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Posted by Wendel Swan on April 25, 1999 at 13:26:16:

Dear Steve and all,

You are correct in the observation that Turkmen and NWP bags "differ in almost every imaginable way," but permit me to add some specific ways in which they differ.

1. Color. Although virtually all Turkic-speaking peoples share design traditions, those designs are executed with astonishingly different color palettes.

2. Structure. While the Yomud utilize several structures, most of the Turkmen weavings are found only in pile. (I cannot recall ever seeing Tekke or Salor sumak or kilim bags.)

3. Closure systems. There are exceptions and variations, but generally neither Turkish nor Turkmen bags have closure systems, while Persianate chanteh and khordjin (including Belouch) normally use a closure system of woven slits to accommodate the loops. The closure systems for most Caucasian bags are cords that are attached so as to permit closure without slits.

4. Materials. The bags of NWP seem to incorporate a greater variety of fibers than do those of the Turkmen.

Suggesting answers is difficult, but one course for this discussion to take is to concentrate on the nature of nomadism practiced by the respective groups. Yon Bard has made reference to this and other significant cultural differences in an earlier post. I have heard it said by several Turkmen authorities that the Turkmen are and have been essentially sedentary people or that the typical Turkmen migration is far shorter than that of their NWP counterparts, such as the Shahsavan.

This could account for the absence of the lighter weight, but equally strong, sumak variations among the Turkmen and for the lack of closure systems, since security of the contents would not be an issue for those who do not migrate or who migrate very short distances.

Shallow, piled, closure-less "bags" such as torbas make little sense for nomads. If one views them as largely static decorative hangings for the dwelling, the purpose for the Turkmen seems to be clearer.

While we are at the process of discussing the lifestyles of these people, can we also ask why the Turkmen seem to lack the rich diversity of weavings and structures that other groups have in their repertoires? Where are the Turkmen jijims, covers, kilims, felts, sumaks and weft floats pieces that one would associate with nomads? Why are Turkmen weavings done so overwhelmingly in pile?

The answer, I suggest, lies in profound cultural differences.


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