Posted by James Blanchard on 05-16-2007 11:52 AM:

MAD Ersari?

Hi all,

I recently purchased a carpet that I find attractive, and somewhat out of the ordinary.

The dimensions are approximately 8' x 4'. It has brown wool warps and grey wool wefts, with minimal warp depression. Knotting is asymmetric-right at approx. 8v x 8h = 64 kpsi. Selvedges are 3 cords wrapped in brown hair.

The design seems related to the ikat-derived patterns used by the Ersari - Beshir and other groups in the middle Amu Darya (MAD) region. One interesting aspect is that the "stepped medallions" (ashik?) are on a "pole" that runs the length of the rug, so this is not actually a lattice per se.

The palette is quite light and lively, with three shades of rosy reds, mid-blue, two greens (forest and deep blue-green), brown, ivory, a very light "straw" and a very light buttery yellow. The straw is used on the lower half, and the yellow on the top half, and they are alternated with the ivory in the interstices of the design to create a lively visual effect. The second and third pictures (top and bottom) give the best representation of the colours on my monitor.

Overall, the rug looks "Ersari" to me, and inspired more by the ikat design family than the Persian designs that seem favoured in the so-called "Beshir" rugs. Still, I suppose that some might call this an "Ersari-Beshir". I would add that I haven't seen any other examples that are close analogies to this one in design (with the exception of the border, which is a typical Ersari main border).

I would appreciate opinions about this carpet's attribution, aesthetics and age. Also, if anyone has any analogies to share, I would be most interested.


Note... I have just replaced the original pictures with some that I lightened up. The others looked way to dark on my desktop computer. The second and third pictures (top and bottom of the carpet) look closest to the real colours on my monitors.

Posted by Richard Larkin on 05-17-2007 11:22 AM:

Hi James,

That is one lovely rug. In fact, it's so nice I'm inclined to think of it as new production to a studied high standard. The condition looks too good. Do you know whether there is a well known industry out there producing rugs of this ilk faithfully in the early manner?

Whether it's best labeled Ersari, Beshir, Ersari-Beshir, etc., I can't say. Clearly, in earlier times, there was a variety of rug types produced in that region in some volume, much of which must have served a robust commercial market. The kind traditionally called "Beshir" often seem to have more of the perfunctory workshop look, at least certain ones of them. No doubt, Ersari Turkoman people were much involved in the endeavor. However, the application of those terms back and forth doesn't do too much for me in achieving an understanding of what was going on.

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-17-2007 11:44 AM:

Hi Rich,

Although I am not an experienced collector, I can say with little reservation that this is an old rug. How old, I don't know. As for the condition, it is perhaps not as good as the pictures portray. It is quite worn through the middle third, and it has a few old repairs (you can see an old "bite" out of the corner in the picture of the back, as one example of one repair). In fact, I got it despite its condition (my wife is not a fan of overly worn carpets). The dynamic design and colours overcome the areas of low pile (down to knotheads), and thankfully she loves it.

Moreover, the colours, and especially the light straw and yellow, look old to me. There is also uneven wear, with some of the colours being lower than others (substantial brown corrosion).

So I think it is old. However, if there is new production turning out rugs like this, I would love to find it.


Posted by James Blanchard on 05-17-2007 11:53 AM:

Looks old...

Hi Rich,

Here are a couple more pictures of the rug, demonstrating its condition.



Posted by Gene Williams on 05-17-2007 12:17 PM:



What a rug! If it's new...and it looks old to me...pls also let me know who is making them. And if you wife decides it has to go...pls let me know first. Thanks.


Posted by James Blanchard on 05-17-2007 12:25 PM:

Thanks, Gene.

For my wife, it was love at first sight, so we'll be keeping it.

As I mentioned, I am pretty sure that it is old, but without finding any published analogies I am having a difficult time making any sort of assessment as to how old. Right now I have narrowed it down to mid-19th to mid-20th century. So what else is new...

I am trying to put together a few related weavings from here and there and will share them if I can.


