Posted by donaldruyle on 08-26-2007 10:57 PM:

Two Runners for I.D. help

Here are pics of two rugs that have me very curious and I will appreciate your help in identifying. The largest is 3 ft. 7 in. X 14 ft. 8 in. including flat-weaves and the other is 3 ft. 4 in. X 9 ft. 5 in. The largest has about three or four inches of flat-weave at the ends. They are very similar in knotting, one having just over 40 KPSI; the other, almost 50 KPSI, symmetrically knotted on a two-ply wool foundation, double wefted. To me, they have a kinship to Turkman rugs, but have a color pallet that looks like what I am accustomed to seeing in Caucasian rugs. I have seen the same central design as the large rug has in a Serab rug circa1900 pictured in an old sale catalogue but the borders on the Serab rug were very different. It also lacked the scattered small divices in the field. A lot of the colors looked like they could be pretty close. All the other Serab runners I have seen have had heavy cotton foundations. In browsing E-bay I see similar designs listed as Uzbek. Thanks in advance for your help. Regards,

Posted by Steve Price on 08-27-2007 05:25 AM:

Hi Don

When you post, would you be good enough to use Donald Ruyle (two words) as the username, rather than donalruyle (one word).


Steve Price

Posted by Camille Khairallah on 08-27-2007 06:38 AM:

1 Kurdish. 2 Luri

Hi Don and all,

Both your rugs seem pretty interesting to study as they both have quite uncommon designs featuring Turcoman “guls”.

The first (lower-side) gul in the first (longer) runner is said to be a linking (mid-way) device between a blossom and the Tekke gul. Personally I preferred the second design in this same rug for its shape and decoration. The whole palette seems to be quite nice and well arranged anyway. It's a nice piece

For me, it seems Kurdish from North-East Persia and I hope a finer tuning could be made if other members are convinced of that attribution.

The second rug seems to be a Luri to me and it features in the field the well-known Salor gul. The main border design is yet uncommon and is more likely seen in Shahsavan weavings



Posted by Wendel Swan on 08-27-2007 07:05 AM:

Both are Vermamin area.


Posted by R. John Howe on 08-27-2007 01:27 PM:

Dear folks -

I think Wendel is undoubtedly correct about his Veramin attribution. There are Quchon Kurd rugs that show similar Turkmen-like guls, but not this wide, darkish palette.

Eiland and Eiland report that Veramin is an area "between Qum and Terhan (ed. that) has traditionally been a wintering place for many tribal groups who spend summers at higher elevations." (Veramin city is about 30 miles southeast of Terhan.) Lurs, Kurds and Turkmen have apparently been sometime members of the Veramin area, so that is, seemingly how Turkmen designs get transplanted.

Others may be able to report more about why there are visible Turkmen design influences in Veramin weaving.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-28-2007 08:10 AM:

A kurd in the woodpile...

Sorry, Gentlemen,

Despite my lack of deep Kurd experience, on general grounds I find it difficult to accept Veramin origin without some references, examples, or proof.

Additionally John, where does this idea about Quchon Kurd rugs ‘not having a darker palette as shown in the rugs in question’ come from? Is there any evidence for this avowal? Is it just an impression or is it a known fact? I've always thought of Kurd-Quchon rugs as more than half way along the sacred path to being Baluch!

Second, paraphrasing Eiland’s quote from your post; somewhere between Qum and Tehran many Persian tribal groups spent summers in the mountains. Does Eiland then follow up by avowing any of your following conclusions: “(1.) Lurs, Kurds and Turkmen [?] have apparently been… (2.) sometime members of the Veramin area… (3.) so that is, seemingly how Turkmen designs get transplanted?” Do Veramin rugs have an identifiable tribal signiture close to the subject rugs? Could you post a couple of examples?

John, if Eiland did not address the points above, what is your source for these rather sweeping conclusions? I was under the impression that Turkmen from Turkmenistan wintering 30 miles from Terhran would have been against the grain of the unrelenting continual warfare between Turkmen and Persian (note: we ARE talking Tekke symbols, not Shia Afshars, etc).

In my opinion unless some actual compelling evidence is presented I will tend to agree with Camille…these rugs are more likely from the Kurds of the Quchon area, perhaps specifically the Derquez area. Here is an example attibuted to Kurdish Deraguez I found in Danny Mehra’s collection. Note the palette, and treatment of the Turkmen guls.

The question is, where and what is “Deraguez?” Below is an on-line reference, The Merv Oasis; Travels and Adventrues East of the Caspian During the years 1879-80-81 by Edmond O’Donovan; 1882 .

Among other incredible things, he describes the geography of the Persian border including the province of Derguez… Northwest of Meshad…in short, the northern part of the Quchon region. He makes note of its part “Kurdish,” part “Turkish” and part “Turcoman” population. To me, this seems a more likely spot for "Turkmen designs to get transplanted"…where the groups are living side by side, continuously raiding, kidnapping, murdering each other. That section is a particularly good read.,M1

The Derguez, which may yet assume considerable importance, in view of the establishment of the Russians on its borders, is an irregular oval plain, running northwest and south-east, bounded on the side adjoining the other Persian provinces by a considerable mountain range, the Allah Akbar, or Hazar Masjid, and separated from the Attok and even Turcoman country by a low chain of hills. A strip of the plain beyond these hills was at the time of my visit, subject to the governor of Derguez, the Turcomans having accepted the Persian authority, but the boundaries of this district known as the “Attok”, or Skirt were somewhat varying. The length of the plain within the mountain chains is about seventy miles and the width varies from twenty to thirty. … A range of hills divides the plain in the direction of its length. A gorge, known as ‘of the forty girls,’ gives a passage through this range, and the town of Muhammedabad, the capital of the province, stands about three miles from the northern end of this gorge. Another gorge, with terribly steep sides, affords a narrow passage along its bottom from Derguez to the Kuchan valley…

…The population of these frontier provinces is entirely Turkish, Turcoman, or Kurdish origin, there being little or no Persian blood among the inhabtants. The Turks are descendants of settlers from Bokhara and Khiva…

Of course I’m open to other compelling evidence.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Camille Khairallah on 08-28-2007 08:12 AM:

Why Varamin?

Hi John,

I do not have much experience in Varamin tribal rugs although I came across a few pieces and owed a few saddle-bags; otherwise most of what I know is seen in books and catalogues.
Of the second type of rug Don posted, I have encountered a few on the market here and they were ascribed to either Luri or Bakhtiari relying on the palette and weave, but I should admit Varamin attribution is not commonly applied to tribal rugs given their rarity on our market.
One of the -rare- hints I rely on to identify a tribal Varamin is often, but not always, the warm brown and brick hues.
Another hint which is a bit more difficult to explain is the rather “non-tribal” appeal of their pile rugs often bearing evenly spun wool with a fine workmanship (in general) and very few -or no- personal touch of the weaver. Also the few elements used are scattered in the field.

To name them Varamin, you relied on the presence of the guls and on the dark colors. Do you think these are enough?
How is it possible to identify them that quickly knowing that what you mentioned could also go for some Afshars and old Kurdish Kelardasht rugs?



Posted by Camille Khairallah on 08-28-2007 08:54 AM:

Rather Western

Hi Jack,

I'm afraid the red wefts of the Darreh Gaz do not do not correspond to the rugs in question, neither do some of the borders elements..


Can we see detail pictures of the sides finishing please?

Is the warp in the second rug wool or goat hair?



Posted by R. John Howe on 08-28-2007 10:49 AM:

Jack -

Before you get too excited, please note that my intent was only to give some cautious basis for Wendel's asserted attribution. Nearly everything we know and say about rugs is/are tendency statements. And there are very frequently counter examples that can be cited.

The literature that I looked at (albeit quickly) does not say a great deal about Veramin weaving. I could find no reference to it in Edwards (although there could well be one somewhere, since Edwards' index is not reliable). Peter Stone treats Veramin designs briefly and gives one gul [not labeled "Veramin" that has the shape of the lobed one (not to the turreted one) in Don's original post. Ford seems not to offer examples with guls. As you will notice if you have looked around, Veramin uses of "mina khani" designs are often more visible.

Given the location of the Veramin area I was a little surprised myself to find the Turkmen listed in one internet source as one listing of tribes that sometimes wintered there.

As to other examples, there was a long rug with large lobed guls and this same wide, dark palette shown at our rug club outing last weekend. I have a photo, but am not free to post it on the internet, so you'll just have to trust me that the palette is similar to (darkish and maybe even wider) that of Don's two rugs.

Barry O'Connell lists two Kurdish rugs with similar guls.

The first one is closer to the sort of palette I have usually seen on pieces attributed to the Quchon Kurds, but I wouldn't claim that there are never darker Quchon Kurd examples.

Attributions of rugs attributed to Veramin ARE open to dispute because of the disparate population there.

You label my indications as conclusions despite the fact that I qualified them carefully. One of the oldest debater tactics (especially if you actively dislike someone) is to attribute to them an argument they have not made the better to destroy it.

I supply enough target for debate and critique in the things I actually say without your putting words in my mouth.

Hope you had or are having good travels,

R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 08-28-2007 11:27 AM:

Hi John

I don't want to be piling on (a foul in football in the USA), but your opening paragraph says "undoubtedly", not "maybe", "perhaps" or "probably". Here's the text:

I think Wendel is undoubtedly correct about his Veramin attribution. There are Quchon Kurd rugs that show similar Turkmen-like guls, but not this wide, darkish palette.

It may not accurately express what you meant; such things happen in conversation. But the words are yours.

Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-28-2007 11:47 AM:

Hi Steve -

I DO think that Wendel is right about his attribution.

What I was modestly trying to provide was some notion of some indicators that might suggest that. About the latter I was appropriately tentative.

Alway nice to have an even-handed facilitator about, though.

Thanks for your effort here,

R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-28-2007 12:00 PM:

Interesting rugs, Donald, especially the first.

Here is Jenny Housego’s “TRIBAL RUGS” on Varamin, page 19:
Varamin and Garmsar
The town of Varamin lies southeast of Tehran. It is generally known as a centre for bright blue rugs with the mina-khani design. This consists of a lattice with daisies which is probably derived from a Kurdish prototype (plate 45). However, quite apart from this village industry, the area has also produced some remarkable tribal weaving. This is the result of the extraordinary diversity of tribes who mingle here, which includes Kurds, Lurs, Arabs. Shahsavan, Qashqa'i, Turkoman and other Turkic clans.

One of the distinguishing features of Varamin rugs is the frequent use of undyed dark brown wool for warp, and sometimes also for weft. This is the predominant colour of the local sheep. Also characteristic are small rosettes scattered over the field of gelims, the fastenings of bags and the plain-weave skirts of pile rugs. The symmetrical knot is employed.

