Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-05-2007 01:46 PM:


Bonsoir Filiberto

As promised here are some pictures of precolombian textiles from the Ferdinan Anton's book. A very interesting book edited in 1987 by Thames and Hudson (Ancient peruvian textiles). Nice pieces, nice print work.

In this book the authors presents some intriguing pieces that shows old world designs.

For the boteh there is a good ex of a man's garment of Chimu culture (1100/1400 BC) in slit tapestry. This piece shows four anthropoid figures on a red field filled with little fillers among which we can see boteh like devices.

We can also see some other things that have an anatolian kilim's devices look.

There are three other pieces that shows designs that are familiar to our rug culture

First a short shirt made of slit tapestry (Central coast, Huacho, pre-inca or early inca, 1000/1532 BC). The serrated design makes to think to a well known turkoman design.

Second a banded piece made of various technics (supplementary wefts) on a plain wave ground. If you make abstraction of the colours (think in B and W) you can easily take this piece for a part of an Ersari or a Turkmen bag with white ground;

And third a sort of man's tunic or poncho, always in slit tapestry natural cotton (Ica valley, late Ica or early Inca, 1400/1532). This piece shows a well known design that we can find in ersari torba.

The question is what can we think of those coincidencies ?

One easy answer is to refer to the "technic makes the shape" theory. The slit tapestry technic used here and in anatolia produces the same technic linked designs. So the anthropoid figures are near of some hexagonal hooked medalions that we can encounter in kilms. And the fillers of the field have an anatolian look only because of the technic.

We can just remark that there has never been botehs in anatolian kilims and that this type of angular boteh are found only in pile rug made by baloutch weavers.

For the serrated design, the "technic makes the design" theory doesn't work because never turkmens have made slit tapestry.

Same remark for the stepped design of the poncho. Ersari who use the same design are not experts in slit tapestry.

The second possibility is the one of the pure coincidence. The same shapes can be made by distant cultures only by chance. Maybe. This is not a very exciting perspective.

The third possibility is the one of the common estate of symbolic and decorative forms shared by the whole mankind. This theory can be discussed but is hard to prove. Evidences are scarce. This theory supposes that there can be an historical continuity between distant peoples (in time and distance).

Peoples who have colonised the new world are all from the ancient world. This fact is now quite admitted despite of the reticences of native american indian peoples. The main way of colonisation is from asia to america by the Bering Strait (when the see was low). An other way is suspected from europa, magdalenian hunters having successfuly tripped along the north atlantic ice-pack, moving westward and arriving in north america. This fact can explain the caucasian look of some human fossils that have been found here and the Clovis civilisation that have made in america silex weapons quite near of the best european solutrean productions.

So it is not very difficult to think that those peoples have brought with them all their cultures including symbolic/aesthetic vocabulary.

In asia, anatolia, north africa it is now admitted that there is a continuity of symbolic forms from almost neolithic times to nowdays. This continuity is the fact of populations that have evoluted in closed circuits, with a female transmission of culture and symbols (the berbers are well known for this). The exemple cited by James about ancient turkmen motifs on very old ceramic works that show little differences with "modern" turkmen work is of good ex of this theory.

If we admitt this, there is no obstacle that the fact of finding the same shapes in america and in central asia could not be a simple coincidence. The same neolithic estate produces the same shapes, even at great distances.

The same theory can be applied to weaving technics. But I think that the inventivity of men is greater in technical matter than in aesthetics (aesthetics is always linked to symbolism that is a very conservative matter).

There is other possibilities, more hazardous, like other trips made by egyptians (that try to explain why there are pyramids in egypt, in canaria and in south america...). No evidences.

After this we can consider also the no limit possibility of shamanic trips over oceans... But this is an other history.....

That's all folks


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-06-2007 05:02 AM:

Merci Louis,

For the serrated design, the "technic makes the design" theory doesn't work because never turkmens have made slit tapestry.
Are you sure?
Four years ago we discussed a group of Turkoman kilims, and you participated too.
The discussion started when Horst posted his Kilim. Here’s a detail of it and it IS slit tapestry:

Even so, they could have copied the design from other groups that used slit tapestry. I think the Uzbeks used it...

Back to the subject.
A couple of years ago I saved on my HD the photo of a pre-Columbian Inca textile, found on the BBC website:

Because it was so similar well known motifs like these:

Savak warp- substitution jajim, Eastern Anatolia.

