Posted by James Blanchard on 02-26-2007 04:57 AM:

Baluch? kilim

Hi all,

Generally, Baluch-type weavings are known for their relatively subdued colours. However, as has been noted by others, the Baluch palette and "aesthetic" is somewhat eclectic (see Tom Cole's article on "Baluch Aesthetics" ).

During a recent trip to Pakistan I acquired a couple of "un-Baluch" Baluch-type weavings that seem to stray beyond the usual Baluch palette and aesthetic. Perhaps one explanation is that neither is very old, so some of the traditional designs and colour schemes had been eschewed for newer approaches. In any case, I would be interested in feedback from others.

The first piece is a kilim measuring approx. 7' x 4'8" (212 x 140 cm). It is made using a variety of techniques including slit-weave tapestry and weft-float in typical "Baluch" style. Though the kilim does show signs of age, I think that there are some synthetic dyes and I would place the age at somewhere in the 50-80 year range. The range of colours and the prominent "step medallion" designs seem a little outside the usual Baluch repertoire for kilims. The closest analogy I have found is the magnificent kilim illustrate in Boucher's "Woven Treasures" (plate 51). It also has the bold "stepped medallions", and also seems to have some synthetic dyes. Boucher dates it to c. 1920 and attributes it to the "Baluchistan region, Pakistan-Afghanistan border area". The dealer from whom I acquired this one said it was made by the "Aimaq people" in the Qala-e-Now region.

Any thoughts about attribution, age, aesthetics, etc.?


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-26-2007 07:58 AM:

Hi James,

It could be that your kilim is Luri. I say that because I own something vaguely similar. It was sold as Gashgai, but I think the relatively course structure and the dark goat hair warps point towards Luri.


Posted by James Blanchard on 02-26-2007 08:09 AM:

Thanks, Tim.

I hadn't thought about Luri, or South Persian for that matter. Other than the dark warps, I wonder if the structure is consistent with a S. Persian flatweave. What do others think?


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-26-2007 11:03 AM:

Hi James,

I think that:
1 - It’s a very nice piece.
2 - It’s probably Afghan.
3 - I saw something similar, somewhere, besides Boucher's "Woven Treasures". Have to look around.


Posted by Steve Price on 02-26-2007 11:09 AM:

Hi James

The palette looks more like what I'd expect in a south Persian piece, but the strips of white brocading on a black background are so typically Belouch that I believe that it's a Belouch piece.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-26-2007 11:29 AM:

Thanks Filiberto and Steve.

Filiberto, do you mean "Baluch-type" Afghan, or another Afghan weaving group? I hope you are able to find an analogy.

Steve, I also find the brocaded strips to be quite persuasively Baluch. For what it is worth, the dealer said he acquired it in Afghanistan (Herat), which doesn't rule out a S. Persian origin but seems to make it somewhat less likely than an Afghan source. He seemed quite sure it was from the Qala-e-Now area.

By the way, the colours look more saturated in real life than they look on the screen (especially when I compare the full-size photo).


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-26-2007 12:14 PM:

Hi James,

I mean Baluchi-tipe, because the brocaded stripes look quite Baluch. However, also the Afshars of Kerman use mostly the same motifs… But not together with the kilim part of yours, if memory serve. Well, I’ll look better tomorrow.


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-26-2007 11:33 PM:

Actually, I find those brocaded bands the only part of James' kilim that is reminiscent of Baluch.

Below is the Luri kilim that I thought is somewhat similar.


Posted by James Blanchard on 02-27-2007 12:22 AM:

Hi Tim,

I agree that most of the features of my kilim are "un-Baluch", as I mentioned in my first post. I still lean towards a Baluch attribution based on the preponderence of evidence, but would like to keep an open mind about it.

I can't see the picture of your Luri kilim yet.



P.S. Here is another picture of the kilim, which better represents the colours. The colours in the previous photos looked to weak on my computer screen.

Posted by Steve Price on 02-27-2007 12:41 AM:

Hi Tim and James

The image of the Luri kilim is in the server now, and displays in Tim's last message..

Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-27-2007 12:53 AM:

Hi Tim,

Nice kilim! I see the similarities, but still think it would be a stretch to place mine in the Luri or S. Persian category. What do others think?


Posted by richard tomlinson on 02-27-2007 05:23 AM:

hi james

i would guess definitely not baluch.

i think tim is on the right track. at first glance i thought kurdish work. i would say 'persian' but not sure which group.

richard tomlinson

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-27-2007 05:36 AM:

Thanks Richard.

