David R E Hunt
August 13th, 2015 06:35 AM

IHBS/ICOC Exhibition at David Zahirpour Oriental Rugs
Hi Folks

On August 8th 2015 our local IHBS Washington DC based rug club hosted a juried exhibition of member holdings
in conjunction with the International Conference of Oriental Carpets at David Zahirpour's Oriental Rugs in the
Friendship Heights neighborhood of Washington D.C..

The exhibition was held at the conclusion of ICOC programme, and by the time
I had arrived the space was already standing room only, do I decided to take a brief walk and come back in a half hour.

Color, condition and Caucasian seem as good a summation as any of the exhibit, in which the rich greens of weaving
from the Caucasian production centers figured prominent, owning to the strength of member collections in this area.
A majority of pieces were in outstanding condition.

Standouts included the above Shirvan and a Zeichour sporting another set of phenomenal greens,
an Eagle Gul main carpet in pristine condition,an interesting permution of the camel ground tree of life rug,
a striking Suzani and a Salor Turkmen torba.

Lighting was a challenge here in regards to photography, let alone with the variety of photographing textiles themselves,
witness my attempts at photographing the star of the show in the front window.

Filiberto Boncompagni2
August 13th, 2015 08:54 AM

Thank you very Much, David.

Steve Price
August 13th, 2015 02:09 PM

Thanks, David. I'm sorry I missed seeing you there. I was part of the early group that filled the place before you arrived.

Steve Price

Joel Greifinger
August 13th, 2015 07:25 PM

Frenzy in Friendship Heights
Hi Dave,

Like Steve, I was at the reception earlier in the evening. Coming on the first shuttle bus from the conference hotel, when I arrived the rooms were already teeming with revelers. And, while securing wine and hors d’oeuvres was manageable, I was almost totally defeated in my attempts to photograph the outstanding pieces on display from the collections of IHBS members because they were mobbed by admirers. I was only able to get one clear shot and that was because the rug was displayed high up on a wall near the entrance of the gallery. So, I'll add this one:

Many thanks for posting a sampling of the many excellent weavings at the exhibition.


David R E Hunt
August 14th, 2015 07:19 AM

Hi Guys

Anytime, it's a pleasure. I appreciate all of you folks at Turkotek that make this possible. And thanks for the additional image Joel, it was hard to get good shots of these rugs under the present conditions.

I recognize some of these stellar Caucasian pieces as being from the collection of the late Harold Keshishian, as he had presented them at the Textile Museum rug Mornings over the course of time.

I was flattered to find that my baluch fragment was selected for inclusion in this exhibition. I will take good care of this piece.

Really enjoyed the opportunity to see one of my favorite Baluch/Turkmen?prayer rugs up close and in person.

I would have liked to have gotten a better look at that Kazak in the front window, that's an incredible rug, IMHO....


Steve Price
August 14th, 2015 04:27 PM

Hi Dave

I'm pretty sure the Kazak in the window is part of David Zahirpour's inventory, not part of the exhibition. Please, no more comments about it.


Steve Price

Joel Greifinger
August 15th, 2015 02:47 AM


Really enjoyed the opportunity to see one of my favorite Baluch/Turkmen?prayer rugs up close and in person.
Hi Dave,

Getting close to that rug was exciting for me, too.

I kept trying to get a picture, but there were two jovial gents involved in an animated conversation standing in front that I couldn't seem to dislodge.
And they didn't seem to be discussing the lovely, rare weaving behind them. Go figure.

There was a discussion of this small group of "Baluch/Ersari" prayer rugs a while back on Turkotek: http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00003/ms3t1.htm
and a presentation about them, including the one in the IHBS exhibit, on John Taylor's "rugtracker" blog: http://www.rugtracker.com/2013/01/ersari-or-baluch.html


Rich Larkin
August 16th, 2015 03:34 AM

Hi Dave,

Great pics of some nifty rugs. I take it the "Baluch/Turkmen" favorite is the Tree of Life prayer rug, as Joel suggests. I've read that some have opined it is Ersari. Now that you've seen it up close, what do you think? How about you, Joel? It looks Baluch enough to me.

Dave, I'm sorry you didn't get a nice shot of the weave on the back. Of course, I realize you would have been arrested.


Patrick Weiler
August 16th, 2015 07:52 PM

The beautiful prayer rug fragment looks completely "Baluch" to me, with the only possibly Turkmen feature being the shape of the "gul" in the mihrab.
Unless there are some structural features indicating otherwise, I would just call it a very old Baluch rug with a Turkmen-style gul - which appears in this form in some early Turkmen large bags as a minor gul.
One feature of the design that seems to be Baluch is the vase border.
It appears in this small balisht, which also shares a camel-color field, the serrated leaf tree with diagonal-striped trunk and the miscellaneous motifs in the field - such as the quincunx "dice" etc.
The dark blue vase border is the same in both pieces, although the overall tonality of the prayer rug is lighter than the balisht with its multiple darker borders.

One other feature of the prayer rug is that it looks "fatter" than most Baluch prayer rugs, which tend more to be about twice as long as wide - although the fragment may have been taller if the ends remained.
Nonetheless, it is a brilliant piece, with a nice and unusual green in the top border. I also have a hard time thinking it would be Ersari - other than the "bugs bunny" shape to the "ears", or ram's horns at the top of the mihrab.
To me, this would suggest a marginally Turkmen-influenced Baluch piece rather than a Baluch-influenced Ersari weaving.

Patrick Weiler

David R E Hunt
August 18th, 2015 07:39 AM

Hi Patrick

I agree, this fragment looks quintessential Baluch, but then maybe this then is where our problem lies, in a poor understanding of what constitutes baluch.

This is really an interesting rug for so many reasons. While the lay out is the same as a more traditional baluch tree of life prayer rug, the drawing and design
elements share a rectilinear quality, seeming to myself more at Turkmen weaving. Notice this Ikat inspired cross panel at the top of the rug, also common to Turkmen weaving.

My camel ground Baluch TOL looks coarse in comparison, yet is of 144 KPSI, fine for a baluch weaving. I would suspect the weave of this fragment could exceed
the upper limits in regard to baluch weaving.

It is my understanding that the "Ram's Horn" mihrab" is considered a Turkmen convention.

Both ends and the sides are missing from this rug- we are only seeing part of the weaving. I suspect the overall effect might be quite different if this weaving were complete.
This delight in minute detail reminds of Tekke work,and you see little of the lazy"s" and dice flowers, rosettes and such common to persian tribal weaving.
Also, the shrub border could be a Turkmen element. Similar carpets have been identified as Turkmen prayer rugs,and some appear of more recent production and
contain synthetic dyes.

The geometric figure centered in the mihrab of this weaving is not a Turkmen gul but a Karbala Stone, indicitative of it's being a Shia prayer rug and not Sunni,
a common design element in Shia prayer rugs.

There is a centuries long history of high end prayer rugs being made in this part of the word, and were sold at Mosques to visitors and travelers alike.
Camel wool also has a centuries old tradition of use as a high end fabric, and was used as a ground for high end prayer rugs.

The proportions of the borders in relation to each other and to the field, as well as the use of color and somewhat of texture, reminds of an
interesting old Pakistani weaving I had seen at one point in time.

This seems a rather sophisticated and dare I say cosmopolitan weaving. It is of high quality production as opposed to a tribal rug, but quite old?

Just as the Tekke gul pattern became synonymous with Turkmen weaving as a consequence of market forces, such has the Camel ground TOL pattern in regard to Baluch.
There are a fair number of closely related weaving of this particular incarnation of the TOL pattern around, and a significant number are identified as Turkmen.
Telling that so many rugs are based upon this one common pattern.

I suspect the peculiarities of this prayer rug to be a function of the regional characteristics -more at Central Asian than rural Persian- of where it was made.


Chuck Wagner
August 18th, 2015 02:02 PM


If by Central Asian you are referring to the opium poppies in the center of the rug, then yes, I agree...

Chuck Wagner

Joel Greifinger
August 18th, 2015 05:43 PM


In his report on the 2013 Baluchtreffen (the annual German-speaking Baluch collectors' meeting) for Hali, Frank Diehr noted that the "group of camel-ground, tree of life prayer rugs with distinct Turkmen iconology prompted an animated discussion."

Perhaps Frank can be induced to share a bit of that discussion here. Maybe if we all concentrate real hard...


Rich Larkin
August 19th, 2015 04:02 PM

So, Joel, standing in front of the ToL, did you take it to be Baluch or Turkoman?


Patrick Weiler
August 19th, 2015 06:11 PM

Clueless in Carpetland
Rug world presumptions of ethnic origins in the region where we think these "Baluch" prayer rugs were made tend to conflict with the actual genetic and tribal distribution in the area.
When I first began to be interested in "tribal" rugs, there were three names which were popular in the trade, Qashqai, Baluch and Kurd - aka NW Persian.
Qashqai described all the SW Persian tribal weavings, Baluch described Afghan and NE Persian tribal weavings and Kurds made the NW Iran tribal rugs. Turkmen rugs were made by a separate group in the arid regions north of Iran and Afghanistan.
As with other catch-all terms in fields such as music and art, (for example Rock Music and Modern Art) a closer study identifies branches, styles and traditions distinct from one another. Rock includes pop, grunge, punk, acid-rock, etc. Modern Art includes fauvism, cubism, impressionism, etc.
We confidently attribute the camel-ground prayer rugs to the Baluch tradition, but a cursory review of the ethnic distribution of Afghanistan, where most folks assume these were made, didn't actually have a whole lot of Baluch people living there, and not a lot of Turkmen, either. This map of Afghanistan and adjacent regions from Wikipedia shows a whole host of different tribes, many of whom aren't cited in rug studies.