Lori/Bakhtiari salt bag:

Images borrowed from Marla Mallett’s Tracking the Archetype: Technique-Generated Designs and their Mutant Offspring. An article that I suggest reading every now an then, just as a SOBRIETY REMINDER !

Marla explained that these designs are similar because they are Technique-Generated. Now, I don’t know the technique of the BBC’s Inca piece but I would guess it was the same…

Therefore my opinion is that the resemblance of these pieces with Asian Textiles can be explained by Technique-Generated Designs and independent invention.

I know, it’s not an exciting or romantic explanation but Occam's razor obliges…

Of the theories presented by Louis, I particularly dislike the following:
An other way is suspected from europa, magdalenian hunters having successfuly tripped along the north atlantic ice-pack, moving westward and arriving in north America
Because it presuppose that Magdalenian hunters were weavers and already possessed the patrimony of symbols and motives that later spread in Asia…
And because they should have taught the art to local, North American Indians which weren’t properly weavers – having in mind John’s salon The Turkmen Asmalyk and the Chilkat Dancing Blanket
In which the only relationships demonstrated was the shape…



Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-06-2007 08:34 AM:


Bonjour Filiberto

When I spoke of magdalenian hunters having travelled toward north america and bringing with them some symbolic luggage, I was not thinking at all of weavings. Those populations of hunter-gatherers used animal skins and were not weavers at all. But I founded my argument on the fact that some archetypal designs predate the invention of weaving (carving on bones, horns and ivory, paintings on body, animal pelts and skins and caves' walls...).

The thing I can difficultly admit in the the "technic makes the design" theory is that the weaver could seem to have not the choice of the design he wants to make. It is sure that each technic has its proper limits in the way to render a design. But at the basis of the design action it seems to me that it is the will and the purpose of the weaver that leads the process : if the symbol that the weaver wants to make on his work is a hook, he will make the hook with the shape that the technic allows. In my opinion he (or she) don't make a hook just because the technic allows to make a hook.

Making a drawing by a weaving technic amounts to make a kind of matrix by applying a grid on the design. The shape of the results comes from the type of the grid (ratio warp/weft) and the accuracy of the design depends of the finess of the grid. The more fine is the grid the better are rendered the circles and the diagonal lines. The results depends also of the disatance of looking to the design. From a certain distance a stepped line appears to be a diagonal one.

It is likely that the discovery of weaving technics has taken place in neolithic times and that men, who where before more hunter/gatherer than breeders and farmers, have a rich symbolic/decorative vocabulary deeply anchored in their collective memory. The neolithic "revolution" is comparatively a short "instant" in the evolution of prehistoric men. The technical evolution has proceeded by jumps, moving fastier than symbolic/aesthetic evolution that is a slow and continuous process. In my opinion shapes always predate the technic. But it is also true that technic influences the shapes.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-06-2007 09:42 AM:

Hi Louis,

Generally speaking we can say that we can agree to disagree.

But the “Magdalenian hunter theory” is superfluous. Unless you can demonstrate that they were the sole depositary of a “pool of design” and the subsequent groups of people walking into America through the Bering Strait had none.

A more economical theory would be that THEY – the Bering Strait people - had with them the “pool of design”.



Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-06-2007 11:52 AM:



This digression was here just to say that the north america colonisation has not been uniform and that there are more ancient layers in the cultural background of the ancient peoples in america. Some of thoses ancient cultural bringings may have survived here and there under diferent shapes.

I agree with you, the bulk of pool design has taken the Bering way.


Posted by Jack Williams on 06-06-2007 12:14 PM:

Aluet artifacts


I have some Aluet artifact pictures from 1000+ years ago that blew my mind with some of the design similarities to Turkmens. I'll round them up. Also, the clovis culture in Eastern N. America is still not fully explained. It apparently appeared rather suddenly with weapon points as sophisticated as those in contempory neo-lithic Europe, and then vanished inexplicably. It's connection to European neolithic culture has oft been speculated.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-06-2007 12:52 PM:

I read recently that New scientific findings suggest that a large, extraterrestrial rock may have exploded over North America 13,000 years ago, explaining riddles that scientists have wrestled with for decades, including an abrupt cooling of the atmosphere and the extinction of large mammals, including the “Clovis People”.