Lurs are the weavers of some remarkable weftwrapped bags (plates 84, 146, 147, 148) which have some similarities with those of Luristan. One such was actually found by the author in a winter farmhouse near Varamin. Its owners recalled that it had been in their possession for as long as they could remember, and certainly nothing of the kind is woven now. Dr. Michael Rogers has noted in the world history of Rashid al-Din that there were Lurs here as early as the fourteenth century, when Varamin was an important Mongol centre. Reza Shah (19251941) is known to have brought up some numbers, and there were doubtless other migrations in between. The Burburs and the Hadavandi are the two main clans. They are not properly nomadic now; winter is spent in houses on the Varamin plains, while the flocks and some families move up to the Alburz mountains for summer pastures. The differences between their work and that of the Lurs further south are often subtle rather than immediately obvious. Varamin colours tend to be brighter - perhaps due to variations in local dyestuffs as well as in the quality and colour of the wool; Luri-Varamin designs are simpler and less cluttered, with fewer borders. An easy distinction is that raised corner reinforcements of Luri and Bakhtiyari bags are not found here, nor are the brocaded white ground panels of the back (plates 56, 57). Certain pile rugs can also sometimes be attributed to the Varamin Lurs, as can a group of gelims which differ little from those of the south.

The Kurds are Pazuki, once a powerful tribe of Erzerun in eastern Turkey, which was apparently dispersed in the sixteenth century. Several families came to live round Varamin. They may have been part of the migration of Chemishqazak Kurds who continued on to Khurasan. This would account for certain similarities in the weaving of these two groups (plate 139). The Varamin Kurds now seem to have become completely absorbed, and to have lost a separate identity from other groups. As with the Shahsavan in the area, information surrounding their present habitat is hopelessly misleading. It may be that there are now no distinctly Shahsavan or Kurdish settlements, though one of the districts of Varamin is still known as Pazuki. The Shahsavan inhabitants are probably settled members of the Baghdadi. clan of Sava, (see 'Hashtrud and Khamsa above) whose traditional winter quarters are to be found in a wide area between Sava, Qum and Varamin. This would account for some of the similarities in gelim designs in these neighbouring areas.

And here is another Veramin rug with Turkomanish guls.

That’s what the seller says, in his website (
Peculiar small size, 3'x"x3'9", not cut down and too large for bag face. Good mix of colors, some natural, some commercial. Overall good conditions, a few minor reweaves, also has been reselvedged. Attractive and focused design. SOLD

It’s sold so I feel free to post it here.



Posted by Steve Price on 08-28-2007 12:40 PM:

Hi John

I, too, think that Wendel's attribution is probably correct. Jack's criticism of your saying that it is undoubtedly correct appears to be based mostly (or entirely) on your second sentence, There are Quchon Kurd rugs that show similar Turkmen-like guls, but not this wide, darkish palette. At least, that's how I understand his questioning of the attribution. That sentence looks to me like a declarative statement, not a "notion of some indicators that might suggest ...", although I have little doubt that this was your intended meaning.

I believe that an "even-handed facilitator" is one who tries to sort out and resolve differences in such a way as to minimize overt expressions of hostility. One tactic is to offer nonjudgemental explanations for errors, which is the one I adopted in my previous post (and again in this one). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Steve Price

Posted by richard tomlinson on 08-28-2007 01:46 PM:

hi all

to be totally frank and honest, i sometimes find turkotek extremely frustrating.

i am sure that most regular visitors to this website understand that many of the topics/rugs have been discussed before and might find it somewhat boring to revisit.

what i cannot understand (and this issue has been raised time and time again) are posts that are 'brief', 'succinct' - call them whatever you wish, but that offer no basis for attribution.

are we not all here to learn? or should we simply accept what the so called experts say as gospel?

richard tomlinson

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-28-2007 01:54 PM:

Hi Folks:

I agree with Wendel that these runners came from the Veramin area. The color, dark brown foundation materials, refined weaving technique and oversized/multicolored Turkoman gul devices are diagnostic. The latter can be found on Quchon Kurd rugs too, but the rest of the package does not suggest that area of provenance.

A question that has always intrigued me is, precisely how have those elaborate gul-like devices stayed in the design repertoire of the weavers of the Veramin area? Are they ancient patterns surviving within a long tradition; or are they relatively recent adaptations adopted consciously, perhaps for commercial reasons?

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-28-2007 02:48 PM:

Richard T. -

You are right. Too often folks giving attributions (or making other similar evaluations) simply give them as assertions without any supporting indicators.

And it happens in lots of settings besides Turkotek. Example: Last weekend there were some Turkmen events here with some visiting German collectors and scholars. Azadi was in this group.

So we brought out some of our Turkmen pieces. I had brought a Turkmen chuval that has the same drawing, palette and structure that Loges attributes to Kizil Ayaks. But Pinner with it in his hands a few years ago said it was not fine enough to be Kizil Ayak (it's about 100 kpsi) and so had to be considered Ersari.

Azadi, looking at it from 10 feet away and after hearing my Pinner story said that it was Kizil Ayak anyway. No explanation at all about why. Not even a response to Pinner's indication about knot density. Pure, simple, assertion.

I'm rather confident that Wendel can tick off some indicators that make him feel that these pieces are Veramin and that's what I was trying to suggest in a modest way before the deluge (I don't follow Veramin weaving at all).

Steve seems to think that one declarative sentence I wrote caused it all, but he's not reading far enough. When he does he will see that the complaints about my relatively brief post are more extensive.

But your are right about the frequent short, unsupported attributions asserted here. They will likely continue.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-28-2007 05:22 PM:

Hi Folks,

It is a welcome thing for an afficionado and student of the craft to be able to place a rug with precision in its time and place of origin. However, I don't think it happens very often. Even the experts who have our greatest respect do little more than zero in a little closer to the truth and, in some cases, dispense with various myths. It is often like looking at the moon with a telescope. The better the scope, the more detail you get, not to say you get very much in any case.

By contrast, consider the work of someone like Ford, who is reporting chiefly on contemporary or near contemporary material with which he has direct familiarity and reasonably certain knowledge.

Scholarly analysis is much to be fostered and promoted, but it can also be overrated. Without having known either man, I would bet that neither Pinner nor Loges had very much first hand knowledge and experience of either the Ersari "nation" or the Kizil Ayak "nation," or how closely the ethnic affiliation of either related to the woven products attributed to them; or the extent to which tribal affiliation was more or less important at a given time in terms of the woven products they were making. Rather, I would expect that their work and the conclusions they drew from it, respectively, built upon the work of others utilizing existing models of nomenclature, tribal organization, etc. The reality probably was that some historical rugs from such peoples (i. e., Ersari or Kizil Ayak) were closely correlated with their tribal connections, but others were more heavily influenced by regional trends and considerations.

Scholarly researches are important, but not necessarily the last word in understanding rugs. There are other sources of knowledge and understanding that are also limited but useful. One of them is the accumulated knowledge and experience of persons who have been involved with rugs over many years and share understandings. Dealers, for example, come to mind. Their lore is often vague, and probably often erroneous, too, as to specifics. But by and large, there is a broad shared understanding out there about the rugs that pass us by. Taking certain rugs from the Veramin area as cases in point, many are recognizable once one has seen and handled a number of them. There is nothing wrong with identifying them when they come along, particularly if one is asked. Often, for that matter, the pillars of TurkoTek will cite other sources (e. g., Jenny Housego)for further information.

Posted by Donald Ruyle on 08-29-2007 01:40 AM:

Greetings All:

Thanks very much for the quick responses. My library isn’t so good but you have given me many sources to add to it. I have seen them before, but have been negligent in capturing them. That won’t happen this time.

Thanks, Steve, for your help with the images and for mediating the hair-splitting. I usually read the posts here in scanning, trying to get the meat of what is said and don’t strain so over a word or two. I am one that is guilty of asking questions that have probably been asked many times before but I have always felt comfortable asking here. Everybody is always generous with sharing what they can.

Camille, here are two images for now. The image of the second rug shows only a little bit of the worst worn selvedge area and you can see that it has been secured with cotton or linen thread. I really don’t know goat hair from wool but the sides appear to mostly have their original simple (probably wool) over-casting.

I get from the responses a general idea of area of production that is in line with my original thoughts; That is that both rugs seem to show a commingling Turkish, Turkman, Persian and Kurdish influences. Does anyone care to venture an estimate of age?


Posted by R. John Howe on 08-29-2007 07:35 AM:

Rich Larkin -

You say in part in your thoughtful post above:

"...Scholarly researches are important, but not necessarily the last word in understanding rugs. There are other sources of knowledge and understanding that are also limited but useful. One of them is the accumulated knowledge and experience of persons who have been involved with rugs over many years and share understandings. Dealers, for example, come to mind. Their lore is often vague, and probably often erroneous, too, as to specifics. But by and large, there is a broad shared understanding out there about the rugs that pass us by..."

My thoughts:

There is a great deal in what you say. I spent over thirty year "mining" the rules that expert practitioners use and follow as they practice the craft of their jobs. Mind you, these were usually people estimated widely to be performing at very high levels: doing the job as management wanted it done.

Very often, such folks could not put into words some aspect of their craft. We had to move to video-taped demonstration (interview skills, for example). More, sometimes when expert practitioners did put the rules to be followed into words we found out that not only were they wrong, they were not in fact what they themselves did in such situations (expert bicylists often misdescribe the actions they take in emergency situations). So it is true that often aspects of craft are difficult to capture accurately in language.

In the rug world one instance of this that has impressed me is the seeming ability of some experienced dealers to look quickly at the back of a rug and to say with some accuracy where it was woven.

We once did a salon in which we drew on the Neff and Maggs treatment of "weave pattern" to suggest concretely something of what goes on in such judgments.

I doubt that the dealers would be able to put into words the rules they are following. I asked one once how he recognized a particular Kashan subgroup. He said "How do you recognize your children?" There is a great truth in that question. We can often recognize much later someone we have met only once.

So I want to acknowledge that there are aspects of expertise and experience not capturable in words. But having said that, I think that we should try. We should make our assertions as transparent and as grounded as we can. For two reasons: first, it is the only way others can learn too, and second we may discover that a long time recognition is incorrect. Both of these agendas seem to me to be worth pursuing.

But thanks for the thoughtful reminder about the feasibility of always capturing experience in indicators and words.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-29-2007 12:19 PM:

Hi John,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. Thoughtfulness is the hallmark of your posts on these threads. But don't give up on the flea market rugs.