There is a strip of northwest Afghanistan with Turkmen, and a narrow band of Baluch between NE Iran and NW Afghanistan. Those folks must have been pretty productive to have woven all of what we claim to be Baluch rugs. Even in James Opie's magnum opus, Tribal Rugs, he shows a single "Baluch" prayer rug, noting that there were still hundred-year old rugs available in northern Afghanistan when he was there forty years ago. Had they been woven there? If so, then maybe they are Turkmen, but from a decidedly different tradition than what we typically call Turkmen rugs. And how they came to be known in the rug world as Baluch probably stems from rug book writers of a hundred years ago who probably didn't have a clue who wove them. Leaving us all just as clueless today. Perhaps more of those "animated discussions" at Baluchtreffen can clear things up.

Patrick Weiler

Frank Martin Diehr
August 21st, 2015 06:37 PM

Hello Baluchotekkies, hi Joel,

just in passing, but did we not briefly discuss this particular type of "Baluch" ToL prayer rug within another thread, a while ago? I did a quick search on the site, but could not find it. I recall that there are just about half a dozen of this group known (i.e. published), and the announced article on the subject never got published, unless I missed it.
As to the Baluch collectors' meeting in 2013, I will go through my notes when I have a minute, as picking my brain just now drew a blank.

Kind regards


Joel Greifinger
August 21st, 2015 07:45 PM


did we not briefly discuss this particular type of "Baluch" ToL prayer rug within another thread, a while ago?
Hi Frank,

Do you mean this one from 2004? http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00003/ms3t1.htm

I look forward to the report from your notes on what was animating the 2013 Baluchtreffen discussants.


So, Joel, standing in front of the ToL, did you take it to be Baluch or Turkoman?
Rich - Like Justice Potter Stewart with pornography, when confronted with "hard-core" 'Baluch', "I know it when I see it."

However, in both areas, less self-evident cases invite the pleasure of animated discussion. :clap:


Rich Larkin
August 21st, 2015 11:25 PM

So, Joel, are you saying you were confronted, but you're not sure you saw it? Come on, out with it, my man!


David R E Hunt
August 23rd, 2015 06:05 AM

Hi Folks

This from Thomas Cole from "Baluch Aesthetics"

Prayer rugs made by the various Baluch tribes have always commanded significant collector interest, but rarely seem to me to be anything other than commercial production, judging by the fact that few old examples show a pattern of wear consistent with use. One of the most common design types is the tree-of-life, usually on a camel-ground. The incorporation of Turkic elements in the hand panels and field may assist in identifying the genealogy of the people who wove them, but does not diminish the commercial nature of the weaving. One might expect an older example of the type to look like (8, below). Note the spacious treatment of the tree, the boldly articulated Turkic design elements and the remnants of a heavy four-cord selvedge. The handle of this piece is more substantial than that of most Baluch rugs, rather like an Ersari Turkmen piece. It is likely that this prayer rug was made by Baluch tribes in southern Turkmenistan, possibly no later than the mid 19th century.

Yes, what say you Joel?


Rich Larkin
August 23rd, 2015 08:01 PM

Good one, Dave. That is a useful observation by Tom Cole about the 'Baluch-ness' of at least that (really good) example of the type.

Regarding his comment below, I wonder about its significance.


Prayer rugs made by the various Baluch tribes have always commanded significant collector interest, but rarely seem to me to be anything other than commercial production, judging by the fact that few old examples show a pattern of wear consistent with use.
I lived in Riyadh for just under two and a half years in the 1960s. The prayer call there, which went out everywhere five times a day, seven days a week, was observed virtually absolutely. In urban or business settings, persons would congregate at apparently predetermined locations. In more sparsely populated locations, whoever was around would congregate at a convenient spot. I never saw an actual prayer rug used in this context. I wonder what experience other residents of the Middle East have had in this regard.

Prayer rugs could be found in the suq, as I purchased at least two with some age on them (a Baluch , probably from the Seistan area, or possibly Ferdaus, and an Afghan of some Turkoman lineage), though I don't recall that they were available in large numbers. They wouldn't have been directed to a tourist clientele there at that time.


Joel Greifinger
August 24th, 2015 12:31 AM


So, Joel, are you saying you were confronted, but you're not sure you saw it? Come on, out with it, my man!

Yes, what say you Joel?
Hi Rich and Dave,

Gosh; I'm flattered to have my opinion so keenly solicited.

Based entirely on visuals (since I couldn't manage to 'cop a feel'), I'd say that the camel-ground prayer rug at the IHBS exhibit looks much more like a so-called "Baluch" prayer rug than it does any so-called "Ersari" (or so-called "Beshir") prayer rugs I've ever seen.

Unlike the other extant members of this group of prayer rugs, like this one published by Grote-Hasenbalg in 1921 as "Turkmenischer Teppich (Beludschistan):

the one at IHBS has a horizontal band across the top that connects the two hand panels. While this is somewhat unusual on 'Baluch' prayer rugs, it can be seen in some later versions of the design, like this one formerly in Mark Hopkins' collection.


Paul Smith
August 24th, 2015 02:01 AM

Joel, et al...

I don't know that the Hopkins example you just posted is necessarily a "later" version of the design. It's probably later than these really old ones being discussed, but I would say that it is likely to be from back in the 19th century a ways, as much as we can know any of that stuff. I think you're right that connected hand panels appear in the later 19th century though, as demonstrated on my Dokhtari Qazi prayer rug on my current window blind thread.

I fail to be persuaded that Tom Cole's dismissal of "Baluch-group" prayer rugs as "commercial" (because he hasn't seen any with wear from praying) constitutes a convincing argument. I think it's obvious that these represent a native tradition that was popular regionally, and since many of the people who wove these were apparently barely if at all Muslim, it would be as reasonable to conclude that their original use may not have been as Muslim prayer rugs, but as objects of who-knows-what-sort-of contemplation. It certainly is debatable, without a doubt, and so certainty on what exactly their significance is seems to be based on something other than evidence, since there's precious little of that for the period being examined.

Joel Greifinger
August 24th, 2015 05:36 AM

Not late, just later

I don't know that the Hopkins example you just posted is necessarily a "later" version of the design. It's probably later than these really old ones being discussed, but I would say that it is likely to be from back in the 19th century a ways

I certainly didn't mean to imply that the ex-Hopkins rug is 'late' in any sense, but that the design seems a later development from the version on the rug at the IHBS exhibition (that used to be, and still may be, in Igo Licht's collection). I think it most probably dates to some time in the second half of the 19th century. However, I think that some of the group of camel ground prayer rugs under discussion, such as the Grote-Hasenbalg example, may very well be among the few recognizably 'Baluch' rugs that arguably were woven even earlier.


David R E Hunt
August 25th, 2015 04:37 AM

Antecedent and Affinity
Hi Folks

Just a few quick thoughts with some illustration...

Mughal Predecessor

The supposed model upon which future camel ground prayer rugs are based.
It's a luxury item of quality design and expensive materials, an item of commerce and trade.
Too heavy and/or cumbersome to be used as a prayer rug, I suspect more at a decorative purpose.
A certain Imam Hendi with whom I am an acquaintance, uses something more at a cloth for prayer
but has a prayer rug in his home and used as a decorative object, hung on the wall just as if a rug on display.

Turkmen Camel Ground Tree of Life Prayer Rug

It seems certain that the Turkmen wove camel ground tree of life prayer rugs.

Turkmen Subclass Camel Ground Tree of Life Prayer Rug

Three representative examples of this small group mentioned by Frank Martin Diehr.
Interesting in that they are so similar that they could have proceeded from the same shop,
they could almost be at differing grades of the same pattern, from most coarse to fine.
Borders and sequence, colors, use of color, horned mihrab and karbala stone,these rugs are practically the same.
Thomas Cole spoke of the Turkmen "hand' of the middle piece, and while said to proceed from Baluchistan,
the Grote-Hasenbalg carpet is labeled by the author as a 'Turkmenischer Teppich" German for "Turkmen carpet".
Even better, we have an extant end finish on the Grote-Hasenbalg piece, and it seems clearly Turkmen.

Baluch affine of Turkmen Subclass camel ground tree of life prayer rug

Note how similar, especially the colors and selection of borders, to the Turkmen rugs above.

Baluch Camel Ground Tree of Life Prayer Rugs

More traditional Baluch camel ground tree of life rugs.


Paul Smith
August 25th, 2015 08:29 PM

Hi Dave,

That awesome Mughal example may be the ancestor of all camel ground prayer rugs or it might not. It may have been a one-off with no influence whatsoever. We don't have enough evidence to know, really.