Which is interesting, but since I don’t think that, if they wave, there is anything left, please let’s try to leave the Clovis culture out of the discussion… Same for Atlantis, metempsychosis, and UFO, just in case…

Posted by Gene Williams on 06-06-2007 02:58 PM:


In addition to dominating Madagascar, Somalia, Ethiopia, Oman, Azerbaijan, Syria/Allepo, Kurrasan, Kirman, Seistan, Helmand...The Baluch somehow made it to the new world...Ecco!!! The razor cuts to the obvious.

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-08-2007 03:32 AM:

more precisions about precolmbian weavings


The Anton's book gives precious and precise info about weaving in precolombian times.

This chronological table shows the different weaving technics employed and the times on which they began (from the known archeologic datas ).
Plain weave (made with a loom) begins at the end of preceramic period (circa - 2100BC). Discontinuous weft pattern begins at the begining of the early horizon period (-1200BC). First slit tapestry are known around - 700BC.

Weaving material and tools are known from excavations and from pictures on ceramics

This picture comes from a painting on a vessel (300 500)

Anton gives aa idea of what was the back strap loom used on those country since early times

The exemple Filiberto gave of a curious convergency between persian warp faced band design and precolombian BBC is also illustrated in Anton.

It seems this is also a warp faced piece. Same technic and same design. Could be one more evidence of the "technic makes the design" theory, but I remain sceptical. Here the design is clearly anthropomorphic, it is geometric in the persian ex. It is clear that the warp faced tech involves the weaver in the same geometric rendering, but with two very different decorative purposes at the begining of the weaving act.

For the precolombian "boteh" I have a new theory. In the times of the making of the concerned pieces, the style was realistic/geometric. All the devices drawn on weavings are to be regarded as depicting a real object or figure. What kind of oject could be the "boteh" device ? I have thought to Tintin and the Solar Temple, with the boy Zorino and his "phrygian" cap.

Those caps are named chullos and are used from centuries in Peru.
Anton gives ex from a chronicle made in XVI c by Huaman Poma who came from a distinguished Inca family (the manuscript is in Royal Librairy in Copenhagen). One illustration of this work shows a queen wearing an headress that can be the model for the "boteh". The boteh could be this type of cap, shown on the profile way, the down pointed triangle being the part that covers ears. Could be also a vew from the back, the triangle being in this case the litlle train that covers the back and the shoulders of the wearer.

For the following of the discussion it would be interesting if somebody can resume the process of colonisation of the american continent from the successive waves of invaders from asia. I 'll made a search on my side for a similar chronological table about weaving progress in the old world, in order to compare the two continents.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-08-2007 09:45 AM:

Dear Louis,

(I rather doubt that Tintin is known on the other side of the pond).

It’s not clear form the chronological table of the book which one is the entry for warp-faced bands, but it shows in general an evolution of the weaving technique, i.e. an independent invention.

If you admit an independent invention of the warp-faced technique, why you don’t do the same for a design that is so closely related to that technique?

Here the design is clearly anthropomorphic, it is geometric in the persian ex.
They seem both geometric to me, and very similar. With few modifications the Persian ones could become anthropomorphic as well.
Besides, the one I posted from BBC is essentially like the Persian one: geometrical and non anthropomorphic.


Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-08-2007 10:59 AM:



The two precombian ones are anthropomorphics (one more clearly, the second has a little head in the center of triangle). The easthetic system of precolombian art is based on the representation of gods and associated figures (animals, objects...). Anton remarks that if certain figures are not clearly recongnizable it is not because technic problem in the weaving process but the "stylization is deliberatly introduced to deprive the figures of reality and raise them to a divine level"

To definively admit the autonomy of each world for weaving technics and for designs we have to confirm the chronolgy in each area. But it seems that the evidences of weaving technics in asia predate the similar invention in new world. Thus the possibility of importated technics by peoples crossing the Bering strait remains.
We have to examine the datas on the successive known waves of immigration for having a more precise idea about this problem.

There are certainly scholars studies about this problem we are not the first to investigate.

Bon week end à tous


Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-08-2007 11:50 AM:

Other possibility of link between the two worlds


It just comes to my tired brain the memory of a scientific info about the discovery of tobacco and coca in egyptian mummies.

