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Posted by Steve Price on May 07, 1999 at 08:49:20:

This topic was introduced as an attempt to probe the bases for the differences between tribal NW Persian and Turkmen weavings. The traditions of the two groups vary in almost every conceivable respect: palette, materials, weaving technique, layout, designs, and types of utilitarian items produced. Although more or less specific, the issues relate to the broader question of how differences arise between any two weaving peoples or, even more generally, what are the foundations of the physical cultural choices exercised in the development of the traditions of any group?

One direction that arose early in the discussions was, essentially, it's the tradition. That reminds me of a line in the movie "A Bug's Life", in which one of the characters solemnly explains that changing the way they do things is not traditional in his culture. But that doesn't go to the question of how the practices arose at all.

A specific question that received attention was why the Turkmen didn't weave salt bags, or, at least, didn't weave anything in the shape we associate with salt bags. Some suggestions that were made included the possibility that they simply used other bags to carry salt or that their pastures were such that providing salt was not necessary for the well being of their sheep.

Another was, why did Turkmen weave envelope shapes almost exclusively, while NW Persian tribal people made large numbers of woven boxes (cargo bags)? Some speculations that were put forth included the possibility that the groups used different proportions of camels and horses as pack animals, with a bearing on how heavy the loads could be, and that the NW Persian tent, with its lower vertical wall, made the cushion-like cargo bag a more desirable piece of furniture than the Turkmen style envelope.

The use of much larger amounts of cotton in NW Persian than in Turkmen weavings was dealt with a little. The explanation may lie in the fact that cotton has low resilience and mats down in pile weaving (which is what most Turkmen items are), and this is not a consideration in flatweaves (which is what most NW Persian items are). Indeed, it was noted that cotton is far more common in Turkmen flatweaves than in Turkmen pile weavings, and although it is a common material in NW Persian flatweaves it is seldom seen in the pile weavings of that area. It does not appear that cotton was a terribly expensive material for Turkmen, as some Turkmen groups used it in the foundations of their bags. This is one of the few areas in which I believe we made significant progress, and if the explanation is correct it nicely links two of the differences between the cultures (flatweave vs. pile; lots of cotton vs. little cotton).

Many of the questions may be unanswerable by anyone, and most may be unapproachable by the minds whose attention can be brought to bear on them in this forum. That opinion was expressed early and more than once, and I recognize the truth it contains. This is a discussion forum, though, not a scholarly journal, and casting a net to see if it catches anything is a legitimate undertaking for us. The fact that we did not attract the expertise to provide the information that might have brought us closer to more answers does not render the exercise pointless. Informal discussion groups of the type on which our Salon is based were essentially social interactions and exchanges of opinions that, while usually not expert, were reasoned and given some thought by educated, intelligent people. Once in a while they generated new insights, and the same is probably true for our Salons, but mostly they allowed the participants to share views, mutually educate and become better acquainted with one another, and I am pretty sure that this is true for our Salons.

Steve Price

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