Posted by Steve Price on 05-17-2007 12:53 PM:

Hi James

It doesn't look new to me, and my inclination is to attribute it to the 19th century. The palette seems to place it within the Ersari group, although I haven't seen that field design on anything from that group. It is closely related to what is usually called "ashik gul" asmalyks, except that the guls are more flattened in every asmalyk I've seen, and I don't recall many that had Ersari palettes.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-17-2007 01:17 PM:

Thanks, Steve.

Interestingly, one of the things my wife said about it was "it looks like a big asmalyk". I agree that the palette seems Ersari - Beshir, though it is brighter than others that I have seen. I think the main border is typically Ersari.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 05-17-2007 03:07 PM:

Hi James,

In fact, it is a giant asmalyk with the triangle at the top removed and the scar cleverly masked by a master weaver from Istanbul. Just kidding.

I agree with the avalanche of opinion that it is an old piece. The second posting of the image helps a lot to see it for what it is. Before I got onto TurkoTek and learned that you had to have reasons supported by evidence for your rug opinions, I had a simple rule of thumb for Ersari/Beshir types. It was that the choice ones had brilliant colors of red, yellow and blue, among others, on a special quality of silky, transparent wool. When you found them, they were usually oversized juvals or torbas in my experience. Yours looks like it is from that group. Although a repetitive array of devices like this could easily have come out boring, the skillful handling of the concept in this instance avoided that fate very successfully.

Once again, James, your keen eye and unfailing judgment are in play. BTW, I am beginning to become suspicious of your protestation that you are "...not an experienced collector."

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-17-2007 09:49 PM:

Hi Rich,

I think it was precisely because of the "brilliant" colours and fine wool that I was attracted to this rug. The white/yellow ground also gives it a lively flair.

Although the design seems unusual, I suppose this is not surprising since the Ersari-Beshir seem to have become quite eclectic under the influence of other weaving traditions (e.g. Central Asian ikats) and the markets around Bukhara.

I mentioned in my first post that I think this design is more related to the ikat. I'll try to illustrate that. However, Steve's mention of the asmalyk has made me wonder if that was a main influence for this design.


Posted by Jack Williams on 05-18-2007 01:36 AM:

I'll have an Ersari to go, hold the Beshir

good evening everyone

What a rug. I too am suspicious of James’ constant poor mouthing. After all, I benefited from years of listening to Bear Bryant talk about his “little, skinny legged boys” not having a chance.

Here is my two bits worth of opinion. Moskova claimed that for a rug to be a “Beshir,” the ground color would be unique, contrasting to the elements in the field, and the ground color was not used in those field elements unlike the rest of Turkmen rugdom. If this has held, and depending on how you define the “ground color” of James' rug, opt for Ersari…and hold the Beshir.

For some vaguely analogous use of asymik gol symbol, see Jourdan (on line), p. 277, 279, and also 281-whose design is mentioned as being possbily derived from an ikat.

Yo!...whoa…though...bro. What about the minimal depression, As2 knotting (or with depression, As4)? Well, Tekke are commonly supposed to use As2 knotting, and the border motif, the “curled leaf pattern,” is one that supposedly is originally connected to the Tekke. But, warp and weft don’t really fit Tekke too well as most of their warps are supposedly ivory and their selvedges simple, often blue, but not often multiple-baluch-like 3 cord goat-looking like in James' rug.

It could be Yomut…the colors would not preclude that at all especially in a main carpet and the style could be consistent. But again the structure doesn’t fit all that well,. Also, Yomut often use cotton in the structure…and this is wool (?) So…

Back to Ersari…. The brown warps, gray wefts fit, and As2 (or As4) knot is ok-especially archaically-though As1 and As3 might be thought of as more common…. I thought of Chub Bash, a supposedly Ersari offshoot that is in Northern Afganistan that supposedly often uses some Yomut or Chodour motifs. But this does not have what I have read is C.B. coloring.

So…that leaves one supposedly Ersari sub group that this fits structurally pretty completely, Kizil Ayak I would guess your carpet might be a Kizil Ayak with the Tekke derived, early curled leaf border, and the Baluch-looking, wide selvedges. It could be older, based on the "archaic" 8/8 ratio. But even if it isn’t, it is qute a carpet. The "flames" surrounding each gol with a different interior symbol and constantly changing color combos are fascinating.