The first investigated mummy was a great one : Ramses II (he died in the 1200s BC). In the whole mummy important parts of Nicotinia L. plant have been found. The fisrt reaction has been to laught and to attribute those Nicotinia traces to the cigarettes or the pipes of the eagyptologists. Serious researchs have demonstrated the reality of the presence of tobacco and coca in all parts of this mummy and in several others. Parts of an insect that was a parasit of tobacco exclusively living in america have been also found in the plant parts from the mummy.

At those times those plants did not exist at all in the ancient world and where exclusively american plants.

The only explanation of this fact is that there was at this time (end of second millenium before C.) peoples who can cross the atlantic ocean in its south part, between african and south or central america coasts. Egyptians have not the boats for, but Phenicians are suspected to have at those time the ship technoly and the shipping skill for this kind of trip.

This commercial link can explain a lot of things and breaks through the theory of isolation of the south and central america before CH. Colombus.

To be continued


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 06-08-2007 12:07 PM:

Hi Louis,

No offence taken, I hope!
After all, YOU are the one who brought Tintin here.


Posted by Steve Price on 06-08-2007 12:11 PM:

Hi Louis

You wrote,

At those times those plants did not exist at all in the ancient world and where exclusively american plants.

The presence of tobacco and of tobacco parasites in Egyptian mummies is pretty solid evidence that tobacco was in Egypt at the time; the only issue is how it got there. Plant seeds and insect eggs have lots of ways of traveling long distances. I don't know how Nicotiana seeds disperse, but sailing ships may not be the only possibility.


Steve Price

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 06-08-2007 01:21 PM:

tobacco in egypt

Hi Steve

This not "my" theory, but the transcription of scientific papers . (for ex : Balabanova, Parsche, Prisig, First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies, Naturwissenschaften, 1992, vol. 79, n‹8, p.358 commander
ª Franz Parsche et Andreas Nerlich, Presence of drugs in different tissues of an egyptian mummy, Fresenius' Journal of Analytical Chemistry, volume 352, numbers 3-4 / January 1995, p.)

After having suspected the egyptologists' tobacco, the first thing that scientists searched was the evidence of the presence of the plant in egypt and in africa at those times. They did'nt find anything. And there is no trace of tobacco culture or fields in egyptian descriptions and depictions on papyrus and wall painting ( the tobacco plant is however aesily recognizable). One other argument is if the egyptians had grown tobacco (and coca), the use of those plants should have taken place early in the old world due to the human addiction to those plants and the success those plants sould have had on the market .

The more likely explanation of the presence of tobacco in egypt is, till prouving the countrary , the existence of a commercial trans oceanic link in the second millenium BC. Phenicians were able to Go from Tyr or Alexandria to Cadix accross the Mediterranean sea without call. The site of Lixus, built by the phenicians in 1100 BC on the oceanic coast of Morocco is one of the evidences that Phenicians knowed the african coasts and can reach them by boats. Why they could not have made the great jump ?

To be continued


Posted by Steve Price on 06-08-2007 01:29 PM:

Hi Louis

Thanks. It's interesting and surprising stuff.

Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-08-2007 01:35 PM:

...Not just tobacco -- cocaine, too.
A favored point to catch trade winds to the Americas, with homey pyramids?

Then, of course, there is the modern main man of discovery, Dr. Thor Heyerdahl who has proved a thing or two. Sue

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-08-2007 02:30 PM:

I know Filiberto wants to read nothing about Clovis here, but here is a linked update on the Bering Sea landbridge THEORY anyway.

and an excerpt for rug sciences fans...hmmm

"Using radiocarbon-dating techniques, the scientists found the peat (the decayed remains of life on the land bridge) was above water as recently as 11,000 years ago. The new study follows one completed in the mid-1980s in which scientists dated sea-floor sediments from the land bridge and estimated its disappearance below the sea at 14,400 years ago. Elias said the samples from that study were probably inaccurate because ancient coal particles within the peat skewed the radiocarbon dating results."

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 06-10-2007 01:26 PM:

I posted these sites yesterday but they must have gotten lost in the mail. I think they are pretty cool, at least. Sue

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 06-10-2007 02:56 PM:

Why did the Chicken cross the Sea?

And now there is the discovery that Polynesian chickens were in South America before Columbus arrived:
So, the tobacco came to Egypt the other way around?

Patrick Weiler