I also think there is simply not enough evidence for certainty as to the weavers of these camel ground examples, Tom Cole's assertion of "a Turkmen hand" in one example notwithstanding (what does that even mean?). The gul-looking-thing at the top of the tree is significantly not quartered in any of these examples, and even if there are a few Turkmen design elements present, Baluchi-group (whose ethnicities were apparently very complex and may have included Turkmen individuals and groups) weavers were notorious for lifting designs from others, as with the late-19th c. rugs with Tekke guls. The Grote-Hasenbalg example does have that striped end finish, but the fact that the author considered it to be Turkmen is of little consequence--early authors often dismiss Baluchi-group weavings as second-class derivative Turkmen stuff (Baluchis are still often grouped with Turkmen in many publications), and we know that their claim that it came from "Baluchistan" is in error, as pile-woven prayer rugs came from further north. The fact that these rugs do not resemble later Turkmen rugs and DO resemble lots of later Baluch-group rugs also should be taken into consideration; that the design format and specific elements are all over Baluchi-group weaving and infrequent-to-rare in Turkmen weaving is not insignificant.

What is significant is that the Baluchi-group weavers were not only more likely to borrow designs from their neighbors, but they continued with the camel-ground tree-of-life designs after this early period, and there are similarly old Baluchi-group examples of tree-of-life designs not of this specific type, especially three-tree versions (see Craycraft's first blue-ground example in his book on prayer rugs, my ivory ground example that I've posted a bunch of times, etc). We know the basic format here was in the Baluchi-group tradition. But the Turkmen, whose weaving traditions are known to be far more conservative than the Baluchi-group weavers, don't really stick with this design at all. Maybe some of these were woven by Turkmen--some of those examples seem connected with prayer rugs we associate with the vague "Ersari" group, but I don't see justification for confident attribution here.

These camel-ground rugs could be from a group that later disappeared or was absorbed by another group and/or a mixed group that included weavers of a variety of ethnicities. They could have had a particular workshop going as seems to have been the case with the precisely-woven Dokhtari Qazi rugs--personally, that's my guess.

But in any case, certainty about them seems out of place, given the vast black hole of evidence we don't have.



David R E Hunt
August 26th, 2015 03:20 PM

It Is What it is...
Hi Paul

Just a couple clarifications.

In the first instance, the Mughal prayer rug is just a hypothetical example of
of an early rug which could have served as a prototype- we don't know for a fact what the prototype is.

Secondly, you have to go with what you have,first and foremost the rugs and fragments themselves.
The basic premise of my "theory" is simple, it asserts that this small set of camel ground TOL prayer rugs
more closely resemble Turkmen rugs than baluch rugs, and I believe it's fairly obvious that this is true.
I came, I saw, I decided, it's as simple as that. I'm not convinced that this rug is all that ancient,
for myself its the quality of design and of execution which lends it this aura...


Rich Larkin
August 27th, 2015 06:20 AM

Hi folks,

I chime with Paul's well-stated views. If there is to be a Turkoman antecedent to the Tree of Life prayer rug, it has to be a solid and convincing candidate. I've wondered for some time what were the Turkoman credentials for examples such as the ones posted in this thread. Do they possess a structural and textural similarity to established Turkoman types, e. g., the Ersari? (I haven't had the pleasure of examining any in the wool.). If not, the attribution of this distinctive group to the Ersari seems gratuitous.

I note that several of the examples posted early in this thread feature a skinny border of little shrubs, apparently a marker. It shows up in other older pieces obviously of the Baluch group, such as this balisht:

On the other hand, the first three examples posted by Dave following the Mughal piece show border systems more plausibly Turkoman, or at least least less obviously Baluch. On wonders whether this special group of prayer rugs itself divides into discernible sub-groups.

As to the matter of the causes of the (apparently) sudden onset of the Tree of Life design, I've been looking for something likely for years. I agree with Paul that something fairly and specifically apt is needed. I've always thought an Anatolian relic would show up to claim the paternity. Something along the lines, for example, of this Eastern Anatolian yastik, though it also doesn't really fill the bill.

I believe the origin of the now ubiquitous ToL prayer rug design remains essentially mysterious. Paul's comment is well taken:


These camel-ground rugs could be from a group that later disappeared or was absorbed by another group and/or a mixed group that included weavers of a variety of ethnicities.
It's quite possible. As he notes, except for these older examples dubiously (to me) attributed to the Ersari, there don't appear to be any other Turkoman historical examples of the type. If the Ersari attribution of some of them is to be taken seriously, there needs to be a case made for it on convincing grounds.


Patrick Weiler
August 28th, 2015 10:31 PM

I agree with Rich that a "convincing candidate" TOL rug has not surfaced that is unequivocally Ersari. We attempt to use structure, color and design to determine the weaving groups.
Pile of asymmetric, open left knots is common in Baluch weavings. Ersari rugs can have both open left and open right.
The multiple-reinforced selvage seen in these TOL rugs is more commonly found in "Baluch" rugs, but it is found in at least one Ersari rug from Marla Mallett's book Woven Structures.
Well, the Baluch certainly win this round. The camel field prayer rug is almost a trademark design with them.
I have found the shrub border in this style only in Baluch rugs - and not many of them. I pored over half a dozen Baluch rug books (who knew there were that many?) and found only a couple of examples. There is a Turkmen version of a shrub, but it is found in the elems, not the borders, and looks quite different than the Baluch version as found in the rug which was in the ICOC exhibit, and Rich's and my little balishts. I have also found it in the hand panels of a Taimuri rug plate 175 in the Brian MacDonald Tribal Rugs book - just a few pages away from the TOL in plate 163, which he calls Baluch, while mentioning the gul in the niche as a "possible link with their Turkmen neighbors."
The serrated-leaf branches on these rugs are only found on Baluch rugs, with the single exception in the entire world apparently being these "Ersari" TOL rugs. Hmm.

And then the religion issue must be discussed. The karbala stone is only used for prayer in the Shiite branch of Islam.
The Baluch and Ersari are Sunni.
The Taimuri and Taimani of the Chahar Aimaq are Sunni. Their rugs are part of the "Baluch style", so they probably didn't weave these TOL rugs.
Wikipedia "There are small pockets of Shi'a Muslims (in Turkmenistan), many of whom are ethnic Iranians, Azeris, or Kurds living along the border with Iran and in Turkmenbashy (Krasnovodsk)."
Robert Pittinger, in his Introduction to Treasured Baluch Pieces, notes "...tribal groups calling themselves "Baluch" included people of Kurdish, Arab, Mongolian, Turkic, Dravidian as well as Iranian origin."
Just as a moslem wouldn't normally use christian iconography in their rugs, a Sunni probably wouldn't use Shiite iconography in theirs.
It probably wasn't Kurds who made them if we consider the so-called Kurd-Baluch rugs use the symmetric knot. That narrows it down to people of Arab, Mongolian, Turkic, Dravidian as well as Iranian origin, or Azeris, as being the weavers of these enigmatic artworks.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
August 28th, 2015 10:59 PM

Hi all,

Since my personal experience with Turkmen prayer rugs is minimal (and with the few non-Beshir types, non-existent), I'm dependent on the publications in the published literature for assessing what similarities may exist between the group of camel-ground prayer rugs under discussion and Turkmen types. Fortunately, Ralph Kaffel published a taxonomy of Beshir prayer rugs in Hali #151 (Spring, 2007) based upon design features. Drawing from a database of 140 rugs, he distinguishes three major types that are then subdivided into a total of seven sub-types: "There are 24 white-ground rugs with tree designs which I call Type 1 (divided into sub-types A-C); 56 Type 2 pomegranate design rugs; 54 Type 3 floral or shrub design rugs (divided into sub-types A-D); and six unclassified rugs. All of these rugs and their individual features are listed in an addendum to the article. Both can be downloaded here:http://www.hali.com/articles/beshir-...ence-hali-181/

None of the types or their sub-types have design features that, in my view, are close analogues to the design on the camel-ground prayer rugs under discussion. The closest seems to be Type 3D that features 'flowering shrubs" that bear a distant resemblance to the shrubs in the borders of some of the camel-ground tree of life examples. However, in the Type 3D Beshir rugs those larger shrubs are used in the field rather than the border.

A successful assertion that these camel-ground tree of life prayer rugs more closely resemble Turkmen rugs than do the clearly-related Baluch examples would need to illustrate that resemblance with specific design elements on Turkmen rugs. I haven't seen any, but welcome the opportunity, if they're out there.

In a review in Hali #166 (Winter 2010), Turkmen collector and rug author Peter Poullada wrote about the member of this group displayed above, describing it as "a worn but very interesting mystery prayer rug with some elements to suggest it was of MAD origin, but others like palette and weave, to suggest it had 'Baluch' influence. Since I like stirring the ethno-tribal pot, I offered an 'Aimaks of Khorasan', possibly 'Jamshidi of Merv' label. Actually it was not in jest. Certainly more research needs to be done on these hybrid out-of-the-box weavings."

As less of an "ethno-tribal pot stirrer", I'll go with Paul Smith's earlier comment that "there is simply not enough evidence for certainty as to the weavers of these camel ground examples" and sign on to his theory that perhaps "these camel-ground rugs could be from a group that later disappeared or was absorbed by another group and/or a mixed group that included weavers of a variety of ethnicities."

After all, as we well know, even labeling a rug 'Baluch' hasn't really said much at all about who made it.


David R E Hunt
August 29th, 2015 12:33 AM

Hi Guys

Find the opening statement of Ralph Kaffel's article on Beshir prayer rugs-

"Few Turkmen rugs are such obvious products of their environments as Beshir
prayer rugs in that motifs associated with the surrounding rug weaving cultures
can be clearly seen in their designs, and yet exactly where and by whom they
were made still remains a matter of debate"

- any possibility that this rug in question is an attempt by settled Turkmen to mimic baluch prayer rugs?

That's what it looks like to me...