One of my wild hair thoughts....The Kizil Ayak peoples, I think named after a village on the north-east of the Amu Darya, originally were reported to be a sub branch of the Ersari by O'Donovon. In the 1980s, Pinner and O'Bannon revised modern opinion to view the "Kizil Ayak" as racially different from the Ersari. The KzAy themseleves supposedly regarded themselves as Tekke related.

But a lot earlier, Moskova reported that the entire population of the Kizil Ayak village region may have changed abruptly beginning about WWI, and certainly after the Russian Revolution. The population inhabiting the area later, and declared to be separate from the Ersari by Pinner, may not have been the same population reported by O’Donovon et. al. Those people may have migrated to Afghanistan. This could explain why there are some pretty different types of carpets called “Kizil Ayak.”

Whew...that was for the historical influence early Tibetan (Buddist) dominance, heavily altered by Zoroastrianism, played in the symbology of the region, sourced probably from East Turkistan (Khotan). This is proved by both the name of "Bokhara," and the fact that a Zoroastrian symbol is possibly the original source of the asymik gol. Furthermore, the "barber pole" tree-trunks holding the gols in James' rug are directly akin to those in Baluch tree-of-life prayer carpets, rooted in the mystic "may pole" of indo-european mythodology, and..... Oh...some other time.

Regards, Jack

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 01:38 AM:

Hi all,

Although I haven't found any other examples with a similar design to my rug, there are some analogies that might be related.

There was a nice discussion on Turkotek about the lattice initiated by David Hunt a while back (found here... Among the examples are the following.

I find the last one of the ikat coat particularly interesting as it seems to put the lattice on a "pole" structure, which is somewhat analagous (with considerable abstraction) to the design on my rug.

Steve Price mentioned the asmalyk as another design that is somewhat analagous. Here is an example from Barry O'Connell's site (

In this example, there is a "pole" upon which the ashik-type guls are arranged.

So far, those are the closest design analogies I have come up with.


Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 02:18 AM:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for the feedback and insights. I think that Steve, Filiberto, John and other Turkotek "old-timers" can confirm how new I am to this "old rug" hobby. They were very patient with my early posts that betrayed my ignorance. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Turkotek and a few other resources that have helped me to better understand rugs and to refine my taste. Perhaps more importantly, my travels have allowed me to see a lot of old rugs, even if I don't always know what I am looking at. This particular rug taught me a new lesson. Make sure you see ALL of the rugs, even if you have already seen some that pique your interest. Once you find a few pieces that interest you, dealers naturally refrain from distracting you by showing you a bunch of other ones. This one was at the bottom of one of the many big piles, and although I have visited this dealer several times in the past, he had never shown it to me (though he thought he had). Luckily I spotted the tell-tale Ersari border from the back and asked to have a closer look.

I hadn't thought about a Kizil Ayak attribution for this rug, though I do know that they were comingled with the Ersari in the MAD area and N. Afghanistan. I'll try to get a clearer and closer picture of the back of the rug to see if those who know Turkmen structure have any insights.

With regard to design, this rug has piqued my interest in whether some Turkoman designs might have "gone West". Might the ashik design we see in Yomut asmalyks derive from the eastern Ersari and other groups and their ikat-inspired designs?

David Hunt made some interesting observations related to this in a previous Turkotek discussion (



Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 02:56 AM:


Hi all,

Here is another shot of the back that gives a better look at the structure.


Posted by Steve Price on 05-18-2007 05:53 AM:

Hi James

Most "ashik gul" asmalyks have "poles" running vertically. The one you show has gul interiors that are quite unusual - most look more like the interiors of the ashiks on your rug.

I'm not optimistic about the possibility of attribution becoming more specific than Ersari group. We'll see.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 07:17 AM:

Thanks Steve.

I realize that much of this design geneology is mere speculation on my part. Frankly, I am skeptical that any assertions about how such a rug design evolved can be finally proven.