Your description of the approach by dealers is exactly right. When I was avid for the hobby years ago, I looked at and handled a lot of rugs and was constantly trying to refine my recognition of related groups based on all of the obvious factors: designs, materials, color, format, structure, weaving finishes and techniques, etc. "Looking at the back" provides a wealth of information instantly in these regards; and at an early point, I had developed the technique of casually flipping over a corner with a toe, hoping not too many would notice, especially museum security or the homeowner. When the Neff and Maggs book came out, I thought they were onto something, although I think the overall thrust of it is to isolate too much the look of the back, or the "weave pattern" as they call it. Their pictures are sometimes helpful, but not nearly so much as having the rug in your hands. It is the combination of all factors that makes it possible to recognize types. Similarly, structural analysis in isolation is also a tool of limited usefulness.

It has always been clear that the nomenclature in use in the rug field is vastly insufficient to handle all of the stuff out there, nor does it in many cases provide good information about the rugs. For example, the Hamadan rugs weren't woven in Hamadan, but the Kazvin rugs were! etc., etc. But it was possible to have as mental file of recognizable types, to which one would attach the best label possible under the circumstances; and it was (and is) fun to obtain good information about them when that was possible. To that end, my heroes were Murray Eiland, George O'Bannon, people like that who were motivated to learn the true facts and resistant to myths. At the same time, the advances in knowledge seem to be in tiny bites, and there persists in the field a tendency to generalize too much from known, discovered or suspected facts. In that respect, having recently revisited the hobby, I find that the more things have changed, the more they've stayed the same.

Steve has pointed out a few times recently on these threads that the best one can hope for in analyzing the older rugs we find interesting is a limited level of probability that our speculations might have some validity. He's right, and we will probably never obtain certain knowledge. Having regard to the Turkoman pieces in particular, for example, a careful reading of, say, some of the Russian authorities on whose work we base much of our current knowledge, we see that even they (in the field) didn't always understand what they were looking at. Nevertheless, it is common nowadays to find persons making confident assertions about what a Turkoman "tribe" was doing 130 years ago (as though they were all doing the same thing in that tribe!).

Anyway, time to shut up. But your point (made succinctly) is very well taken: that it is not always easy to explain why one has a particular opinion about a rug; nor is it easy to demonstrate the validity of it. It follows, of course, that the opinion must necessarily have limited utility.

Posted by Wendel Swan on 09-03-2007 03:40 PM:

Hello all,

Images of Veramin pile pieces with Turkmen-like guls are relatively scarce in the literature, but they are found in auction catalogs and in dealers’ shops. I have personally seen and handled several over the years. I have owned at least four Veramin pile mafrash side panels with different Turkmen-like guls.

A dealer friend in Chicago owns (or owned) this Veramin panel (either a mafrash side or a torba face) with Tekke-like guls:

I hadn’t seen another quite like it before and haven't since. I puzzled over it a bit, then readily accepted his Veramin attribution. As he was in business for over 40 years, I didn’t demand compelling evidence. It seemed right to me and consistent with other Veramin work – once the association was made for me.

I also remember seeing elsewhere in Chicago many, many years ago a rare intact Veramin mafrash, with the only one pile panel and the others striped kilims. I can’t recall seeing another. The pile panel had the Saryk-like guls. Many of these panels are described as torba faces, but we’ll never know whether that is the case or whether they are mafrash sides.

Although not a dealer, I believe I am the source of John’s “how do you know your children?” anecdote. I thought Don’s long rugs (especially the first) were Veramin immediately.

The color palette (apricot and reddish aubergine are signature colors for Veramin), the dark brown warps, the thin dark brown wefts, the surface texture and the look of the knotting are the most apparent clues, but I can’t describe how I know what the back of a Veramin piece looks like or how the texture of the pile looks. Don’s pieces have precisely that look.

The turreted guls in the second rug are unusual, in my experience. But they are just another design variation. The backs and end finishes are what I expect from Veramin pile.

Like it or not, most of our attributions come from dealers or collectors who have spent some time in the field or have other connections to the production sources. Sometimes they are completely wrong, but sometimes they are the best and only source of information. Historians and ethnographers almost always ignore textiles and virtually never provide us with images. It serves no purpose, it seems to me, to conjure up attributions based solely upon such historical or ethnographic treatises.

In his Rustic & Tribal Weaves from Varamin (2001) Parviz Tanavoli’s illustrates two long rugs and attributes both to the Turkic Osanlu tribe in the Veramin area. The first was previously illustrated in Oriental Rugs From Pacific Collection (1990) and has the lobed Turkmen-like guls similar to Don’s and to the Housego example.

I am showing exactly half of each long rug that Tanavoli shows and I apologize for the color.

Periodically I see another collector's Veramin long rug with only these lobed Yomud-like guls.

The second Tanavoli Osanlu long rug has the Saryk-like guls that we most commonly associate with Veramin mafrash sides or torbas:

Tanavoli also illustrates two mafrash side panels (one Osanlu, one Arab) with the Saryk-like guls as in this second long rug.

Tanavoli (who is from Tehran, just to the north of Veramin) discusses the wide variety of ethnic groups in the Veramin plain (the Lors, Kurds, Turks and Arabs chief among them) as well as the diversity of their structures. He comments on the rich, radiant colors found in the area and the use of repetitive patterns as well as the use of Turkmen-like guls.

In addition to the look of the back and the colors of the warps and wefts, end finishes should also be taken into account. Here is a comparison of the ends of the two Tanavoli long rugs and Don’s rug #1. (It looks like #2 may have been finished the same way, but that is harder to tell):

This end finish is not unique to Veramin.

Because of the diversity of its ethnic groups, to attribute these long rugs to “Veramin” is not to say much. However, it is much more accurate than to declare them Quchon Kurd, whose appearance and structure is so far removed from the pieces Don presented.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-03-2007 04:30 PM:


I have not seen the Tanavoli book on weaves from the Veramin area. Does he discuss the origin of this tradition of Turkoman-like guls on those pieces? I have always wondered whether it represented a relatively late adoption of designs (which is what I have suspected), or the continuation of an ancient indigenous tradition.

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-04-2007 11:43 AM:

Ok-Veramin- but what else?


Wendel, that is an interesting and well illustrated discourse, and I’ve learned a lot. Indeed, the “Veramin” consensus is impressive. But also interesting to me is a lack of explanation about the source of the designs, and the relationship, if any, to that Durquez rug of Danny Mehra. (Wendall, I would enjoy any brief explanation of the different asthetics of Quchon rugs that you care to share).

Premit me this...concerning dealers, they often have developed attribution expertise by seeing and handling a great many items. Trouble is dealers historically gave us rug attributions such as, “Bokhara”, “Samarkand,” etc. Thus, the fact that dealers, who are often pretty city-bound, refer to these particular rugs as “Veramin” does not necessarily transmit much useful information.

Despite some exceptions, carpet lore often seems to have been inaccurate about tribal-nomadic groups, ethnic interaction, etc. Even dealers closer to tribal-nomatic sources, Herat, or Shiraz..., often seem to have little more specific information (or sometimes even interest in) tribal-nomadic life than is available at a distance.

The studies of historians, anthropologists and ethnographers add much to understanding the cultures that produced a specific weaving. In my opinion, to try to understand and fully appreciate ... say ... Turkmen carpets ..., just by reading rug books, without referencing Vambery, O’Donovan, Schuler, Peisker, et. al., is to miss quite a lot.

For obvious reasons, in antique rugdom Turkmen guls used by other groups seem mostly to occur in 1. Uzbek-central asian goups, 2.Baluch groups, and 3. Turkman-Kurd products from the Qushan area (is Durguaz a distinct region?). If variants of Turkmen guls are truly used in the Veramin area, can it be that they are just a recent adaptation? If these rugs are truly are “old,” then what is the ethnographic reason for use of those designs? There has to be one...and I’m not sure it can be found in rug books.

All that said... I am always receptive to new information especially as well presented as Wendel et. al. in this line. And, of course there are other reasons for appreciating a carpet. Pure aesthetic art value is one as is the related topic of decorative functions... or perhaps one enjoys discussing the rug equivalent of purely comparative topics such as “which has the nicest bumper, a ’56 Chevy, or a ’49 Ford?” In these cases, knowing the historical background is not so important.

Jack Williams

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 09-04-2007 01:23 PM:

Hi Jack,

You: what is the ethnographic reason for use of those designs? There has to be one...and I’m not sure it can be found in rug books

Housego’s fifth phrase from above: This is the result of the extraordinary diversity of tribes who mingle here, which includes Kurds, Lurs, Arabs. Shahsavan, Qashqa'i, Turkoman and other Turkic clans

I strongly suspect that the your “ethnographic reason” is somehow hidden in that phrase…



Posted by Jack Williams on 09-04-2007 04:35 PM:

Let's add "Baluch"


Maybe I'm missing something...but...if these designs are in older rugs...say pre 1920s or so... and were not just designs adopted recently using whatever elements seemed popular in the market....

Do Ms Housgo’s writings on the subject constitute an academically acceptable explanation? Did the other dealers report information from first hand knowledge? Or did everyone accept the lore of the bazaar? It doesn’t leave me with a warm and fuzzy... but, fortunately Wendel noted the Turkic Osanlu tribe mentioned by Tanavoli and maybe it is the best that can be done. At least it is a group not an area.

Interestingly, in the archives Patrick Weiler quoted Tanavoli, "I know of no reliable sources for the presence of Turkmen tribes in Varamin, and it is in any case most unlikely that Sunni Turkmen tribes would have risked living among Varamini Shi'ites, so these visual similarities have given rise to some understandable confusion." See:

Perhaps I'm just on a different wave length. Heck...maybe we ought to add the Baluch into that mixture. Every other nomadic group in central Asia seems to have occupied that one area. Maybe the Osanlu are actually Baluch which will explain the designs.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-04-2007 05:55 PM:

Hey folks,

The link to Patrick's 2003 comments based on Tanavoli is instructive. The comment is made that the Veramin mafrash with the (ersatz?) Turkoman gul are produced by Arab tribes. That would suggest to me that the design was picked up by them as a likely winner for their entry into the Veramin weaving conglomerate, rather than a longstanding tradition. That's what they look like to me. They're often very pretty, and nicely finished with good materials, but I always thought they looked a bit contrived. The single gul in the center (as shown in the linked page) is what I would consider the standard item, rather than the one put up by Wendel, approximating more closely the Turkoman layout.

John Collins recently had a display of bags and bagfaces at his shop near Boston, and it included a few of these Veramin pieces (i. e., with the Turkoman design vocabulary). The accompanying notes made the statement that these types can be seen as woven by a number of sources around Veramin, judging from structural and other differences among them.