Joel Greifinger
August 29th, 2015 03:22 AM


any possibility that this rug in question is an attempt by settled Turkmen to mimic baluch prayer rugs?
Hi Dave,

I certainly won't deny the possibility.

However, as Poullada reported, the palette and weave are more suggestive of a 'Baluch' product. I think that these, more than design elements, tend to be enduring practices that weavers bring with them into transitional environments.

Considering these ambiguities, I think the presumption of some source in the "Baluch' orbit is still the leading contender, given the equivocal evidence.


Patrick Weiler
August 29th, 2015 06:36 AM

Peter Piper Picked a Peck
Do you mean rug author Peter Poullada?
Patrick Weiler

David R E Hunt
August 29th, 2015 07:06 AM

Hi Joel

Care to tell us more about this Poullada report?


Joel Greifinger
August 29th, 2015 03:20 PM


In a review in Hali #166 (Winter 2010), Turkmen collector and rug author Peter Poullada wrote about the member of this group displayed above, describing it as "a worn but very interesting mystery prayer rug with some elements to suggest it was of MAD origin, but others like palette and weave, to suggest it had 'Baluch' influence. Since I like stirring the ethno-tribal pot, I offered an 'Aimaks of Khorasan', possibly 'Jamshidi of Merv' label. Actually it was not in jest. Certainly more research needs to be done on these hybrid out-of-the-box weavings."
Poullada was reporting for Hali on the 2010 ARTS in San Francisco. The article was titled "Turkmens At Bay"


David R E Hunt
August 29th, 2015 04:56 PM

Hi Joel

In this article, does Paul Poullada describe the circumstances under which he conducted his examination of this textile? Did he have it in hand, from afar across the room, or from a photograph?...


Joel Greifinger
August 29th, 2015 05:17 PM

Hi Dave,

Since ARTS is a dealers' fair in individual rooms at the Capri Motel, it's a very hands-on affair. The attraction is the opportunity to closely examine some excellent weavings. I would certainly expect that he spent quality time in very close contact with all of the pieces he chose to write about in his Hali report.


David R E Hunt
August 29th, 2015 06:23 PM

Hi Joel,

So in fact he doesn't know, it's just speculation,per his assertion. But he does agree the it looks turkmen, or of some Turkic Balouch tribe, whatever that is...


Rich Larkin
August 29th, 2015 07:16 PM

I don’t want to deflect or lower the level of the discussion, but here’s a detail of an Afghan rug, presumably by the elusive Ersari,

hat exhibits some of the features of a few of the “variant” ToL prayer rugs, including the corded goat hair edge (similar to but slightly different from the typical "Baluch") and the “s-chain” border that appear on the ToL PR (with the big bite out of it) that Joel posted. On the other hand, the palette is completely different. I’d like to say it is a standard somber Baluch palette (the picture having been taken in full strong sun), though it really isn’t. The similarity is more superficial than real. But it is what anybody would call an Ersari with the dark tonal quality associated with so-called Baluch work. As has been suggested hereinabove by a few astute posters, we must keep in mind that our attributional terms are mostly organizational conveniences.

Dave, the only thing about those variant ToLs that suggests Turkoman production to me is the palette outside the limits of the camel field, excepting perhaps some border elements of the unfortunate bite victim, and maybe the striped kilim. The camel fields with their content, on the other hand, are more than merely reminiscent of the so-called Baluch prayer rugs. They follow (or more aptly in this context, we might say lead) the paradigm ToL model, including notably the random filler motifs we are told service the weavers’ sense of horror vacui. The latter factor is not insignificant, in that the strewing of the field with all manner of five spots, odd rosettes, casually drawn shrubs, etc., is decidedly not a practice associated with the Turkoman oeuvre, unless I’m forgetting something important.

In any case, again, I agree with Paul: we don't know enough to presume to sort out these attributional puzzles unless we take for granted unproven assertions that have filled rug studies for decades.


Joel Greifinger
August 29th, 2015 08:09 PM


So in fact he doesn't know, it's just speculation,per his assertion.
Hi Dave,

You asked whether Poullada had handled the rug that he wrote about. I replied that he almost certainly had examined it quite closely. Your reply to this was "So in fact he doesn't know."

You have me rather confused. What is it that you think Poullada doesn't know and is merely speculatively asserting? That the palette and weave are more suggestive of 'Baluch' than Turkmen rugs? That just seems like an all-things-considered judgment by a very experienced Turkmen collector, author and researcher with first-hand knowledge of the particular rug, no? While certainly open to discussion (I'm still hoping we hear back from Frank on the lively discussion of these rugs at the Baluchtreffen) doesn't his description warrant enough credibility to not be so glibly dismissed? :baffled:


Frank Martin Diehr
August 30th, 2015 10:23 PM

Hi there,
I had a look at my assorted Belutschtreffen scraps, but, alas, no joy. From memory, one of those five upthread TurkoBaluch ToL rugs featured in one of the talks given, but for an unrelated reason, and the group as such was not discussed.

However, when we discussed the group here on Turkotek a while ago, I reported that I had once seen another TurkoBaluch piece at a reputed dealer's exhibition in the UK at least about 15 years ago. (I can't find the thread or post, so it was apparently not archived.)
That camel ground ToL was, also very tentatively, called "possibly Ersari". It was not as elaborate as those five rugs upthread, and worn low, but I thought it to be rather Baluch than Ersari. I never considered buying it, as it was too expensive for me at the time. It has not surfaced again, and I did not take a picture.

That does, of course, mean nothing as to the rugs under discussion, of which I have not seen one in the flesh. Do I believe them to be Turkoman? No, I don't really, but would rather place them in Azadi's "in the Baluch tradition".



James Blanchard
August 31st, 2015 07:51 AM

Hi all,

Fascinating discussion about the ToL rugs.

They look "Baluch" to me. When did you see a Turkmen rug where the floral border was turned on its side across the horizontal border strips? We see that in a few of these examples, including the "Baluch" balisht.


Martin Andersen
August 31st, 2015 08:48 AM

Hi All

This is a fascinating group of ToL rugs. Hopefully all of them will meet in real life someday, would be a rug exhibition worth traveling for :)

I know next to nothing regarding Baluch rugs, but it is kind of my impression that in the Baluch rugs which I perceive as old (19th?) there is a higher percentage of borders and patterns which are very directly related to turkmen rug vocabulary, here some examples:

Perhaps the russian colonization of central asia did put some restrains on the flow and movement of both people and the rugs, and thereby in generel limiting and drying out the exchanges of patterns between Baluch and Turkmen/Persia and Central Asia?

Since this group of ToL rugs were last discussed here I stubbled upon this small Baluch rug in another forum:

The medallions here seem (also in very small details) directly related to the top star at the of the TOL rugs:

If the the rule regarding compression of design is applied here, then the squarish symmetrical layout must be the original start (of course not nescersarily making the small medallion rug the oldest, just the layout of the medallion). To me this is interesting as it makes the star less “turkmen-gol-like” then I first thought it as. Designvise there is a lot of coherence in the details, and the overall lack of diagonal colorshift also puts it distinctly apart from turkmen layout vocabulary.


David R E Hunt
September 2nd, 2015 07:33 AM

Class and Sub-Class
Hi Guys

Sorry for the absence, got called away for a few.

Just a few more observations in regard to this prayer rug.

Perhaps a phrase of from Michael Craycraft's book "Belouch Prayer Rugs "sums it up best, that "an accumulation of these factors",
and no such single entity,be it proportion,color,or design motive determine the suspect provenance of a rug.
Find below several instances of design correlation with Turkmen carpets to be found in this most interesting weaving.

1.Notice the similarity in basic shape of the mihrab arch to be seen in these two weavings, the first image being of a Tekke Engsi.

2. Secondly,we have a well drawn Ikat border,to be found in so many Ersari rugs.

3. Third, we see this well drawn barber pole border,to be found directly below the Ikat border on our suspect rug.

4.There is also see much drawing and outlining with brown,also a well known Turkmen characteristic.

5. Spacer Bars, some examples of which are to be seen in this Tekke engsi, are also present in the subject weaving's repertoire.
See upper left corner in the photo below. Notice that this Ikat panel does not traverse the entire width of the rug,
it terminates on both sides near juncture with the hand panels, at which point the remaining panel is filled with spacer bars.

6. This blue green color is also to be found in turkmen weaving. Notice the similarity of color in general as well.
These photos were both taken with my Canon A620.

7. There is also a well drawn dice border, placed above the Ikat border, and up further yet there is what appears to be a serrated border
of the type commonly found on Ersari and Beshir weaving. While I took several high resolution photos of this rug,
I was somewhat hurried amid all of the excitement and didn't get quite the photo treatment which I desired.

8. Let's not neglect these free floating filler elements, which seem much more at those of the formentioned Ersari/Beshir rug and less at traditional
baluch weaving.

Nothing definitive of course, but further evidence of my opinion regarding a more Turkmen/Turkic origin as to the weave of this rug,
and less at traditional Baluch. But I think of most import is the singularity of these rugs,consisting of a few examples.They stand apart,
don't look Beshir/Ersari for all the congruities, and clearly don't fall within the Baluch realm as well.

I suspect this removal to a classification unto themselves proceeds from the conditions under which they were made, mainly an abrupt
transcription of the basic pattern from one weaving culture to another.The transcription of this format did not proceed from traditional
baluch weaving culture (where I suspect it originates), to Turkic groups in this region as they would of course more closely rugs of this
said type and not so much stand on their own, but from transcription by a more Turkmen oriented weaver.