Your caution about trying to get too specific about attribution is well taken, and akin to the advice you gave for the first rug (a flaming boteh "Shirvan") I posted on Turkotek about 2 1/2 years ago. As I was then, I am content without overly precise attributions, especially when the evidence base is shaky. Still, I do find that it is a good learning process to pursue some of these speculations a bit. For example, comparing this rug to two other "Ersari / Beshir" group rugs that I own, I can see substantial differences in design (Mina Khani, "Herati" and this one), structure ("ASR-fine", "ASR-loose" and ASL) and palette. Perhaps that is why a number of authors have made attempts to become a bit more specific about the rugs of this group (notably Erik Risman and colleagues -- Turkotek discussion and additional references here... I am not aware of any further developments in this line of study. There was some mention that further results would be discussed at the ICOC conference. Perhaps John or someone else who attended can let us know if there were further developments.

Still, "Ersari group" is fine, and maybe as good as it gets at this point for this one.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 05-18-2007 09:18 AM:

Hi James,

Well, that thing was lurking at the bottom of the guy's pile. Wow. It gives one hope.

I'm with Steve on the matter of restraint in attribution. Certainly, the rug is within the category we recognize as Ersari, a pretty broad group. No doubt, we will never fully account for the differences we encounter under that rubric. Nevertheless, it's fun, and necessary, to go through the parsing.

Aside to Jack: Tekke? Yomud? Huh? I'm glad you stopped where you did. I could feel an Afshari attribution coming on like a freight train!!

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 05-18-2007 09:55 AM:

Originally posted by Richard Larkin
Aside to Jack: Tekke? Yomud? Huh? I'm glad you stopped where you did. I could feel an Afshari attribution coming on like a freight train!!

Hi Rich

I was looking for it, too.

Hi James

I don't think the rug's design falls within the range usually thought of as ikat-derived. The chapan you show to illustrate ikat is atypical. Medallions with regular shapes are not the norm in ikat chapans. Edges are usually pretty fuzzy (which is inherent in the technique). The straight edges on the meeting of red and white in the medallions on that chapan are pretty remarkable, and I don't really understand how it was accomplished if the classical method of multiple dying of the warp was used (maybe it wasn't).


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 10:53 AM:

Hi Steve,

I know what you mean that this doesn't fit neatly into the general ikat-derived design group. Let me try another categorization for Ersari rugs.

1) Gul group -- This includes the various versions of rugs and carpets that have the typical gulli gul, and perhaps we can include other gul (e.g. tauk nosha) types in this broad group.

2) "Persian"? design group -- Which could include the variant "Herati" and Mina Khani rugs that seem to have been influenced by market demand for these types of designs.

3) Ikat and other "freelance" designs -- In addition to the more typical ikat-influenced designs, this category would include a broad range of other rugs and carpets that seem to have ill-defined pedigrees.

These are obviously overly simplistic, but I feel a compulsion to try to sort the various Ersari group weavings by design, even though I am not knowledgable enough to do it convincingly.

Jourdan remarks (p. 256): "There are distinct differences in design, palette and structure between the many pile weavings that are generally identified with the Ersari or several Ersari sub-tribes. A subdivision seems therefore essential but it is no less problematic than that of the Yomut groups".

He goes on to mention that Hans König attempted to divide "Ersari" carpets into four design groups (Hali 4/2 and "Turkmen" - Thompson). Does anybody have either of these references, and if so, could they indicate how König divided the Ersari designs?



Posted by Steve Price on 05-18-2007 11:17 AM:

Hi James

I have the feeling that, like me, you're a "lumper" when it comes to attribution. One of the things that gives guys like us fits is the occasional piece that refuses to match one of our lumps. This, I think, is one of those pieces. It clearly isn't part of the Ersari traditional Turkmen gul design lump (but not far from the one that includes ashik gul asmalyks), clearly isn't part of the Persianate design lump, and, at least in my view, isn't part of the ikat design lump. That should take care of all the Ersari stuff, and usually does. But not this time. It makes lumpers everywhere feel uncomfortable.


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 05-18-2007 11:20 AM:

Mistrust, mistunderstood

Steve, Rich - Have you no faith? Of course I was not thinking it "Afshar" (though the flames around the guls, the open right constrution???...nahhhh)... James' rug is obviously

Jan Begi Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 11:26 AM:

Hi Steve,

By definition, we epidemiologists are "lumpers". I find that it helps to do that to gain a broad understanding of things, and perhaps more importantly, it allows us to identify and study the exceptions more readily. Sometimes the exceptions are significant and teach us a lot, but many times they are just red herrings and serve as a distraction. The problem is that one often doesn't know which is which.