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-04-2007 08:06 PM:


The Kyzl Bash (red head) Turkmen have been settled in the Veramin area for several hundred years; it's documented in several places.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Gene Williams on 09-04-2007 09:45 PM:

red heads and red hats

Hi all,

I've seem a number of references to the Kizil Bash as "red heads." (Kizil=red...see Kizil Ayak..i.e. "red foot"). But I believe the proper translation of Kizilbash is "red hat" not "red head."

Of course, the term came from the Sufi Azerbaijan coalition of Turkish tribes who turning from the peaceful sufi ways in the late 1300's morphed into fanatics who swarmed across Iran and into Turkey and Iraq around 1500. They wore a 12 pointed red hat sympolizing the 12 Imams of classical Sh'ia philosophy. After their success in taking over the Shi'a heartland (and their defeat by Ottoman Turks), they kicked all the Sufi orders out of Iran to prevent another fanatic group from doing to them what they had done.

Anyway...this historical side-light doesn't contribute diddly to the discussion..except to illustrate that the Turks ran the show in Iran for the next 300 years. SE of Tehran is the great salt desert and you could find "Els" (black tented nomads) of all sorts travelling those ways..Timuris, Baluch, turkomen tribes forced out of the Sunni NE border lands...etc.). But, to be correct I think when referring to the should be translated as "red hat." The internet has both..and I could be Dari/Farsi not being very good at all and since the word is Turkish origin...I can't affirm any of this. Maybe one of our Turkish guys like Cenat can comment.


Posted by Jack Williams on 09-04-2007 10:20 PM:

lur idly bashing the kizils will kurd le the camels milk


I am sure you are right. But I haven’t seen many of the Kizil Bash groups that weave a sort of Sunni Turkmen gul...except the Afshar elements in Quchon and parts of Afghanistan-Northeast Persia. [Oh..maybe the odd Shahsevan] That possibility is what intrigued me about this line, especially after finding that rug of Danny Mehra's, the "Derquez Kurd." The geography and ethnography of that Derquez area as described by O’Donovan is amazing…

That archived salon by Patrick Weiler in my opinion is one of the best on board, not only from content but from the depth and details of the discussions. The entire salon is worth the read. Alluring Luris, Denizens of the Zagros see -

At least as a deductive conclusion, I tend to agree with Rich about the “Arab” artistic use of the Turkmen guls. But as in Khurrison, we might run into a problem identifying these “Arabs.” Also, in Khurrison the “Arab-Baluch” apparently use the Persian knot. The other alternative is that some displaced Afshar or Kurds from Quchon-NE Persia carried the designs of the Turkmen to the Veramin region. Or…. These rugs are…[fill in the blank.]

Regards, Jack

Posted by Gene Williams on 09-04-2007 10:36 PM:

Turkoman = Turk?

Hi all,

I missed one point above, the definition of "Turkoman." In Rugdom (commercial identifications) I very well understand that "Turkoman" refers to the Turk inhabited areas around Bukhara and S. to the Amah Darrayah region and West to the Caspian, including all the classic tribes..Tekke, Saryk, Yomud, etc. (the classic tribe in the NE frontier area whose depradations for 300 years devastated E. Persia)

However, going back as far as Byzantine chronicalers, the term "Turkoman" was apparently used to refer to any Turk nomadic tribe including those located in in the Anatolian peninsula and in Azerbaijan, Central Persia, around the N.shore of the Caspian and on to Central Asia. At least in Persia until relatively recently it is my impression that the term "turkoman" specifically included the 7 tribe Kizilbash alliance and its off shoots.. (Afshar, Kamseh, etc.).

So, anyone care to define "Turkoman" a bit further?


Posted by R. John Howe on 09-04-2007 11:32 PM:

Dear folks -

I wonder whether we have, any longer, much information on Veramin weaving that goes back very far.

Notice the most treatments of Veramin weaving are pretty brief and sometimes it is nearly omitted in places where one might expect to encounter it. I looked at Edwards again tonight and found only one reference to Veramin weaving. He says, interestingly, in a discussion of the mina khani design:

"Before the war, [ed. I think he means WWII] it was the only design known to the weavers of Veramin --- a fertile agricultural area south of Tehran. The villagers wove so many pieces in it --- all alike --- that they had difficulty in disposing of them. So they discarded the pattern for another --- which does not appear to have brought them any better luck than the first."

Edwards does not say what this second pattern was.

Now, as I say, this is the only reference I find for "Veramin" in Edwards book, one in which he repeatedly suggests that the Persian rug industry nearly expired in the 18th and first half of the 19th century and that its robust recovery occurred fairly late in the latter.

That doesn't mean that there was no weaving during this period. Folks still likely wove for their own use (and Housego mentions that there were Luris in the Veramin area in the 14th century when it was a "Mongol centre.") But some of the Veramin pieces we are discussing are longer runner-like pieces that would have likely entered the decorative market.

So I think it may not be accidental that there is not much information about old, old Veramin weaving, and that questions such as those about whether Turkmen-like devices are recent adaptations or indigenous, in some sense, are optimistic.

It may be that all we can conjecture is that there were a variety of different tribes known to be in the Veramin area on occasion and that it is likely that they were exposed to each others' designs and weaving.

Housego and Wendel have given us some useful indicators (e.g. dark structural wools, darker rich colors, a distinctive blue) but such indicators may not always distinguish particular pieces woven in the Veramin area.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-05-2007 12:21 AM:


I tend to agree with John's thoughts. To supplement his notes taken from Edwards, here is what Eiland wrote in his Oriental Rugs Expanded Edition, Little, Brown and Company, 1973... I post this because Eilands writings in this book are now pretty hory...

"Many older rugs labeled Veramin would appear suspect as to attribution, for the town of this name lies southeast of Tehran; yet the rugs alleged to be from Veramin are clearly Kurdish in design and weave. There is no real inconsistency, however, as the rugs are products of the Pazekis, a once-powerful tribe which now consists of a few thousand families living around Veramin and Khar. Many of them speak Kurdi, and although of mixed origins, they are predominantly Kurdish. These Veramin rugs are all wool, with an almost invariable use of the Mina Khani design. This was carefully drawn, often on an ivory or dark blue field, usually with relatively narrow borders. These pieces are seldom large and were never plentiful. They have virtually disappeared from the market.[note - written early 1970s (?)]

"More recently another type of rug has emerged from the Veramin area. This strongly resembles the Qum, with a cotton foundation and Persian knots. The old designsa re still found, along with others using Sefavid motifs."

Not much help there. Eiland does not mention the Lurs or these Turkmen gul rugs. But Eiland's original book seems to be modeled on Edwards' book quite a bit and I rarely have found him contracting Edwards, or adding much so far as persian rugs are concerned.

Tanavoli seems to have written the most detailed account of the area. I suspect his writings are the source of almost all the comments to be found in the literature.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-05-2007 08:25 AM:

Hi John,
You wrote:

"So I think it may not be accidental that there is not much information about old, old Veramin weaving, and that questions such as those about whether Turkmen-like devices are recent adaptations or indigenous, in some sense, are optimistic."

I get the first part, i. e., there hasn't been much early weaving to speak of out of Veramin. As to the second part, do you mean that most of what we encounter today as "Veramin" is recent production, so there is no design tradition to track down? It could be so.

I don't see the lack of information on the question from Edwards to be necessarilly significant. The Mina Khani rugs he was calling "Veramin" were a local commercial production. If I understand that rug (not what Eiland described, BTW), it was essentially different from the various weavings we are now discussing that are also being called "Veramin," and which are presumably produced by many tribal and ethnic groups in the area. Edwards ignored or gave short shrift to a lot of minor production in his book. Even so, much of what we are considering now may reflect upstart activity. It is also true that if several different small weaving groups have been active in that area, as seems to be the case, we may have been referring to their their products by other names.

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-05-2007 10:56 AM:

Hi Richard -

I don't think we, at bottom, disagree.

Edwards WAS focused on the commercial. He treats very few bags or other non-rug formats in his book. But other treatments of Veramin weaving also seem brief. I only used him because he mentions the mina khani usage so prominently and because some of the pieces with Turkmen-like guls that are attributed nowadays to Veramin are like wide runners, the sort of thing that seems likely to have been visible in the commercial market.

But I agree. Most of the things we likely want to talk about and examine under the Veramin rubric were not commercial rugs. But even then there is not much visible.

The Eilands say a little, but not much.

Peter Stone treats Veramin briefly, and shows the mina khani field design and one other under his Veramin rubric.

He does include a gul that looks similar to the Turkmen-like guls we encounter on the pieces we are calling Veramin here, but associates it with usages by the Kurds of Hastrud, who are southeast of Tabriz with some Shahsavan.

Stone suggests that this Kurdish "Hatrud" gul was derived from a Salor Turkmen chuval gul and says that versions of the Kurdish device also appear on some Anatolian pieces and seem similar to some Caucasian usages as well.

Stone also treats Kuchon Kurd usages that seem to mirror some Turkmen devices, but his examples are not of the lobed gul type (that DO appear on some pieces attributed to the Kuchon Kurds.).

Housego's treatment is the most extensive I have seen, although I don't have the Tanavoli book that some have said is also useful with regard to the Veramin.

But my main point in my last post was that our wish to know may simply exceed what is known about weaving attributable to the Veramin. So questions about what designs are likely indigenous to Veramin weavers may now be largely beyond our ken.

But I'm open to counter indications and evidence. As I said, somewhere above, I personally know very little about Veramin weaving.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-05-2007 12:49 PM:

Hi John,

I don't disagree with a thing you say there. I believe we are dealing with a phenomenon that crops up in this field constantly. That is, a wide variety of weavings, for whatever reasons, take on a label (in this case, "Veramin"), and we then spend a lot of time wheel-spinning over the label. I would bet that if you drew an arbitrary circle around the town of some reasonable radius, and examined all the weaving that has gone on within it, you would find a very complex situation in terms of who has produced what, and under what circumstances. Some of it would be familiar in the marketplace (at least to some) as "Veramin" and some wouldn't. Then, there would probably be a range of products from outside the circle, also called by that name. I consider John Collins to be very knowledgeable about this area (i. e., Persian quasi-tribal stuff), and he pointedly observed that the Turkomanesque material from that area came from more than on source.

