Re: pile rugs and pastoral nomads

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Posted by Yon Bard on July 30, 1999 at 06:56:58:

In Reply to: Re: pile rugs and pastoral nomads posted by R. John Howe on July 29, 1999 at 18:54:23:

: Dear folks -

: Wendel has asked me twice in this thread to vouch for an argument apparently made by Elena Tzareva indicating that Turkmen pile weaving was primarily produced by sedentary Turkmen. I fear I must disappoint him, since I did not hear Elena make this specific claim. (My hearing in a group is notoriously poor and she could easily have said precisely that in my presence without my hearing it.) It would fit with what I take to be her primary interest (weaving in the middle Amu Dyra area). These folks are quite settled and have been for some time.

: I can offer this much support for Wendel's argument. At the last TM convention, Dr. Larry Clark, Director of the Turkmen Language Program, and professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, said flatly that "pastoral nomads" do not produce many pile weavings. He said that there simply isn't time. He sees felt as the primary textile produced by pastoral nomads. It requires lower quality wools, is easier to make and is much more functional in a very flexible way for a variety of pastoral nomad needs.

: At the Hajji meeting at the time of the last TM Convention, I remember John Wertime asking Elena directly why [if the flatweaves outnumbered the piece pieces produced considerably (she did say this in her presentation)]so few flatweave Turkmen weavings seem to have survived. She gave a species of the "they were used up in everyday life" answer that is plausible on one level but not on another.

: It may be though that there is less conflict here than it may appear. If pile weaving was primarily reserved for luxury articles and if those who could afford them were mostly wealthy Turkmen, then it may not be a contradiction to say that most Turkmen did not own them. I do recall reading of one traveler visiting the tent of a minor Turkmen headman noticed that he had not pile rugs or weavings whatever.

: Perhaps the most inconvenient facts that such an argument would need to accommodate are 1) the seeming largish number of pile weavings that have survivied that seem not to have ready market-driven purposes, i.e., bags and trappings; and 2) the relatively few Turkmen flatweaves that we have.

: If there were "vaults" where exceptional pieces were saved (by the Turkmen themselves) one wonders that there wouldn't be a goodly number of flatweaves that were saved with the pile pieces). Excellent Turkmen flatweaves exist (Jim Blackmon showed me a complete Ersari khorjin pair in January that was of a very high quality and in mint condition). But why are they so infrequent, especially as compared to pile pieces?

: Regards,

: R. John Howe

Perhaps the answer to our conundrum is (I am speculating) that the Turkomans were somewhere between sedentary and typical pastoral-nomadic. They did not have regular semi-annual migrations from lowlands to uplands; rather, they stayed in one location for as long as possible, with only grazing parties taking up temporary quarters away from the main encampments. Then, at relatively infrequent occasions, they'd move to a different area because of exhaustion of fodder or some external threats. They may have moved about as frequently as the average American family. For this lifestyle pile weavings were no great handicap.

Regards, Yon

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