Posted by Steve Price on 05-18-2007 11:33 AM:

Sometimes the exceptions are significant and teach us a lot, but many times they are just red herrings and serve as a distraction. The problem is that one often doesn't know which is which.

Hi James

Finding out which is which is what makes the game fun, though. Right? And you'll never catch fish if you never go fishing.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 11:41 AM:


Exactly... much of the fun of this rug thing is exploring the exceptions, even if they turn out to be rather mundane.


Posted by James Blanchard on 05-18-2007 01:32 PM:

Not Baluch??

Well, Jack, maybe you have something there with the Baluch suggestion.

Here is a Baluch pictured by Patrick Weiler in Istanbul as part of his new Salon on the latest ICOC meeting.

Note the small crosses in the guls. Could this indicate that this and my rug fit into a previously unrecognized group: the Afsho-Armenian-Balucho-Ersari, otherwise known as the Prince Bukhara type?



Posted by Jack Williams on 05-18-2007 10:56 PM:

Baluch rules

James, if someone pressed me to attribute that carpet, I would quickly default to "Ersari," not Baluch, and as in your carpet, I would "hold the Beshir." Furthermore, I would state that is a unique and interesting Ersari composition. I wonder what kindred spirit attributed that carpet to "Baluch?"

By the way...there is a fairly well known Tekke carpet-chuval with an Armenian inscriptionand date on it. I am looking for an on-line picture now.

Today I found a very good historical/geographic summary of the problems of Ersari attribution that I will add to this post. It notes the flight of quite a few obas and refugee turkmen to the Ersari regions of the Amu Darya and attributes the wide range of patterns to that influx of Saryks, Salors, and Yomuts. It also subdivides Ersari weavings roughly by "left bank nomad," "right bank urban-Beshir." Interesting. more later.

Regards, Jack

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-21-2007 06:01 AM:

Hi all,

Just a few more musings and examples about this "Ersari group" rug.

First, another thought about the field design is that it is a repetitive use of a border design that is seen on Ersari carpets. Here is the rug again with a couple of examples of Ersari rugs with a border that looks closely related.

These two examples are from Barry O'Connell's site. The second one looks Uzbek.

The border of my rug is not uncommon, but I have notice that the drawing has some variations. Mine has two main designs. The first is seen in the three blue-on-red compartments, where it almost looks like there is a blue double-headed bird inside the jagged triangle. The second is a second is just a straightforward rendering of two jagged triangles (without the bottom), one inside the other (like the brown-on-white section on the left side).

Here is another example (from Barry O'Connell's site) of an old Ersari carpet that has a similar drawing of the main border as mine, especially the "double bird head" along the top of the rug.

Others, including this next one (from Jourdan, plate 236), have a more well-defined "curled leaf" design. The main difference seems to be that this "curled leaf" version does not complete the triangle for a symmetric design. I wonder if the more formal "curled leaf" seen here is perhaps a later formalization of the earlier design.

I am not sure if these details are significant in the overall scheme of Ersari designs, but I thought I would share these observations.


P.S. Jack, that rug photographed by Patrick in Turkey does look unusual for Baluch, but I would still attribute it as "Baluch group". The design and palette just somehow doesn't look Ersari to me. One clue for me is the innermost border. I have seen this on some later Tekke pieces (end 19th, early 20th), but usually ascribe that to the Baluch, and more specifically to the Salar Khani (this doesn't have a Salar Khani palette, though).

Posted by Jack Williams on 05-21-2007 12:57 PM:

I', its Ersari...

James, I think your rug has that curled leaf and varient, orginally thought to be Tekke. I really like that rug and am continuing to look into it's design and attribution.

That "baluch rug"...I', I just don't see it as Baluch. That inner most border is fairly rare (according to a fairly extensive look I did some time ago), but usually found on Tekkes of about the turn of the century as you noted. I'll grant it is occasionally it is seen in Baluch, but not in the coloring of this rug. The Salor Khani are related to the Saryk through a complicated relationship, l think. But the palatte of that rug, the borders, the designs...that is Turkmen without the baluch touch, in my opinion. It is almost as interesing as your rug.