For my own part as a roving pile kicker over the years, I always observed a distinction between the Mina Khani style Veramin carpet (I took them to be cotton foundation items, in spite of the comments of Murray Eiland) and the little mafrash-like faces with the single or double Turkoman guls on a blue field. They shared a name but little else in my mind. Another item I used to find and thought of as Veramin, and I owned a pair that I gave as a gift to someone, was a khorjin sized set of double bags with horizontan strips of pile alternating with flatweave. They invariably were well woven and showed a color scheme dominated by a mid blue and a nice (I thought) rose pink. Using the name, Veramin, for all this stuff, of course, was (is) very inexact.

Posted by Wendel Swan on 09-05-2007 04:17 PM:

Hello all,

First, I doubt that anyone ever will know the migration paths or times of Turkmen (or any other) designs to diverse geographical areas. The motifs themselves are too old and ubiquitous. We are so lacking in evidence on many of these issues that it could be said that we don’t even know what we don’t know.

In the salon on ICOC-XI, I posted a monumental Seljuk rug with a distinctive “Turkmen” appearance. But when did a medallion first become a “Turkmen gul?” While historical migrations and conquests might provide some insight, we can’t tell whether designs are carried to or from different places. However, extensive commerce along the Silk Route over the millennia probably accounts for the vast majority of design transfer.

Turkmen rugs have been scientifically analyzed more than any other group and yet our knowledge of their origins is dimensions below what we know about oil paintings of similar age. Once I asked Robert Pinner what he thought the earliest Turkmen rugs looked like. At the time, we were both looking at a book on early Anatolian rugs. His answer was: “Probably like these.”

I suspect that Turkmen-like elements were in Persia centuries ago, possibly in the Veramin area, but there is no way of knowing because of the enormous gaps in what we know of the history of weaving in any region.

We’re fortunate that so much Anatolian material has survived and can be seen today in Turkey, but we’re far less fortunate in our weaving artifacts from other areas. Parviz Tanavoli once told me that he had scoured Iran for 18th Century Persian rugs, but without success. Documentation of Caucasian rugs before the 19th Century is almost non-existent and we know even less about early Belouch weavings.

I haven’t been able to find any references to Veramin in any of the early rug literature, but one book that is at once illuminating and curious is Charles’ Jacobsen’s Oriental Rugs – A Complete Guide (1962). This was the first book on rugs that I ever read (at the library in the late 60’s). Here is what he says:

A few groups of pillows approximately 3 ft. x 15 inches came in 1920-1930 period and were imported on customs invoices as Veramins, but were sold in retail trade as Bahktiaris. In those days a good number of rugs and runners were imported as Kurd Shiraz and sold as Bahktiaris. Some of these might well have been Veramins.

He then makes reference to plate 112, which is either a torba face or a mafrash side, having a single Turkmen-like gul and a prototypical Veramin star border. Jacobsen says:
Plate 112 is the one typical size and general design I know. All of these small pillows have been known by collectors and dealers as Bahktiaris. I will never forget, when in 1925 I saw unbaled several hundred of these at Gulbenkians, 225 Fifth Avenue, the largest (or one of the largest) importers of rugs. They were sold to me as Veramins. I asked many people at that time (my second year in the business) about Veramins, but not even the experts had ever heard of Veramin. So, I called them Bahktiaris. I believe this large group comprised three-quarters of all these pillows that ever came to America. These pillows are very beautiful. When the backs are removed they are the choicest of small rugs. The have the most luscious feel and silky patina. The blues and reds are vibrant. The weave is fairly fine and the nap is medium. Perhaps some of the runner that we call Suj-Bulaks or Bahktiaris were actually Veramins. Certainly no rugs are being offered under this name today.

Jacobsen could never be confused with a historian or as technically oriented. But his comments on Veramin are truly informative. I’ll conclude by saying that the import dates of 1920-1930 probably has no bearing whatsoever on the introduction of Turkmen-like motifs to Veramin.

These panels were undoubtedly made for a long time, but I’ve never noticed any great age difference among them. Gulbenkians probably just didn’t buy the older ones.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-05-2007 09:38 PM:

Hi Wendel,

Very interesting. I had forgotten that Jacobsen had mentioned these pieces. You are right that he was neither technically oriented nor a historian; but he was surely a dealer who saw and handled a lot of rugs, and he was firm and confident in his opinions.

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-06-2007 09:29 AM:

Oriental Rugs

G'day Wendel and Richard,

C. Jacobsen's book was also my first rug book, and I still like referring to it for certain things. For instance it was his book which gave me the first indication beyond Hamadan that I had a Tadjabad carpet.

Yes, he was a very direct and convinced writer and perhaps not always right; who is, nonetheless over the years I have enjoyed slipping into the ruggies dream with his book.

And I always looked at the 'pillows' wherever I found them, whatever their make, but found them usually dear.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-06-2007 12:17 PM:

Hi Marty,

Jacobsen was one of my first books too, probably about fourth in line. I started out with Liebtrau, prowling the suq in Riyadh looking for a rug that was pictured in the book! Never did find it, but there were some nice older ones from around Shiraz.

As to Jacobsen, I never met the man, but you could tell he wasn't somebody you were going to tell very much. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm made up for all that. And I still find his many observations about what has been in the market and so forth useful, such as the one Wendel reminded us about.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-06-2007 12:30 PM:

Outpost for "killing rats" (old USA proverb), or vedette for vacating varmint vermin

Gentlemen, I am most impressed with the progressive focus and the information that has been put forward in this line. Here is a recap of the main points I’ve gotten from this discussion so far.

These colorful pseudo-Turkmen designs on the brown-brown cotton warp-wefts, with the plain brown-flat weave ends are a Veramin area decorative adoption of relatively recent vintage, so far as is known (post WWII?). The Veramin area itself is a fertile plain on the edge of the great Lud desert 30 miles or so south of Tehran.

The Veramin area was/is populated primarily by Kurds (see Edwards, Eiland, et. al.). But also in residence are a number of other peoples, including Luris, some Kizil Bash elements, and some undifferentiated nomadic-tribal groups known as “Arabs.” These peoples apparently gave up semi-nomadic life and settled in the area beginning in the 19th C. after the Qajar’s moved the Persian capital to Tehran. [my note: in the early 19th C., one-half the population of Persia lived a nomadic lifestyle and the population was much reduced]

The Kurdish residents [may/may not have] established the original weaving designs identified with the area (?); a certain type of mina khani long regarded as the signature of Veramin weaving. Relatively lately (?), other designs have become more popular in the region and are commercially woven by a variety of ethnic groups without much apparent reference to tribal traditions.

Here is [what seems to be] an example of the older signature Kurdish mina khani design:

These are scanned from The Atlas of Rugs & Carpets; ed. David Black, Tiger Books International, London; copy write 1985. (It is a shame my scanner doesn’t pick up blues very well...because the field of this rug as pictured in the book is a light, steel-blue, not a mud color, and the rug is very attractive.)

Among the questions that remain: How did Sunni Turkmen symbols come to be used as a decorative device in the heart of the Persian Shia Kingdom?. Three possibilities seem reasonable:

1. Direct contact between Veramin residents and Sunni Turkmen (Tanavoli thinks this unlikely...though Salor elements fled Teke domination...some ending up as far west as Eastern Anatolia where they apparently continued Salor-ish weaving for some time);

2. Importation of the pseudo-design from Khurrison area possibly because of immigration of Khurrison-Kurds or Khurrison-Afshars elements to Veramin (purely speculative);

3. Yomud design influence that entered via the Caucasus (speculative), or a transmission via silk road commerce (if so, why were these designs not adopted anywhere else?).

A discussion of this last possibility can be found in the following on-line book, in the chapter, “Turkmen rugs.” The whole book, which seems to be late 19th C., by an unnamed American and is of interest (the text is unattributed on the web) it allows us to glimpse the state of rug research at the turn of the 19th-20th C.

I particularly enjoy the almost poetic opening paragraph of the chapter on “The Rug-Weaving Peoples.

“IT is hard not to put questions to an Oriental rug when you are alone with it. What of this little web, which in its gay Eastern coloring seems so much more, like a silent, smiling guest than a property? Was it born in a shepherd's hut in the pillared mountains of Central Asia, with the snow whirling about the door, and the sheep and camels huddled without? Or did the birds sing among the roses of a Persian village to the weaver as he tied the stitches in? From what far defile in Afghanistan did it journey on camel-back to the sea, swept by the sand-storms of the desert, scorched by the Orient heat? Was it paid to a mollah for prayers at the shrine of Mecca or Meshhed? Did it change hands in fair barter in the market place, or did it pass over the dead body of its rightful owner to the keeping of the swarthy man who sold it to the dealers from Istanbul?”


Jack Williams

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-06-2007 01:09 PM:

Another good one, Jack. That Mina Khani one is a good example of the cotton foundation, city workshop rug marketed as "Veramin." It is thoroughly distinct from the quasi tribal production from the same area. Using the name for both, therefore, is confusing. It is also distinct from what Eiland was describing in the 1973 book, apparently a Kurdish production on wool foundations and having skinny borders. I gather that he had a particular rug in mind, but I don't know what that was. Of course, I believe Kurds were weaving Mina Khanis in many venues.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Wendel Swan on 09-06-2007 03:30 PM:

Hi Jack,

You given three possible reasons for “Turkmen” designs to have migrated into the Veramin area, but there are probably three hundred, maybe three thousand. Personally, I would first look at commerce, but we fundamentally lack evidence of who wove what, when and where. I can understand your wanting to have answers, but they are probably unknowable.

You also ask: why were these designs not adopted anywhere else? I ask: How do you know that they weren’t?

As to that opening paragraph of the online article, I suppose “poetic” is one word that might be applied, but others readily come to mind.


Posted by Jack Williams on 09-06-2007 05:00 PM:

botehs, chickens, peacocks and...swastikas(?)


From my modest experience, in pre WWI weavings botehs, bodoms, Herati designs, tree-of-life representations, mirhabs, Sufi symbols, rams horns-Zoroastrian symbols, dragons, peacocks, chickens, even Buddhist iconography and many other things are found with some frequency in almost every pile rug venue.

But to my knowledge, even the faintest hint of pseudo-Sunni-Turkmen-guls are rarely encountered, except in the carpets of those communities who were directly under the thumb of the Turkmen, or unfortunate enough to be their "neighbors."

Even the Seljuk Turk tribes don't seem to have designs that can be said with any confidence to be a direct kin to Turkmen guls. I've tried to follow the development of Turkish Afshar designs, even speculating what an "Afshar gul" might have evolved to look like. But...none of the KizilBash Shia-Turk groups seem to use those Sunni Turkmen gul symbols despite an apparent widespread dissemination of the designs.

