Posted by Michael Wendorf on December 23, 1998 at 21:52:34:
In Reply to: Re: mid 18th cent. yomud border posted by James Allen on December 23, 1998 at 16:01:45:
: : : I have had numerous posts at home from people truly wanting to understand the white(light grey) dominant perspective. I have chosen a segment from a mid 18th century Yomud carpet that is published in the current edition of Ghereh magazine. I chose this border segment because the subject matter of the designs is so well known. In "PERSEPHONIES QUEST" by OTT ET AL the associaation is drawn between four elements which are part of a world wide mythological association. All the myths have the form, some heavenly entity performs an action which has as its real world correlate , thunder and lightning. This is seen in the context of a god impregnating the earth and the result being the production of a crop of mushrooms, food of the gods. We think the connection is drawn to mushrooms because so many of their spores are microscopic or almost so. The natives could detect no seeds so the hypothesis of god impregnating the earth. Now as I read this account in this very fine book from Princeton University I realized that my theories would predict that a Turkoman rug, really old, should have this myth coded into a design complex. It didn't take me an hour to fine the first example. Many more have been found since. Look at the picture I linked to this post. Read the white first, squint and block out almost all the visual data. Pick out the white forms. Now there is an isolated triangular form,colored. Its saw tooth bottom cuts out two small triangles. See the triangle under the large colored tirangular shape as the head of an eagle. Let your eye connect the head to the triangular body with upswept line(wing). This white line proceeds downward where it turns inward and a sharp "flash" juts off. This occurs in roughly the genitel region of the bird figure. The large colored chevron shape has a flat base and an angular superstructure. This chevron shape could be seen to slam back and forth as the great eagle(spirit) flapped its wings making thunder. All the elements are here. Mapping the elements found on this rug to the myth the border repeat seems to be saying. The great bird flaps its wings and sends thunder and lightning crashing down to the earth. The result is that in this place in a few months a crop of mushrooms we will return to find. The mushroom interdigitated with the heads of the great spirit may relate to the fact that the fly agaric was taken in shamanic rituals to help release the spirit bird within. I truly hope this helps the seekers to see the hidden designs and meanings in classical Turkoman weaving, the best in the world. James Allen
: : Dear Jim:
: : Please excuse my using your latest post to respond or follow up to several other posts in related threads.
: : Responding to my earlier request that you work backwards and identify first the images and then the associations that you claim you "know to have existed" you responded that "the position that I am making sweeping unsupportable assertions is correct." You then went on to state that my statements about the Turkomans' fate in the 13-16th centuries is wrong.
: : First, allow me to point out that "my statements" are in fact the consensus statements of scholars as referenced and attributed in my post. I am merely relating them. Second, allow me to examine the basis for your contention that the statements are wrong.
: : You cite James Chambers' The Devil's Horsemen and represent that Chambers concludes it was an Ersari horseman who knew the desert who lead the Khan on his famous end around move on the Persian Empire and that the Turkoman became his crack inner guard.
: : I did not remember it this way so I went back to Chamber's book which is primarily a military history. At pages 12-13 Chambers writes as follows: It has been suggested that Chingis Khan maintained secrecy by marching round the north of the Aral Sea and crossing the Amu Darya from the west, but it is unlikely that he would have been able to pass through that part of the steppes unobserved by the Kanglis, who were Khwarizmian allies, and the overwhelming contemporary evidence is even more extraordinary. He reached Bukhara by crossing the Kizil Kum desert, which the Khwarizmians believed to be impenetrable. The Persian historian Juvaini, who lived through the invasion of Khwarizm, records that, after leaving his sons at Otrar, Chingis Khan turned north and received the submission of Zarnuk. Although they were forced to pay tribute and some of their young men were conscripted into the Mongol labor gangs, the citizens were spared, for the khan was only interested in one prisoner. A man distinguished for his knowledge of the desert was chosen from among the local Turkomans and forced to lead the Mongol army through Kizil Kum. The route that they followed, known as the Khan's road, was used by merchants after the war."