Here is a short summary of the "Ersari question" that is one of the best I've found. Though we all think we have an idea about these Turkmen groups, the Ersari are particularlly troublesome, as we know. This is pretty good, from the following:

"A Note on Ersari Group Turkmen Weavings. By Peter Poullada"

"Most of the weavings commonly assigned to the Ersari Turkmen are in fact a highly eclectic and heterogeneous group of textiles. Showing remarkable variety in both design and techniques, the weavings attributed to the Ersari represent one of the last frontiers of textile research and an area full of misunderstandings among Turkmen collectors. Studies by Koenig, Thompson, Moshkova and Eiland have pointed out the stylistic and technical inconsistency of the pieces commonly labeled Ersari. To summarize some of what is known and what is still to be debated and clarified.

"The Ersari appear to have been one of the major components of the Sayin Khan-Salor tribal confederacy whose Yurt, (nomadic territory) in the late 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, stretched from the Balkhan mountains to the Mangishlaq peninsula and north to the Emba river. The label Sayin Khani, given to these Turkmen by the Safavid Persians referred to their emergence from the breakup of the Golden Horde, (founded by Chingiz Khan's grandson Batu, known as the Sayin Khan), in order to differentiate their origins from tribes that came from the territories of Hulegu (Iran) or Chaghatay (Trans-Oxanian Central Asia). The Sayin Khani Turkmen appear to have been a loosely organized confederation of tribes said to be divided, in typical Turco-Mongol fashion, into two parts, the Ichki (inner) and Tashki (outer), Salor. Along with the Tekke, Saryk and Yomut, the Ersari were said to be part of the Tashki although our main source for this information, Abu'l Ghazi, the Uzbek Khan of Khiva in the 17th century, does not indicate whether the term Tashki refers to an organizational, military or purely geographical meaning. We do know, however, that sometime in the 17th century, due perhaps, in part to the drying up of the western Uzboy channel of the AmuDarya, the Ersari and elements of other tribes associated with them (like the Qizil Ayaq, and the Ali Eli) moved east to the banks of the main course of the Amu Darya between Kelif and Chardjui. Later in the 18th and early 19th centuries, in response to political pressures and military defeats, groups of Salor, Saryqs and Chodor fled to the same regions along the banks of the middle reaches of the Amu Darya which had become refuge areas for tribes pushed out of Manqishlaq and Khwarezm (Khiva).

"The creation of this new middle Amu Darya Yurt, (whose members came to be known as Lebab or Lab-e-Ab Turkmen, meaning "riverside Turkmen") led to several special features that are expressed in the weavings of the Ersari Group: First, the use of designs associated with many other tribes, in keeping with the assimilation and mixing of the Ersari with Salors, Saryqs etc. Secondly, the tribes settled along the right bank of the AmuDarya (the north) came under the political, commercial and cultural control of the Khanate of Bukhara whose court and urban culture created demand for larger scale ceremonial weavings (as opposed to dowry and other utilitarian nomadic weavings) and which exerted design influence over the weaving communities. Bukharan influence may also have encouraged the right bank Ersari to become semi-nomads with permanent settlements (Qishlaq) in the regions of Beshir, Burdalyk etc. This had the further effect, by the mid 19th century of allowing these weaving communities to become much more economically dependent on carpet production than the more nomadic groups to the west. Thirdly, because the middle Amy Darya Ersari groups were within the territories of the Khanate of Bukhara they were not as directly effected by the conquests and colonization by the Russians in the last quarter of the 19th century as their fellow Turkmen in Khiva, Merv and the Akhal oases. this may have allowed some of the left bank Ersari to preserve for longer their nomadic weaving tradition, slowed the commercialization of their production and delayed the adoption of the synthetic dyes which became so prevalent by the turn of the century among the Tekke and Yomut. finally the conquest of Central Asia by the Bolsheviks in the 1920's and even into the early 1930's led to a substantial migration of Ersari and other Lebab Turkmen from the Middle Amu Darya Yurt to join their brethren in northern Afghanistan, where they took up semi-nomadic lifestyle especially around the towns of Andkhoy, Aqcha and Shibergan. This resulted in even more realignments of clan and tribal linkages and in mixing and confusing of weaving traditions and designs. For this reason 20th century Afghan Ersari, even including semi-antique production form the 1920's and 1930's when large number of carpets seem to have begun to be exported, is highly eclectic and difficult to attribute with much certainty to specific clans or sub-tribes. The last point to note about Ersari textiles is that unlike Tekke, Yomut, Salor or Saryq, the weavings we now call Ersari are relatively under-represented in the major Russian collections like Bogolyubov and Dudin, and thus are less accessible to study. This is true of both the left-bank nomadic tradition weavings and the right-bank more urban influenced pieces that are commonly given the "Beshir" label. For all of the reasons given here, and above all for their beauty and variety, the Ersari Group of Turkmen weavings are very worthy of our attention."