To my knowledge, neither do Kurds, Luris, Bakhtiaris, Kamseh, Quasquai, Caucasians, Turks, Persians, Shahsevans, Kazaks, Armenians, Egyptians, Arabs, Moroccans, Indians, Incas, Aztecs or Chinese. The fact that Turkmen gul types are not more often encountered is to me significant.

It almost seems like those symbols represented an evil so profound it precluded adopting even a semblance of their designs. So why those guls uniquely appeared on a few Veramin rugs in even a pseudo form, without analog or variant in the surrounding ethos, remains to me a curiousity. It is curious enough to cause me to question their Veramin provenance. And it apparently has caused quite a few rug researchers to scratch their heads as well.

But...most questions do have answers of a sort. In this particular case the answer seems to be that the pseudo-Turkmen symbols are purely a decorative device adopted relatively recently for commercial reasons after the incredibly evil deeds of the owners of these guls had receded from popular memory.

That explanation seemingly has analogs. Apparently, the Baluch somewhat abruptly largely stopped weaving Turkmen symbols after the final Russian pacification. It is thought that the Baluch did not resume using those Turkmen gul symbols with any frequency until decades had passed and the symbols had become commercially desirable. I’ll add this...we do not see swastikas used anymore in the West either. I speculate that the Turkmen-guls were anathema to most peoples subjected to their depredations.

Besides...I like questions that concern ethnographic relations. I also believe poetry is a visual concept with many facets, just as “Christmas” can be thought of as halleluiah, or bah humbug.

Your posts here defined the class and explained their provenance and I sincerely appreciate them. Some day I hope to better understand what is structurally unique about Kurd-Khurisson (Quchon) rugs as well, especially if the Durguez region produced a special type.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-06-2007 05:34 PM:

Hey Jack:

I just hate to have to do this, but I've got to agree with Wendel. I think a lot of the stuff you're saying there is dubious. Perhaps you're more conversant with conditions on the ground (then and now) than I am, but is it a proven proposition that, say, the Baluch use of Turkoman decoration on their rugs, was under duress, and that they got off that first chance? Or that the Afshar, as a discernible sub-group ot the great Turkoman horde, had their own versions of the main gul, the juval gul, the ensi, etc.? If so, it's news to me.

In fact, the use of the Turkoman style gul on (presumably) non-Turkoman weavings, though not especially common, isn't unheard of. There are the familiar products from the Quchan area, which tend to use an oversized, multi-colored gul. And I have seen Turkoman guls on other odd rugs through the years, including Hamadan types, etc. One of the ones posted (I think by Wendel) showing red guls on a camel ground looks like one of the oddball ones to me. I wouldn't call it "Veramin."

Anyway, I digress a bit. The main point about which I agree with Wendel is that most of the lore about how the Turkoman weaving tradition came down through the years is guessed at, mostly from piecing together the work of the Russian researchers. It never ceases to amaze me to witness afficionados confidently explicating individual Turkoman rugs, and placing them in very specific historical and geographical contexts. As Wendel suggests (and it's my favorite mantra), there were definitely at least a trillion factors that we don't know about that brought Tuirkoman rugs (and most other rugs) to where they are today, including the old ones that are left.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-06-2007 06:22 PM:

Is this Baluchistan? No? How did I get here?


Please...never "hate to do anything" with me. I hope my opinions do not come across as close minded. I try to carefully identify my speculations, and to footnote my avowals. If I’ve been unclear and caused a misinterpretation. or been boorish, accept my apologies.

There are academic writings noting the use of Turkmen symbols by the Baluch, and their rather abrupt stoppage. Of course the reasons for that stoppage are not confirmed...just that it roughly corresponded with Turkmen pacification. I'll see if I can properly footnote that tonight...I think we touched on it in this archived discussion,

The use of the Turkmen symbols in Khurrison - Quchon rugs qualifies as "neighbors of the Turkmen" as does Uzbek, Timuri, Baluch, et. al. My point about the Afshars was that they rarely (at best) seem to use any varient of the Sunni Turkmen guls (except maybe in Khurrison-NW Afganistan) and they adopted a lot in their weavings. I tried to convey that despite a fair amount of effort, I could not identify an Afshar tribal "gul" except in the most speculative manner.

True...pseudo Turkmen guls are occasionally encountered in odd nooks and crannies of rugdom, but not often, especially in older stuff. Given the seeming ubiquitous borrowing of design elements, and the 19th C. popularity of Turkmen carpets, I speculate that it is significant that even highly modified Turkmen guls are infrequently found. Of course I REALLY speculate on the reasons.

Heck...I'm a speculating kind of guy...but I try to at least give a speculative clue to why I hold a particular speculation. I don’t disagree with anything Wendel says... but I just think deductively his conclusions can be sharpened quite a bit...which I took the liberty of doing...hopefully leaving something to think about.

Moi? wrong? could be I guess.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Wendel Swan on 09-06-2007 06:47 PM:

Hi Jack,

Would you do us the favor of defining three terms you’ve used: “pseudo-Sunni-Turkmen-guls” and “Sunni-Turkmen-guls” and “pseudo Turkmen guls”? Better yet, since I’m visually oriented most of the time, supply some images. At this point, I don’t know have a clue. You obviously have something specific in mind.

You already know that I believe that there have been no new rug designs in the last 1,500 years except for Afghan war rugs. So I believe in pseudo.


Posted by Wendel Swan on 09-06-2007 07:07 PM:

Hi Jack,

You posted:

Even the Seljuk Turk tribes don't seem to have designs that can be said with any confidence to be a direct kin to Turkmen guls.

I’m not sure what you mean by Seljuk Turk tribes or by the term “pseudo-Sunni-Turkmen-guls”, but while we wait for that answer, consider the following drawings showing how a Holbein interlace (an ancient device) on the left, by the simple extension of lines and the addition of color, becomes a "Turkmen gul."

I do not (cannot) express any geographic or time progression for my drawings, but there are many instances of “Turkmen” or Turkmen-like motifs in Persian and Anatolian art. Further, the graphics of Mamluk and the so-called Para-Mamluk rugs share some relationship with "Turkmen" rugs.

This may return us to my earlier question of just when did a medallion become a "Turkmen gul'?


Posted by Donald Ruyle on 09-06-2007 11:07 PM:

Good Day All:

I have missed a few days and look at all I've missed! someone mentioned a Kurdish connection which I relate to single wefted rugs. I wouldn't think that most of the other examples cited here are single wefted and the runners I posted are clearly double wefted. Are Varamin rugs single wefted, double wefted or a mix of both, owing to the fact that such classification applies to a broad mix of peoples? As said here earlier, it may be easier to classify them by who instead of where.

It is clear that there a lot of connections and for my money, the most sensible is commerce; And what more practical first step can there be when all you have is a narrow loom, than to weave longer rugs. If the picture I get of merchants seeking out rugs for market is even close to what happened, it is not hard to imagine reasonable merchants encouraging local merchants to weave, on their existing looms, what could be sold readily . He could, no doubt know that he could buy Room-sized rugs in one area and runners in another, etc., etc. I understand that, for the most part this is what happened in the mid 19th century.I can even picture the merchant having a great deal of responsibility for the migration of designs with his suggestions of what designs he could sell.

I think any estimation of these two having been woven post WWII is off the map. I think any true evaluation would be based on structure and that puts me just about where this discussion has put me: LOST! But fairly confident that these two rugs originated somewhere in north-east Iran, but possibly in north-west iran. I feel very certain that these rugs were not woven in the last 60 yrs.

The two runners are double wefted and have a very flat back and are very tightly woven. I was surprised when I counted the knots. The first one pictured has approx. 6 horiz. X 10 vert. k.p.i.; the second, approx. 6 X 7. The pile is rather deep but shows expected wear. I have seen enough rugs that have been in use for up to 80 years to feel very certain that these are older, based simply on the amount of wear. The colors of both rugs are very clear and to me, and look very little like the pallette that I relate to the last 75 years. In my heart I think that this is what "all natural colors" in a rug looks like, and in good form! Serab came to mind imediately when I saw them, but they proved not to be very close in design to the 60 yr. old Serab runner I have; still the appearance of the back is very similar, although the 60 yr. old rug has a cotton foundation and most certainly chemical dyes. The first one has a lot in common in design and both appear to have similar end finishes to a Serab runner pictured in a 1993 "Butterfields" auction catalogue which also appears to have a mostly brown wool foundation. The Butterfields rug was sold as circa. 1900. (I should try to get a scan and post it.) It had much the same richness of colour, if not the wide spectrum. Due to the lack of information it may have been wrongly identified as Serab. (or not.)

Anyway, Just some thoughts. There are many good responses and I know there will be the reward of knowledge as I plow through all the references and links put forth and I can't wait to get my hands on two or three books referenced here. Thanks for all your great responses. I am trying to digest it as I can.


Posted by Marty Grove on 09-07-2007 09:13 AM:

Travel, rugs and books

G'day Don, Jack and all,

Good thread Don - enjoying the rug travel thru time and conundrums thereof. And like you, am just now into my latest books brought to our attention by Jack, O'Donovans two volumes on his travels from the Caspian Sea to the Merv Oasis which arrived today, and the online oldie most recently indicated.

Thanks Jack, you sure do find them! And I must say that I always enjoy your posts, speculations and attention to details. I'm learning heaps, and it must be said that I smile and nod more often than not in agreement for where you are leading... I think similarly.

However, one can also say that when writers are troubled by your suggestions and refute, their words often make much sense. Which is a fair indication of the difficulties provenancing anything woven in the past. Which I why I can agree with almost everyone...


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-07-2007 09:29 AM:

Hi Don,

Kurdish rugs aren't necessarily or even predominantly single wefted. For example, most of those Jaf bags that were up here recently are double wefted. Some Kurd products (a few) may be more than double wefted.


Rich Larkin

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-07-2007 06:55 PM:

Two Singles


Such an inconvenience!
You have forced me to go to my private warehouse and search high and low for Veramin pieces.
After an agonizing 30 seconds or so, I dug out one mafrash piled panel and one khorjin face. The mafrash panel is arguably 3rd quarter 19th century and the khorjin is late 19th, both with sumptuous natural dyes. The mafrash uses a golden yellow, three shades of blue, brick red, natural white and brown. The khorjin has a wheat-gold, red, three blues, apricot, lime green, black and natural brown and white. Both are Arab, the mafrash with a Turkmen gul and the khorjin with an 8-pointed star lattice design. The outer border design is the same, but with more color on the khorjin - which also has the typical Veramin rosettes on the bottom flatweave. They are also both single wefted and they both use offset knots, with the older mafrash more heavily offset-knotted.

