Posted by Jim Allen on 03-28-2008 04:12 PM:

18th Century Anatolian Turkmen

18th century Anatolian Turkmen

Many local Anatolian legends report the arrival of “Salor” Turkmen during the mid 18th century but, as time goes along, I am feeling less and less confident about the westward expansion of Salor Turkmen into Anatolian during the mid 18th century. According to Dr. Woods, writing in
Vanishing Jewels, the Salor actually moved eastward, after their expulsion from Khiva, first into the Amu Darya River basin and then onward toward present day Mongolia. During the first half of the 18th century the Tekke were closely allied with the Salor in a confederation. The evidence is that the Salor fled eastward toward Mongolia while their friends, the Tekke, fled westward into Anatolia.
The evidence indicates that many Tekke women were absorbed as secondary brides, by Yomud men, after their defeat. These Tekke brides gave rise to about fifty years of Tekke six gull wedding torbas woven with Yomud borders. The elements (flowers) of those Yomud borders were often woven upside down.
It is surprising to many Turkoman collectors that so little Turkoman design persisted longer than one or two generations after the Tekke entered Anatolia. The Tekke quickly learned what was selling in the market place and reproduced it. Richard Purdon told me that all antique Kiz Bergama weavings were made in or around Soma near Bergama. The size of Kiz Bergama rugs is closely related to the size of Tekke wedding rugs woven with Tekke chuval gulls.

I have in my collection a Karapinar exhibiting a very tribal and primitive drawing with several interesting representations of the Tekke chemche gull. I believe this Karapnar rug was woven within one generation of the rug illustrated above. It is interesting that its vertical axis is decorated above and below with a motif seemingly related to a motif familiar to us from the elem of Salor ensi.
Notice the negative space form defined by those four adjacent main gulls in the rug pictured above is reminiscent of the field design of the rug pictured below.

In the field and the center medallion of this Karapinar rug are well articulated chemche gulls. These gulls are reminiscent of early 18th century Tekke main carpet chemche gulls.Notice how the space defined by four adjacent main gulls defines a form very similar to the rug above and an archetypal chuval gull.

I have shown remnants of Tekke iconography in several Anatolian rugs. If we all start to look for these remnants in our collections we are sure to come up with more excellent examples. Perhaps the Tekke and the Salor fled from Khiva in every direction after their defeat about 1750.

Jim Allen

Posted by Richard Larkin on 03-29-2008 03:23 PM:

Hi Jim,

I have always found the first rug in your post fascinating. This may be sacreligious, but I can't shake the sense that it has the look of a wagireh. I don't really assert that proposition, but that's what it looks like. Are you aware of other published early examples like this, that seem to show prototype classic turkoman gul types, or that use them in this manner?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jim Allen on 03-29-2008 05:25 PM:


First off; I do not know of another Anatolian weaving exhibiting such clearly Turcoman inspired iconography. The proposition that this weaving might be a wagireh never crossed my mind, until you mentioned it.

Logically any group of desperate displaced nomads, with a strong tradition of weaving, might be expected to produce wagireh’s as examples of what they might be expected to produce. What else could they do to make money besides shear their sheep, spin the sheared wool into threads, dye the skeins of spun wool, and then weave the various skeins of dyed or undyed wool into rugs? This is basically what they had always done except now they found themselves having to weave designs aimed at others; without regard to any intrinsic existential meaningfulness.

I think what can be learned here is first, just how important selling a rug was to the Turcoman nomad, and second, how tenuous the grip of didactive formalism was on their nomadic mind. This second point is meant to indicate that it was very easy for the Turcoman native to slip into and out of settled life. They preferred to be nomadic but did not find it too egregious to become settled when conditions dictated.

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-01-2008 05:24 PM:

Jim, Richard,

yes, the rug you show with the inventory number A-28 of the collection of the Vakiflar Museum Istanbul is a great one; its bold drawing, vivid colour and the unusual design change within highlights its transitional character and makes it unique and highly desirable. So or similar must also the robbers have felt who stole it from the Great Mosque in Divrigi in 1979. Very fortunately it later was retrieved with several others from a van parked in Istanbul.

A few rugs from the theft at the Divrigi Ulu Cami remain missing to this day. This is also most unfortunate as one of them shares some features of A-28 and, hopefully, at today’s advanced stage of knowledge, if the rugs could be assessed jointly, might reveal some more of their backgrounds. Similarities are namely in the border design; other aspects are reminiscent of an area that comprises the east of Anatolia, the west of Persia and the southern Caucasus.

Given all this it is no wonder the rug captures peoples’ imagination and prompts the formulation of a new theory around it.

Yours is a quite neat theory, Jim. It makes a number of assumptions though, one being that the rug’s coming into existence is preceded by the Khiva events you are referring to, by this making it an 18th century rug (in relation to the second rug you are showing - the one generation later one as you say - perhaps late 18th century even). I don’t think this is what Balpinar and Hirsch (1988) in their review of the rugs of the Vakiflar Museum (Belkis Balpinar having been the founding curator since 1978) had in their mind when for lack of comparative material they attested the rug being difficult to age attribute (pp 300; plate 62).

In an earlier Salon
I have discussed this rug in connection with another unique 16th century triple medallion rug from Anatolia in the Black Church, Brashov, Romania, bearing an equally strong Turkoman resemblance .
The resemblance of some of the bearing design elements in both rugs and their location in design history suggest to me that they are of comparative age and from the same general area, i.e. East Anatolia / West Iran / Azerbaidjan, not Karapinar / Konya.

A-28 seems transitory in its design and may be a kind of prototype. I don’t think it is a wagireh, this usually being a relatively small sample rug showing what can be done, serving as a catalogue to promote business or as a blue print for design solutions in a workshop context. A-28 shows by far too few alternatives on too large a space, the rug measuring 380 x 210 cm. Also, the idea of laying out a wagireh in a mosque seems somewhat alien to the concept of donating a rug in praise of God.

Is it a Turkoman or even a Tekke rug? First Turkoman groups probably arrived in Anatolia more than one or two centuries before the Seljuks. Whether they carried rug designs we don’t know. The one or two Turkoman rugs I have seen that were claimed to be radiocarbon-dated16th century were of a different type. We tend to extrapolate and generously assume that a 16th / 17th century Turkoman rug could / would look somewhat like the ones we know – only older. Although this approach is quite common in many fields and often appropriate as a pragmatic first guess, it promotes misjudgements frequently. In a somewhat different application of a terminus J. Thompson has coined, A-28 could perhaps be considered as showing an ‘archetypical’ göl, i..e. one that in a process of differentiation eventually would have led to a more specific type (like a Tekke göl). This concept of course rests on the assumption that göl designs have not travelled east to west on a one-way street but have made use of both directions. Alternatively, the arrangement of Turkoman göls along with the cross-like space between them could be associated with Turkoman sections of a Timurid army that had chosen to remain, when the main body eventually ebbed back east or, as a second alternative, the rug could be assumed to continue a design tradition established by regional waevers or shops working to the requirements of their Timurid lords.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-01-2008 08:42 PM:


Lovely reply and yes I make more than my fair share of unsubstantiated assumptions. It would be of great interest to me to see the rugs you and I have posted radiocarbon dated. I am well aware of the painful lack of dutiful reproducibility in such studies but I have had experience with Dr. Jull at the University of Arizona and he feels qualified to date textiles up to 1700 AD. I think you are leaning toward dating the Vakiflar rug to this early dateable period while I am placing my bets on it dating to about 1750 AD. A full dye analysis of the rug might help us pin the date down. In reality we are unlikely to ever see such data even if it exists because of normal museum protocols. The rug you highlight in your previous salons seems clearly 17th century to me and quite a bit older than any of the other rugs we are discussing. Thank you for your nice comments. By the way my comments about the age of my own rug ought to be taken with a grain of salt or simply ascribed to my own over zealous hyperbole. The rug certainly looks old on stylistic grounds but I have insufficient comparable data and the rugs border is a bit naive in execution. I suppose it might be late 18th century but it is more likely 19th century. If you have some data or a strong opinion I would like to know it. Jim Allen

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-01-2008 09:24 PM:

Hi Horst,

To be sure I understand you, can you confirm that A-28 from the Vakiflar collection is the first image in Jim's post? Is that rug 380 cm. x 210 cm.? I am astonished. I thought perhaps 120 x 230, or thereabouts. It puts a whole different perspective on it for me.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-01-2008 09:57 PM:

More Ideas

Horst wrote, “A few rugs from the theft at the Divrigi Ulu Cami remain missing to this day. This is also most unfortunate as one of them shares some features of A-28 and, hopefully, at today’s advanced stage of knowledge, if the rugs could be assessed jointly, might reveal some more of their backgrounds. Similarities are namely in the border design; other aspects are reminiscent of an area that comprises the east of Anatolia, the west of Persia and the southern Caucasus.”

I have learned that the sizes of Caucasian village looms were rather fixed and a matter of at least decades old traditions. If the southern Caucasus is one of the likely spots for the Vakiflar rug’s production then why not the village of Khaznzy? Rugs of the same basic size and general layout were being woven during the 19th century in Khaznzy. I have a Khaznzy rug measuring 1.85 X 3.75 meters with a bold central medallion and groupings of designs much like the Vakiflar rug.

Its designs seem to be influenced by Faralou Kazak designs while the Vakiflar rug’s design seems influenced by Turkoman designs. Just a thought….. Jim Allen

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-02-2008 02:56 AM:

Richard, Jim,

yes, A-28 is that large.

The Khaznzy connection you make, Jim, is interesting. I can't find that village on my map though - Bordjalu district in the Central Caucasus is correct, is it? Judged by those bird it could be on the fringe to Akstafa.

I would love to see it radiodated too. But first one would have to get hold of it. There is something funny about this rug: it keeps vanishing! Just in time for last year's ICOC the Vakiflar Carpet Museum was moved from its former domicile on the Blue Mosque premises to the freshly restored old Ottoman soup kitchen between Hagia Sophia and the fountain near the the Topkapi entrance. Synchronized with this move a new book on the Vakiflar carpet and kelim collection was published by the general directorate. To my surprise, wanting to look it up a couple of days ago I found out that A-28 is not included, no plate , no reference!

But this was the second blow already. When I went to Istanbul last December, warming my heart on the thought of a quite stroll through the museum, I faced closed doors - the whole place had apparantly been shut down and the rugs removed to an unknown location. Nobody near who could have explained. In the museum shop next door the manageress did not even know that the Vakiflar Carpet Museum had been her neighbor only eight months previously.

I later learned that this may have happened because they were confronted with a damp problem.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-02-2008 03:48 PM:



My poor spelling is probably the cause of your trouble finding Khaznzy. Barry O’Connell lists a village called Khanlyg. On his website Barry says that Khanlyg is a town due east of Kubatly. The Kubatly area is in the southern part of the Karabakh region in Azerbaijan and north of the Karadagh rug producing region of Iran along the Azerbaijan border. John Wertime illustrated a similar rug in one of his books. A recent book edited by Ian Bennet highlighting the best pieces from three Lebanese connoisseurs illustrated another fine example of the genre. At least two other pieces are known to me in Asian museums, one of them is in a museum in Georgia.

The first thing that caught my eye was the gull synthesis you did with photo processing. Your combining of two vertically separated gull forms in that very old looking Anatolian rug reveals a form resembling a classical Turcoman gull.

The box in a box central design is related to early Asian formulations. The shape of the gull reminds me of very old Arabatchi chuval gulls.

Notice the form of the negative space seen between adjacent sets of main gulls in the Arabatchi chuval resembles the negative space shape of the corresponding sets in the Vakiflar rug and in the rug Horst showed us above.

I date the Arabatchi chuval pictured above to the first half of the 18th century. A better dating might be circa 1700 AD. Truly early Arabatchi material is so scarce that one might suppose that only a handful of “Royal” Arabatchi families were present at Khiva in the early 18th century. I have written an article about a possible link between the “missing Arabatchi” and the formulation of one very famous Caucasian rug type.

Horst; your synthesized gull center, pictured above, resembles the inner portion of my Khaznzy rug’s central medallion. See the last detail shot in the link below.

The question is; was there a village where large Caucasian rugs with special designs were woven through the last several centuries? Was the Vakiflar’s rug one of these rugs? The Vakiflar rug has an “S” inner minor border and a standard Yomud outer main border. The inner main border is an unsophisticated Bergama area design that is thought to be derived from a Turcoman archetype.

Could a weaving center or village, like Khaznzy, have kept alive the essence of so many early archetypes? I suppose in any well circumscribed area, where weaving rugs is used to generate hard currency (gold), one should expect to find centers of specialization. Might Khaznzy have been such a center of specialization? Did they have the craftsmen and looms necessary for weaving large and special Caucasian pieces? If this were so I would suppose that the main focus of this village production might have been the wealthy members of the trans Caucasus Mountains region.
I theorize that the inspirations for these locally consumed and appreciated monumental Khaznzy weavings were the forms and designs of successful earlier traditions that had founded new types of Caucasian rug designs. Some group in Khaznzy was keeping notes on the tides of design history in the larger region.
Returning now to the very old rug whose Turcoman like gull you restored visually I want to propose an earlier archetype for its inspiration. I have an eastern Anatolian yellow ground rug of great antiquity that sports a large central medallion reminding me of an ancient Turcoman gull. I mean ancient in the sense that the gull is virtually extinct.

I have written an article about this rug but with my usual disregard for facts and established suppositions.

The rugs central medallion looks to me like a very early Turcoman gull formulation. Its thin main border contains interpolated designs interacting like the many facets of a belt or a band. The whole rug seems to be Turcoman inspired to me.

In conclusion I will have the yellow ground rug radiocarbon analyzed to see if and where we can position it on the time line we are building.