Apart from Baluch, the only other group I had entertained was "Kurd". Perhaps it could be postulated that this weaving is a product of the confluence of Kurdish and Baluch groups.

Does anyone have any other analagous examples from Persian weaving groups (both in design and structure) to offer?

Also, if anyone has a copy of Boucher's "Woven Treasures" and a scanner, perhaps they could scan and post a picture of the "Baluch" kilim illustrated in plate 51. It seems somewhat analagous to me.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-27-2007 05:55 AM:

Hi James,

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I have some more material for you.

First, I have to divagate a little.
I don’t know if you remember my “unique” Baluch salt bag I posted some time ago:

Anyway, it prompted for me a search for similar examples. I had little doubt it was a Baluch weaving. See for example the same motif on the brocaded skirt of the “Doktor-i-Ghazi” prayer rug” of the V&A Museum:

and similar Baluch namakdans on the web:

BUT… in A.Hull and J. Luczyc-Whowska’s “KILIM“. Page 223 there is a so-called Afshar salt bag that is almost identical to the one above (so identical that I didn’t scan it).

And, on a Italian book “Il Tappeto Persiano” I found two other bags labeled as “Baluch-Afshar:

Then there is, For Richard’s benefit, this namakdan from “Kordi Tribes, Quchan Region, Korassan”

There is, without doubt, a cross-fertilization of motives in Afshar-Baluch area.

See Ford’s “Flatweaves of Kerman Province”:

And Wertime’s article “Some salt Bags from Kerman Province”

Which makes difficult to distinguish the provenance of flat-weaves. On “KILIM” it’s said that Afshar kilims have a “dense and heavy feel other types lack.”

Let’s go back to pictures of kilims, after all those namakdans. The followings are all attributed to the Afshars. They are on sale, so my apologies to the unmentioned seller:

I just found the last one, which is the most similar to yours. Same “skirts” also.
So… I don’t know.
Shall we settle for a Baluch-Afshar label?



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-27-2007 06:20 AM:

Hi James,

if anyone has a copy of Boucher's "Woven Treasures" and a scanner, perhaps they could scan and post a picture of the "Baluch" kilim illustrated in plate 51. It seems somewhat analagous to me
Voila’ the scan, followed by your kilim and by the similar Afshar:



Posted by James Blanchard on 02-27-2007 06:33 AM:

Hi Filiberto,

Thanks for the detective work!

Boucher's kilim also looks a bit "un-Baluch", don't you think?

I am happy enough with Afshar-Baluch, or some such categorization.

That's a nice array of salt bags. I have a couple of large bags that seem to be similar (I've shown them before, see below). Regarding my bags Parviz Tanavoli indicated that they are "the work of Jabalbarezis" who live "way south of Kerman".


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-27-2007 07:21 AM:

Hi James,

I admit that some of the Afshar pieces that Filiberto has found look like valid analogs for your piece. There is another possibility, which I think should be considered because of what your dealer said: Qala-i-nau is northeast of Herat, and kilims with several characteristics similar to those of your piece are made there.

The biggest departure is the field design, which could be definitive - I agree with Steve - the palette looks Persian. Nevertheless, the drift away from traditional designs that is seen in the 20th century could explain that. Here are a couple images of a more traditional piece (posted previously in other discussions), Still, it is probably not more that 50-60 years old - the oldest pieces are made of two more narrow strips, stitched together.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-27-2007 08:06 AM:

Hi Chuck,

Yes, that’s another possibility.

About Boucher’s plate 51, said to be "Baluchistan region, Pakistan-Afghanistan border area"…

Plate 122 of Jenny Housego’s Tribal Rugs shows a B&W picture of a “Flat-woven rug, Baluchi, East Iran”, probably “made on the borderlands with Afghanistan, south of Heart”.
Fact is that it looks like Boucher’s plate 51 without the kilim parts.


Posted by Jack Williams on 02-27-2007 09:21 PM:

Baluch; two, three, four

In my opinion, there are some aspects of James's kilim that have an Afshar look, specifically the small red and blue "S" guard border on the extreme outside. However, the rest of the kilim looks very baluch when you break out the individual segments.

Like Filiberto, I was looking at a lot of NW Afgan salt bags because not a lot of baluch kilims are available on the net (Filiberto, that is a great summary, worth saving...which I shall).
What I did in the above picture was cut and paste a bunch of segments of baluch saltbags and some flatweaves or mixed weaves. I only borrowed those that were id'd as baluch by top experts. By juxtaposing these segments against James's kilim, I think that the aura of baluch in that kilim begins to be much more apparent.