: : Several details are important here. First, there is no evidence in Chambers that it was an Ersari. Second, if it happened that a Turkoman did lead the Khan, it happened because he was forced to. Third, there is no evidence in Chambers or elsewhere to substantiate your claim that Turkomans became the Khan's crack inner guard.
: : In fact, Turkomans merit only three references in Chambers entire work. Chambers writes at page 76 that many of the prisoners captured by the Mongols were sold into slavery, many thousands of them to the new Sultan of Egypt, al-Salih' to augment his (the Sultan's) Turkoman army. According to Chambers, the Turkomans were mercenaries who served a variety of masters, mostly Moslem princes.
: : Finally, Chambers points out that the Turkomans who did serve with the Mongols were conscripts who served under Kuyuk in the Urals. See pages 112-13.
: : There simply is no evidence that Turkomans served the Great Khan or under Subedei. Moreover, the only evidence in Chambers is, in fact, directly contradictory to your statements.
: : I also note that in those posts where you have indicated other potential source material you have failed to link any of them to the images or the associations you claim to "know". Since you have also acknowledged that you are making sweeping unsupported assertions, I assume that you are relying on these authors more for general background (much in the way you relied on Chambers). Certainly I do not understand any of them to have dealt in any way, shape or form with the subjects of your theories of images and the associations of those images which you believe with "100%" certainty you understand the meaning of. If I am wrong, I would appreciate your refering me to specific citations in those reference materials.
: : I am surprised that you did not cite Paul Ratchnevsky insofar as his work on the Great Khan is considered to be authoritative and insofar as he has directly translated such important source materials as Un Code des Yuan. Having read these sources in translation, I can assure you that if Turkomans served as crack troops for the Khan, it was not recorded by any of the Khans historians or by Plano Carpini.
: : But that's not really the point is it? The issue is whether there is anything beyond your personal belief in your theories. I must say, I doubt it. As I understand it, the real field work involved in understanding these weavings is just seeing and reading the iconography. However, in coming to your sweeping assertions it is clear that you have ignored the work of Mikhail Gorelik, Mark Kramarovski, Vladimir Basilov, Olga Naumova and Natal'ya Zhukovskaya to name a few who have studied not just weavings but the other aspects of the material culture as well as the historical record. Basilov and Zhukovskaya have made significant contributions to understanding images and religious beliefs of nomadic people in Central Asia including Turkomans.
: : You do yourself and your readers a disservice by ignoring these scholars although I understand why you do. An easy place to start is in Nomads of Eurasia published by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the University of Washington Press. There we see actual items used by the Shamans you are so keen to refer to. There are no mushrooms or representations of mushrooms, no swoops or representations of them, but there are plenty of other images. None are consistant, with the exception of a possible connection with a spirit bird though in a context different from that you refer to, with your theories or images and, even more importantly, they are not hidden or abstract in any way. In fact, to be useful, an image had to be clearly understood and understood by all as to its meaning and portent. Your suggestion of hidden meaning is qualified as being hidden to non Turkoman persons or city swine, an interesting thesis but not consistent with the images I have seen recorded in other media such as drums, clothing and masks. Moreover, the images I have seen recorded are usually in red, not in white, and they are anything but abstract.
: : In sum, I find little to support your thesis that 18-19th century Turkoman weavings are the product of an uninterrupted and transgenerational in situ evolutionary process. Substantial, even overwhelming, evidence exists to suggest that the fortunes of the Turkoman went up and down, that they traded, married, slaved, fought with a variety of other tribal and urban forces. That they coveted fine city things and would fight, steal and kill for them. That they themselves were slaved, killed or married by others. My sense is that you are confusing nomadic middle ages history generally with that of the Turkomans specifically. Further, that you are taking discrete passages out of historial works, mischaracterizing or misinterpreting them to suit your theories which are truly your starting and end points. Sort of like taking a tree and ignoring the forest.