Jim Allen

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-05-2008 04:35 PM:

Hello Jim

In the meantime I had a conversation with A-22. This is what it was telling me (using an idiom I have from an Azerbaidjani restorer I knew who claimed that the rugs “talked” to him – or didn’t). Or should I say this is the interpretation of its image language with reference to the historical context of the time:

Those design aspects that by others (Kristine Klose) were associated with a Timurid influence (göl composition with complementary cruciforms - I think it is more appropriate to call them ‘complementary’ than ‘negative’ at this early stage of development since both forms were interdependent. Only later the cruciforms shrunk back, giving more space to the göls and settling for a lower rank in the hierarchy) have moved out or were pushed out of the central field towards the fringes by an array of small stars that appear to be off-springs of those big Ushak stars. This creates distance and space for the central medallion which presents itself as a transformation of the well known Ushak star (the early “Star Ushak” rugs were Ushak by name only, the origin of the motive laying in East Anatolia and West Persia (which politically was the same in the 15th century). If this is how an early Turkmen carpet may have looked, the design of your Arabachi torba could represent one of the next possible steps. This is the historical context: out of the first half of the 15th century the Karakuyunlu (Turkoman) federation grew in power and eventually overcame the Timurids; in 1452 they had conquered the most of Persia, in 1458 they had taken Khorasan and Herat, the capital of the Timurids. The capital of the Karakuyunlu was Tabris in Aszerbaidjan (which is roughly in the middle of the regions of origin for the rug that had been discussed by Balpinar and Hirsch). Design history: parallel to the mentioned political transitions the 2nd half of the 15th century saw the slow rise of the central medallion design which was to become prominent in Islamic art in the following centuries (Kristine Klose). Rug A-22 may not have been the first and only of its kind but may be a representative of a design that had run successfully for a century or more, telling the story of the decline of some and the rise to power of others at the night-fires along the silk-road.

“The question is; was there a village where large Caucasian rugs with special designs were woven through the last several centuries? …. Could a weaving centre or village, like Khaznzy, have kept alive the essence of so many early archetypes?” In principle yes, I think its possible. The plains in that part of the world for millenniums have seen a constant coming and going of people and tides of fate and victory; the crevasses of the Caucasus is where often the spray of such events could come to rest. There the arc of covenant survived, the ancient peacock motif and several others that perhaps are not quite as old.

“The Vakiflar rug has an “S” inner minor border and a standard Yomud outer main border. The inner main border is an unsophisticated Bergama area design that is thought to be derived from a Turcoman archetype.” The rug missing since the Divrigi theft seems to have this kind of diagonal, multicoloured border with s-form as a main border, as far as I can make out from the old, small b/w images in the Balpinar and Hirsch (1988) book or the HALI 1979 I/3 volume; so maybe this kind of border in not exclusive to the Bergama region and has seen some more of the world. It also makes an appearance on inner and outer borders of Vakiflar rug E-1, thought to be 15th-17th century, depending on authors.

“… is probably the cause of your trouble finding Khaznzy. Barry O’Connell … says that Khanlyg is a town due east of Kubatly. The Kubatly area is in the southern part of the Karabakh region in Azerbaijan and north of the Karadagh rug producing region of Iran along the Azerbaijan border.”

Sounds like the familiar confusion in the rug world. The rugs in the Kubatla area as depicted in the Eder / Bennett book look different, whilst there is an obvious parallel of design aspects to rugs in the Bordjalu area. On your website you are writing that Khaznzy is in the Bordjalu area – what now, shall we send an expedition? If we want to probe whether the Khaznzy design is in the succession of A-22, it would be good to know where Khaznzy is. Structural comparison should be a good idea as well. For A-22 I have provided the data in the discussion of the Transylvanian rugs.

As to your considerations of C14-analysing your yellow ground rug (Yastik?): if it is a yastik and you are not worried it might be just outside the trusted interval, I think it would be an interesting project. The Morehouse (1996) book as well depicts yastiks that seem to be of considerable age, and I would be curious to know whether some yastiks are as old as they look or whether they look older than they are because of their very traditional motifs. Yours is a venerable small rug with a strong Anatolian appeal; the eight-lobed star motif seems related to the ones in A-22, the Transylvanian rug and also plate 61 in the Morehouse book.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-05-2008 05:51 PM:

Yellow field rug

The yellow rug measures 3'11" X 5' 2". It is bone dry and there are repairs from different centuries; it looks to me. The C-14 dating is merely a question of money but I lack a serious context. I need a museum to take the 5 micro gram sample of weft that is needed and make its dating part of a larger project. This is what I did with the MET and Kurt munkacsi. Without context the information will have NO weight. I have samples in glassine envelops of the 8 rugs we tested in the original experiment where we discovered my Tekke chuval was mid 17th century. Hali 55 & Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies 5, Pinner & Eiland. That means that I have some weft threads from the Getty's Ardabil carpet that Jull dated to the same general date as that on the carpet itself. I have the material to do some serious science and I don't want to waste these precious materials. I think the best use would be to collect, under rigorous conditions, a small group of ostensibly classical weft threads from interested collectors and test them all against 3 or 4 of the already tested "knowns" that I possess. If this experiment were done right with material that stands a real chance of being pre 1700 AD and we got clear results we would absolutely move rug scholarship along the way.

Jim Allen

Can somebody who knows John Wertime ask him where Khaznzy is?

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-07-2008 05:06 PM:

The two big rugs together

Here is the main rug of interest in this thread posted right next to the Khaznzy rug that I feel might be related to it. Their visual comparison isn’t completely equal but it is close enough for the purpose of showing their similarities. I have put out requests for information about the location of Khaznzy. Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-07-2008 07:56 PM:

Hi Jim

I've looked in a few sources for Khaznzy, with no success. I wonder if there's some spelling variant that's used more often. I didn't scour the texts, but did look in the indices in the backs of Wertime's Sumak Bags, Wright and Wertime's book (I'm too lazy to walk upstairs and get the exact title), and Bennett's book on Caucasians.

Steve Price

Posted by Unregistered on 04-07-2008 08:19 PM:

try ghazny(i)

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-08-2008 08:20 AM:

yellow field anatolian rug

Something about this rug just doesn't sit right with me. Can someone give a good reason to suggest that it's early 17th century. That's obviously quite old in rug years, and I'm wondering if there's a similar example with an established date that we can compare it to. Absolutely nothing in the write-up of this rug lends evidence to such an extremely early date. Perhaps it's just my monitor or the photos, but the colors of this rug seem somehow different from the colors I associate with early central anatolian rugs, and the wool seems to glisten with an awful lot of lanolin for such an allegedly old thing.

Ben Mini

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-08-2008 12:27 PM:

C-14 testing

I don't know whether C-14 textile testing procedures are standardized or if they vary from lab to lab. However, based on what I have read of these procedural steps, I don't see wool properties as being adequately addressed by them. When I read scientific test procedures I don't like it when the first thought that comes to mind is, as it was with this one, ''Boy, the rug fakers are going to love this test''.
And now this -- If Glassine envelopes are seriously considered appropriate storage for wool samples involved in C-14 testing I think rug scholarship will be moved along, all right, and ushered right on out the door if test results from such stored samples are taken seriously. One day. Hopefully, one day soon, if such is the case. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 04-08-2008 12:56 PM:

Hi Sue

I don't know how to say this politely: you clearly don't know what you're talking about. The results of C-14 analysis reported by competent laboratories are reliable within the limits reported even though procedural details probably vary from one lab to another.

Wool has no properties that present special problems or obstacles to C-14 testing. Old rugs present the problem that they often contain wool of different ages (because they have been repaired or restored), but it isn't difficult to tell which wool is original before taking samples from the rug.

I assume that your concern with Glassine envelopes has to do with contamination of the wool samples. The guys who do C-14 work were aware of contamination as a source of serious error long before you were, and take steps proven to be effective to eliminate it.

Steve Price

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-08-2008 01:27 PM:

The name Khaznzy was changed to Gardabani in 1947. It has had several names but it is due west of Lambalo at the head of a beautiful long valley. Below are some of the many previous names for the place.

Karayazy, ...

population : 10972
N 41° 27' 17'' E 45° 5' 41''
41.45472 / 45.09472

GeoNameId : 614575

The glassine envelops were supplied by the MET and are still used to send wool samples. They are the ideal conveyance. After treatment with solvents to remove any and all oils the wool is burned into Co2 and water. The Co2 is collected and that is what's radiocarbon tested at Arizona University.

Here is a scan of fig. 53 from Wright and Wertime.

These are rare rugs and many of them are in museums like the one above as I remember.

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-09-2008 08:11 AM:

early 17th c. yellow ground anatolian

I take it that no one really has a sensible reason to date this rug to the early 17th century.

I assume that claim, like so much in this thread, was just an exercise of the imagination-- an exercise not really grounded in many facts, but with many links to a commercial website.

Ben Mini

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-09-2008 08:51 AM:


I dated the yellow ground yatak to the early 17th century based on iconography and that isn't always a good idea. I have contacted Arizona to get the forms and prices for C-14 analysis. My problem is that people with a negative attitude will say that I didn't use the wool form this rug but some other sample in my possession. I want to avoid this fallacy by gathering several worthy samples from other collector's rugs and using my precious C-14 dated samples to add accuracy and validity to the test. This will take awhile to pull together. Meanwhile I agree with your asking for other relevant examples to compare mine with. Horst said that the yellow ground rug "is a venerable small rug with a strong Anatolian appeal; the eight-lobed star motif seems related to the ones in A-22, the Transylvanian rug and also plate 61 in the Morehouse book." This means that one well informed person agrees with me that the rug is quite old. I think Horst would bet the rug is early 18th century. The last time I had a chance to do a well conceived C-14 study I submitted two samples and one of them, a Tekke chuval, was C-14 tested twice and both times came up mid 17th century. That was the first Turkoman in history demonstrated to be pre 18th century. I believe I have a pretty good track record in these matters but if you have something more than opinion to base your approbations on, please share them with us.
Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 09:51 AM:

Re: early 17th c. yellow ground anatolian

Originally posted by Ben Mini
I take it that no one really has a sensible reason to date this rug to the early 17th century.

I assume that claim, like so much in this thread, was just an exercise of the imagination-- an exercise not really grounded in many facts, but with many links to a commercial website.

Ben Mini

Hi Ben

Just a few points in Jim's defense and my own (since this is a moderated forum, I bear at least partial responsibility for anything that appears on it).

1. Regarding date attributions: The foundation for dating any rug woven between 1650 and 1850 is mostly marketplace lore handed down from dealer to dealer and collector. There is no database of rugs of documented age during that period from which criteria can be extracted. There's only a handful documented to have been woven before 1650 (I consider C-14 results to be documentation). As the latter part of the 19th century comes in, there is some firsthand experience with who was weaving what. These facts notwithstanding, it's not at all uncommon for collectors, dealers, and curators to make attributions. I don't take them very seriously as statements of fact, but they don't get me all exercised unless they're presented with an air of great certainty. Nothing in this thread seems to warrant major objections.

2. Much of what Jim presents is speculative, but I see no pretense about it being anything else.

3. Although there are links to images that are on Jim's website, to the best of my knowledge none of them are on the market and some may not still be in his possession. This meets the spirit and letter of our prohibition of promotional posts. If I am mistaken about whether any of these are for sale, or if any of them are offered for sale in the near future, we'll do what needs doing to protect the integrity of the site. But if Jim hasn't violated it, there's no reason to impugn his. In fact, one of our rules (posted in the paragraph atop this page) forbids comments bearing on the reputation of any seller, and the question of whether your comments crossed that line doesn't have a clear answer. If you know of some reason to believe somebody is promoting his inventory here, letting me or Filiberto know about it by e-mail is a better approach than posting innuendo.


Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-09-2008 11:27 AM:

17th century yellow ground anatolian

I'm afraid that I have no way to prove the age of this rug. All I have is my opinion. My opinion is that it's unlikely the rug dates to the early 17th century.

I think the claim that the rug dates to the 17th century and that it's some kind of an archetype, is pretty bold. Bold claims are often true, but they deserve to be questioned.

If I had to guess, I would say that the yellow ground rug is far more recent-- from within the past 100-150 years or so.

This is just my opinion, which I think is less bold than the idea that the rug dates back to the early 17th c.

Ben Mini

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 11:45 AM:

Hi Ben

For whatever it's worth, I think your opinion of the rug's age is as good as anyone else's.

I don't recall seeing any declarations of it being early 17th century, and didn't find any in a cursory re-read of the thread. My reading is that it was speculated to be that early (and archetypical) on the basis of some characteristics and that Jim proposed testing the date speculation by submitting samples for C-14 analysis. This seems pretty non-dogmatic to me. Can you point me to what you saw that I missed?


Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-09-2008 12:34 PM:


If you follow the link to the a-bey website provided earlier in this thread, it says... "stylistically it is most likely an early 17th century rug."

Maybe that's not a declaration, but I still think it's a highly questionable conjecture well worth questioning.

In my opinion, stylistically it is most likely not an early 17th century rug.

Ben Mini

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 01:05 PM:

Hi Ben

As you note, not a declaration or even a moderately confident assertion. In fact, it becomes even less assertive when I include the beginning of the sentence, which you edited out. In full, the sentence reads,
The true age of the yellow field Anatolian weaving shown above will have to wait on scientific testing but stylistically it is most likely an early 17th century rug.

I also notice that the sentence in this thread that immediately precedes that link reads,
I have written an article about this rug but with my usual disregard for facts and established suppositions.
This seems like enough of a disclaimer to give any reader adequate notice that the link goes to a speculative article.

You referred to that conjecture as a claim, not once but in two separate posts. You also implied that this entire thread was somehow sinister because it included links to pages on a commercial site. In fact, none of those links lead to pages of anything for sale, and linking to informational pages on sites belonging to dealers is pretty normal practice on Turkotek. Two that come to mind easily are Marla Mallett's and Tom Cole's.

The most common complaint we get from collectors is that Turkotek presents too many low end pieces and too few that are really interesting to collectors. Especially in view of this, I think the folks who do present good pieces for discussion deserve better than to have others misrepresent their words and submit innuendo about their motives.

Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-09-2008 02:10 PM:

Dear Steve,

So if I post an otherwise nice old rug on Turkotek, but misrepresent it's age by three hundred years or so, that's ok? I feel like you're parsing words when you chide me with accusing Jim of making claims when he was actually just positing working conjectures.

I don't want to hit turkotek like a troll, or needlessly impugn anybody.

I just think that the conjecture that the yellow ground Anatolian rug dates to the early 17th century is a little silly.

I'm sorry for turning this thread negative. On second thought, I maybe should have just kept my mouth shut. I almost certainly should have moderated my tone.

In any event, I'm now on record as saying that I think this thread is a little bit silly.

No hard feelings, I hope...

Ben M

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-09-2008 05:17 PM:



Remember all anybody has seen of this rug is a low quality- shot indoors with a flash- image. I suspect you are basing your age assessment on some historical and or aesthetic grounds but in all reality the very large scale and powerful archaic drawing of the rug are more appropriate to the 15th century than the 19th century, on strictly art historical grounds. See the Ming rug, plate 22 in Yetkin.

I have spent 3 years studying this rug. I know it better than anybody. Hopefully one day soon I will have some scientific information to share but until then I am happy with my published opinion. I have been asking around for at least two years looking for somebody who knows of a similar rug and I have yet to find one. The square within a square format of the gull center is a very old characteristic. Look from a little distance at the rug’s image and notice the negative space interactions around the gull center. There are no superfluous designs in the composition and every part of the design is meaningful at a profound and obviously nomadic level, at least in my mind.
Thank you for taking the time to read my early writing concerning this rug and I hope you weren’t too offended by passing through my web site.

Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 05:32 PM:

Hi Ben

If you post a nice old rug on Turkotek and hypothesize that it's 300 years old, there's no problem. Of course, anyone is free to disagree and/or to offer alternative hypotheses, preferably with reasons. But nobody will be free to say that you misrepresented its age unless your age attribution was stated as a fact rather than as a hypothesis. You imply that you see no significant difference between a clearly identified conjecture and an assertion of fact. They are not the same thing, and when a conjecture is criticized as though it was a fact, the critic has misrepresented what was said.

It is your privilege to think that this thread (or any other) is silly. It is also your privilege to express that opinion here, although if there's no better reason than the fact that you disagree with an age attribution that was clearly identified as conjecture, I think it's silly to do so.

As for hitting Turkotek like a troll and needlessly impugning anyone, I think you've done both in this thread. I agree: at the very least, you should have moderated your tone.

Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-09-2008 08:25 PM:

Dear Steve and Turkotekia,

I am truly sorry if I offended anyone. This was not my intention, but I understand that my tone has been a little snarky.

Still, I have to disagree with you Steve. Jim has absolutely represented this rug as early 17th century. His point is that we should assume that date until rigorous carbon testing is done. We should assume that date, according to him, because stylistically it appears to be from the early 17th century.

I think it's absurd to wait on the sidelines assuming the rug is early 17th century until Jim finally carbon dates the piece.

I get your distinction between declaration and conjecture, Steve. I just don't find it to be a very relevant distinction in this instance. Often, conjectures are used to make tacit claims. Other times, conjectures function as a species of claims.

I wonder how other people feel about this subject?

Ben M

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 09:54 PM:

Hi Ben

We differ in our interpretation of whether Jim, in your words, absolutely represented this rug as early 17th century or presented his position as a conjecture that this is its age. That is not the same issue as whether you (or I, or anyone else) expect his conjecture to be confirmed by C14 dating in the future or agree with his opinion that it belongs to that period on stylistic grounds.

Anyone who cares can read Jim's posts in this thread and the article he referred with a link, and arrive at his own conclusions. My debate with you on the matter is over.

Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-09-2008 10:34 PM:

Hi all.

I'll jump in. I think Steve was a bit hard on Ben. The reference to links to commercial sites was probably not well considered, but I agree with the thrust of Ben's comments on the rationale behind Jim's dating of the rug. Jim does provide notice that his efforts are speculative and grounded in his own special views; but he also goes on to present very vigorous conjecture that I find entertaining, but also far-fetched and not particularly convincing. And in the end, he is placing the rug around 1700, notwithstanding the caveat. I think Ben saw it pretty much the way I did, and thought it should be called out. Except for the commercial link remark, I didn't see too much in his comments that I would call innuendo, or otherwise out of line.

As to the yellow field rug, I think it has a chance to be very old. But I fail utterly to see the direct links to 17th and early 18th century Turkoman influences that appear to be obvious to Jim.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 04-09-2008 10:58 PM:

Hi Rich

I do not and have not objected to anyone having a different opinion than Jim about the age of the rug. The only issue between me and Ben is whether Jim presented his opinion as a fact known with certainty or as a conjecture that he believes to be correct.

The questions of whether Jim's belief is justified or whether its basis is persuasive to you or Ben or me or anyone else is very different than the question of whether Jim misrepresented the rug's age. If, as Ben states unequivocally, Jim absolutely represented this rug as early 17th century, Ben is right and I am wrong.

Steve Price

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-09-2008 11:36 PM:

Yellow field rug

It is about this point in a discussion like this that the rug in question ought to be hauled out and paraded around like a prized cocker spaniel. No pun intended. If there were a Turkotek context to vette vetch or otherwise inspect an actual rug; that would be a very interesting addition to the Turkotek experience. I am still waiting for Ben or Rich or any other interested party to offer some relevant piece of information, a relevant image, anything that would provide more than their bald assertions about the rug's age. That would include me of course. I put the rug up basically fishing for some relevant information but I am still fishing. No bites yet. I must admit that I Have not seen Brian Morehouse's book or the referenced plate. I would sure appreciate a .jpg from any person kind enough to scan plate #61 for me. Jim Allen

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-10-2008 03:41 AM:

Back onto the Carpet

Hi all

So, Khaznzy was changed to Gardabani in 1947 and is due west of Lambalo. It is good that you found this out, Jim. It makes your rug a Bordjalu Kasak as you are saying on your website and as I thought it would be. The Bordjalu (renamed Marneuli) weaving area is in Georgia, no wonder you have seen a similar rug like yours in a museum in Tbilisi. Plate 45 in the Eder / Bennett book is a somewhat more ‘villagy’ looking close relative (I trust plate numbers being identical). Less than 50 miles away on the same bank of the Kura river is the rug weaving district of Akstafa; this is from where the birds (peacocks) may have walked in. The same distance in the other direction is Lori Pampak; the significance of this I will touch on later.

You remember, I suggested A-28 might be a Turkmen variant of the central medallion design emerging in the 2nd half of the 15th century, the era of Turkmen rule in Persia. There are central medallions and there are central medallions. A-28 and your Khaznzy / Gardabani rug are not of the dominating type, but (1) share a subtleness that achieves its ends by prompting the eye to focus on the moderate size centre by the creation of transitory space and shapes, that are variants of the bigger one (A-28) or by prompting the eye towards the centre through an formation of flanking birds, as in the case of the Khaznzy rug. There are other significant similarities like unusual seize (2), palette of colours (3), inner border (4) and something that is not obvious and needs explaining.

Not everybody may be aware that in principal we are dealing with two alternative and sometimes competing classification systems when it comes to Caucasian rugs, one being the Schürmann system that is most prominently followed by Eder / Bennett, the other one is based on Kerimov (HALI 3/1 article by Michael Franses and Robert Pinner) and Azadi, Kerimov and Zollinger (2001), being a recent revision from the hand of S. Azadi. The latter volume divides the Kasak weaving region in three groups (in group one ‘Karapapak’ - see Flummoxed by Flatweave thread), group three comprising those small towns and villages with an Asserbaidjany population on Georgian territory, again divided in six subgroups, number six itself being attributed ‘Kara Kuyunlu’ and listing eight villages – alas no mentioning of Khaznzy / Garbani. One of those village areas is the one of ‘Lembeli’, known for its ‘Lori Pampak’ rugs according to the Schürmann classification.

That Khaznzy / Gardabani is not mentioned in the more recent book is no setback. They may have ceased doing the design, Azadi, Kerimov and Zöllinger are focussing on late 19th and early 20th century rugs in the Zöllinger collection. Alternatively, since none of the Khaznzy type rugs is in the Zöllinger collection, this aspect may not have been researched by the authors. Essential is, that a Karakuyunlu influence and probably ethnic descendants are documented in the area concerned, where apparently they have retreated to a long time ago (5).

All this in my opinion elevates the assumption of a relation between A-28 and the Khaznzy group to the rank of a reasonable working hypothesis.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 05:41 AM:

Hi People

A dealer who prefers to remain anonymous has sent me these images of a rug that he sold some years ago:

He attributed this rug to the area around the village of Gulsehir, northwest of Cappadocia, and dated it circa mid 19th. He tells me that he had the selvages redone to replace old selvage repairs that had bad yellows.


Steve Price

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-10-2008 07:14 AM:

Hi all,

Filiberto has done express work, thanks!

First image is a shot of the Morehouse Yastik # 61; second is a close-up of an East-Anatolian Yörük rug sold at Lefevre's in June 1982, catalogued as being early 19th century.

The drawing of the star rays / arrow heads / plant shootings etc. in Jim's rug make it look older than the others in my opinion, more like what I would expect on 16th / 17th century rugs, Usak rugs of that period for instance - l o o k s older. not necessarily i s older. This is what I was referring to in my reference to yastiks a few posts further up: the triangle of age, looks and tradition. In a traditional social environment the emphasis may not be on the new and creative but on the true replication of the old. This is why I think it would be interesting to see a few of those pieces, especially yastiks or Jim's rug C14-dated. Eye-ball analysis as Steve once put it so nicely, may be tricked out easily in such cases.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-10-2008 08:35 AM:

Here is a yastik H. Keshishian recently showed at the TM. Such yastiks are from a small village near Nigde that was called Gelveri and is now known as Guzelyurt, according to Harald Bohmer. If my yatak is related to this group of rugs it would be older than they are. I can tell you the yellow field rug came out of a collection containing only three rugs and all three were classical period rugs. Marshall Wolf bought one of the three rugs. I bought one and I was not told anything at all about the third rug. I don’t want to divulge any more details than this about how the rug was acquired. Now that I have a good avenue of research things might get going on this new and interesting track. The large Turkomanesq rug at the Vakiflar that started this thread has many of the same motifs as these Gelveri rugs but there the motif seems midway between my rug and those yastiks in design development. I think this new finding augers well for an 18th century dating for A-28, the Vakiflar’s rug. I still stand by my opinion of the dating of the yellow field rug.

As I was posting this note I saw two new posts on the subject including an image of a yastik with my exact design composition. The owner thinks his yastik is mid 19th century and it may be but it isn't an exact copy and some of the negative space forms are muddled or missing. Needles to say I would like to study that yastik. Things sure have gotten more interesting here!

Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 08:40 AM:

Hi Horst

I think it was Michael Wendorf whose reply to being asked the age of a rug he was presenting was something like, "I don't know how old it is, but I think it's older than most of the others." This struck me at the time as one of the most straightforward and least misleading date attributions I'd run across. It still does, and I think it should be used often.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-10-2008 09:09 AM:

Hi Steve,

I take your point, and this stuff will only bear so much rehashing. As I understood Ben, he was saying that Jim absolutely represented the rug as early 17th century (I think he meant to say 18th...i. e., 1700) in the sense that Jim's belief in the point seemed very confident, notwithstanding the paucity of evidence. In the face of that approach, Ben was incredulous, and weighed in accordingly. You are correct, Jim occasionally mentions that he proceeds on his own lines and assumptions; but I don't think the disclaimers are in proportion to the extravagance of the claims and conclusions. I find myself saying, "Hey, wait a minute!"

At the same time, I allow for the possibility that Jim is seeing things that are real, and it is my own inability to "keep up" that makes me question his analysis. That's why I hope he doesn't stop.

On the Michael Wendorf comment, you are absolutely right, it is as sane an approach to age as we are likely to find. Everyone knows that no one really knows the real age of older rugs. The best we can do is compare examples to the model in our heads that has been developed after handling and studying many rugs. Speaking of disclaimers, it would reduce ambient annoyance quite a bit if a lot of people would employ this one more often.

That yellow field rug you put up, resembling Jim's, is a knockout.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-10-2008 09:54 AM:

It seems to me that the Yellow Yastik #2 has some sulfonic green in the corner fillers of the field, so this would put it firmly in the 19th. c.
In this thread there is a lot of speculation, merely based on design only, which, as always, can lead to strange outcomes.
There is more in a rug as graphics only and what I miss here is some back-up by technical analyses of the rug itself, such as used colors etc. It would give more ground in placing it in a historical framework.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 09:54 AM:

Hi Rich

Every advance in thinking and knowledge begins with speculation or conjecture. This doesn't mean that every speculation results in advances; most turn out to be wrong. But without speculation there can be no progress.

There are pseudo-experts who think their speculations are facts, which leads them to believe that their opinions trump those of anyone else. They vigorously attack anyone who disagrees, and hinder progress by inhibiting the introduction of new speculation. We do have participants who present their speculations as facts, and I'm usually first in line to point it out and object to it when it happens. The most recent instance that comes to mind is my reaction to Sue Zimmerman's pronouncement that wool has properties that render it unsuitable for C-14 dating and that storing wool samples in glassine envelopes makes it even worse.

With that as background, here's my position on speculation.
1. I encourage it as long as it isn't presented as fact. There's nothing wrong with having great faith in your own speculation as long as you don't insist that others who don't share your beliefs are stupid, evil or ignorant.
2. I encourage substantive criticism because I believe that the path to progress is from speculation to confrontation with facts bearing on the likelihood of the speculation being incorrect, to the final stage. The final stage is acceptance (very rare), rejection, or modification into a new speculation.

The notion that the yellow ground yastik that Jim Allen introduced can be attributed to some identifiable time is a speculation. It's been presented in this thread in several variants - early 18th century, early 19th century, late 19th century, contemporary reproduction. The debate hasn't progressed much beyond various people asserting that their own opinion is better than a different opinion expressed by somebody else, with not much evidence for any of the positions. My own opinion is that there's no way to know who's guess is right, although C-14 dating might resolve the issue some day.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-10-2008 09:57 AM:


Actually, Jim has represented (suggested/hinted/implied/made a tacit claim)
his rug as early 17th century.

I probably would have kept my mouth shut if he had suggested it as early 18th.

Here is his quote: "The true age of the yellow field Anatolian weaving shown above will have to wait on scientific testing but stylistically it is most likely an early 17th century rug."

My point is that there's no need to test what looks like, smells like, and tastes like a chicken.

My rigorous scientific analysis has determined Jim's yastik to be 1,000,000% more likely late 19th than early 17th.

This is not to say that it's a bad yastik. This is merely my feeble attempt to put things back into context. How can we have a reasonable discussion about antique rugs when utterly fantastical date attributions go unquestioned?

I think that age attributions really matter. I absolutely agree that it's generally impossible to pin-point a a specific date of manufacture for a rug.

However, it is possible and totally helpful to work with useful date categories-- i.e. late 19th, early 19th, 18th...

Generally, a person reasonably versed in Turkish rugs can tell the difference between a late 19th yastik (and let's be really, really, honest here: almost every old yastik seems to come from the 19th c. and not much earlier) and an early 17th century archetype.

Well, that's my two cents for today. Hopefully I haven't burned too many bridges

Ben M

Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 10:02 AM:

Originally posted by Ben Mini
My point is that there's no need to test what looks like, smells like, and tastes like a chicken.

My rigorous scientific analysis has determined Jim's yastik to be 1,000,000% more likely late 19th than early 17th.

I rest my case.

Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-10-2008 10:04 AM:

Dear Steve,

I was making a joke in the quote you reference. I'm not sure what case you're resting.

Ben M

Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 10:16 AM:

Hi Ben

My point was that your post was a perfect example of someone taking the position that his opinion trumps others, that an opinion that differs with it (Jim Allen's) doesn't warrant serious criticism, and that marketplace lore (the opinions of people who are reasonably versed in Turkish rugs, by which you clearly mean, those who agree with you) constitutes powerful evidence.