Find below some images of "Baluch" prayer rugs hailing from Turkestan and published in Craycraft's "Belouch Prayer Rugs"

as well as a carpet from northern Afghanistan.

Not even close.


Rich Larkin
September 2nd, 2015 03:20 PM

The more I think about this, the more it seems we are approaching the question from the wrong direction. Whether we conclude this splinter group of ToL prayer rugs was woven by ‘Ersaris’ or ‘Baluchis’, we haven't really said much. What does either one really mean as a description of weavers?

Apparently, the Ersaris were a genuine Turkoman tribe, though it seems a substantial part of them were largely removed from their traditional nomadic ways by the late nineteenth. I remember hearing Murray Eiland, Jr., say at the Textile Museum in the early 1980s that he had tried with some diligence to find any person in greater Afghanistan who considered himself “Ersari,” without success. He said the persons whom he consulted didn’t seem to understand the question. Meanwhile, these prayer rugs certainly aren't in any classic Turkoman tradition (notwithstanding Dave's remarks in his recent post, about which, more later).

As far as the Baluch are concerned, it is clear as regards weaving that the term is a convenient catch-all for a motley and diverse group of ethnicities whose “true” identities we hardly know. Anyone interested in gaining better insight into this issue would do well to read (or re-read) the Brian Spooner article in Frank Diehr’s Treasured Baluch Pieces.

In my opinion, regardless of the actual identity of the weavers of the subject group of ToL prayer rugs, it is almost certain that the rugs are in the direct line of development and evolution of this now very familiar type. How the connection worked through generations, we may never know.


Rich Larkin
September 3rd, 2015 06:08 AM

Hi Dave,

This is more on your recent post comparing the ICOC ToL prayer rug with Ersari or other Turkoman weavings. There are some interesting points there, but I think the force of your case is substantially lessened in light of the fact that a great deal of historical 'Baluch group' weaving is widely agreed to have been derived from Turkoman models. Thus, it doesn't prove too much to demonstrate that the mystery ToL has some features that are recognized as typically Turkoman. I can just grab something (unrelated to this inquiry) out of my own trifling hoard to illustrate the point:

This is a 'Baluch' that shows a highly, some might say aggressively articulated version of the so-called "Salor gul." No one handling it would consider it to be possible Turkoman work. Many other examples of Turkoman inspiration can be found in 'Baluch' work.

Another puzzling assertion is this:


8. Let's not neglect these free floating filler elements, which seem much more at those of the formentioned Ersari/Beshir rug and less at traditional baluch weaving.
I think it needs editing, but I think you are saying that random filler is more typical of Ersari and Beshir weaving than of Baluch. It is? I never thought so. What recognized Ersari weavings emphasize such filler? Meanwhile, again I can just grab an image out of my stack.

The clearly 'Baluch' ToL on the left is mine. The one on the right belongs to a well known friend of these pages who shall remain nameless for the moment, anyway. Both of them, using different little devices, fill the available spaces with doo-dads, a practice I thought was quintessential 'Baluch' practice in ToL prayer rugs especially.

The most telling comparison in your last post for me was the similarity of the palettes in the ToL and the juval, which I can accept as Ersari, especially the wonderful pale teal in each of them. However, it is doubtful that the particular color was somehow a marker for the Ersari nation, wherever they might have been found. At the same time, it would seem that the juval would have been the product of a more traditional nomadic strain of Ersari, while the prayer rug, if it was a product of Ersaris, would have come from a more settled milieu. I'm speculating, of course.

Other points in your post don't strike me as convincing. The dice border, for example, could be found in any number of rug types. The strongly drawn barber pole is clearly found in weavings within this design range in pieces that would be labeled 'Baluch' by most anyone, the balisht I posted in frame #20, for example. So what if barber poles show up in more conventional Turkoman work as well? Also, the shape of the mihrab, with its sloped roof look, is hardly an exclusively Turkoman invention. How about the so-called Dokhtor-i-Ghazi prayer rugs?

Finally, could you shed further light on this paragraph? I've read it several times and I am at a loss as to your point.


I suspect this removal to a classification unto themselves proceeds from the conditions under which they were made, mainly an abrupt
transcription of the basic pattern from one weaving culture to another.The transcription of this format did not proceed from traditional
baluch weaving culture (where I suspect it originates), to Turkic groups in this region as they would of course more closely rugs of this
said type and not so much stand on their own, but from transcription by a more Turkmen oriented weaver.
Anyway, I am still looking for the basis for some observers to have called this type of ToL PR "Ersari." So far, I'm not convinced.


David R E Hunt
September 3rd, 2015 04:03 PM

Hi Folks

Just a few more photos...



Joel Greifinger
September 3rd, 2015 08:53 PM

Also in the room...
Hi Folks,

Since this thread started out covering the IHBS exhibition at ICOC (and for a bit of a 'Baluch'  Turkmen palette cleanser) here are two partial views of a decidedly non-fragmented Kurdish Sauj Bulagh rug that held my attention for quite a while at the reception. I was going on about it quite enthusiastically to an IHBS stalwart who just smiled contentedly and said, "I agree; it's mine." As were a number of the other choice pieces in the room.

We had an extended discussion not long ago about what (currently) falls under the Sauj Bulagh designation: http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00138/SaujBulaq.html


Patrick Weiler
September 3rd, 2015 09:01 PM

To Baluch or not to Baluch

I think you are doing a yeoman's job of jiggering the evidence fit your conclusion, as would any decent attorney representing a client.

I hope I am not getting too close to an ad-hominem comment here, just trying to tie things together in a coherent fashion.
There is no judge in this case to determine the truth here, but certainly a lot of self-selected jurors willing to weigh in on the evidence.

It seems that the original confusion regarding the TOL camel-field prayer rugs as Turkmen stems from the days when they were first being studied. There is the vague argument that they share "structural influences" which are not clearly articulated and that the area they came from, northern Afghanistan/NE Iran (according to Opie, who collected "Baluch" rugs there), was near Turkmen tribes - as a matter of fact, Persian rulers moved Kurdish tribes into that area specifically to deter Turkmen raiders, the so-called Quchan-Kurds.
We now know that ascribing rugs to a regional collection center as a catch-all is fraught with problems. Take, for instance, calling any single-wefted rug a Hamadan. Or like calling many Iranian-Kurdish rugs (say Jaf and Sanjabi) Mosul rugs.
And the science of ascribing "Baluch" rugs to identifiable tribes has been a parlor game for quite some time. It may be too late to determine who actually wove these rugs, but the preponderance of evidence does not weigh in the favor of Turkmen weavers. There are two features of the TOL rugs with no precedence in Turkmen prayer rugs; the camel field and the shape and form of the branches in the tree of life in these rugs. They all have a camel field and the serrated-leaf design. Regardless of the number of motifs found in them which have precedent in Turkmen rugs, as far as I can tell there are no unequivocally Turkmen rugs that use a camel field or this serrated leaf design. The so-called cats-eye Beshir rugs do have a serrated leaf, but it has little relation to the Baluch version.
Here is the Beshir serrated leaf from DeWitt Mallary's web site:

An e-article from Hali, promoting the 2014 LARTA, has a couple of Baluch rugs, from Gallery Nomad and James Cohen:
This one shows the TOL format with a Yomudish curled-leaf border.


Here is one with Turkmenish guls at the top and bottom:

Your argument, that these TOL rugs have Turkmenish minor details is evidence that they are Turkmen, goes quite against the grain of the opposite view; that Baluch weavers are famous copyists, particularly of motifs and devices they borrow from other weaving groups nearby. And without a confirmed Turkmen rug type using the pretty-much copyrighted Baluch serrated leaf as the main motif (which happens to be liberally utilized in Baluch non-TOL rugs too) it will be a challenge to overturn the preponderance of evidence that these are "Baluch" rugs which were woven in proximity to Turkmen tribes.

Patrick Weiler

David R E Hunt
September 4th, 2015 12:44 AM

Hi Patrick

I'm not jiggering anything buddy, one look at this rug in the wool and it is immediately apparent that it is a Turkmen rug.
I was like "Wow, it's Turkmen, and the colors match my Kizil Ayak bag face near exact, it's a set!".

Oh no, no doubt it's Turkmen. Ultimately you have to decide for yourself, and this one's a no brainer...


Paul Smith
September 5th, 2015 07:57 PM

Hi Dave,

You have a Kizil Ayak bag face with a camel field? That's something I would like to see. I have never seen a camel-ground Turkmen weaving. I was not aware that there were any in existence. The palette of this prayer rug is so unlike any Turkmen piece that I have seen (and so similar to some very old "Baluch-group" rugs) that this seems like a radical statement worthy of photographic evidence.

Because the piece looks so obviously Baluch-group to me, your adamant statement that the piece is clearly Turkmen--that this is a "no-brainer"--seems pretty extreme. Really, you have NO DOUBT?! Given that we really don't know very much about who wove what a couple of centuries ago and this looks so little like Turkmen design and palette (to these odd eyes at least), a little doubt in this case would seem to be the most reasonable response to any attempt at attribution. But if Frank Diehr says he can only make uneducated guesses, I suppose that the best I can do is a little riff here and there. Doubt about rug attributions comes pretty easily to me, but I'm no expert.



David R E Hunt
September 5th, 2015 08:05 PM

Hi Guys

One last point, well maybe.

