Prayer rug, cradle rug, or what?

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Posted by Steve Price on November 22, 1998 at 06:58:09:

This interesting little piece reminds me that one of the pleasures of tribal rugs is that collectors can debate the functions of their treasures. This one has characteristics suggestive of a prayer rug, and others suggestive of a cradle rug.

The prayer rug clues are the arch at the top and the generally directional layout. The size is a bit small for a prayer rug, but not out of the range. Incidentally, there's a more longwinded discussion of such matters in an article on TurkoTek's Journal pages.

The cradle rug clues are the size and the pointed top, although the usual shape for a cradle rug is a more or less rounded top. That shape let's you wrap the rug around the baby without covering the face. Yomud pile cradle rugs, at least the few I've handled, have nice, soft wool, and putting that against a baby's skin is pretty plausible. This piece is described as having hard, dry wool, not quite what most of us would want against a baby.

I'd like to introduce some alternatives. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see a pentagonal Yomud textile is asmalyk. I know, those are wider than they are tall, and this is taller than it is wide, so I reject the notion that it is an asmalyk.

I'm also struck by the very odd motifs - flattened diamonds, if you will - in the field. They first looked very unYomudlike to me, until I realized that they occur within the upper diagonal borders of every Yomud asmalyk I've seen alive or in photos. As in this piece, they are arranged in diagonals converging toward the center, and in alternating colors (usually two colors).

Then there's the arch in the upper part of this rug. It looks a lot like the shape of the top of the "seven-sided" Yomud asmalyks, and also more or less resembles the the separation of upper field from main field that occurs in some Yomud asmalyks.

Since the asmalyks is a trapping for a wedding procession, I can't help wondering if this thing might have had a related function. Perhaps an animal or tent trapping, perhaps a cover, perhaps a banner, but something wedding-related.

One argument against such a possibility is that nobody has ever seen one of these things in such a context. On the other hand, nobody has seen one in any other context either, but we do know that it exists.

Steve Price

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