Thanks for your kind words. I think my opinion is as good as anybody's. When I say "this is my final post on dating Baluch rugs" it is NOT to mean final as "I know, I'm the expert", but rather, "I am tired of this, I don't want to voice my opinion any more, I'll keep quiet now".

We'll have to wait for Jürg Rageth's book (the much extended proceedings of the Liesthal Baluch Symposium of 2003) before we might have some news on dating Baluch rugs.


Posted by Gene Williams on 12-14-2006 08:22 AM:

Baluch dates - Solar Lunar

Hi all,

The opinion in the Herat rug bazaar (Farsi and Pashtu speakers principly) on dates in Baluch carpets is....if it had a likely was made on commission...and if so, then it surely was Solar calendar.

Persia switched officially to Hidri Shamsi in 1925...Afghanistan in 1953. But in fact the calendar was used by everyone in Afghanistan north and west of the Hindu Kush (I'm referring to Mazar-e-Sharif to Herat) for hundreds of years. The Solar calandar was the calendar for men and the calendar for records and for business. I must assume it was the same in Mashaad and possibly other areas of Iran.

(note: The rug weaving Baluch lived for the most part in the Persian influenced areas of Iran and Western Afghanistan. Their rugs were Market in Mashhad, Firdows, Zabol, Zahedan...)

One old dealer said women might use the lunar calendar ... if they could read and if for some reason they wanted to put in a date in....I didn't go into this much. Jerry Anderson did use to talk about little Baluch girls weaving stuff into carpets when their parents backs were turned...but they couldn't read for the most part.

I'll be going back in a few weeks...and will get some academic back-up for this Bazaar truth.


Posted by Jack Williams on 12-14-2006 10:32 AM:

"Time is money"...old American proverb

Thanks Frank.

I understand your wearyness (and waryness) with the subject. The age-ego question does get a bit tiresome. In rug-dom, it seems almost impossible to separate the commercial-business from the academic-artistic..add in collector ego...and it has apparently always been this way...everywhere, even in the source areas!

I've thought that my own skepticism of Baluch carpet age might help me avoid the trap of "old, older, oldest"...But, I get caught up like everyone...because age creep is a continuing phenomena. When first I became interested in Baluch, it was thought that the oldest Baluch rug was last Q 19th C. Now we have claims of 18th c.

If it is found that a "social," or business, solar based calandar was commonly used...essentially always...throughout the Persian influenced sphere, could that help roll back the age-creep that has occured? Probably knot, and it probably does knot madder. In di go-go world, even border-line or completely warped yarns about age are hard to unweave, especially for dyed-in-the-wool believers, surrounded as they are by wefts of fantasy. The best we can do is try ignore the rug bazar spin, and selvedge a little truth to advance the field of knowledge.

Regards, I look forward to info from the symposium.

Jack Williams

In the meantime, for those interested, here is a little information about the internal role of a "Baluch" mother. Please don't ask why I'm posting it here, there isn't a reason...I just thought it interesting. This is from

"...In essence a Baloch mothers’ responsibility is to educate her son in the noble principles of their great forefathers. Baloch share elements of a "national" culture. Generally, by culture we mean the values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, and other institutions shared by a group of people. Culture shapes how people see their world and structure their community and family life. Baloch mothers teach their children the cultural values and customs since early age. In Baloch society, these values include independence, cooperation, truthfulness, national justice, bravery, hospitality, generosity and devotion.

"The Baloch son was nursed and taught to be a war hero. The mere thought of losing a son has always been unbearable to a mother but a Baloch mother teaches his son how glorious it is to fight and be killed in the battle field and how shameful it would be not only for him but for the entire family and tribe to run away from the battle. A Baloch mother does not desire material gains for her son. She sings for his infant son: “I am for the days when my son will come to age, ride on horse back and having a sword and with the help of his brave friends will revenge his father’s enemies. Then I will be singing in praise of his bravery along with hundred women of the village”...

"...A Baloch mother do not praise the physical beauty of her bridegroom son instead she sings in the praise of his horse and bow..."...Mir Kambar’s mother did not cry when his just married son was preparing to engage the overwhelming force of plunderers who had looted the cattle of his Baahot, instead she said to him; “My son, the light of my eyes, gain fame in fighting so that forefathers name may be alive. And upon hearing the news of your death in battlefield I will regain my youth again and instead of mourning I will celebrate your death.”

"The expectations of a Baloch mother to her daughter are unique. She wants her daughter to be a distinguished lady of high qualities, being hospitable and faithful. She wants her to be distinguished in her hospitality and caring for her brothers. “My Daughter will mature to be a graceful lady. She will be affectionate to his brothers; in her hospitality she will entertain a hundred persons daily. She will entertain her guest by slaughtering lambs for their dinner and virgin sheep for luncheon.”