Re: Eagletons' birds;

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Posted by Pat Weiler on December 31, 1998 at 09:12:36:

In Reply to: Re: Eagletons' birds; posted by Michael Wendorf on December 30, 1998 at 20:55:28:

: : : Michael

: : : You have hit upon a problem I have wrestled with since Jim Opie's assertion that "latchhooks" are really bird heads.
: : : Some which have "eyes" appear to be bird heads. Most don't have "eyes".
: : : Did some weavers put "eyes" in because the design they were copying looked like bird heads to them?
: Answer: I do not know, maybe.
: : : Did the design actually descend from an accurate rendition of a bird which degenerated over time to a point that a weaver was not able to interpret the design as a bird head and from then on the design was just a geometric rendition of a cultural emblem?Answer: A very hard question. I am sorry I have no easy answer. It's just as plausible that she interpreted another image, let's say a flower, and simplied in into something approximating a bird.
: : : If the weaver "knew" she was weaving a bird head, then why wouldn't she just weave one? Many tribal Persian weavers obviously used plenty of actual animals in their weavings. Answer: it could depend on the weaver's skill and her loom. Many of the designs with complex floral forms were made on more sophisticated and probably higher tension looms that made curvilinear designs easier to accomplish. A tribal woman might reconcile her limitations by simplifying and adapting the motif to something more comfortable and recognizeable to her.
: : :
: : : Did a religious prohibition of live creatures in art force an abstraction of animals into unrecognizable designs?
: : : How many generations would have to pass for us to lose any recognition of familiar symbols if their use were proscribed? Answer: I think history has shown that it can happen in two generations or between 20-40 years. But it depends on the depth of the proscription. More commonly there is a gradual assimulation and adaption.
: The abstracted designs would have been reinterpreted by a later generation just as we now label such things as "running dogs" and "latch hooks" and "meandering vines" that may really be elephants, chickens and sand dunes. Answer: or just copied or ignored.

: : : Similarly, with these Kurdish weavings (and I don't think there is a lot of resistance to the Salon designation of their Kurdish origin) could the design elements have eroded from their possible origins as palmettes into "flames" because a weaver thought they were flames and wove them as such?Answer: possibly, although there seem to be other possible reasons as expressed in these threads.
: Or are they a weavers best interpretation of a degenerate design that happens to appear to us as flames? Answer: also possible. What do you conclude? Thanks for the reply. Michael

: : : I agree with Murray Eiland who posited that if there were a fifth major rug group in addition to Anatolian, Caucasian, Persian and Turkoman, it would have to be Kurdish, and they are probably the most under-recognized group of weavings of the near east. (Oriental Rugs a comprehensive guide, first edition, p42)

: : : Pat Weiler

: : :"How many generations would have to pass for us to lose any recognition of familiar symbols if their use were proscribed?" This really is an important question and one I've tried to address elsewhere. I've purposed that nomadic societies carried designs in their memories as chants whose decoding resulted in the designs' recapitulation. In this scenario the design is subject to evolutionary forces which also drive languages toward ever greater efficiency and effacacy. This means that designs come to represent more and more information in less and less realistic forms. In a language this manifests as words and phrases having greater meaning while losing structure to syntax. Syntax is unconsciously processed as is the syntax of weaving. The young girls and boys would watch and help older sisters and mothers at weaving and spinning. This vital activity was their main educational responsibility. The women hummed and sung while weaving and the sounds either were consciously or unconsciously related to specific parts of the design. Once learned and fully integrated it could be repeated forwards or backwards, mirror image, and this formed the basis of iconographic transmission with increasing resolution through time in nomadic societies. Let me hasten to add that this is my personal hypothesis and nobodies fact. James Allen


Thanks for your insights. The most likely scenario, then, is that some of the abstracted designs may well have been "something else" at one time and degenerated into commonly used "motifs" and to these were added more lifelike renditions of regional taste, such as "real" birds, flowers, etc.
This would explain the juxtapositon of abstract and realistic design features in the same rug, leaving us with the mystery of "where did that strange design come from, and how did it get into this rug"?

Language historians do research that graphs similarities in sounds and words to learn the origins of languages. Some, like Basque, have them stumped. A similar research in rug designs may be productive, but would be a huge undertaking and the results might not be illuminating. I suppose the government would jump at the chance to fund a long-term university research program in oriental rug motif origins :-)

In response to another thread, I have read of fires emanating from gas-saturated fields in the Baku area, which were incorporated into pre-Zoroastrian religious rituals. These kinds of rituals tend to be absorbed into subsequent religions, just as Christianity absorbed many "pagan" holidays. Probably something like this was the source of the "burning bush" in the christian bible.

Daniel, it is refreshing to be looking at these Kurdish rugs, in light of the turmoil surrounding their (the Kurds) fate. They (the rugs) deserve more respect than they get as plain old "Northwest Persian" weavings.

Pat Weiler

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