Notice the distinctive compression of the design elements as they proceed to the bottom of the rug, presenting this foreshortened effect, a signature Turkomen characteristic. For myself this a most important Turkmen indicator.


David R E Hunt
September 5th, 2015 09:27 PM

Hi Guys

Just some examples of Turkmen filler devices used in field...

Steve Price
September 5th, 2015 09:41 PM

Hi David

I'm not aware of the evidence that "compression of the design elements as they proceed to the bottom of the rug" is a signature Turkmen characteristic or even suggests a Turkmen origin. Can you point me to your source for this assertion?

If there's a point to your last post (images of mostly kapunuks and tentbands), it went straight over my head. Clarify, please.


Steve Price

David R E Hunt
September 5th, 2015 10:20 PM

Hi Steve

They are for me, at least that's what it looks like to me, in regards to compression. I don't need to cite a reference, this is my own observation, based upon first hand observation of hundreds of Turkmen rugs.

As for the last images, just further examples of Turkmen weaving, demonstrating that the Turkmen were no strangers to the theme of filler devices against a light colored field.


David R E Hunt
September 5th, 2015 11:01 PM

Hi Folks

Karbala Prayer Brickettes, c. 1900, courtesy of



Steve Price
September 6th, 2015 02:31 AM

Hi David

I've looked at lots of Turkmen rugs as well, and some well known authors have looked at many times more than I have. I don't recall anyone commenting on it as a particularly Turkmen characteristic, which is why I asked for a reference. I've seen compression in Turkmen rugs, but lots of them don't show it. Lots of rugs besides Turkmen show it as well.

I invite you to do assemble a database of a large number of more or less randomly selected Turkmen and non-Turkmen rugs, articulate the criterion for identifying vertical compression, and report your findings. In the complete absence of data, I reject the notion that it's a most important Turkmen indicator. In fact, I see it in both of the Belouch group rugs posted on this page by Pat Weiler.


Steve Price

David R E Hunt
September 6th, 2015 04:21 AM

Hi Steve

Don't get me wrong, just this compression in and of itself does not a conclusion make,but in conjunction with all other said elements, seems of import. I understand what you are saying,but I think this whole exercise falls more at art appreciation than science.

You realize that I could of course be wrong in regard to this piece, I am just relating my impression.


Steve Price
September 6th, 2015 05:36 AM


Compression of motifs is an objectively measurable characteristic, not a subjective impression. Either it’s much more common on Turkmen than on other rugs, or it isn’t. It’s the result of knots being beaten down more vigorously (hence, compacted) at one end – usually the end woven first. It can easily be measured in any book with good illustrations, and if you think it’s important, spend an hour or two with your library and get the data that proves your point or changes your mind.

It was good seeing you at ICOC – sorry I didn’t have more time.

Steve Price

David R E Hunt
September 6th, 2015 07:21 AM

Hi Steve

So you did see me at ICOC. We exchanged greetings as we squirmed our way through the crowd. It's been a while, I wasn't sure you recognized me.

I think you would arrive at a badly skewed sampling error if limited only by published examples of rugs. Most of my knowledge in this regard
proceeds from commercial and retail experience with Turkmen rugs, which could yield a better sampling, but this is not to say that my opinion
would be supported by such a sampling. It's just my impression...


Steve Price
September 6th, 2015 02:20 PM

Hi Dave

You prefer a survey of rugs in commercial venues. Fair enough. I just did a quick search for "Turkmen" in Rugrabbit. It returned 19 pages of results; more than 900 items. Although this includes embroideries and a few books, pulling 100 rugs from those pages would be trivial.

Steve Price

David R E Hunt
September 6th, 2015 05:58 PM

Hi Guys

You do realize that an examination of this fragment could straight away give the lie to my observations.
It could be possessed of a weave outside the Turkmen repertoire, it could be Uzbek for all I know.

A presentation was made at a past IHBS event in regard to the organization of the Tukmen carpet weaving trade
after the Russian conquest, a Kustar like program in which wool and pattern were supplied to weavers.
Been a while and can't put my hands on the info at present, but if memory serves a high percentage of all carpets
produced were of the prayer variety..


Martin Andersen
September 7th, 2015 07:09 AM

Hi All

To me the red, the orange, the petrolium light blue and the dark black-blue sure looks Turkmen in these ToL’s rugs. Whether this makes them made by a Baluchi in a Turkmen environment or vice versa I dont have a clue (and it seem no one actually knows much about the specific whereabouts of either the Baluchis or say the Ersaries in the 19th.c). I suppose there could be numerous reasons for a mixed Turkmen/Baluch rug (slavetrade, intermarriage, cultural syncretism through trade, etc).

The group of ToL rugs here seems to be consistent and varied enough to talk about not a singular exception, but as we say: a group. If it is a group there might be other rug types than ToL rugs belonging to this group floating around.
Not sure if the small bag I posted earlier could be a candidate, but it could be said to share some basic design elements -the border, the secondary medallions and the main medallion:

Could be interesting if anyone have seen other more close candidates?


Chuck Wagner
September 7th, 2015 05:01 PM


OK, sorry, but - I'm not moved by the Turkoman attributions. For years we have all noted that the "Baluch" weave pieces with Turkoman designs - in particular, bags with turret guls - but others as well. I don't remember anyone ever suggesting the opposite, that the Turkoman spent any time copying Baluch aesthetics. Occasionally I think it's hard to make a call between Ersari and Baluch (some of those "Baluch attributed"ensis still have me wondering), but otherwise, no. I think that these look very much like Baluch-like pieces with hints of Turkoman aesthetic ?

Baluch-like ?  Well, there's a related issue, which is, what do we mean when we say Baluch. If Konieczny's book were the only reference you had ever seen, all of these would be rejected as Baluch. The Persian-speaking Jamshidi and Kawdani of NW Afghanistan are generally considered Chahar-Aimaq and not - rigorously - Baluch. Ditto for Timuri and Taimani. And folks, to me all of these tree-of-life pieces look like material from that region, not from Balochistan. Plenty of opportunity for mixing of cultures, aesthetics, and commerce. And a fine pile weave not generally seen from the southern "true" Baluch.

Chuck Wagner

Steve Price
September 7th, 2015 05:28 PM

Hi Chuck

I started referring to them as Belouch group, which is at least as diverse as Turkmen, years ago. Even that term is less useful today than it was, since it referred to an aesthetic of rather somber colors with limited contrast, and this doesn't describe some. Tom Cole has a Salon in our archive focused on Belouch group rugs with lively palettes.

Steve Price

Rich Larkin
September 7th, 2015 06:48 PM

Hi Folks,

Of course, the elephant in the room of this problem is, how does this group of ToL prayer rugs set up as to structure, texture, weave balance, etc.? For that matter, are they reasonably consistent in those regards? Apparently, no one contributing to this thread has had enough experience with the group to elucidate this issue. It's more than simply checking knots, counting weft shots, and noting which way the knots are facing. Rather, it is a matter of recognizing a combination of factors in the hand that give a particular type of rug a certain look and feel. You can call it "Ersari," or "Baluch," or whatever you want; but at least, as Martin suggests, recognizing the type gives you a chance to relate it to other familiar types where the connection may not be especially obvious from design alone, or palette.

As near as I can tell, the only reason we are carrying on this debate with "Ersari" as the contending party is that one or several commentators in the past have dropped the name. But I'm still looking for coherent grounds for the attribution. It certainly isn't the case that we have reduced the possibilities to "Ersari" and "Baluch," we're in the semi-finals, and one of them is going to emerge as the champ.

Meanwhile, anyone experienced in handling many older rugs knows that there are several distinctive rug types in terms of structure/texture/materials that pass in the trade as "Ersari." The same is true of rugs passing as "Baluch." Chuck has just alluded to these circumstances. I was recently thumbing through the catalog for the 1972 Christmas Exhibition of the Washington Hajji Baba Club (Rugs of Afghanistan) in which was reprinted a 1964 article by Deitrich Wegner which included a list of at least thirty sub-tribes of the Ersari, including several I recognized as trade names commonly used in the 20th century for Afghan type rugs. We are all aware that the rubric, "Baluch," is similarly a term of convenience to cover a broad range of weavings. Thus, it is naive to view this attribution problem as simply a Baluch vs. Ersari (or "Turkoman") choice.

It would advance the analysis a great deal for me if we could identify, based on structural and textural grounds, as well as palette and materials, a much broader group of rugs that appear to have a close relationship to these prayer rugs.


Joel Greifinger
September 7th, 2015 06:54 PM

Hi Chuck,

I agree with your comment with one small proviso.

While the great majority of Baluch are further south in Sistan va Baluchistan, Kerman and Pakistan, there have long been both nomadic and settled Baluch in a corridor along Iran's eastern border up to northern Khorasan. Some of them had already given up speaking Baluch by the time that Ivanov published his research "Notes on the Ethnology of Khurasan" in 1926. Nonetheless, there doesn't seem to be reason to exclude them from the "true" Baluch whose flatwoven products are featured in Konieczny's book. In Khorasan, Baluch weavers, properly so-called (particularly the Janbegi), may certainly have been weaving at least some of the pile rugs that have been attributed as Baluch.

As you point out, the work of Timuris, Jamshidis and others are often also thrown into the mix. At least part of this is probably attributable to the fact that, at least by the time that Ivanov was writing, not only were they referred to as Baluch, many were calling themselves Baluchis.