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-21-2007 01:35 PM:

Thanks, Jack.

I had read that article by Poullada a while back but it had escaped my mind.

I know that there have been various theories about the "curled leaf" border, with some suggesting that it has zoomorphic roots. Having read and enjoyed Opie's tribal rugs, I am able to see bird heads in almost any angular design. Still, it does seem that the approach to this border design in mine and other older Ersari carpets seems to deviate in some significant ways from the later and more usual "curled leaf" design. Whether we will ever be able to divine whether this holds and significance, and if so what it means seems highly doubtful. Still, I suppose it might be an interesting minor study to look at various renditions of this Ersari border to see if there are any features that seem to correlate with age and other attributes.

I agree that that rug in Turkey looks unlike a Baluch in many respects. Still, I think it leans closer to Baluch than Ersari, but that is just an impression. I suppose structural information would have helped in this case.

By the way, if anyone has access to Konig's categorization of Ersari designs that was reportedly published in Hali 4/2 I would be interested and grateful.



Posted by Steve Price on 05-21-2007 01:44 PM:

Hi People

I can't tell from the image on my monitor whether the palette on that rug is more nearly Belouch or more nearly Ersari. If it has some light to medium blue, green, and/or yellow, my guess would be Ersari. If not, I'd guess Belouch.

One factor on which I place some weight is the source. The Arasta Bazaar dealers are mostly pretty knowledgable about the rugs that they sell; some are genuine experts and one of them chaired ICOC. Since the dealer had it in his hands and eyes and calls it Belouch, I'd default to that attribution unless there was some fairly compelling reason to do otherwise.


Steve Price

Posted by Gene Williams on 05-21-2007 03:16 PM:

My vote



Posted by Richard Larkin on 05-21-2007 04:42 PM:


My vote would be withheld pending seeing and handling the piece. I note that Patrick reported on it initially. Do we know whether he handled it, or opined on the provenance on his own part?

(All things are possible among the Baluchi.)

Rich Larkin

Posted by Chris Countryman on 05-21-2007 09:44 PM:

Similar carpet

Hi James,
A beautiful Ersari (?) carpet there. You mentioned not having seen many like it. I believe that Erik Risman has a similar piece on the floor in his living room; I do not remember the border on his rug, however. If ever there was a MAD man, it is Erik and he will certainly be able to offer you a studied opinion on your rug.

I am glad that your wife has taken to your find and understand why you would not want to part with it. If, however, you need someone to babysit the rug while you are out of the country I would be glad to volunteer my services.


Chris Countryman

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-21-2007 10:13 PM:

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the compliments on the rug. We'll manage with it in our place for now.

Thanks for mentioning Erik Risman. I have read about him. I think I'll see if I can send a note to him and get his feedback about the rug.


Posted by louis_dubreuil on 05-23-2007 03:50 AM:

Hans Köning paper

Bonjour James

I have found the Hans Köning paper in Hali 4/2.
In this article HK describes the variations of Ersari's design and try to make the links with ersari groups. He distinguishes tribal designs (i.e. guls ' carpets with tribal sizes), quasi-tribal designs (geometric designs showing turkomanoid motifs in a non traditional way : generally all over geometric designs with lattice or pannel disposition), ikats designs, floral or foreign designs (e.i. mina khani and cloud band). Your rug is clearly from the quasi-tribal design group. HK does'nt assign a group's name to this type of production. I can scan the hali's pages and send them to you. I think Steve can send me your email for this transmission.