Steve Price

Posted by Ben Mini on 04-10-2008 10:30 AM:


I think you are being most uncharitable. You just assume the most negative interpretation possible to my words.

I will apologize (for the fourth time?) for a tone I expressed earlier, but I just don't think I'm acting like a know-it-all when I say that most people with some background in Turkish rugs would say "probably 19th" to Jim's yastik instead of "probably archetypal and early 17th."

How much evidence must I muster for my claim? Am I really the person making bold claims here?

I'm sorry I ticked you off--honestly.

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-10-2008 11:12 AM:


please, what is 'sulphonic green', never heard of it - indigosulphonic acid mixed with yellow?


have you ever seen the rug to fig. 53 from the Wright and Wertime book in natura, or any other of the type with multicoloured warps? Very surprising for a northern Caucasian provenance - unless it is an artefact that has to do with the background against which the image was taken.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 11:26 AM:

Hi Ben

Here is the complete text of your first post in this thread:

I take it that no one really has a sensible reason to date this rug to the early 17th century.

I assume that claim, like so much in this thread, was just an exercise of the imagination-- an exercise not really grounded in many facts, but with many links to a commercial website.

It makes exactly two points.
1. Jim's reason for claiming that his yastik dates to early 17th century is not only wrong, it isn't even sensible. Never mind that he didn't claim it, he presented it as a speculation in which he believes. Saying that his reason is beneath the level warranting criticism (not sensible) isn't very charitable.
2. Jim's reason for posting the thread was to direct readers to the venue on which he sells his rugs. That is, you accuse him of violating our policy forbidding promotional posts. That isn't very charitable, either, and if it was true we would have removed the thread pronto and banned Jim from posting here.

Now you write, ... most people with some background in Turkish rugs would say "probably 19th" to Jim's yastik instead of "probably archetypal and early 17th." I agree completely - most collectors would, indeed, say "probably 19th century". Had you written that before, it would have drawn no objection. But what you actually wrote was,... a person reasonably versed in Turkish rugs can tell the difference between a late 19th yastik and an early 17th century archetype. I see no way to interpret this except as a way of asserting that Jim Allen is either ignorant (that is, not reasonably versed in Turkish rugs) or that he knows that the yastik is a late 19th century weaving but is misrepresenting it for reasons that are not very nice. Neither seems very charitable to me.

You entered the discussion with accusations and continue to make them, and insist that your only error was in what you refer to as your "tone". In view of those facts, I find a certain irony in your protest that are being treated most uncharitably.

Steve Price

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-10-2008 11:30 AM:

Horst Item #53

I was shocked to see those multicolored warps myself. The rug is in a museum in Georgia, I believe. My khaznzy rug has light tan warps only. Indosulfonic green/blue is an old dye developed in 1740! See Bohmer, Koekboya. One sees it quite often in old Chodor work. I doubt anybody can tell it from a picture but it does have a characteristic dullness to it. The yellow yastik is very interesting to me and one wonders how old it really is. My rug is four times the size of a yastik at 3'11" X 5'2" and the design seems fully developed in my rug and a little cramped in the just posted yastik. It would be nice to compare them. It turns out that Gelveri is quite close to Gulsehir so the evidence is pointing towards a central Anatolian provenance for these two rugs. There may be more information yet to be gathered.
Jim Allen

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-10-2008 11:54 AM:


Hi all,

I would like to clarify a couple of facts in this discussion. I hope I am talking about the same rugs everybody else is.

On April 2, Jim posted the image of a yellow field (or so it was described...the image was a bit dark on my monitor to be sure between yellow and off-white) Turkish rug. On April 5, he stated the dimensions of what I took to be the same rug as 3' 11" x 5' 2". Too big to be called a yastik, of course. Today, Steve posted a similar rug (whose yellow hue was not in doubt!) that is also being called a yastik. Steve did not provide dimensions.

Am I looking at the right two rugs here, and are they yastiks, or not? Incidentally, I would be less inclined to hold out the possibility (which I presently allow) for a substantially pre-1800 date for Jim's rug if it is yastik size.


How firm are you of the sulphonic green diagnosis on the yellow number posted by Steve?

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-10-2008 12:45 PM:

Hi Jim,

sounds as if you too think those multicoloured warps are no artefact - realy puzzeling, they would fit to the Kurdish Taurus. It just shows, more things happen between the Caucasus and the Zagros than is written in the rug books.

'Sulphonic green' must be a lax reference to a mixture of yellow and indigosulphonic acid, first industrially synthesized dye ever, always light to medium blue, often not water fast in the long run, probably depending on whether used with a mordant or on its own as a direct dye.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 01:14 PM:

Hi Horst

I incorrectly assumed that Jim's is a yastik; probably got misled by the lappets and jumped to the wrong conclusion. The image sent to me by the anonymous dealer was referred to in his email message as a yastik, if I'm remembering it right (I didn't save the message - this is one of those rare occasions when I wish I still had something that I threw away).

Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-10-2008 01:28 PM:

Hi Steve,

That was me asking about the sizes. I also thought Jim's was a yastik, or possibly even a khorjin/chanteh type of thing, when I first saw it. I was quite surprised to see his dimensions a few days later. Whatever else one might say about Jim's piece, at 4 x 5, it is very unusual and striking.

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-10-2008 02:01 PM:

Hi Horst, Jim, Richard

Sulfonic green is made by treating indigo with sulfuric acid. It gives an unstable green, which will turn into a greenish-grey tone.
It turns up at the end of the 18th. c. and especially in Turkish rugs ( didn't know in Chodor as well ) far as I read somewhere ( the Turkish bit is my own experience ).


I wouldn't bet my Chodor ( without sulfonic green!) on it, but I would say more like two bottles of good wine.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-10-2008 02:34 PM:

Hi Rob:

I know the general lore on "sulphonic" blue, though I've never been completely confident of my ability to spot it in the field. I've always considered it to be a medium to light blue shade, a hair towards the turquoise side. I hadn't heard of it being greenish, though, of course, it could always be combined with yellow.

Have you heard of its use in Chinese rugs? I have a small mat in a stylized tiger pelt pattern in which the dark stripe component of the pattern is in a shade of darkish gray-green that I've never seen in any other rug. It has a distinct erosion of the pile in that color, much like the familiar brown/black of many rugs. The shade isn't very far removed from the color you are pointing to in Steve's yellow field image. I don't have an image handy to post, but it appears in a catalog of the NERS, to which there is a link on TurkoTek. It is in the "New England Collections" catalog of quite a few years ago, one of the last plates, as I recall. I don't think the green will be especially recognizable in the plate, but you would be able to get an idea of the rug type if you were interested. (Not trying to hijack the thread here!)

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-10-2008 03:12 PM:


I have no experience with Chinese rugs and know next to nothing about them.
It makes it difficult for me to judge a color on its own, without understanding the context in which it is used.


Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-10-2008 04:09 PM:

Hello all

this may be the oldest known rug with a medallion (the smaller ones inside) prototypical to the kind as on Jim's rug: Vakiflar A-305, thought to be 14th - 15th century.

As to indigosulphonic acid, Harald Böhmer's assessment of the distribution of it in Anatolian rugs comes to the conclusion that about 5 % of rugs throughout Anatolia are dyed with it (Rugs of the Peasants and Nomads in Anatolia).


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-10-2008 05:19 PM:


For better or worse you have opened up a new can of worms. Here is a link to one of my most recent articles.

I was also interested in that early, A-305, Vakiflar rug. In the linked article I call its’ gulls the natural evolutionary destination for the reciprocal border elements of the great ‘white field’ Khan carpets of the 13th century. See Yetkin.

Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-10-2008 06:05 PM:

Hi Again Rich (I think it's Rich)

I just heard from my anonymous dealer friend. He doesn't have a record of the dimensions of the yellow ground rug that he sold some years ago, but recalls it as being a smaller-than-average yatak, not a yastik. So it appears that this piece and Jim Allen's are in the same general ballpark in terms of size.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-10-2008 06:47 PM:

Thanks, Steve. Very interesting.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-11-2008 07:28 AM:


The picture you begin your last mentioned article with ( the one from the 13th.c. Seljukish rug, TIEM, Istanbul ) is taken from a, indeed huge fragment of this rug below. There is no other fragment as this one in the TIEM, that's it.

But more important: why are you calling this rug Turcoman?
It is Turkish allover. In its size and in its structure ( red wefts) and with coarse, turkish knotting.
It isn't tentatively meant, or is it?


Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-11-2008 12:35 PM:


you were saying:" There is more in a rug as graphics only and what I miss here is some back-up by technical analyses of the rug itself."

I take it you were referring to the yellow ground small rug, but it is also true with regard to the relation between A-28 and the Khaznzy group. When I was saying in an earlier post that this relation now had the rank of a reasonable working hypothesis I forgot to add that the next step indeed should be a structural comparison.

Thank you for making us aware of this shortcome.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-13-2008 11:44 PM:


Thanks for your picture. Ethic Turks, Seljuks, Ottomans, etc... are all descended from the Oguz/Seljuk people. That is to say Turcoman people. You are creating a false dichotomy betweens members of the same family tree. The 13th century Rug is a 'Turcoman' rug and a very important one. The weave pattern of 13th century Turcoman rugs of a more pedestrian ilk are unknown. I am describing one of the earliest known native Turcoman carpets in my paper linked above. Some of my friends in the academic textile world in Turkey still have the word Turkman as part of their names. If you check Yetkin, HISTORICAL TURKISH CARPETS, you will see you are wrong about how many pieces of different similar 13th century rugs the TIME has. Jim Allen

PS who is that in the picture with Stolp?

Posted by Steve Price on 04-14-2008 06:18 AM:

Hi Folks

For anyone interested in going a little further into Turkmen history, this link will get you started. It's pretty ethnocentric, but the outline is accurate enough to show the relationship between the various Turkmen peoples.

I've seen that huge Seljuk carpet (fragment?) several times. There's no escaping the obvious when you're in its presence: it's part of the evolutionary path that includes what we usually mean by Turkmen pile weaving.


Steve Price

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-14-2008 09:42 AM:


I do not want to spent to much time on a trivial issue as this one, but you wrote in your article:

"The fragment pictured below, slide #1, is from a 13th century Turcoman fragment at the TIME, Istanbul. The TIME also has a complete similar carpet on exhibition and it is extremely large, at least four times the surface area of traditional Turcoman main carpets."

I think you mixed it up a bit. The picture you used is taken from the above rug/frament. There is no complete carpet. This is it.

Considering the Seljukish rug.
You state it is a Turkmen rug. I suppose you are doing so on base of the ( obvious ) similarity with the Turkmen main rugs; however a similarity based on graphics only.
Of course this similarity in design is there and it is tempting to call it Turkmen, especially by lack of the existence of early nomadic Turkmen woven material.
You are also right in pointing to the shared roots of Turks and Turkmen.
But following these two rationales consequently, I really do not understand why you are hesitating to state that the next rug in your article, the Vakiflar Museum A-305, is a Turkmen rug as well.
For this one you just go as far as : "tentatively" Turkmen.
Why is that? Where is the line drawn for you whether being a Turkmen rug or being a Turkish rug, both made in Anatolië?

The other person on the picture is a well known German dealer, with a good nose for the expensive stuff.
I took the picture when he, at an unguarded moment, tried to sell the Rug, and was just whispering: "No, Turkish Lira.....I meant U.S.dollars."


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-14-2008 10:46 AM:


I am tentative about calling A-305 a Turkoman because I am out there on the limb without much support and no visible net. Jim

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-14-2008 09:01 PM:


I do not like the idea of you, out there on one limb only and without support, so I decide to stop kicking. The worms can go back in the can for my part.
The Seljuk rug is intruiging; that's for sure. To say it is Turkmen, that's another thing.
In my view design is fluid. Where does a original design idea started or to put it bluntly: Who was first. The tile pattern, as I see it in this rug, was a design item already allover the islamic world for a long time. It could even have its roots before that, in Roman times, or also even before that, formed by merely structural need of the used technics.
The resemblance in design with Turkmen main rugs ( as far as we know them by the output of the last 300 years ) with this Seljukish one is only, and just that, confirming the rigidness and conservatism of the Turkmen in their weaving art.
Again, in my view, this Seljuk rug has in character and structure nothing to do with nomadic Turkmen.
It just misses the sophistication of the Turkmen work.
And working hypotheses with only "design" on the menu are fun, but a bit feeble in the end.


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-15-2008 07:28 AM:


I think most authorities would agree with you.

If the earliest Turkoman weaving was anything like weaving we see from the 16th thru the 20th century then why are there no remains? I am saying that if truly early Turkoman work was as fine and well woven as later Turkoman work fragments would be left for us to study. Now consider the structure of A-305. It has lots of wefts like a Borjalu Kazak. It is loosely woven. As I wrote its design has clear Turkoman leanings. My conclusion is that early Turkoman work is loosely woven with many wefts and we DO have remnants to study.....we just don't recognize them. .......YET!

Jim Allen

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-15-2008 01:09 PM:

Yellow Yatak Gull

Looking and seeing are not equivalent to knowing and understanding, in my opinion. This lack of a direct association isn’t obvious to most folks. Below is my taxonomic attempt to describe with words what I see with my eyes. The written product isn’t much fun to read (rather like reading an anatomy book paragraph) but if it helps one to suppress their usual or normal perception of the image presented and helps them engage their far field processing to see some totally new things…. then it will be well worth reading. So read on.......

Look at the detail of the lower main gull in the picture above.... Relax your focus and attend to the shapes the central gull and its arms impart or impose on the yellow field. Remembering how few data points (knots) that are being worked with....can you see the outline of a golden eagle, wings folded at its side, portrayed horizontally and superiorly in the yellow field? The superior surface of the transverse bar in the inferior vertical shaft helps form the bird's tail and the complex diagonal terminus of the lateral inferior shaft of the gull frames the eagles head. Now look at how the eagle’s beak, if rotated forward, is oriented towards a small triangular extrusion. This extruded triangle represents a bite taken out of the neck of an enemy. The enemy’s head is partially created from the inferior surface of the transverse bar on the inferior vertical shaft of the central gull. In outline the enemy’s head is bent backwards and the eagle is standing on his face. Imagine a golden eagle biting at the neck of an enemy or perhaps those injured on the battle field; can you imagine a more appropriate image for a powerful lost medieval Turkoman gull/tribe/horde?

Since the data points are few the images described above are necessarily minimal. Highly stylized minimalist images are open to a variety of interpretations. My reading of these images or outlines is consistent with my general understanding of medieval Turcoman values.