So what makes the kilim have a faintly alien air? I think it is strictly the color composition of the parts of the kilim I circled. But when we look at those specifically, we find they only have four colors, and individually none of those colors could be said to be "non baluch." Therefore it might be the light-dark color juxtaposition that looks non-baluch. But given the breath of baluch group weavings, I think it would be a mistake to try too hard to make it something else.

I personally tried to make it (a) "Kordi" Kurd-Quchon; (b) Maimanya Uzbek from NE of Herat; and (c) Afshar...but when I put James's against kilims from those sources, it didn't look very happy. I think it looks very content in the attached picture, nestled in with its Baluch friends. I think the dealer's attribution is probably accurate

...and to try and make this S. Persian ignoring the obvious individual Baluch characteristics...well... maybe there are s.persian tribal people who weave in weft sub brocade. I just am not familiar with them.

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-27-2007 11:51 PM:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for this analysis. The kilim does seem to be a mix between Baluch and non-Baluch structure, palette and aesthetics.

I have communicated by email with someone very knowledgable with Baluch and other weavings of Afghanistan and Central Asia. He thinks it is made by a non-Turkmen central Asian group such as the Uzbek, Aimaq, or Qizilbosh. The dealer said that it was "Aimaq".



Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-27-2007 11:59 PM:

Hi James,

The kilims of Qala-i-Nau are made by Hazara Aimaq weavers.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-28-2007 03:41 AM:

Hi James,

OK – Here’s a scan from a book which isn’t worth of mention (one of the reasons is that the author copied shamelessly most of the text from A.Hull and J. Luczyc-Whowska’s “KILIM” – the other is that, on top of it, she managed several misspellings):

As you can see, the pieces are from the 1960s. The “Maimina” mentioned in the captions should be Maimana, I gather.
A "source" of kilim very close to yours (well, the kilim part). The colors are bad in the photos, the mentioned green is not visible and the yellow looks more orange, but it could be the same palette.
A look at Parsons’ “The Carpets of AFGHANISTAN” tell us that: “The main goods offered for sale (at the Maimana bazaar) are flat-woven khourjeens and kilims… made by all tribes throughout the area. The Maimana kilim traditionally woven by Uzbeks is still being made today by these same people and also being copied by Aimaqs.”

And Qala-e-Now is close to Maimana…

All considered, I agree with Chuck & Jack: your dealer should be right.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 02-28-2007 08:21 AM:

Hey gang,

The similarities and apparent cross-fertilizations among these pieces are quite striking when grouped together this way (and so impressively quickly!) by many of our able contributors. For example, in the montage put up by Filiberto, I am looking at the first kilim coming after the string of Namakdans, which is attributed to the Afshar. It looks more like Baluch than James's starter piece; that repeating diamond motif is one of the most ubiquitous of traditional Baluch designs, not to mention the two-bladed propeller. Of course, we are relying on the attributions of others, which begs tha same questions James laid down in the original post. It all emphasizes the fact that these attributions are usually more complicated than we want to acknowledge.

I'm hardly up to sorting out all the tribes mentioned, but I'll throw in the Veramin card here. Some of those white motifs in weft float technique on the dark background are reminiscent of that area, no? Do I recall that the Luri are part of the Veramin weaving complex?

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-28-2007 08:46 AM:

Hi all,

Indeed this is an impressive array of information and analogies, though I am left without a very definitive attribution.

I think the dealer is not too far wrong. He did say that he used to see an occasional one like this about 30-40 years ago when he was based in Herat, but hasn't seen one like this for quite a while. I have grown to trust his judgement and attributions, and he seldom seems to exaggerate about age.

Regardless, I think it is an interesting piece with its own charm.


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-28-2007 10:07 AM:

How did she do that?


You mention the variety of techniques used in your kilim. You did not specify dovetailed, single interlocking or double interlocking tapestry weave. Uzbeks often used double interlocking, as well as Bakhtiari/Luri weavers.
Here, again, is my little Uzbek (maimana) salt bag with double interlocking tapestry weave - and the stepped diamond design from your kilim:

Patrick Weiler

Posted by James Blanchard on 02-28-2007 11:28 AM:

Hi Patrick,

You said: "You did not specify dovetailed, single interlocking or double interlocking tapestry weave."