In the HK paper there is an exemple of quasi ribal design with pannel design that shows the same border than your's. It seems that there is a group of ersari carpets that shows commun caracteristics : all over geometric design with diagonal lattice or orthogonal pannel disposition and a narrow and simple border. There is another ex of this type in the Bennett's book (rugs and carpets of the world) with boteh/lattice design.

In my opinion your rug is 1) an ersari rug, 2) a beautifull rug, well designed by a skillfull weaver, 3) a "tribal" workshop work rather than a pure nomadic product.

The design, if it is non conventinal, shows nevertheless undisputable turkmen design vocabulary. HK in his paper shows a 3000 BC turmenistan ceramic showing the same toothed bar detail that is recurent in numerous turkmen weavings.

Amicales salutations à tous

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-23-2007 04:19 AM:

Bonjour Louis,

Bien merci!

Thanks very much for taking the time to find that reference and sharing the information with me. I think this summary fits well with my very general perspective on this rug. It also fits with feedback I have received offline from some noted writers on Turkmen weavings. In terms of age, their assessment was "3rd quarter or perhaps mid-19th century" and "last third of the 19th century".

Of course I would be delighted to receive scanned pages of this information. Steve should have my email address.


P.S. Further to my previous post about the variations of this main border, here is an old "Beshir" carpet that uses the same variant as mine and some others. It was sold by Rippon Boswell who catalogued it as early 19th century (and estimated it at 42,000 Euros). In my opinion it is a remarkable carpet.

Posted by louis_dubreuil on 05-23-2007 04:07 PM:

what does make this rug a great rug ?


As numerous turkotekers I feel a little bit jalous about your rug. I think it is a great rug and I am trying to write the reasons why.

I think the design is very attractive because the weavers has worked in the same time with a very regular general scheme and with irregular little variations in the details. The field is drawn in a very straight manner. The alternating white toothed devices on the diagonals make a dazzeling effect. The centers change of design for each row and alternate colours on the same row, and on the same diagonal line. Vertical virtual lines appear by the game of the little lines drawn arround the blue squares and of the little barber-poles linking the upper and lower corner of the red squares.
The fact that the white triangles in the borders are not regularly disposed and that they don't match with the field lattice enhance the separation between the field and the border and create a special visual effect. Variations in the border details are also very pleasant.
All in the design is made for the eyes cannot find any rest : The look is obliged to run in a stopless manner into the field and around the borders. In my opinion this is why this rug is great. We could also speak about the colours : they are kingly simple : red, blue, white and yellow (with some shades and variations). Making a so great effect with a so simple palette is a sign of great art.

All of those caracteristics can indicate that this rugs has been woven by a skilfull weaver, with a great tribal experience but with the freedom of a person who is not yet under the control of the tribe's eyes ("my daughter you cannot make this type of design because this is not OUR tradition"), but in a village or town workshop, making rugs for the market. The interior market (for rich and powerfull persons who can appreciate the quality of the quasi-tribal style), and the foreign market. The freedom of the design can also be a sign of a quite early XIX° rug, before the serial production that have killed the creativity of the weavers.

We can imagine the same design made without any fantasy and irregularity : the result would be quite boring because too stiff.

Really a great rug.

Louis Dubreuil

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-23-2007 11:15 PM:

Why a duck?

To resolve any issues regarding the attribution of the rug I posted, I actually wrote "Baluch?", not "Baluch!".
And the reason I did so was to "get a rise" out of (scratch that, I meant "generate some interest" from) some Turkotekers who like to broaden the category of Baluch about as much as Susan Bayraktaroglu of the General Directorate of Foundations does with Turkish rugs. She was convinced that all of the rugs at the Ankara museum were Turkish, even some I would have thought otherwise, such as this piece:

I did not get close enough to the actual rug to see if there was a tag on it, and I did not go into the store, for fear that I would not be allowed to leave without buying something! Those Turkish rug dealers are FIERCE!!!

Patrick Weiler