Jim Allen

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-15-2008 02:18 PM:

structural analysis

What is structural analysis of textiles without analysis of the fibers used?
In my opinion, Turkmen were not only directly responsible for the 13th c. ''Anatolia Turkmen'' rug in this thread being woven, but for the rug industry in Anatolia existing there at all.
Foundation livestock did not arrive in the capital formerly known as Angora, from Turkmenistan, ''on the hoof'' until the 1300s, as I recall, but I speculate that the fiber arrived there prior to that, and was processed into products on location, because that's how things usually go. It's high time for structural analysis to be taken seriously, in my opinion. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 04-15-2008 03:50 PM:

Hi Jim

Your speculation is imaginative. But I have trouble seeing how it can get beyond that point. It simply requires too many assumptions, not the least of which is that what you see and what the weaver saw and intended to be seen are more or less the same.

I could generate a list of things that I can see, at least minimalistically in that image, in clouds passing by, even in the front of the refrigerator in my kitchen. It's kind of fun, but I won't describe them because I don't think it illuminates anyone else if I do.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-15-2008 05:57 PM:

Hi Jim,

I relaxed my focus, and allowing for the few knots/coarse weaving factor, I came up with the sillhouette of Popeye, the Sailor. All that's missing is the pipe.

Posted by Joel Greifinger on 04-15-2008 07:07 PM:

Popeye, the Salor?

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-15-2008 10:15 PM:


A rose is a rose is a rose


Posted by Steve Price on 04-16-2008 05:41 AM:

Re: Well

Originally posted by Jim Allen
A rose is a rose is a rose


Hi Jim

I'll see your riddle and respond with one of my own.

? ! ?? !! ??? !!!

Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimerman on 04-16-2008 11:02 AM:

structural analysis

I will consider structural analysis as being taken seriously in Turkmen textile studies when two little things have happened.

1. early ''Anotolian Turkmen'' weavings are tested for mohair content

2. ''tribal'' Turkmen weavings with the ''best quality wool'' are tested for mohair content

Such preliminary tests are, relatively, cheap and easy. This is my simple challenge to rugdom, I guess. The difficulties, should they crop up, will be in post-testing ramifications of findings, of course, so I won't be holding my breath waiting for results. It's an immense challenge, actually. Sue

Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-16-2008 12:39 PM:

Hi Sue:

Interesting, but why would that one issue make the difference between you considering structural analysis of early Turkoman textiles a serious endeavor or not? What is it about mohair? I'll bet you thought I'd never ask.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Paul Smith on 04-16-2008 01:38 PM:

and another issue...

Hello, everyone...

I suppose that I am the least-qualified poster to enter this august company, but I did have a question--why is it assumed that pile weaving went east to west? Sure, the Turkmen people went that way, but even though many of Volkmar Gantzhorn's assertions are dubious (and he didn't use structural analysis to support his thesis, so surely Sue is not impressed) there is something to his assertion that pile weaving originated in Eastern Anatolia among the Armenians...So, the Turks show up and learn pile weaving (I would guess they were flatweaving first) and it travels east from there. Is there some reason why that doesn't make sense?


Posted by Jim Allen on 04-16-2008 04:47 PM:

Interesting Paul

I haven't read Volkmar Gantzhorn but I have corresponded with Dr. Lucy Manuelian. at Tufts University. She flatly states that, in the early years of classical Armenian history, Armenian designs were influenced by the Turkmen. You can read this in her introduction to Weavers, Merchants, and Kings. The rich and powerful often take liberties with their accounting of history. According to modern Turkish historians the Armenian holocaust didn't actually occur. Any history that can be simply stated in a canned description cannot be the true history of anything.

Jim Allen

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-16-2008 06:52 PM:

Fickle Winds of Fate


There has been ample speculation, for many years, regarding the directions from which designs originated and to where they traveled.
At the recent Hajji Baba symposium, Walter Denny traced the coupled column prayer rug design eastward from Spain to Anatolia.
I am putting a brief mini-salon together with some photos from that event which may be up in a week. We can also examine this theory in a thread at that time.
Meanwhile, I will dust off the Gantzhorn book and see what he has to say about it.
There is also the Mother Goddess theory about design origins from Anatolia. Not that there is any controversy about that design lineage, though...

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-16-2008 06:52 PM:


Sue Zimmerman asked two questions in her recent post: structural analysis,
“I will consider structural analysis as being taken seriously in Turkmen textile studies when two little things have happened.

1. early ''Anotolian Turkmen'' weavings are tested for mohair content

2. ''tribal'' Turkmen weavings with the ''best quality wool'' are tested for mohair content

Such preliminary tests are, relatively, cheap and easy. This is my simple challenge to rugdom, I guess. The difficulties, should they crop up, will be in post-testing ramifications of findings, of course, so I won't be holding my breath waiting for results. It's an immense challenge, actually.”
This post of Sue’s went without response for a day or two until Rich Larkins perked up and started asking some questions. It was at that point that I reread Sue’s post; slowly, and with an inquiring mind. I must say that if Sue is right about Mohair from goats being incorporated into early Turkoman weavings, “she” has put us all on a new trajectory towards the truth.
Though I know absolutely nothing about “Sue”, after thinking about her proposition, I would predict that she knows quite a bit about Navajo weavings.
Navajo weavings are easily categorized, by the decade, in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries based on their fiber diameters and the concomitant introduction of specific breeds of sheep. Churro, Ramboulet, Merino, etc.
If Sue has noticed the presence of very fine (measured in angstrom units) animal hair fibers in early Turkoman and Anatolian weavings, then Sue should publish this data and help us all move along towards a better understanding. I personally think Sue’s idea is a good one.
I can imagine a new genre of nomadic central Asian fiber investigation based on component hair diameters and component dye characteristics. Nobiko Kajitani was excited by the prospects of Anatolian dyes being grouped along the path of already established tree ring analysis. In other words she thought that real world historical conditions must have affected the character of old world natural dyes, year by year, and decade by decade.
The day had already arrived, some 15 years ago, according to Nobiko Kajitani, that some kind of nuclear surface scanning technique was already yielding amazing results. This testing was expensive and the equipment and personnel were already backed up far into the future, BUT if something truly interesting came along, she could see to it that the mystery fabric was quickly evaluated.

The last line in Sue’s post read, “The difficulties (in testing), should they crop up, will be in post-testing ramifications of findings, of course, so I won't be holding my breath waiting for results. It's an immense challenge, actually.”

In his concluding remarks, Jon Thompson made a very oblique comment about the physical differences between Turcoman goats and sheep in his lecture, April 12th, at the 75th Hajji Baba celebration in NYC. Jon said that the only salient visual difference between Turcoman sheep and their goats was that the sheep held their tails down while the goats held their tails up.

I thought to myself; how eloquent and to the point can one get? Jon did not try to draw any strong associations from this observation; but I was left wondering if indeed he didn’t think that such an association existed. If he did… I think he would be in full agreement with Sue!
One final comment for Sue Zimmerman. There are pile fibers, in my Yellow Field Anatolian rug, that don’t look or feel like ordinary wool to me. They are a rich reddish brown color and they are much less worn than any adjacent fibers. I had previously thought that they must be old repair, but after rereading your post, I want to have their diameters measured.
Can Turcoman studies be moved significantly forward on such “thin” data, one might ask? If modern day Navajo textile analysis and dating are any guide; one must suspect that it might!

Jim Allen

Posted by Paul Smith on 04-16-2008 07:10 PM:


In this forum, honestly, all we usually deal with are in some sense "canned" descriptions where history is concerned. Armenian kingdoms have been important in this region for thousands of years, predating Western Turkic expansion by centuries at least, guaranteeing the development of a design pool that could not possibly be influenced by Turkmen culture to any significant degree. Sure, there was later influence from Turkmen culture, as there were earlier influences from Greeks, Romans, and Persians; it's just that in terms of the complex technique of pile weaving (and one would assume, a design pool that came with it), the origin is entirely unclear. Who can say with confidence that influence didn't go both ways? I don't know whether your PhD expert trumps my PhD expert, but the precise origins of virtually everything we are discussing are entirely lost to us. Which is why it's such fun to speculate about them.


Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-17-2008 07:45 AM:

Hello Patrick and all,

"... traced the coupled column prayer rug design eastward from Spain to Anatolia ..." - always interesting but not new. This leads to our former discussion: . Also: A. Felton, Jewish Carpets, Woodbridge, 1997, p.24; Palme e Preghiere, Textilia, Roma 2000. A very interesting New York gallery exhibiton on a related subject:
Still, I am looking forward to your new Salon.


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-17-2008 09:24 AM:

structural analysis

I see I should have been more specific. ''Tribal'' Turkmen goats are Angora goats. They are as much a breed apart from other goats as Akhal Teke horses are a breed apart from other horse breeds -- with just as well deserved an illustrious history, in not just my opinion. Another one of but many of the top-of-the-line, ever historically coveted, and always highly defended 'tribal'' Turkmen products and services line.
Testing for Angora breed mohair in early ''Anotolian Turkmen'' rugs is the test I am talking about.
It will take quite some doing to gain permission for that testing by a powerful insider. That certainly is not me. Time will tell if there is such a person in rugdom. I hope there is. Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 04-17-2008 10:15 AM:

Hi Sue

Angora goats may be, as you say, the Turkmen garden variety goat. It's also native to central Anatolia - the breed gets its name from Ankara. So it wouldn't astonish me to learn that any goat hair that might be in early Anatolian rugs is Angora.

Let's suppose someone finds Angora goat hair in those rugs. Then what? Let's suppose there is goat hair, but not Angora. Then what? Let's suppose there's no goat hair at all. Then what? I'm can understand why the question of whether there's goat hair and, if so, whether it's Angora, is interesting. I don't understand why you think it's a question central to understanding early Turkmen weaving.

Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-17-2008 10:55 AM:

Angora goats were as indigenous to Anatolia as they are to Texas. It just looks that way now. Once again, the Angora goats in Anatolia were brought there from Turkmenistan. Sue

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-17-2008 12:15 PM:

Angor What

Sue, Steve

From Wikipedia ( "The angora goat is thought to originate from the mountains of Tibet making their way to Turkey in the 16th century. Until 1849 the Turkish province of Ankara was the sole producer of Angora goats." This could be understood as implying that early Anatolian rugs before 16th century do not contain mohair; if rugs that are thought to be early Anatolian d o indeed contain mohair, they more likely are Turkoman. Is this what you mean, Sue, mohair as a diagnostic?

Jim, with reference to your rug you are saying: "They are a rich reddish brown color and they are much less worn than any adjacent fibers" ..... Might be goat, but not mohair I guess unless dyed. To my knowledge traditional mohair is always white (but takes dyes very well). Personally, I am not aware of any goat hair, mohair or else in pile yarn, but have come across it in selvedges and flat-weaves.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-17-2008 04:23 PM:

Hi all,

As far as I am concerned, the concept of goat hair in rugs has floated around the fringes of the subject in several incarnations, but I have never verified the fact, or seen it verified in any specific instance. One common item is the alleged goat hair binding on the selvages of Baluch rugs (so the snakes won't cross....). Another is the use of it in the warps of many South Persian tribal rugs. In those two instances, unlike mohair, the hair is stiff and hard, although I would say the two different types I mentioned (Baluch and Shiraz) are dissimilar to one another. (I have often thought the warp hair in certain Shiraz rugs seemed more like horse hair than goat.) I also recall the Eiland books discussing certain wools as being "kempy," by which they meant having a high content of hair. Do sheep have hair too?

No doubt, mohair is a kind of wool combed out of the real hair, notwithstanding the name. My point here is that there is a variety of materials in rugs other than ordinary sheep's wool that regularly get assigned to one animal or another by custom, but not, perhaps, by authority. Did somebody mention camel hair?

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 04-17-2008 04:25 PM:


were you present at the Volkmann Treffen in Berlin, December 2006 (rugs in Transsylvanian churches)? A well known German rug scholar gave a talk on Turkoman origins being "evident" in Anatolian carpets, and the photo-shopped example Jim cites on the first page of this thread was also there, actually at the forefront of the argument.
The talk was followed by an animated, if not heated discussion, with some of the audience up in arms about the arguments and "fabricated" proof put forward.
I must say I was so well entertained by the sight of a room full of ruggies having a go at each other (Turkomaniacs, you know - could not happen to us gentle Balooneys), that I almost completely forgot about the talk itself.


This is just an uneducated guess!!

Posted by Brian Morehouse on 04-17-2008 04:43 PM:

Turkmen Rugs in Anatolia

Hi Everyone,
I have followed your suppositions on the supposed development of Turkmen Rugs into Anatolia. Most of the information is not built around historical fact or proof. Like many others interested in this field I too form opinions based on my visceral reaction and many years of experience. I am currently in the process of writing a new book that will also address many of these issues. I must tell you from what I have learned about the coming of the Seljuks indicate that their propensity for building projects… I have studied the architecture of many of their mosques from that period……were always based around getting the best artisans for the work at hand and this is certainly true at Divrigi. Therefore I would posit that this would also apply to rugs and therefore they were most likely commissioned from the best weavers in the area regardless of their group. Their would have been no reason to only have Turkmen weavers. The main design of the 13th century, large white carpet showing octagons containing quatrefoils is one that if often sighted as being Turkmen. If we really examine the reasoning behind this assumption one is left with a visual vocabulary and repetitive format that seems reminiscent of Turkmen rugs. However, if one really is unbiased about its attribution it really has no morphological connection to Turkmen rugs. The motif that forms the intestacies of the repetitive octagons is a ubiquitous device that could have come to Anatolia far in advance of the Turkmen. I cannot for the life of me see why anyone given current scholarship would still adhere to the Turkmen genesis for Anatolian Rugs. Do people really believe that Anatolian weaving traditions languished for thousands of years until the arrival of the Turkmen…..nonsense? Or that the Kurds or Armenians were not privy to the technology of pile weaving....nonsense! Clearly over a thousand years had passed from the time of the Greco-Romans and almost that long under Byzantine rule. If we simply look at the finds at Fostat ( true evidence of an Anatolian weaving tradition) we find that rugs that we think of as “clearly Anatolian” were being woven before the Turkmen’s arrival. So, what is all the talk about the Turkmen and Anatolia? Sorry it just is not based on the evidence but on old biases.
I truly believe they entered Anatolia primarily with a felt and flat woven tradition, as that was practical to their nomadic way of life….at that time. It would seem that they did not develop an ongoing weaving tradition until they became more settled in Turkmenistan and by that time they were isolated from Anatolia. I have never read anything showing the Tekke in Anatolia in the 18th century and if they were there they did not alter anything.
Also, in “Yastiks” pg. 50 # 61, I mentioned the relationship between the Divrigi rug, showing the supposed Turkmen features, with the secondary motifs that are used through Galveri and Nigde. Some of the rugs found at Divrigi appear to be copies showing variations on already existing themes. It does not surprise me to find such a pastiche not only in the field design but in the guard border which is more reminiscent of south west Anatolia. The age is open to debate, but I don’t think it is as old as others might think.

Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-17-2008 08:56 PM:


Well spoken, couldn't agree more!


Posted by Alvin Ruth on 04-17-2008 09:36 PM:

Greetings Dr. Price et al:

Following this discussion since its inception has finally prodded me into posting a reply or two.

Mr Morehouse’s recent post and many of those from Mr Allen gloss over the probability both Turkmen and Turkish rugs are derived from an earlier common ancestor tradition.

At first glance anyone will admit there is an obvious relationship between certain early Turkish Rugs and Turkmen ones. It is also apparent the accepted expert opinions about dating these rugs support the concept the Turkish Rugs are older than Turkmen ones.

Reading Mr Morehouse’s post where he stakes out a position that there is little historic proof for any relationship between Turkmen and Turkish rugs as opposed to Mr Allen, who takes the contrary position that there is a relationship, both strike me as somewhat glib and superficial.

How about the idea I mention above that both are derived from an earlier ancestor?

Cultural transmission is never in a straight line up or down or right to left. There is much evidence that traditions developed around an ebb and flow of ideas and design iconographies in both directions, and this concept is one both Allen and Morehouse have neglected to mention.

The simple fact a Seljuk rug like the large fragment with Turkmen like guls has a very Turkmen ‘style’, or the Vakiflar rug with those Tekke Torba guls, does not impel me to believe these rugs have any direct relationship with Turkmen rugs.
Rather they appear to me to be related through the common ancestor I postulated.

The answers concerning where that ancestor originated, or what it looked like, are unknowable. But in my estimation this is far more probable than either of the thesis Morehouse or Allen suggest.

A few of the Lamm collection pile carpet fragments from the Swedish Museum, which are reproduced in a small catalog titled Carpet Fragments, can possibly give some clues. However, where these intriguing pile rugs were made or by who again present more question than solution.

There is no doubt Turkmen people left Turkmenistan in the early 11th – 13th centuries and migrated West into parts of Anatolia. Were these Turkmen pile rug weavers and did their weavings influence the cultural traditions of the indigenous Anatolian people?

Basing any theory on the answer to these questions is an interesting exercise but that is about as far as one could take it.

I absolutely agree with the idea Turkmen rugs can be as old as any Turkish Rug and do not see how anyone can deny this. But proving it is another story and one that might someday become fact.

There are some other points I would like to raise.

The first concerns Mr Morehouse’s statement “Therefore I would posit that this would also apply to rugs and therefore they were most likely commissioned from the best weavers in the area regardless of their group.”

I think his ideas about Seljuk architecture are correct but why discount the idea the Seljuks had to import weavers?

The Seljuk were most probably non-settled people before coming to Anatolia since there is no evidence to the contrary. Also, like many Turkmen groups of the 15th- 19th century they probably moved themselves several times each years to take advantage of seasonal climatic and geographic conditions.

That lifestyle is definitely not compatible with grandiose architectural achievement, nor is t here any pproof in Turkmenistan to the contrary. But it is absolutely compatible with a highly advanced weaving tradition.

Therefore I can not see why the Seljuk rugs would have had to have been woven by imported weavers rather than ones already belonging to their kind.

Likewise this reasoning would also counter Morehouses idea “It would seem that they did not develop an ongoing weaving tradition until they became more settled in Turkmenistan and by that time they were isolated from Anatolia.” I must additionally mention that I am also a bit confused by his statement and wonder if others are as well?

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-17-2008 11:08 PM:

Another Perspective

The classical nomadic Turcoman looked down on his settled brethren as we look down on the poor and downtrodden. It took considerable material wealth to maintain the classical Turcoman lifestyle. The nomadic Turcoman had to pay for necessities with hard currency, generally gold, and this required some degree of success in ordinary terms. The Turkmen’s income was related to both the quantity and quality of the wool they produced plus the wool they worked into weaving's. As we have already discussed, Turcoman weaving included the sub-specialties of spinning and dyeing. The entire enterprise of producing wool for sale plus weaving for the market was very labor intensive.
During specific periods in history the Turkmen’s skills as horse mounted warriors enabled the men to earn extra money. I suspect the Turkmen inhabiting 13th century Anatolia were earning money from both their marshal abilities and their weaving skills. This would have been a period of great prosperity for them. Like any good merchant these Turkmen would have been more than willing to produce whatever their clients requested. This would have certainly included the production of large court carpets such as we have been discussing in this thread.
Let’s not forget that the classical Turcoman tribesman left absolutely no footprint on the lands he passed through. They built no lasting or permanent structures and erected no permanent edifices. There is no doubt that the Turkmen were in 13th century Anatolia but the only place one will likely find evidence of this fact is in Anatolian weavings from the periods in which they were present.
In my opinion any early (13th, 14th, or 15th century) Anatolian rug with a red field and a repeating pattern should first be considered a Turcoman weaving or at least one inspired by their work. I believe Turcoman designs were influenced by other weaving societies and especially those with whom they intermarried. I believe groups the Turkmen deemed desirable for inter-marriage should include the Armenians and the Chinese who were both known to have been weaving and/or making lace for at the least the previous one thousand years.
The information I’m sharing with you was only recently learned. The source of this information was the absolutely fabulous lecture delivered by Jon Thompson to the Hajji Baba society last Saturday, April 12th, at the New York Historical Society. I must say that Jon outdid himself. He was eloquent and authoritative while occasionally delving into his own brand of oblique sarcasm and humor. The simple fact is there’s virtually no historical information concerning these matters and one’s beliefs are either influenced by authorities like Jon Thompson or they are generated by an individuals own personal ideas about these matters.
I think it is a matter of great interest that at the Hajji Baba kilim exhibition, sponsored by Marshall and Marilyn Wolf, there was a fairly normal though simplified Konya kilim that Marshall confided to me had been radiocarbon dated to 1500 AD. I was somewhat surprised at this fact but even more surprised that Marshall didn’t trust or believe in the dating! This is a date one should have great confidence in, as it is well within the range of high confidence concerning such materials. The reasons for his objections to this dating would take another salon to adequately address.
I came away from the Hajji event with a sense of depression after listening to any number of people espousing theories about C-14 dating that were ludicrous and completely non-scientific. I am now convinced that most high level rug collectors are nonplused at serious scientific attempts to define their territory. Each collector seems to have their own personal map for the material they’re collecting and just don’t want to be bothered by anyone else’s opinion.
In the current milieu, concerning medieval Anatolian weaving's, there are only a few facts mixed in with a great deal of personal hyperbole. Certainly some of the hyperbole can be blamed on dreamers like me. In my own defense, I am proud to say that Jon Thompson told me in public that I was the source for the modern idea that certain Turcoman compositions defined three dimensional spaces. This fact was backed up and approved by Kurt Munkacsi, who observed my theory unfold into a new way of looking at and evaluating antique Turcoman weavings. This wasn’t a trivial accomplishment on my part and I can’t tell you how proud I was to hear Jon Thompson say that to me.
Having been right about one salient aspect of Turcoman design doesn’t make me an authority about anything else, but it sure gives me the energy to continue dreaming about such things. Perhaps I am little more than that lucky chimpanzee who accidentally typed out a few passages from the New Testament, but at least I got my 15 minutes of fame.

Jim Allen

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-17-2008 11:18 PM:

structural analysis

Yes, Horst, That's what I'm talking about. The presence of Angora as being diagnostic of Turkmen being involved in the early Anotolian rug industry. Sue

Posted by Joseph Beck on 04-18-2008 06:40 AM:

Question about C-14 dating

There have been a couple of things bugging me about C-14 dating with respect to rugs, and since it's come up on this thread I thought I'd bring them up:

1. How well are issues of contaminants in the wool handled? For example, burning wood near the rug would embed smoke particles in the rug. If the tree is substantially older than the rug, could that increase the rug's apparent age? Would it show up as two possible age indicators (e.g. 800 years old and 400 years old), or would it be some kind of weighted mean of the two? If the latter, has anyone seen the recent article about the 9,550 year old tree in Sweden?

2. If I were to unravel some battered kelims from circa 1500, could I not reuse the wool, and presto! A rug from circa 1500?

3. We're sure people in the past never had a battered old kelim that they loved the colors in, and reused the wool to make a rug?

4. Similarly, no one in history ever found an old warehouse (or yurt buried in a sandstorm, or...) with some wool in it, and wove a rug from that?

I don't think the above possibilities should be the default assumption, but are all the true believers in C-14 dating for rugs really asserting that those possibilities never happened? Given a head scratcher of a carbon dating result, being cautious seems sensible to me.


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-18-2008 06:55 AM:

C-14 dating

To all,

Quote from Jim's writing: ".....had been radiocarbon dated to 1500 AD. I was somewhat surprised at this fact but even more surprised that Marshall didn’t trust or believe in the dating! This is a date one should have great confidence in, as it is well within the range of high confidence."

As a side line, possible for a new Thread:
Can someone explain to me once and for all the controversies and supposed foot-angels with C-14 dating? Now and then C-14 datings are questioned on grounds of supposed contamination of the used samples. I always wondered about this.
How could a supposed contamination of a sample ever affect the date of the rug to make it earlier, instead of a more logical result, for a later one ?


Posted by Rob van Wieringen on 04-18-2008 07:32 AM:

C-14 dating


Well that was quick. Even before my questions were asked!

As you say, I don't think they should be the default assumption.
Each of the 4 seems to me, if possible at all, very unlikely.
My guess is that, if one of the 4 possibilities could have happened with a rug under observation and of course no counterfeit is in play, it would be somewhere in the order of far less than 0,1% of the C-14 dated rugs.
I wonder if these 4 possibilities of Joe are forming the main reasoning behind the story of contaminated samples?


Posted by Steve Price on 04-18-2008 08:25 AM:

Hi Joe, et al.

The contamination issue can be terribly serious. Traces of smoke can create errors in date that add centuries to the apparent age of a sample. In essence, if you add a little carbon removed from the atmosphere several thousand years ago (as in volcanic ash or petroleum) to a sample in which the carbon was removed from the atmosphere 300 years ago, your analysis will give you something like the average age of all that carbon). Competent laboratories wash samples exhaustively, and avoid this error. The experimental basis for how much washing is adequate to avoid the problem consists of taking specimens known to be contaminated, washing them repeatedly, and removing samples for analysis after each washing. The analyses will give dates becoming progressively more recent with each wash, and at some point, reach a stable date. At that point, the contamination has been eliminated. This provides the basis for knowing how many washes suffice for future samples.

Old wool being rewoven into a new rug is conceivable, but unlikely. It takes many very long lengths of yarn to do it, and an early kilim in good enough condition to use for that purpose would be too valuable to disassemble.

As for somebody discovering an old cache of unused wool and weaving modern fakes with it, I suppose it's not impossible, but it seems so unlikely that ignoring it seems reasonable.

Attributions are always probabilities (as are all scientific conclusions, by the way), and discarding low-probability conclusions is necessary in order to get anywhere at all. It carries the risk that the correct answer will be missed, but accepts that as the cost of moving forward. Despite the obvious possibility of going down the wrong road, just about everything we think of as scientific knowledge (including practical applications like TV, the internet, and weapons of mass destruction) results from this way of doing things.


Steve Price

Posted by Unregistered on 04-18-2008 09:13 AM:


Thanks for the info on washing procedures, and especially how they deduced a sensible procedure. Any estimates on what sample of labs are "competent" with respect to rugs? More seriously, are dates presented for rugs generated by labs considered competent?

As for finding a cache of old wool, I did not assert the finder was modern. Perhaps a circa 1800 Turkmen group found some 200 year-old wool in an abandoned settlement? Or perhaps they recyled a 200 year old kelim? My understanding is that many weaving cultures used what was on hand. Did they not understand unraveling kelims? The wool is there and already dyed.

As for unraveling old kelims, I thought that is what people faking old rugs did? Presumably they do so since there is profit to be made. Granted, most fakes are 19th century (that we know of!). Is it really the case that it's more expensive to buy a 16th century rug battered down to the foundation and a couple of unraveling, holey 16th century kelims, than it is to buy a 16th century rug in decent shape? If you want to save on kelim costs, mix in some 19th century wool and have the field have "considerable repiling."

I'm not sure how likely the above two possibilities are (old "fakes" and modern fakes). I'm just uncomfortable with the logic that C-14 dating is telling how old the rug is. It makes no such claims. It simple tells us when the wool was sheared. I'm rather perplexed at people putting estimates such as 0.1% on the likelihood of there being a fundamental breakdown in when wool was sheared and when the rug was woven.

Steve, low-probability events cannot simply be discarded if they will dramatically change the expected value. Taleb's work on black swan events is relevant here. Well, I suppose you're free to disregard anything you like, and as long as you document it you're being scientific. It doesn't mean the process is sensible though. I also understand plausible alternate hypotheses vs. alternate hypotheses. I'm not proposing time-traveling space aliens, simply that weavers scavenged what was available.

If you guys have economic analyses that shows such activities would be economically unproductive by modern fakers, and that weaving groups drove their kelims and old rugs to the ground and had cultural taboos against recyling, and would never consider using found wool, then please present them.

Of course, you don't answer to me, so that's not a command. But please understand if some us think of you all as a bit crazy, and I'll thank you not to think of all of the doubters as non-scientific. There are just too many plausible alternatives that I cannot begin to quantify, and I'm not convinced anyone else has done the legwork either.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-18-2008 09:55 AM:

Hi Joe

The University of Arizona lab is generally regarded as highly competent in C-14 dating. I'm sure there are lots of others, too.

The judgement of whether something is likely to be correct or incorrect ultimately rests on the assumptions we make. I intended no insult or offense to those whose position differs from mine, was simply trying to clarify how I arrived at mine. I'll try to address the points you raise. I don't speak ex cathedra, so you are welcome to take what you find likely to be correct, reject what you don't, your reasons in either case are most welcome.

Perhaps a circa 1800 Turkmen group found some 200 year-old wool in an abandoned settlement? Or perhaps they recyled a 200 year old kelim? My opinion, based on not much more than a gut feeling, is that it's not a terribly likely event. But even if it happened, how many of the rugs that we run into today are likely to have been made from that wool? If it's a very high percentage, any piece we subject to analysis is open to question on this basis. If it's a very small percentage, we can ignore it without much peril. In my opinion (again, more intuitive than based on data), the percentage of extant rugs that were woven 200 years ago from a cache of what was already 200 year old wool is small enough to ignore.