I researched nearly a dozen of these Arab mafrash with Turkmen guls and all of them had offset knotting. I consider it an identifying trait, although one not previously mentioned in the literature, the Tanavoli book or the Craycraft article. Due to the fact that this offset knotting is not necessarily used for a design purpose - such as to sharpen the diagonals of motifs - but is often at the horizontal border stripes and in odd areas of the fields, perhaps it avoided notice.
So, you have a "Kurdish" structure with "Turkmen" designs in an Arab weaving.
Tanavoli says "All (Veramin) groups, including Kurds, Lors, Shahsavan and Arabs use the symmetric knot for their pile rugs. Warps are most often on one level or, rarely, slightly depressed. The majority of the pile weaves have one weft shoot between rows of knots." (Citing Craycraft whose data showed 83% single wefted, the rest double wefted - from an old ORR article, A Group of Varamin Weavings, vol. 9, no. 6, 1989 - on over 100 Varamin pile weavings "However, Craycraft's suggested attribution of most of them to the Turkmen is unfounded and misleading.")
Tanavoli, in discussing the Arab tribes of Veramin, echoes Jack regarding Sunni Turkmen in a Shiite Varamin region: " is in any case most unlikely that Sunni Turkmen tribes would have risked living among Varamini Shi'ites, so these visual similarities have given rise to some understandable confusion."
Tanavoli, however, does perhaps unintentionally introduce the source of this Turkmen type of design, noting that most of the Arab tribes hailed from the Fars area - moved by orders of Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar shahs from the 17th century onwards, but also saying:
"Some of these tribes trace their roots to Khorasan, others to Fars and to Kerman."
Khorasan, where the Quchan Kurds copied Turkmen designs into some of their weavings. And, perhaps, from where the Arabs brought this tradition to Varamin also.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-07-2007 11:40 PM:

A lion&sun rug in Anatolia?

Patrick (and for that matter, Chuck), I stand speechless in awe. You all each are definitely the man and your bottomless trunks...If yall ever need help rearranging things.... for the usual 10 percent, I am available for manual labor.

I had already prepared most of this post to again try to explain my anxiety about Don's rugs and the Veramin attribution. To shorten things, I will hold the footnotes and present the theses. I frequently refer to a date, "pre WWI." Actually, Turkmen raids were still occuring into the 1920s and badmashes activity continued into the 1930s. But by WWI, most of Turkmenistan had been pacified by the Russians. It is a convienent date to use.

ALERT - what follows is opinion...and the theses will never be proved - it may be worthless as well...but at least it is a set of logical deductions...therefore may be of value.

Wendel, that is a nice drawing…and it could indeed represent how guls developed. But…of course i know you do not present it as a Turkmen gul. Unlike a "Sunni Turkmen gul", it represents no peoples, history, or traditions. It isn’t even a “pseudo Turkmen gul" because it is not recognizable as a secondary reference to a symbol that represents a group of people, their culture, history, etc.

Pre WWI, according to most literature...a Turkmen person from Turkmenistan was of course a Sunni. The Turkmen's usual attitude toward the Shia Persians was perhaps expressed best in a Tekke saying, “no Persian can enter Turkmen territory except at the end of a rope.”

In a macro sense, the details of the guls used by Turkmen, whether Tekke, Saryk, Ersari, Yomud, etc., are unimportant. But what is important is that all of those guls represented tribes, groups, septs, clans of Turkmen to each other, and to everyone else in central Asia. I feel silly posting these "Sunni Turkmen guls" on "Turkotek." However... I guess it won't hurt to reinforce a point of my thesis. It didn't matter what gul you looked at. Every one represented a living ethos to those that saw it...and that was what is important for our case here.

I believe that what these Sunni Turkmen guls represented, to everyone were raiders, slavers, looters, the worst destroyers of civilization the world has ever known, and the mortal enemies of the Persians. Regardless of which Turkmen gul you choose, pre WWI they all were probably terrible and terrifying symbols to the Persian.

Example: from about 1800-1875, the Tejand-Sarakhs-Merv Tekkes alone carried off over a million Persians into slavery, and killed or robbed uncounted others. The Yomud may have been worse, raiding all the way over to Ishfahan. The Saryk, Ersari et al were not far behind in their depredations.

I used the term “pseudo-Turkmen-gul” to refer to a stylized representation that called to mind a true gul and its related iconography. A modern example might be a thin banner, one end blue with a few stars, the rest consiting of 3-4 red-white stripes. Though not an American flag, it definitly calls one to mind. Likewise the "pseudo Turkmen gul" was not a simple decorative device, but rather something that actively reminded the viewer of the design source…the Turkmen... and everything they represented.

In my fevered imagination, there are other types of “gul-like” symbols... Even very accurate representations of a gul can simply be used as decorative devices that were intended to evoke little in the way of emotion, either because the group identification had been lost or its id was never known to the weaver. Use of symbols in this way is benign...they basically have no meaning.

In my opinion, studying histroy, sociology, ethnology, religion, etc., is what opened the door to this thesis that pre WWI, a Sunni Turkmen symbol, no matter how stylized, used in an antique rug from the heart of Persia, would be as startling and jarring to the Persians as a confederate flag being waved by Martin Luther King.

I have pretty consistantly tried to rationalize my doubts that even a stylized or “pseudo Turkmen gul” would be found in pre WWI designs from the heart of Persia. I've suggested such were from elsewhere, most likely Khurrison. I am apparently not alone in thinking a Veramin attribution for rugs using the hated Turkmen symbols, no matter how stylized, is bizarre. Tanavoli himself noted the incongruity.

So what about Patrick's "Arab" items, and Wendel's points of structure, as well as the references, Salon discussions, and accademic discusions?

Well, I’ve accepted that these items of Don's may be from Veramin area, if the structural data and attibutes offered here are accurate..and they seem to be. But as I have repeated several times...the sociology still causes me to feel uncomfortable. So...I can understand the use of those pseudo turkmen symbols in the Veramin area only in certain circumstances, such as;

1. They were woven by newcomers who did not know the evil history and who were just looking to make a buck on out-of- country export (the “Arabs?”), or

2. They were woven after elapsed time had softened the Persian-Turkmen antagonism and the symbols had lost their pejorative meanings…ie, the rugs are not particularly old; or

3. they were woven by people who had a history of using those probably came from Khurrison.

I was of this opinion at the start of the line, and the same thoughts still trouble me. Such is the power of perhaps studying too much social sciences. I do recognize that none of this will probably ever be proven...but in my opinion, keeping the sociologic relationships in order definitely helps understand what we are looking at.

By the way, I do not expect to see many examples of the Persian lion and rising sun on rugs from Turkish Anatolia pre WWI for somewhat similar reasons.

I hope this better explains my positions. Agree with them or not , thanks to all for your patience.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-08-2007 12:02 PM:

Hi Jack,

You are a prolific guy, producing 100 images to my one. The one below is in response to your comment a few lines ago that the Baluch were reproducing Turkoman designs, presumably coercively, until the "pacification," when they didn't have to. My point was going to be that the ersatz Salor gul in my piece just doesn't seem consistent with such a thesis. To some extent, the discussion has passed these points, but the image fits in a little bit anyway, looking at your several images of "real" vs. "pseudo" guls.

I agree with you that the so-called real guls seem to come from a relatively structured tradition, a la Moshkova and other commentators; and that the derivative versions of the guls seem to come from a different and looser matrix. But I think you are making too much of that, and building too elaborate a theory on the proposition. Is it reliably established that the many non-Turkoman people in and about the region actually held the views (i. e., stark terror and loathing) you attribute to them towards the Turkoman weavings, as contrasted perhaps to the Turkoman tribal hordes? It seems far-fetched to me as a basis for analyzing the occasional Turkoman device that might appear in the weavings of others.

My other point was, your rationale seems skewed to me in this respect, too: You seemed to say that up to a point (say, 1920-1930), the Baluch were reproducing Turkoman designs under duress, and that they stopped when they could. On the other hand, you also seem to suggest that in more recent times, there has been a proliferation of Turkoman influenced design (pseudo-Turkoman) by weavers who knew not what horror they were fooling with. Have I got that right? The points seem inconsistent.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-08-2007 12:16 PM:

Hi Patrick,

Good selection, and good eye. I had never heard of or noticed that the Veramin pieces used offset knotting. Amazing. I'm not sure I fully got your point about the apparent functional purpose of that. Does it appear random, or is it to give sharp definition to the subtle little diagonals in the border?

It makes the ethnic allocation issue more complicated, as you suggest; and I would like to point out (and I am not trying to be a wise guy) that the little white rosettes in weft float (if that term is sufficiently technical) on black are very suggestive of Baluch work. I know that other people know how to weave a variety of techniques as well, but that particular effect is very Baluch-like.

As a matter of curiosity, do you care to say why you make the mafrash one generation older than the khorjin?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 09-08-2007 06:50 PM:


Nice rug, I'd like to look at it in a little more detail...I think we talked Turkmen symbols in Baluch in at least two archived lines...including maps that show where and what, etc. But, I'll stop posting pictures if it is a bother, though Wendel had twice specifically asked me to post some examples of what I was talking about.

No I don't have proof that the Baluch stopped using Turkmen symbols because the pacification of the Turkmen. [I want to be carefull...I don't want to be accused of hijacking a line to Baluch. ] But I do have references that note the coincidence. Here is one, Wegner...

"...they [the Baluch] might have been forced to reproduce Turkoman devices in their rugs... ...Therefore we find many Turkoman designs modified according to Balouch specific taste... ...the "Turkoman border", the famous alternating latch-hook pattern, became a "pseudo gul" in the field of Balouch rugs... ...the Turkoman guls themselves were more or less preserved. Since the beginning of this century (20th) they have, however appeared less. The next generations have felt no need to still incorporate them in their rugs... ... Does that mean that the Balouch still respect those Turkomans who until the end of the 19th century undertook "alamans"... going deep in the south of Khorassan?"

First Edwards, and then more explicitly, Eiland referenced the resumption of Baluch use of Turkmen type symbols for commercial reasons. I'll let others look up those quotes.

Re: my use of terminolgy describing guls. Perhaps this will help..

Type 1. Real Turkmen guls from real Turkmen tribes representing real Turkmen people.
Type 2. Pseudo Turkmen guls representing real guls that represent real tribes, but not the weaver's tribe or group...
Type 3. Decorative guls made because someone liked the way real guls looked or they were commercially attractive, etc.

When the Baluch began commonly weaving Turkmen guls again post WWII, I speculate they were type do Edwards and Eiland. But, if one doubts my basic thesis that the original symbols themselves were emotive to the victims of the Turkmen, the rest is unimportant.