As for terminology, Frank opted earlier for "in the Baluch tradition" and Steve has now declared for "Belouch group". I've generally tried to throw scare quotes (i.e., 'Baluch') around when I'm not discussing a clearly Baluch flat weave piece from Baluchistan. These, "Baluch in name only", and a bunch of others (I sent up "in the Baluch orbit" as a trial balloon earlier in the thread but I don't think it left the ground ) reflect the widespread understanding that when we are writing about Baluch pile rugs, we are doing it while wiggling our virtual fingers in an "air quote" gesture.


Rich Larkin
September 7th, 2015 08:01 PM

Keeping in mind that the "state of the 'Baluch'" must have constantly been shifting through the decades. Thus, the proper assessment of their weavings would necessarily require a knowledge of when the piece was woven. Since my perusal of recent market offerings tells me that an enormous proportion of 'Baluch' rugs were made in 1880, we should probably focus our research on the movements of the sub-tribes within that year. :rolleyes:


David R E Hunt
September 10th, 2015 08:48 AM

Hi Guys

The reason that there is no body of serious research literature in regard to these Baluch Gruop weavings lie's within the carpet's complete lack of suitability as a research artifact.
They are completely removed from their place of origin and hence worthless as subjects of conventional scientific research .

Herein lies the problem, namely that we have no way of properly identifying these artifacts as to place/people/tribe of origin.There is no way to identify these pieces and I doubt
there will ever be a way to ascertain their tribal origin. These discussions in regard to the finer points of tribal affiliation are irrelevant, as these tribal affiliations are most likely unknowable.

This is not science,IMHO, this is art appreciation. Stick to the actual physical objects at hand and and try to establish affinity...


Patrick Weiler
September 18th, 2015 02:39 AM

Before this topic ends, I just wanted to clear up a couple of things. The Hali article in issue 166 was written by Peter, not Paul, Poulada as mentioned in posts 28, 33 and 34. He is probably one of the most experienced Middle Amu Darya collectors and was involved in the renaming these weavings from Ersari and Beshir to MAD. The article Turkmens at Bay was written 5 years ago as a review of the ARTS at the Capri Motel that year.
His comments mentioned that the palette and weave suggested a Baluch influence in this TOL.
The weave of all of these TOL pieces is not mentioned in this thread, but one might reasonably assume that it included Asymmetric, Open Left knot construction - which is the way the majority of So Called Baluch rugs are woven. The majority of Ersari rugs are woven Asymmetric, Open Right. I counted 80% of them in one book AS-OR. The three in my collection are all AS-OR.
As for palette, it has been fairly well established that water conditions such as metals and other chemicals affect and produce colors which differ in areas with different water conditions. There also has been a tradition in many areas where Jewish or other specialist dyers prepare the wool in commercial establishments for use by many weavers in the area. This would tend to make the palette similar regardless of the tribal affiliation of the weavers - especially so near an urban area where weavers from different backgrounds would source dyed wool. A fairly good case in point here is the delicious orange color achieved by so many Varamin weavings. It is a soft, non-harsh orange that is almost a trademark.

So, if we can list the knot and construction features of some of these TOL pieces, the scale might tilt in one direction more than another.

Patrick Weiler

Rich Larkin
September 19th, 2015 10:54 PM

Hi Patrick,


There also has been a tradition in many areas where Jewish or other specialist dyers prepare the wool in commercial establishments for use by many weavers in the area. This would tend to make the palette similar regardless of the tribal affiliation of the weavers - especially so near an urban area where weavers from different backgrounds would source dyed wool.
An astute observation that should be given more weight than it usually gets. I have always thought it probably covered a multitude of issues if you could know what actually happened. I'll bet even many nomadic or otherwise rustic weavers sourced dyed wools in this kind of context.


Paul Smith
September 20th, 2015 05:45 AM

I can't recall where I read this, alas, but my understanding is that madder was a cultivated commercial crop in what is now NW Pakistan, S Turkestan, and Afghanistan in the 19th century and probably before... I don't think we have any idea whatsoever what kind of trade could have existed there, whether tribal women came in with their wool for a dyeing party or what. Something like this existed for indigo, certainly (right?), and perhaps other dye sources as well.


Patrick Weiler
September 24th, 2015 03:41 AM

I got the red rug blues

Here is some info on indigo in Turkmen weaving from Tom Cole's website in the article "In Search of the Turkmen."
I have copied several bits of it here:

"This is an adaptation of part of a paper given by Richard E. Wright at the (sic) Interatrional Conference on Central Asian Carpets in Leningrad in 1988.

Edward Curtis wrote about the weaving industry in Bokhara:
The serious question, not illuminated by this episode, is whether weaving for the trade differed in any important way from weaving for home use. The record, so far at any rate, suggests they were the same.
Another item of interest is the statement that other than for one local plant used to produce a yellow dye, dyes were imported from Khiva and Bokhara.
And, later:
Both Merv and Ashkabad had warehouses for furnishing the weavers with vegetable dyes and high grade wools.
In 1911 Merv produced over 1,000 rugs and more than 2,000 juvals, torbas, and tent bands (combined). Ashkabad wove but 200 rugs but
nearly 4,000 tent bands.17 There was a large overseas export; in the year 1913 the product value of overseas shipments was 1,244,000 roubles, 62% of an annual production estimated at 40,000 pieces.

Furthermore, an established weaving industry existed in the heart of Turkmen territory in the early 1880s. While the data are sketchier, a Transcaspian commerce in woven products is described and the same product line revealed.

There is also information from the past concerning dyes. The list of Schuyler, one of the standard encyclopedic sources on Central Asia, is typical. He identifies the local sources for yellow and black and mentions both local madder and imported indigo. Concerning red he observes: "Cochineal is frequently used for dyeing silk red. It is chiefly brought from Bukhara, although the insect is found in abundance in the spring in Tashkent and the neighborhood, on the young leaves of the ash, mulberry and other trees. Since the introduction of fuchsine from Russia, the use of cochineal and of other native dyes have fallen off. For that reason in Khokand the Khan prohibited (in 1876) the importation of fuchsine, as being an inferior dyestuff."
Schuyler's treatment can be taken as typical; an equivalent source of the same period (1880s) would be Lansdell.23. Later (1902) Annette Meakin identified dyestuffs in Bokhara as indigo from India, cochineal from Russia, native madder, and sophora japonica for yellow."

So, commercially available dyes and high grade wools were available to weavers in this and probably other regions and they produced a large quantity of woven goods. This can explain how colors would be similar even though different tribes produced them. Rural or nomadic weavers would bring their raw wool in and exchange it for dyed wool. We know that nomads sourced their yurt frames from urban workshops, too. This symbiotic relationship between nomad and settled people supported both societies.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
September 25th, 2015 01:47 AM

Here is another published reference to tribal and nomadic access to urban dyes and wool, from James Opie's Tribal Rugs.
"Although the degree and frequency of contacts with settled populations vary from tribe to tribe, relatively few nomads, even in the past, have lived in complete isolation from the surrounding culture."
"Unless they were available locally, salt and spices were purchased in towns - as well as luxuries such as gold and silver jewelry. This was also true of some dye materials used in weaving. In return, nomads sold and traded their animals or animal skins, as well as butter and wool."

He doesn't say which dyes were purchased, but indigo probably was. As complicated as it is to dye indigo, I am not sure each family dyed their own wool - at least not the indigo.
I will keep looking around to see if I can find more dye references.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
September 25th, 2015 09:34 PM

Another TOL Baluch rug or two
This Baluch TOL is from The "Tree of Life" Design TM talk by Christine Brown published by John Howe in his Virtual Versions series of TM talks.


It is similar to many of the Baluch versions in terms of shape, design and colors. No construction details were provided, but this rug looks quite similar to plate 1 in the Boucher Collection from the book Baluchi Woven Treasures with AS Left, 144 kpsi. Boucher plate 39 is also similar to this group and has AS Left, 117 kpsi.

For some reason, I am not able to locate any knot details about most of the older TOL rugs under consideration in this thread. This may be due to the fact that they were published in older books when this kind of detail was not considered relevant.
One rug, the eighth rug on post 23, is pictured in the NERS ACOR8 exhibit by Mark Hopkins.
It has asymmetric, open left knots at 117 per square inch.
Earlier in this thread, Frank Martin Diehr was mentioned in regard to the 2013 Baluchtreffen and his report was printed in Hali:
A rugrabbit version of the Baluch TOL does not have knot info, but appears to be dated 1330.\

Here is one, sold, also on rr, with no knot info:

So far, all the knot data from these rugs which is available is the same; AS open left. This would tend to be associated more with Baluch than Ersari construction for the most part.
It would be helpful to have the knot info from some of the earlier rugs in the thread, but if nothing else, it is fun to have lots of pictures of Baluch rugs to look at!

Patrick Weiler

Chuck Wagner
November 29th, 2015 08:35 PM

An interesting subclass
Hi all,

The long holiday weekend and associated constant rain have given me an opportunity to get some images of a (relatively) recent acquisition that actually fits quite well with this extended conversation (which - although a pain - I think is worthy of archive, BTW). Happy to contribute to yet another never-ending thread, I will share it with you all.

After looking at this thing for a while I started to do some internet research and quickly found myself back at this thread. I had forgot that the topic of horned mihrabs had been discussed briefly in a couple posts. And that feature is what attracted me to this piece.