As for unraveling old kelims, I thought that is what people faking old rugs did? My understanding is that wool from unraveled kilims is used for repairs, not for making whole rugs. If somebody knows otherwise, I'm open to being educated on this.

I'm just uncomfortable with the logic that C-14 dating is telling how old the rug is. It makes no such claims. It simple tells us when the wool was sheared. I'm rather perplexed at people putting estimates such as 0.1% on the likelihood of there being a fundamental breakdown in when wool was sheared and when the rug was woven. Correct, the C-14 date is the date on which the sheep ate the vegetation that provided the raw materials for making the wool. As a practical matter, since shearing happens twice a year and C-14 only gives estimates within date windows much larger than 6 months, the date of shearing and the date that the sheep ate the relevant vegetation are indistinguishable. My understanding is that wool is used for weaving pretty promptly after that (let's say, much sooner than 25 years after the shearing). If that's correct, the C-14 date and the shearing date are close enough to treat as being the same (in my mind) if we're talking about rugs more than 350 years old.

... low-probability events cannot simply be discarded if they will dramatically change the expected value. ... I also understand plausible alternate hypotheses vs. alternate hypotheses. I'm not proposing time-traveling space aliens, simply that weavers scavenged what was available. I don't disagree with any of this in a philosophical sense, but the practical issue is: at what point do we decide that the probability is low enough to ignore despite the fact that if it is correct it will really change things a lot. In my opinion, based on what I think I know (which might be different tomorrow morning, and I know that, too), the probability that a specific rug subjected to C-14 analysis by a competent lab is actually 300 years younger than the C-14 result indicates is small enough to ignore.

But please understand if some us think of you all as a bit crazy, and I'll thank you not to think of all of the doubters as non-scientific. I plead guilty to the charge of being a bit crazy, not guilty to the charge of thinking of doubters as non-scientific. Just to expand a bit, I do think some of the doubters are non-scientific, I don't think scientific and non-scientific are judgements of their intellects or sanity. Science is nothing more (or less) than a method for testing truth. It's fallible, and there are other methods to which many intelligent, highly educated, sane people adhere.


Steve Price

Posted by Unregistered on 04-18-2008 10:19 AM:

sidetracked discussion

The issue of fake or reproduction rugs has no relationship to contamination issue that is central to believing or not believing the efficacy of C14 dating for old oriental rugs.

It is perfectly clear really old rugs, those prior to 1800, were used in places where wood and coal, and candle-wax, and who knows what else, were burned and used for heating and lighting.

Therefore the certainty these rugs have been effected is 100%.

Price's discussion of the procedures to remove these unwanted influences sounds great on paper. However, since there is little chance the contaminants are the same for every old rug, the procedure to remove these unknown influences must therefore be different for each sample.

And do not forget wool is a very porous material and because of the structure of the fibers extremely difficult to clean. The main obstacle to cleaning is the "scales" each fiber has. Those scales are the prime feature that allows the fibers to stay together when they are plied and spun.

There is also the issue of "bonding", where certain substances can become so adhered to the fibers that only rough abrasion will remove them.

These and other issues make the job of removing contamination a very difficult, or maybe even an impossible, one.

This is the crux of the issue and so far nothing I have read has addressed this problem adequately.

C14 dating is not a cure all for the problems inherent in dating old oriental rugs and anyone who puts his faith and money behind such a date is going to be disappointed.

I attended a talk given by Rageth, who is the leading proponent of C14 dating for oriental rugs. After the talk I spoke with him and much to my surprise found out that he does not any longer put much faith behind any C14 date.

This is quite significant and important.

In addition, there are many other contaminants that old rugs could be subjected to in their history of use and believing a standard catch-all decontamination procedure will be effective in all cases is quite naive.

Anyone who doubts the efficacy of C14 is wise, especially when the subject rug is questionable or clearly not nearly as old as the C14 date might imply.

Posted by Steve Price on 04-18-2008 10:22 AM:


Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Kindly send me your name so I can insert it into your message. We don't permit anonymous posting.

Steve Price

Posted by Frank Martin Diehr on 04-18-2008 10:26 AM:

Radiocarbon Dating

It might merit a new thread, but anybody interested in radiocarbon dating should get Jürg Rageth's book "Anatolian Kilims and Radiocarbon Dating", showing the proceedings of the 1997 Liestal Symposium (and a lot of old kelims).
He is working on two more Liestal Symposia books: one on Turkoman carpets, and another on Baluch rugs.
Rageth was in the audience in Berlin, strongly contesting the "photoshop" Anatolian / Turkoman gül theory. He has put a lot of work into radiocarbon dating (and dye analysis), and if his Turkoman and Baluch books will come only close to the quality of his Anatolian Kilim book, we will have two more crackers in our libraries!
(This is, of course, just my opinion, but I have been waiting eagerly for those books for years now.)


btw: I am on no one's side in this Anatolian / Turkoman tangle.

This is just an uneducated guess!!

Posted by Greg Watkins on 04-18-2008 11:27 AM:

sidetracked discussion


Sorry for not posting my name, it was an error on my part, I thought I had filled in that box.

Before my conversation with Rageth I was already familiar with his Kelim book and the C14 information included therein.

In Dr. Bonani's, the C14 scientist with whom Rageth is working, part of the book there is no real information about his decontamination procedures. In fact the descriptions provided by Bonani are quite superficial and do not reveal much concerning that issue.

This was one of the issues I discussed with Rageth and it was during that part of the discussion is when he said that he was moving away from believing in the reliability of the testing. He surely did not negate it but he presented me with the idea he no longer was positive about the results.

There is little doubt his position now is a better one that he promoted before. I would imagine Rageth will soon make the views he expressed to me in private in public as well.

My interests in C14 dating are only in relation to my interest in old oriental rugs and after 20 years I have determined the best and only way to date a rug is comparatively not scientifically.

Doing any comparative analysis requires a great level of experience and the absolutely unscientific quotient of feeling or inspiration. Perhaps no scientific testing, C14 or otherwise, will ever be devised to answer the date questions but are dates really so important?

Today we look at these old rugs with different eyes than those who made, used and appreciated them originally. The secrets those people knew and shared are ones we will never ascertain but again is that really germane to our appreciation?

I would have to say not.

Great old rugs speak but unfortunately the language they use is one that has no real syntax or rule. It is one that must be learned sentence by sentence, at times even word by word. This is the main problem, not dating.

Learning to hear what these old rugs speak is something not everyone can do, this is obvious.

We will all have to agree that there is agreement among those who are very experienced about how old, or important, many old rugs are. However unscientific that agreement it is it all we have and I doubt we will ever have more. It is not a "2 plus 2 equal 4" situation but rather one based on that mixture of experience and feeling or inspiration.

I do not believe any other method to judge an old rug can be devised and I would suggest forgetting about arguing the pluses or minuses of C14 and just realize C14 is only another tool that is I my opinion not as reliable or supportable as comparative analysis and the feeling or inspiration an experienced viewer gets when an old rug is viewed.

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-18-2008 11:48 AM:

Two Points about C-14

In my work with Arizona we submitted 4 "knowns" for quality assurance. One of those knowns (unknown to Jull) was weft material from the Ardebil carpet now at the Getty. Jull estimated the date of those fibers at 1540 AD. This was within the range of the inscribed date on the carpet. Here was a rug that had endured over 350 years of candles, coal, whatever and Jull still was able to absolutely nail the dating. One must also remember that the modern sample size is 5 micro grams and that is extremely small. The fibers are macerated and washed over and over to remove all contaminants.
This procedure works and works very well. Every museum in the world trusts Jull's results and uses radiocarbon dating to test reality against art historical musings.

On another note; old kilims were not unraveled and reused in antiquity because of the large amount of problems and largely unsatisfactory results caused by using such wool. Wool has memory and it takes a lot of work to get the wool into shape to be rewoven. This is a modern day phenomenon brought about by the lack of good antiques plus their escalating values. The idea that weavers in times past just recycled old wool is ludicrous. Recycled wool doesn't feel very good, wears poorly, and creates technical headaches in weaving. Rugs did not achieve enough value before the 20th century for anyone to contemplate such an exercise.

Steve: an old rug whose pile has been eaten away by moths can be used as a foundation for a new creation, instantly an antique. Sad but true, as I have seen them. Marshall Wolf is having a true museum restoration done on one of his favorite rugs and he is using 2 and 3 hundred year old warp and weft material. He laughs thinking about some poor guy in the future trying to C-14 this masterpiece. There truly has been a paradigm shift in rug restoration and we should be happy we have as few problems as we have with present day rug scholarship.

Jim Allen

Posted by Steve Price on 04-18-2008 12:31 PM:

Hi Greg Watkins (or Alvin Ruth, whichever name you prefer)

What you refer to as the "comparative approach" to date attribution (which has a striking resemblance to what a certain self-appointed expert calls "art historical analysis") suffers from a fatal flaw: its results are untestable. If there was a decent database of rugs with documented ages, someone could study them, tabulate the characteristics of rugs of various ages, and become able to assign a date to a rug of undocumented age. But there is no such database.

As for the reliability of the feeling or inspiration an experienced viewer gets when an old rug is viewed, how in the world do you propose to test that? If I assemble a panel of devotees of some religion and another panel of devotees of some other religion, and all convince you that they have overwhelming feelings and inspirations that theirs is the One True Religion, how can you know which one's feelings and inspirations are right, or whether either one is right? The answer is simple and obvious: you can't.

Steve Price

Posted by Brian Morehouse on 04-18-2008 04:49 PM:

In response to Alvin Ruth:
Like many people who appreciate this subject you need to dwell deeper into your suppositions and use some comparative facts. Many rug fragments were found early in the 20th century at Lou-Lan and Lap-nor in East Turkestan. These rugs did not feature a weaving structure that is in anyway similar to those rugs woven during the Seljuk period; yet, some scholars try and use this association to prove the existence of a Anatolian, Turkmen connection……Aslapan. If anything it is contrary indicator with no technical symmetry to Seljuk rugs as they were woven with a symmetric knot…..early East Turkistan examples with a single knot on warp. Some of the early finds at Fostat show similar features; however, many of the examples found during the 1930’s by Lamm and Riefstahl show fragments with weaving techniques and aspects of the visual vocabulary associated with Anatolian rugs dating to the Seljuk period. If these rugs were the first of their type in Anatolia….how is this reconciled with the great Animal style rugs found in Tibet….surely these were not an outgrowth of Turkmen influence.
…..I say again ….nonsense! These are sophisticated weavings with ancient local iconography… how does one explain them in your Turkmen hypothesis? These were rugs rooted in a Trans-Caucasian culture with overtones of possible Iranian and Kurdish influence. They have no relevance or extension to anything Turkmen.
It is unimaginable that these examples showing elements of design found in Anatolian styles would have not have developed over many centuries…..within Anatolia. Can you please site me any corollary to this in Turkistan. You, like many, have not given one thread of proof that Turkmen weaving, forget for the moment about what styles they may have produced, existed as a tradition during this period. Most of those who assume that Anatolia was given over to such influences show little in the way of proof by way of documented examples or even a clear basis for a sharing of a common design lexicon. Why are their so few borrowed gul motifs in Anatolian rugs? Because only a single type may have existed at the time they entered Anatolia ……as seen in the large white ground Seljuk period rug, but even this example with its repetitive octagonal motif and intestacies of four directional elements are not proven to be generated from the Turkmen. These elements and similar forms can be seen on Chinese Han mirrors.
As to what I meant about the Turkmen and the nature of a settled culture… clarify, since you did not understand my point….which I thought was quite clear and direct. The Turkmen, as you understood were not settled people. I would posit that before entering Turkmenistan they had very little use for the pile carpet…..felts and flat weaves served a better and more function predicated on time and cost; however, some may have been woven for special occasion, but that is even not clear. It is more likely that after they became settled and prosperous throughout the Turkmenistan and were not fleeing from ever present enemies (most moved west because other Ural, Altaic groups were always pressing west from the time of the Huns) that in a more settled economy near the Silk Road things changed. The financial and trading rewards of making pile carpets would have then become more appropriate to their new life style. Can one honestly believe that a nomad had the time, money and space to weave a Salor main carpet? I realize you are not claiming that.
With regard to the symmetry of various aspects of shared motifs: I have stated that ideas moved along the trade routes and that symbolic motifs and their messages where shared by various cultures; however, one should be cautious as to their application as emblematic motifs have a way of changing context. I do not necessary disagree that many motifs may have had a common origin. It may be that many appear to have come out of early East Asian ideas; as seen in the “Cloud Collar” which may have originated in the Mongolian lexicon which was probably brought into Anatolia by them rather than the Turkmen and yet this is even unclear.
Thank you and the others for such an engaging discussion. I certainly am open to many opposing views…….we can all learn if we are open to new ideas.

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-18-2008 06:03 PM:

old bags, new rugs


I learned in Konya that some folks are buying up old, single-color (usually white, but sometimes undyed brown or dark) storage bags. They unravel and treat the wool to undo the twist that the wool had from being woven into a bag and they subsequently use this wool for their new "antique" rug production - both foundation and pile. Experts may be able to tell that the wool had been used before upon careful examination.
So the new "antique" rugs do have old wool. The chance, however, that someone several decades ago would have used very old weavings to create fake "antique" rugs in the anticipation of the invention of radiocarbon dating is rather unlikely.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-20-2008 03:36 PM:


Thank you for taking the time to write such a nice summation and give us all your highly informed opinion about this subject. I suspect my attitudes toward the Turkmen’s contribution to Anatolian designs stems mainly from my love of Turkoman weaving in general. I think Steve was quite accurate when he intimated the differing positions on this subject were similar to differing religious attitudes toward God. People have their pet theories and with an almost total lack of measurable characteristics no one position is able to clearly be identified as the correct one. I tend to believe that the earliest Turkoman designs were inspired by the Chinese material culture, as Pinner did. You are quite right that even if some of the rugs we have discussed here were quasi-Turkoman work the designs soon morphed into something much more Anatolian than Turkoman. This is a very complex subject colored by economic and cultural aspects of weaving. A weaver must ask what is going to sell and who is going to buy my weavings. In the nomadic milieu I think Turkoman weaving tends to gravitate more toward designs with meaning and how can this meaningfulness help my children learn how to be a more successful nomad. I am not a good enough history student to know which avenues of transmission were the most likely between the Turkmen and other cultures but some serious academicians are starting to look closely at these questions so maybe some day we will have a much better idea about such matters. Jim Allen

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-21-2008 09:05 AM:

As to rug language, to me the early Anotolian carpet industry's looks like an Esperanto version with nothing particularly tribal or culturally specific. Retooled for an international cliental with both old money and new mercantile money. Generic enough not to look ethnic but touched with enough reminiscences to inspire viewer's reverie of the exotic. No small accomplishment. It's still working it's magic today.