Ummmmm... what is that? I guess that explains why I didn't mention it.

In this thread there have been a few suggestions that a particular technique is an important clue to attribution, but it seems like structural considerations are pointing in a number of directions at the same time. Unfortunately, I don't know the field nearly well enough to know how these structural clues would narrow down the candidate weaving groups.


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-28-2007 07:25 PM:

911 Marla!


I recommend the book Woven Structures, A Guide to Oriental Rug and Textile Analysis, by Marla Mallett. I consider it indispensable to understanding the construction - and often the origin - of rugs and flatweaves.
In simple slit-weave tapestry, the weft threads go over and under the warps. At color changes, the weft goes around a warp and then returns back the other direction. The next color starts at the next warp thread beyond the last encircled warp of the first color, causing a gap, or slit, between colors. Long slits weaken the fabric, requiring steps, diamonds and diagonals to reduce the slze of the slits.

Dovetailing requires the first weft color to go around a warp and then return and the second weft color encircles that same warp thread from the other direction, eliminating the slit between colors. With two color wefts on these shared warps, there is a bulge and zig-zag pattern at the color changes.

In single interlocking, where the first color weft encircles the last warp, instead of returning back immediately, a loop remains and the next color weft enters, or is inserted into, this loop like two chain links attaching to each other. This interlocking is between the last warp encircled by the first weft and the first warp encircled by the second weft. This technique causes a jagged edge in the design at color changes.

In double interlocking, each new color weft is inserted through two weft loops of the first color, in staggered rows, making quite a strong fabric, with noticeable ridges on the back. It is not considered a two-sided fabric due to these ribbed junctions.

Certain tribes use these different techniques regularly enough to allow differentiating them when the designs and other factors cause confusion.
Double interlocking is common in Baktiari weaving. A similar Qashqai kilim may be slitweave. Afshar of Khorassan would use slitweave and double interlocking. A comprehensive structural analysis of your piece could either confirm the origin or just cause hopeless confusion!

It is probably simpler to identify structures than to become an auto mechanic or pediatrician, but having the Woven Structures book makes it a lot easier.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Gene Williams on 03-01-2007 04:39 AM:

Baluch Kilem

Hi all,

Lad Duane sent me an e-mail saying he saw a number of such Kilems in the Qur-e Now area when he was up there 18 months ago. He's not sure if is old-old since is saw new kilems very much like it.

As for color in Baluch flat-weaves...I have two grain bags which are green with several bright colors and two more which are bright yellow. I'll have to wait posting these until I get back home again...I back in Herat. I may take a picture of James' Kilem to the local carpet street here. But I trust Lad's attribution.

Gene Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 03-01-2007 06:11 AM:

Thanks Gene,

I'm not sure how old my kilim is, but I am quite sure it is not very close to new. In addition to the patterns of wear, it has a number of repairs that look a bit remote. So I tend to think it is at least a few decades old. I am not sure that makes so much difference in the context of determining attribution, so Lad might be right. Still, I would be keen to see other analagous examples if you or Lad can provide them.


Posted by Gene Williams on 03-13-2007 03:37 AM:



I think it was Chuck who mentioned that kelims in Qala-e-Now (there are several versions of he spelling) are made by Hazara Aimaqs. I'm not quite comfortable with this id. Most of the people in Herat I've talked to say there aren't any Hazara in Badghis province (Qala-e-Now is capitol of BAdghis...just east of Herat). It is mostly Tadjik (70% with about 20% Pushtun - Sarbani - Abdali (Durrani) mostly) and some Uzbek and Turkmen, some Taimani. Aimaq I supposed could be there...

Actually, I've never quite understood the relationship between Aimaq and Turks. Babur mentions them in the Baburnama and its clear he didn't regard the as part of the Turk-Turkoman nation as created by Timurlame. They're supposedly a "Turkish-Mongol"combo...I think someone once said they're called Timuri on the Iranian side implying that the are indeed Timurid...í.e. Turkish related to Timur (who of course had Mongol blood from Ghenghis Khan)..but its still not totally clear. I'll ask around here.

I'm checking this out further. I've also printed off a copy of your Kelim which I'll show around this week.

I like that Kelim.


Posted by James Blanchard on 03-13-2007 05:12 AM:

Hi Gene,

Thanks for following up on this. I have also had someone share the opinion that it might be Uzbek or some other group in that area. I would be interested to see what dealers in that vicinity have so say about its attribution.