While not exactly rare, older tree of life motif Baluch prayer rugs with horned mihrabs are rather uncommon. Although this one doesn't have the floral border motif, or duck egg blue, that raised the initial Turkoman question, at least one of the borders (the middle one, between the floral and "Z" borders) has a Turkoman look to it (I've seen it on Ersari pieces). In that sense, this is also a good thread for some images.

And, there are a few other interesting features, noted below.

Here is the entire rug. Dimensions are roughly 72 x 37 inches; ivory wool warps, two shots medium to light gray wool wefts, knots are asymmetrical open left and average 9H x 11V. The light brown wool in the field has a light and fluffy look to it - relative to the other wools used - that makes me wonder if it might actually be camels hair.

A better view of the borders:

The horned mihrab in detail:

There are some yellow silk knots in a few of the floral elements in the field.

From the back..

...and from the front - also showing brown wool with high fluffiness coefficient:

The medium gray wefts are continued out into the selvage, forming "V" shapes by varying the distance extended into the selvage:

This image included, because on my monitor, it has the best color representation of the medium red and blue wool.

Joel Greifinger
November 29th, 2015 10:34 PM


While not exactly rare, older tree of life motif Baluch prayer rugs with horned mihrabs are rather uncommon...at least one of the borders (the middle one, between the floral and "Z" borders) has a Turkoman look to it
Hi Chuck,

Nice rug. I particularly like the relief created by the corrosion in the rosette border :thumbsup:

Here are some other 'Baluch' camel-ground ToL prayer rugs that also have the 'horned' mihrab and share the border you mention:

The first (Craycraft #24) is asymmetric open left, 108 kpsi; the next (Craycraft #28) is also ASL, 140 kpsi (and is also published in Wisdom #43). The last one (Craycraft #29) is symmetrically knotted, 88 kpsi. The last two were previously posted by Dave in post #42.


Patrick Weiler
November 30th, 2015 08:30 AM

Border Lines?

Your acquisition reminded me of something I picked up several years ago for inclusion in a salon that was being contemplated to discuss asymmetry in rug designs. The salon never happened, so the rug was relegated to being a dust catcher tacked to the wall. This one does not have horns, but there are some interesting similarities with a subset of the rugs in this discussion.

As to the asymmetries, you can see that the left spandrel is not as wide as the right; 5" wide compared to 5-3/4" wide on the right. The right spandrel has a narrower central column and some of the backwards-facing animal "heads" have eyes along with four legs, while the thicker central column of the left side has diamonds and the eyeless animals have only three legs. These quirks could indicate two weavers or perhaps a less disciplined approach to the design.
The construction of this piece is quite a bit like yours. It has 7h x 9v asymmetric, open-left knots at the bottom, but up to 7h x 11v knots at the top.
The selvage is different, with two units of two warp threads reinforced with black wool instead of the four on yours. There are two shots of grey weft threads, with some stretches of three shots, especially near the bottom of the rug.
The 6 colors appear to be quite similar to your piece, although mine is lacking any silk knots. This one is a bit smaller than yours, at 56" tall (143cm), with a couple of added inches of plainweave tapestry at both the top and bottom.
The rug is also rather irregular in shape, being 29-1/2" (75cm) wide at the top, but 32-1/2' wide (83cm) at the bottom.

The "vase" border and the adjacent "bow-tie" border on this rug, though, are the reasons I dusted this piece off and photographed it for this show and tell. These two borders probably have real names, but I do not have that information at hand. They are the two at the top, left in this close up:

These two borders are on all but one of the TOL rugs on this page of the discussion, and on a substantial percent of all of the TOL rugs under discussion. But not, however, on the rug which started this discussion, nor on a few of the earlier rugs shown - which have a more familial relation to the ICOC rug.
This may indicate that there are two different rug traditions from the same region, perhaps along the Iran/Afghan border in the north. The ICOC rug and the other TOL rugs without these borders may be either earlier, or from a different tribe, but with a similar design origin to these "vase and bow-tie border" rugs.
So, as Martin indicated in post #61, that "The group of ToL rugs here seems to be consistent and varied enough to talk about not a singular exception, but as we say: a group.", there actually appear to be two groups.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
December 4th, 2015 05:56 AM

Hi Chuck, Patrick and all,

Here is another 'horned' group with some interesting similarities (and contrasts) to the group that originally sparked the discussion:


Rich Larkin
December 4th, 2015 06:24 AM

Bravo, Joel! I haven't seen this group that I know of. But are you just going to leave it there? What else can you say about them? Any views of the backs? Any published comment on structure, provenance, etc? They are surely related, in design at least. But not trite knock-offs of one another either.

There's more to this 'Baluch' Tree of Life business than one might have thought, once the issue is pushed. :sherlock:

Martin Andersen
December 4th, 2015 09:46 AM

Funny, saw Joels last rug on facebook yesterday. Also the top star-medalion seems in design directly related.

There were a photo of its back:

all the best Martin

Joel Greifinger
December 4th, 2015 07:00 PM


What else can you say about them? Any views of the backs? Any published comment on structure, provenance, etc?

With his close-up of the back in the last post, Martin has already covered all that I know about the third rug.

The second one was published in Hali #44 (1989, p.95) in a review of an exhibition at the Adraskand Gallery of "Karai Rugs of Torbat-i-Heydarieh". It was cited as one of the few "Karai" prayer rugs and has the four-cord selvages, depressed warp and relatively low knot count that Craycraft listed as typical for the group.

The first rug is plate #46 in Wisdom's Baluch Tribal Weavings. It features a "deeply depressed" warp, four-cord selvages and has 90 kpsi. Like the last rug, it is knotted asymmetric open left.

Despite their similarities, one interesting difference between these two and the rug that Martin also posted is the top star-medallion which, in that rug, is closer to the ones in the group we were discussing earlier in the thread.

One suggestion is that those medallions may represent Karbala prayer stones used in Shia Islam. Richard E. Wright wrote: "Given these data it seems valid to speculate that representations of the "stones" could appear on prayer rugs. A sound use of this speculation might be to view as a possible tile of Karbala any geometric form, within or above a mihrab, which differs from the other decorative motifs on the rug. If briquettes are a prayer rug icon, they may be used in establishing provenance...Another fruitful area may be the Baluch-type prayer rugs which occasionally bear what could be an image of a Karbala briquette. Tribes, Baluch or otherwise, weaving these rugs are likely to have resided in Persian territory."

In his discussion of a Karai "latent prayer design" (pl. #36 in Belouch Prayer Rugs) Craycraft writes, "This is a strict Shia tribe and anything even suggesting a prayer rug is rare."


December 6th, 2015 05:20 PM

Hi Joel,

thank you for the link to Richard E.Wright ( Karbala stones):"......repre sentations of the stones could appear on prayer rugs. ...... Azeri population was mixed Shiah and Sunni,with Shiahs in the majority and located principally in areas relatively proximate to what is now Persia.... " (like this Saliani rug).



Chuck Wagner
December 16th, 2015 06:19 AM

Hi Guido, et al. (see below),

The suggestion that there may be some representation of ersatz Karbala tiles on prayer rugs is interesting. Still, it is a highly uncertain conclusion; the motif you highlight in the last post is easily interpreted as a degenerated floral motif.

That said, A single instance of this motif, at the mihrab end of a prayer rug, could reasonably be considered to represent a Karbala tile sitting atop an unfolded piece of rectangular cloth.

I think that an array of these design elements, as in your example, is far more likely to have been thought to be floral.


Yes, that design certainly does seem to form a group - visually, anyway, if not also structurally. That, or the local stitch-n-bitch society decided that that this would be "this year's design format..."

Unlike lava lamps, there is probably not a freighter full of these sitting in Kowloon harbor waiting for the next popularity surge for this design. :laughing_1:


I have several prayer rugs; I will take a look at them with this asymmetry in mind. Note that it a long-axis asymmetry on the rug I posted above; the leafy motif at upper left is longer than the one on the right.

The horizontal guard borders do something funny at the corners below these motifs but I haven't figured it out yet.

Chuck Wagner

December 16th, 2015 11:42 PM

Hi Chuck and all

As you certainly know I'm always a little bit skeptical towards the"flower" interpretation. I'd like to give some remarks on the Saliani rug that made me reflect on it as a prayer. You are right it's just a speculation like most reflections on older rugs,but it's based on some facts.

The Saliani (a town in an area with a Shia majority) attribution was given by B.Frauenknecht. He doesn't know another identical piece (I also presented it on Turkotek last year) so it should be at least not very common. Possibly it was made for a certain occasion.

A rectangle is in this case for me a rectangle. I would never interpretate it as a flower or an animal in the the context of this rug, which only shows geometric design with the only exception of the six stars. It's a curious coincidence that this stone has exactly the same size as the rectangle. Stones of the same size were used in the mosques of Esfahan.

Some days ago I bought this bagface (Lori or Kurd?) with the socalled Herati design(lanzette design). If I have enough time the next days, I'll take some detail pictures (the following pictures are from the dealer and not good) and everybody can decide for himself if the design is floral or zoomorphic (a lot of birds; please look at the birds sitting on the belly of the white birds).
Note: The pictures have been updated.

The two feet (brown and blue) of the white birds you see in the second picture are also the tails of the "bellybirds". The design isn't rare, but the other items I know don't present this "bellybird" you can see best in the first and second picture sitting on the belly of the white birds at the bottom. There is also a second birdhead under these feet/tail. So one could call the floral origin in question.