As to structural analysis, sans fiber considerations here, I'd like to point out that all living weaving populations have the capacity to retool that, too, and did. In the big money highly specialized and coordinated textile industry problems of design and structure were tackled as a unit -- by specialist not weavers. Everything must fit well and efficiently. Sampling and examples are absolutely necessary at this level of investment. The stakes were high and the competition was fierce. There is a lot of math involved and math served, and still serves, in the textile industry, as the bridge language between the specialties.

So, in my opinion, and in my way of studying, in the early phases of the Anotolian carpet industry ethnicity and personal tribal affiliation concerns of the work force would be left at the workplace door as not relevant to production. To my way of thinking the relevant comparative is in similar big money textile ventures located elsewhere, the world class competition, where ethnicity and tribal affiliation concerns would also be left at the door. More of a Chevy vs. Ford model of comparison. Sue

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-23-2008 09:16 AM:

18th century Turkoman in Anatolia

The following is an imaginative reconstruction of events around Soma in the Bergama area during the mid 18th century. At the present time speculations about this period in history are un-testable. I present this theory looking forward to the day when we will finally know some salient facts about the 18th century in Anatolia.

One author, Volmar Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, posited that the Armenians were the source of essentially all knotted rug making in Anatolia, the Caucasus, and of course Armenia. His book had a scholarly thesis. The historical role of Armenians in rug weaving was actively suppressed by most Turkish and Persian rug dealers. I have tried to make the point that the Turkomen, fleeing from their constant tormentors the Kazakhs and Uzbeks, did indeed move eastward into Anatolia on several occasions in history.

When this happened a highly skilled group of Turkoman weavers became available for work. I think it is as simple as that. Take for instance the so called Kiz Bergama rugs. Richard Purdon told me that, according to his information, most all old Kiz Bergama weavings were from Soma. According to local legends, concerning Soma, the Salor arrived in Soma at some point in the past and slaughtered the people living there. They set up their permanent camp at Soma. Kiz or “girl” Bergama weavings were made for the dowry and this is one type of Anatolian weaving one sometimes finds in very good condition even with great age. Because of their dowry status they were handed down generation after generation.

I feel the genres of Kiz Bergama weavings are somewhat unique among Anatolian weavings. Kiz Bergama rugs are approximately the same size as Salor chuvals, though their warps are oriented at 90 degrees to those of Salor chuvals. I suspect that the Salor’s long history of weaving dowry chuvals imprinted their minds with a love for the chuval’s proportions.

When any Turkoman tribe conquered a competitor they treated the women with a little compassion. The Turkmen were polygamous, like Jews of Old Testament times. The conquered competitors surviving women would simply be incorporated into the victors yurts. In the case of mid 18th century Soma I am sure that many Bergama area women became additional wives in many Turkoman yurts. I think the Salor would have parked their yurts and occupied the dwellings at Soma out of necessity. One can only try to imagine how the sexual politics of this amalgamation would have worked out. The fact is that very old Kiz Bergama weavings often have designs based on even earlier weavings. In my experience certain Kiz Bergama genres seem to follow generation after generation in a single cognate line.

One must ask why would the Salor have traded their century’s old habit of weaving chuvals, as part of their dowry, for this new form and set of designs, the Kiz Bergama? I think the answer has to economic. These must have been very hard times for the Salor of Soma. If the Kiz Bergama was a dowry weaving it had to be worth something to a potential buyer in case of emergencies. I predict that one such incorporation of a Soma woman into a Salor polygamous marriage brought the weavers into contact with a 15th century double reentrant Holbein carpet. In this one Salor/Soma family the weavers all reduced the revered antique double reentrant archetype into a Salor chuval sized fully utilitarian masterpiece of “Anatolian” weaving.

Why is the weaving less dense than that of ordinary Salor chuvals? I would say the answer is economics again. The dowry Kiz Bergama weaving could be used as a table cover or even as a rug by the rich if ever sold. It needed to be woven well enough to be considered fine by local standards but beyond that there was no reason to weave any finer. In the Salor’s nomadic past everything had to be done as well as humanly possible. Failures at any level could spell disaster. Classical Salor chuvals are woven at the very upper limits of the tensile strength of the threads used. As far as I know all classical era Salor and Tekke chuvals were woven at over 300 KPSI. A Salor dowry chuval was at most a treasured heirloom, serving as a guide for the future, or something that had to perform extremely well out on the Steppes.

I think the oldest Kiz Bergamas are the ones whose measurements most resemble those of traditional Salor chuvals. Above is an image of an 18th century Kiz Bergama weaving. It measures 2’11” X 3’11”.

Notice its main border elements are very similar to those seen in the TIME A-28 rug’s field. Adjusting for scale they may be considered equivalents. In the large outer border of this rug one sees mainly white “S” forms that also include a procession of kissing ducks, in the positive or colored background spaces. In this border what is foreground and what is background presents to ones eyes with essentially equal amplitude. The ultimate modern incarnation of an artist utilizing similar insights to those exhibited in this border was Escher. What does this imply? I think it implies a long incubation period for this border in a milieu of high criticism and sure enough one sees this exact border used on a number of obviously older archetypes.

John Howe is showing a picture, on his TM blog, of HK’s related double reentrant Kiz Bergama, as it was shown at a TM event in the recent past. It has a border that I relate to the mid 19th century and to my knowledge this is the latest example I have seen in this genre. Another similar rug, was sold by Christies, making three. I suspect there are 3 or 4 more in existence and I would really like to see them if anybody out there in cyber land has one. I have seen 4 or 5 Kiz Bergamas of similar proportions that had very old iconography. It may well be that there were dozens of cognate lines of emergent Kiz Bergama weaving designs.

Armenian rugs vary from the extremely fine work done in the main foci of Caucasian rug weaving areas like Shirvan, Kuba, and Karabagh, to the relatively low quality early 20th century Caucasian rugs we frequently see with Armenian writing. In the deeper past we see that Armenians had, through the ages, made among the most profoundly complex lace works in the world. They were skilled at embroidery as well. I personally feel that the great Caucasian embroideries, those resembling “dragon carpets”, such as the Gohar carpet with Armenian writing, actually inspired the dragon carpets. I wrote an article a few years back linking another specific Caucasian rug design to the influx of Arabatchi refuges at the end of the 17th century.

In conclusion one wonders how the pile weaving traditions of Anatolia would map over the older kilim weaving traditions. I suspect such a super positioning would reveal all the old foci of either Armenian or Turkoman settlement and pile weaving. I would expect some serious blurring of many boundaries through time but in a large enough historical sampling or context I think my theory would stand up and become apparent.

One thing carbon 14 dating has shown us is those special kilims that look superficially similar to some 19th century genres can be 500 or more years old. High quality kilim weaving was apparently being practiced all over 15th century Anatolia. The pile rugs that did appear often had at least a token relationship to Turkoman forms and designs. These forms tended to be gull like and relationships between the foreground gulls and their backgrounds were visually highly interactive.

Were Star Ushaq rug’s simply created by transforming, across linear scales, Turkoman archetypes into impressive Ushaq “star” designs? Why would the Armenians do this? Because it worked….. people loved the Star Ushaq’s, witnessed by the fact that virtually all of Europe was clamoring for them. I think this is exactly what Dr. Lucy der Manuelien was talking about when she mentioned a significant historical connection between the Turkoman peoples and the Armenians. The Armenians became artful rug dealers by reinterpreting Turkoman designs into much larger scale statements of heraldic power. They turned Turkoman designs into hard currency right in front of an indigenous people who had been trying to make money this way for centuries. It must have hurt.

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 04-23-2008 11:30 AM:

Speculations are testable, in my opinion. Knowing what to test for what, however, really is the stuff of blood, sweat, and tears though. Sue

Posted by Paul Smith on 04-23-2008 01:33 PM:


Jim, et al--

OK, well, I feel a little validated for my Armenian suggestion of a page ago or so, in any case...


Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-27-2008 12:16 PM:

Hi all,

After reading, in a link Steve put up, Barry O'Connell's comment that the discourse here had gone up a notch or two since the opening of this thread, I reread it to see what he was talking about. Of course, he must have been referring to Paul Smith's invocation of Gantzhorn.

Just kidding. It is an interesting thread for any number of reasons, but not very illuminating for me. Most of the discussion seems to be various persons advancing theories (with varying levels of vigor) of the evolution of various weaving designs and styles based on gratuitous assumptions. For example, the competing claims of "Turkomans" and "Anatolians" are asserted, as though each of those groups were monolithic blocks that we fully understand, like chocolate and vanilla. But really, what do we mean in this context by "Turkomans?" What Turkomans, and when? Before we can begin to consider their influence on the larger weaving landscape, do we even know what any of them (i. e., Turkomans) were weaving, if anything, in 1100, or 1400, or pretty much any other time? I don't think so. Even the Russian observers who went to them with a purpose in the late 19th century got a number of things wrong.

In truth, it seems to me that most or all of the commentators in this thread are making suggestions that are plausible and interesting, but largely unprovable. It seems that there can be grains of truth in all of their messages. The whole thread reminds me ever so much of the old ditty of the six blind men, " learning much inclined, who went to see the elephant, though all of them were blind, that each by observation might satisfy his mind."

I would however like to jump aboard in support of Jim Allen's comments about carbon 14 dating. My own scientific credentials are limited to having the National Geographic News bookmarked on my browser, and I know next to nothing about scientific dating methods. I accept on faith the caution about the risk of contamination of results. However, Jim's notes about the result of the tests on Ardebil Carpet samples are very interesting. At least, subject to appropriate skepticism and safeguards, that particular testing method is an exciting prospect for the dating of carpets in my opinion. I agree with Steve about dating estimates based on feeling and inspiration. I have the utmost respect for the knowledge, experience and opinions of many persons in this field, but not much for those claiming clairvoyance. Dating estimates based on feeling and inspiration rely mostly on the latter.

The history of pile weaving is evidently very ancient. The Pazyryk carpet seems to be a very sophisticated example of the craft. Although Gantzhorn's propensity to credit the Armenians and proto-Armenians with everything does not appeal to me, his chapter on the Pazyryk, as possibly the work of a Phrygian-Urartian culture (and antecedent to Armenian culture) is compelling. I am not aware of any other source with so much about this rug that you can sink your teeth into. (The commentary, not the rug itself .) Michael Wendorf has some very intriguing notions about ancient Kurdish weaving, which he advances with admirable restraint. There are many with very inteeresting ideas. We just don't have the data to put all this together coherently with confidence, in my opinion.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-27-2008 06:39 PM:

An early gull rug

I have to thank Barry O. for bringing this rug and its text to my attention. I appreciate it. “The unusual design of this carpet brings to mind Caucasian, Anatolian and Turkmen weavings. A central medallion flanked by two medallions, as in the carpet offered here, recalls Azerbaijan embroideries of the 17th and 18th centuries, and is quite similar to an early Caucasian carpet sold in these rooms, April 12, 1996, lot 39. In the present carpet, these medallions are supported by smaller Turkic medallions that reflect Turkmen guls. These proto-guls are very similar to those found on an Eastern Anatolian rug in the Vakilflar Museum (inv. no. A-28) that has been dated to the 18th century or earlier, see Mackie, L. and Thompson, J., Turkmen, Washington, D.C., 1980, fig. 33 and Balpinar, B. and Hirsch, U., Carpets of the Vakiflar Museum Istanbul, Wesel, 1988, pl. 62. The reciprocal trefoil border of this carpet is found in several early, 18th century, floral and dragon design Caucasian carpets: for examples, see Yetkin, S., Early Caucasian Carpets in Turkey, London, 1978, vol. I, pls. 20, 24, 52 and 85. From its large format, it is evident that the present carpet was woven in a large workshop established in the Southern Caucasus and Azerbaijan in the tradition of Persian and Anatolian court and city ateliers, as were the dragon and blossom carpets.”

I am just guessing but this sounds like Ian Bennett writing this. This rug seems like an Armenian rug done giving honor to the Turkoman, for whatever reason. The largest gull seems lifted right off one of those Salor "throne" covers or whatever they were. The diagonal elements of the 'chuval' gulls resembles th edevice seen in my yellow single medallion yatak. Very interesting material and since rugs like this have no sales history, as far as I know, it may well have been made for the eastern Turkomen elite and not any western concern. This would make sense geographically. I put a link to my yellow single medallion yatak to compare the gulls more easily. Jim Allen


Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-27-2008 07:23 PM:

Hi Jim,

Most extraordinary. Do you know the size of this rug?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jim Allen on 04-27-2008 07:50 PM:

Technical Aspects Old Gull Rug

An Azerbaijan carpet, South Caucasus/Northwest Persia,
circa 1800
with extensive repiled and rewoven areas, splits, sides and ends partially rewoven, glued and stitched patches on reverse,
approximately 13 ft. 4 in. by 5 ft. 10 in. (4.06 by 1.78m.)
cotton, Z3-4S, ivory
wool, Z spun, 2 shoots, red
wool, symmetrical knot
8-9 horizontal, 8 vertical
generally not original, one area with remnants of warp cords
generally not original, small area with remnants of red kilim end finish at one end
madder red, deep blue, medium blue, blue-green, yellow, aubergine, ivory, walnut

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-28-2008 11:09 AM:

Hello Richard,

"... The Pazyryk carpet seems to be a very sophisticated example of the craft. Although Gantzhorn's ... I am not aware of any other source with so much about this rug that you can sink your teeth into."

Try to get a copy of Schürmann's book on the Pazyryk carpet, its the foundations for what Gantzhorn writes on the subject, a small volume not very expensive, good reading.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 04-28-2008 01:06 PM:

Hi Horst,

Thanks for that tip.

I recall vaguely in reading about the Pazyryk rug that Rudenko found other pile weaving examples in connection with that excavation. The cheek piece from a horse's bridle comes to mind. However, I never saw any illustrations of it, nor did I read anything substantive. Do you know anything about it? Does Schurmann mention it?

Posted by Horst Nitz on 04-28-2008 03:55 PM:


in 'The Pazyryk' (1982) Schürmann makes reference to Rudenko, S (1970) Frozen Tombs of Siberia. 340 pages plus plates. London, Berkeley, Los Angeles. Lots of pictures in it, bridles and cheek-pieces among them.