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Posted by Wendel Swan on December 03, 1998 at 07:31:30:

This interlocked tapestry "salatchak" was presented as a structural rarity within a group of shaped pile rugs that is itself quite uncommon. Although many examples within the group are shaped or are directional, they have been commonly referred to as cradle rugs or a child's rug. Nearly all have previously been attributed to the Yomud.

As we would want with a good discussions, the participants raised substantial questions, probed the assumptions underlying the presentation and offered valuable insight into the way we should look at and think about all weavings.

John Howe first questioned the Yomud (?) attribution by quoting Parsons' description of a rug with a similar format: "This woven piece is a cradle, and is often made by the bride's mother-in-law. Among the Turkomans, it is usually knotted and piled; made by the Uzbek and the Arabis, it is often flat woven."

Our discussants raised questions about the specific uses of such an object.

Cradles are suspended, much like a hammock, and, if Turkmen use them as other groups do, there would be braided cords made from the warps or otherwise attached. Some of the pile examples referred to or posted bore vestiges of cords while others of comparable size and shape have what seems to be a decorative attached "fringe" or tassels, not at all the sort of device used for suspension.

These other side treatments suggest possible use as a funeral rug and Pat Weiler brought to our attention an "ayatlyk," a term used to describe a burial or funeral rug and shown in Oriental Rugs From Atlantic Collections.

Erol Abit described funeral rugs in his native Turkey and being part of the tradition of covering the dead or his coffin with a rug during the funeral (but not wrapping the deceased). Such rugs are usually taken back home after burial and any kind of rug can be used for this purpose. He was unaware of rugs being woven specifically funereal purposes, but he felt that the pentagonal shape supports the coffin cover theory.

The notion that this object could be used as a wrapping for a child was discounted by Daniel Deschuyteneer. By referring to the corporeal perimeter of a child of 6 months, he demonstrated that it would be virtually impossible to wrap even a young child with a rug that is only 2'6" in width or to fold it up from the bottom since it measures only 3"8' in length. The absence of any attached straps or closure system further refutes such use.

Erol Abit also provided us with information about the Islamic namaz (prayer), which is performed 5 times daily. The practice of prayer is not identical throughout Islam, but Erol doubted the use of this rug for prayer. Boys generally begin praying after age 11 and girls after age 13 and normally use whatever the adults use as a rug for prayer. In some areas, only adults perform namaz. Hence, these are unlikely to be a child's prayer rug and Yon Bard questioned the shape as being appropriate for any prayer.

The word "salatchak" eventually gave way to "salanchak" as W. Kenneth Thompson pointed out that there is an archaic Turkish word "salacak" or "salaca" (the "c" is pronounced like the 'j' in 'jump' and the 'k' can be lost as a guttural). His dictionary gives two definitions for the word: "1. slab on which corpses are placed for washing. and 2. bier on which a corpse is borne."

Interestingly, the discussion lead to the discovering of another flatwoven salanchak, which was posted, while the literature apparently remains barren of them.

My own conclusions are:

1. Shaped weavings such as that presented probably serve a variety of purposes and slight variations in the structure or shape or features can permit essentially the same weaving to be a cradle, a saddle cover, a funeral rug, possibly a prayer rug and serve other functions we have not yet imagined.

2. The proper term is salanchak.

3. This particular salanchak is rare and probably not Yomud.

4. The discussion was enlightening and a pleasure.

Wendel Swan

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