I've explained my reservations three times. In this line I've documented my piddling little thoughts perhaps more deeply than the basic veramin theses. Well...fine...but my concerns are not the focus of this line, are they? More questions asking for re-definition will not make those concerns of mine go away. But they can be rationalized...which is what I've been trying to do.

I always answer any questions and share information, but prefer to answer (and ask) questions that are truly core directed at rugs.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-08-2007 08:17 PM:

Hi Jack,

You didn't think I was suggesting you cut down on the posted images, did you? Good grief, no! I think you were the guy that posted that fabulous 1838 map, right? I was just comparing your output to my own, shall we say, modest output.

Your citation of Wegner's comments and Edwards and Eiland as well, puts your views in clearer perspective. I still think you can only take it so far when considering specific rugs.

The Salor-gulled Baluch I posted has always been a bit of a puzzle to me. I consider the design very derivative, of course, but well and thoughtfully drawn; and the wool is extremely nice. The colors are very saturated. The reds aren't exactly standard Baluch colors, particularly the darker wine red. But they don't have the look of synthetic colors. At least on my monitor, the image on the screen is very accurate.

Keep them pictures and theories comin'.


Rich Larkin

Posted by Donald Ruyle on 09-08-2007 10:02 PM:

Hello Patrick:

I appreciate very much the great sacrifice in time. I bet you just hate visiting your warehouse. You really pulled out a couple of beauties! Your effort prompted me to get hands-on with these two runners and examine them more closely. As usual, my initial observations were not all correct. The longer rug (pictured first) is, indeed, single-wefted while the other is double-wefted. The end finishes, although looking similar in the images, is also quite different in the two. So, from this discussion and from your images, I am confident that the one rug fits what we have discussed here as Veramin and if I go back and read between what I'v understood so far, I may have the possible identy of the other. One down, one to go. I'm thinking I need to re-visit that Quchon connection. Images to follow.

Thanks for the good stuff!


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-09-2007 01:19 AM:

Knotty Issues


Well, it isn't actually a warehouse. More like a store-room. Well, maybe more like a closet. Er, um, kind of like a cabinet.....well, really just a couple of shelves in a cupboard. But it is in a different room than my computer, so it IS a bit of effort.

Those rosettes look like Baluch work? You mean the Baluch work from that Khorason area? Where both the Arabs who migrated to Veramin picked it up from the Baluch and where the Baluch, Kurds AND Arabs incorporated nearby Turkmen designs into their weavings? Nah, couldn't be.

And that Baluch of yours is the best Turkmen gul piece I ever recall seeing. Many are later, with a lot of orange, but yours is deliciously colored and delightfully done.
And those pesky offset knots. They aren't just Kurdish anymore.
Marla Mallett has produced a prodigious presentation on offset knotting:
There are also links to a couple of Turkotek salons that discuss this issue.
To a great extent, Marla proposes that much offset knotting was utilized in an effort to reproduce flatweave designs in pile, to steepen diagonals, to replicate designs in coarse weaves that were copied from finer court carpets, and Turkmen weavers used offset knotting in the later 19th century to compensate for the increase in vertical to horizontal knot ratios - in order to retain the original appearance of some motifs which would otherwise have become flatter.
In these Veramin pieces some areas of offset knotting, especially in the plain blue field, appear to be random and not for any purpose. In the khorjin, though, there are offset knots which act to steepen the diagonals of some of the border motifs. In the mafrash it seems like some of the horizontal rows of offset knots were used to make some of the horizontal lines in the design appear impossibly thin.
The mafrash not only looks older than its brighter, younger khorjin relative, but also appears to be older than many Veramin mafrash I have handled. Some seem to be early 20th century and some late 19th century, but this one looks older than most, has a softer, thinner feel and the colors are deeper and darker. Like the patina of varnish on an old chair. It reeks of age. (no camel dung smell, though - although I would be hard pressed to differentiate between camel dung and sheep dung aromas. Steve, perhaps another area of research funding?)
Jack, I have already set aside that 10% of my collection for you. I call it my e-bay dung-heap. It looks like the pile of things in John Howe's place - from a distance. The garbage man refuses to take it away.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 09-09-2007 11:15 AM:

Hi all,

After that short-lived shower of compliments I was feeling pretty good about my collection, but I was also looking around for a bunch of Baluch-Turkoman rugs that I didn't remember buying (I do have one of the Baluch ensi's - shown in a previous discussion - but it is devoid of tribal guls).

Then I remembered who was doing the typing. Now that Jack's bourbon haze has cleared, I'll dive back into the fray. This will satiate his Baluchi itch, and contribute obliquely to the conversation (hopefully, without sidetracking the flow of the thread - a risk, I admit):

One has to wonder what runs through the weavers mind when creating one of these - where the gul designs come from - not really Turkish, not really Turkoman - yet done with sufficient care and detail to imply some (possibly distant) significance. A couple of them are reminiscent of Wendels drawings. Also, in this case, some nice soft colors - away from the hard orange we often see.

There are several Memling guls, but with more typical Central Asian interior designs:

A shot of the back:

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Don Ruyle on 09-09-2007 11:19 AM:

Here are the images:

Both ends of the single-wefted rug;

and both ends and the back of the double-wefted rug;

Don Ruyle

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-09-2007 01:29 PM:


What I find interesting about the single wefting in your first piece is the tightness of the weave. It is usually possible to spot single wefted construction at the back of a rug at a glance due to a "salt and pepper" effect that occurs. Every other warp is "exposed" by the underlying weft, creating a distinctive visual pattern, more or less pronounced depending on the degree of contrast in the color of the foundation materials. In this case, judging from your image of the back that led off this thread, it isn't so easy to spot it in that manner.


Rich Larkin

Posted by Don Ruyle on 09-09-2007 02:39 PM:


You are absolutely correct about spotting single wefts; I really had to get a good look at both rugs to see that one is in fact single wefted and has about 60 KPSI, the other double-wefted with approx. 45 KPSI. The top end (last end woven) of the double-wefted rug is nicely plaited, while the top end of the other appears to have been folded back and woven in, not plaited, the latter having a much simplier finish at the bottom (first end woven); on the double-wefted rug, the original knotting at the bottom is probably missing. Does the difference in structure come closer to your earlier suggestion?

I agree with Wendel that these runners came from the Veramin area. The color, dark brown foundation materials, refined weaving technique and oversized/multicolored Turkoman gul devices are diagnostic. The latter can be found on Quchon Kurd rugs too, but the rest of the package does not suggest that area of provenance.


Don Ruyle

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-09-2007 05:11 PM:

Hi Don:

I don't want to be creating the suggestion that I'm a maven on all provenances. As far as the end finishes are concerned, "I'm no Marla Mallett!" My chiming in with Wendel on the attribution to the Veramin area was specifically on those features I mentioned, particularly the color (that rose shade) and the dark wool foundation materials. Also, the refined weaving of the first image especially. I wouldn't have recalled that a lot of the Veramin pieces are single wefted, except that I saw a few at a display mounted at John Collins in the Boston area recently.

I found the comments by Patrick above, referring to Tanavoli among others, to be very illuminating. Going back through the years, the only thing I knew (i. e., thought I knew, like everything one knows about rugs) about Veramin was that there were the distinctive workshop rugs in the Mina Khani, and there were the mafrashes, etc., with the Turkoman guls, usually on a blue field. Along with a type of khorjin bag I mentioned above with the strips of pile alternating with flatweave. Beyond that, I didn't know much. Since following TurkoTek, I have noted that there is quite a bit more to it, and that certain people have some of the information. I'm not really one of them, and I can't get too cocky about end finishes in this arena.

BTW, no doubt, you've looked at that link Patrick supplied to the Marla Mallett articles on offset knotting. Outstanding!


Rich Larkin

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-09-2007 06:33 PM:

Offsetting? Warped?

Offset knots can be seen in the lime green flower in the white-ground border of the khorjin here. The bottom of the lower left diagonal angle is steeper than those in adjacent flowers. There is a single knot node step from row to row, but in the white bordered red flowers you can readily see the two knot node white "steps" from row to row.

On the face of the mafrash, there is a strip of blue field just below the rosette, continuing to the border, which is entirely offset knots in relation to the border below and the field above. This area of offset knots does not affect the design in any way that I can tell. Notice also the thin black line at the bottom of the red border. It consists of a row of black knots, but is so thin it is almost a shadow. These knots are offset, too, and may even be made from thinner yarn.

Here is the front of the mafrash, where the outer borders of the gul are squished flat. The lowest gold border knots can be seen as offset between the red knots above. But there is also a row of black knots in between the red and gold rows. I believe there are some knots on a single warp, shared warps and other trickery that allowed the weaver to integrate the offsets seamlessly.

From the back you literally cannot see the weft. In the khorjin in the top picture, there is a bit of the salt-and-pepper single-wefted look, but it, too has thin wefts nearly covered by the knots.

Rich, I also am no Marla nor Maven, but an argument could be made for me being Warped.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Unregistered on 09-09-2007 07:19 PM:

Hi Patrick,

Tragically, you're right about your being warped. I check the portrait gallery regularly for inspiration in that regard. Nevertheless, I'm willing to overlook it on account of how you liked my (also tragically) compromised Baluch/Salor cross.

Actually, I am invigorated by your (and Jack's) positive words about that rug. I've had it about as long as any rug (1966), and as you know, one can lose objectivity about one's own humble specimens after a while. When I was getting into rugs during a stint in Saudi Arabia, there was a gentle old dealer, Mohammed, in the Dira Suq who tended to come up with interesting but damaged pieces. Nobody in that suq could understand why the ferengis were interested in old intact rugs, let alone damaged ones. But Mohammed would have them, very cheap. He sat on a stone by the side of his little spot in the suq, and he had two old fragments folded into squares on that stone that he sat on for a cushion. His dignity and other related operative dynamics prohibited asking him to unfold the squares, but I asked him whether they were for sale. "Yes," he said with obvious surprise. How much? Forty riyals for the pair...nine bucks. I'll take them. One turned out to be the Salor gul model. The other was another worn (corroded brown) Baluch with Salor style guls (speaking broadly). It is a recognizable type perhaps you've seen, where the guls are outlined typically in apricot, green and mid blue. It is also hurting, but mellow, and pleasant to me. And, of course, you can't beat the price, even in 1966 dollars.

Thanks for the great links.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 09-09-2007 08:04 PM:



I, too, bought a Baluch piece, a chanteh that was used as a chair cushion by a dealer from Shiraz. What is it about dealers using Baluch pieces to sit on?


Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-09-2007 10:22 PM:



Rich Larkin