How We Know What We Know?

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Posted by R John Howe on February 16, 1999 at 18:29:22:

In Reply to: Re: Color&Area relations? posted by Erol Abit on February 16, 1999 at 12:47:09:

Dear folks -

Like Erol I'm sitting here impressed with Wendel's erudition on what color shades may indicate about where a rug was woven in Turkey.  And I have no basis for debating any of this.  Wendel's been looking at rugs for a lot longer than I have.

But it is interesting to examine what we think we know and how we know it.  For example, it is widely believed that it is bad practice to use design much in estimating where a rug was woven (although the very people who say this fudge about it all the time).  It is plausibly claimed that designs travel easily and widely.

What is the case with dyes?  Do dyes mostly get used primarily in the area in which they are made or is there evidence that they too can travel?  Indigo assuredly does.  What about others? 

Could we be involved in an inference that goes something like this?  Rugs of a certain color or shade are found more frequently in rugs found in geographic area X.  Minor premise: colors found frequently in such rugs are likely produced with local dyes.  Therefore it is permissible to infer that rugs with these colors or shades have likely been woven in area X.

Now all of this may be perfectly sound but as stated it is vaguely unsatisfying.  It seems to me possibly to qualify as what Pinner describes as a "convention."  We feel better about such conventions if they at least occasionally put a foot down into the factual world.

I have not read Dr. Bohmer deeply but perhaps his studies underpin such estimates.   Perhaps, he and his colleagues have gone into the various areas of Turkey and either authenticated the vegetal dyes produced there (today, of course) or perhaps they have demonstrated that particular colors and shades can be produced with the local flora.
(This latter demonstration could be timeless.)

Does anyone know where we stand on such questions for sure?


R. John Howe

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