: : I would be less troubled by your theories if they were advanced for what they are with a little more humility and a little less stridency. It is OK to understand, then reject the work of others and advance your own thoughts, however contrary to convention. Here, I am afraid your ideas are based on perhaps sincerely felt, but deeply flawed, over generalizations and on over broad, fanciful mischaracterizations of a very complicated historical record convenient to your
: : theories, theories from which everything else must be cut, pasted and made to fit into your vision.
: : Something else to chew on. Michael Wendorf.
: : Single sailed swoop, try the first few pages of Peter Saunders book, there is a very nice picture of one there. The magnitude of your response speaks volumns about the strength of my position. the Russian sources you quote are looked with derision by most Western scholars. Otts book is considered a bench mark in its field. I am not going to quibble with you about this subject. There is no map. I have sources for everything I posted and your rendering of chambers thoughts are not exactly unbiased. I am not on trial, or am I? I don't have the footnotes for 20 years study at instant ready. The real question here is why don't you deal witht he obviously very very clear example of my princile, whose body you have interjected this unnecessary invective under.
Of course, you are not on trial here. However, you have put your theories out here and you have characterized you descriptions as 100% certain. You have also questioned the seriousness of anyone who does not see what you see or share your beliefs.
When asked for the basis of your ideas, to enumerate the specific images and then the associations you are so certain of in the context of a vast historical continuum you either cannot or you misquote or mischaracterize in very meaningful ways the works of others. It was you, not me, who misquoted Chambers. I did not render Chambers' thoughts, I quoted his words.
As I anticipated you would, you claim "the Russian sources" I reference are derided by most western scholars. You do this certainly knowing nothing about the work of the people I referenced. Let us take Vladimir Basilov as an example. Mr. Basilov is head of the Department of Central Asian and Kazakhstan Research at the Mikloukho-Maclay Institute of Ethnography in Moscow. His work is so derided in the West that he was chosen as editor of the Nomads of Eurasia, the book that was published in conjunction of the first comprehensive exhibit of Eurasian nomads organized for the United States. He has collaborated with numerous museums and institutions here, including the Museum of Natural History, and with scholars even you have acknowledegd such as E.J.W. Barber. I could go on.
You claim that I have injected invective in this salon and that the magnitude of my response speaks volumes about the strength of your position. I think your words written in response to me, to Mr. Joseph and others in these threads demonstrates where the invective is coming from and why. As for the magnitude of my response, it is proportionate to the contorted views you have repeatedly asserted as fact. Since you have chosen to state your opinions and visions as facts and based on serious study and a deep understanding of nomadic life generally and Turkoman life and images specifically without much specific detail, in fact even now the best you can muster is that you have sources for everything but not at instant ready, I believe it is my right to expose what I consider to be the absolutely erroneous and self-serving components of your interpretations. You should know that I have and will continue to support your right to express your views. You should also know that by chosing to do so, I and others have the right to challenge you and question the very underpinnings of your theories. Underpinnings which, in respect for you, I have tried to challenge with facts and refernece sources that are not disputed even by you.
Finally, you have asked me to address the very very clear example of your principles. As for the Yomud border, I suppose that each participant in this salon will have to examine it for him or her self and ask whether what you see is there, might be there or is not there. I think I have followed the spacing and design, could it be lightening bolts and a bird or eagle as you say it "could" be. Well, I suppose it is possible. Anything is possible. Do I see it and do I think it would be consistent with Turkoman iconography and intent? The answer is I do not think so.
I will also respond to the last image you posted to Jerry Silverman's reply. I see what you are calling the elephants. I think it is not the image intended. I do not think that an elephant would have been an image associated with great significance to Turkomans. Sheep, camels, horses and birds - maybe, but why an elephant? Or did the Turkomans cross the Alps with them on their way to Rome?
More to chew on. Best regards, Michael Wendorf
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