TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  02-27-2000 on 08:58 p.m.
Dear folks - Steve's emphasis in his salon description of the fact that some older rug scholars got it wrong when they suggested that Turkmen pentagonal asmalyks were used pointed side down, triggered an association for me. During his presentation of weft twinning, recently at the TM, the current chairman of the TM Board, David Fraser showed, as one of his examples of a textile that included a goodly amount of weft twining, a piece made by American Indians from (I think)the U.S. Northwest. This piece had the same approximate size and shape of the Turkmen pentagonal asmalyks. Mr. Fraser presented this piece in the point down position. I asked him after what it was and whether it was used in that position. He said that it was a kind of cape and was worn with the point down in some ceremonial dances. This example seems to demonstrate that textiles with quite similar shapes can arise in different, geographically distant cultures and have uses that are sometimes quite distinctive. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  02-27-2000 on 09:17 p.m.
There certainly is a widespread use of those weavings and even cedar bark weavings further north. The problem is these people may have had any number of contacts with Central Asian pentagonal weavings. Their adaptation may be novel but their inspiration is in doubt. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  02-28-2000 on 07:54 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Anyone, There are a number of more or less pentagonal objects made by Uzbek peoples - the Lakai shield-shaped trappings and bags, felt ok-bash that are flat rather than cylindrical, and some things that look like patchwork asmalyks. Saddle rugs, which are made by many groups in western and central Asia, are not pentagonal, but not far from it. It seems reasonable to suspect that the pentagonal format diffused between neighbors like the Turkmen and Uzbeks. Who knows which direction came first? How could anyone possibly know? The pentagonal items made by northwest coastal American Indians, with sizes typical of Turkmen asmalyks and designs that might be described as Mercator projections of whales, seem unlikely to be influenced by anything from the steppes of central Asia. The geographic problem in diffusion between the two is formidable, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary my assumption would be that they are totally separate developments. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  02-28-2000 on 12:43 p.m.
mamstey1@rochester.rr.com Some of the best known examples of pentagonal weavings are the wearing blankets of the Tlinget (sp?) of the Northwest (Canada and Alaska). These were displayed with the apex pointing down. They are a very hot collectable now bringing prices into the high 5 figures. Best regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  02-28-2000 on 05:44 p.m.
Steve described the pentagonal textiles from the Pacific Northwest as: ...Mercator projections of whales.... This is too good. I wish I knew the process of imagination that allowed someone to "see" it this way. I suspect it was the same mindset possessed by the first person who figured out that you could enjoy hallucinations by licking certain toads. -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  02-29-2000 on 08:36 p.m.
Steve i imagined a cross fertilization brought about by passive contact. Whaling vessels had a long history in the area and a good asmalyk could have been traded at some point to the Indians who might have really taken a shine to it. Think of Navajo Indians weaving nothing but plain stripes until, in the 1880's after the crushing Turkoman defeat by the Russians, Turkoman and Anatolian weaving were introduced to them, what an explosion of incredible designs; all traceable back to certain known types of Asian weaving. I like this James Burke kind of history. By the way these NW coast pentagonal weavings are unknown before the 1880's, think about that before you blast me. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  02-29-2000 on 09:30 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Jim, If my request for sources of information came across as a blast, I apologize. That was not my intent. And, I should preface the rest of my remarks by making it clear that I understand that convincing me or failing to convince me is not an ultimate test of truth. Differences of opinion are common, although we ought to be able to agree on the facts by the time we finish discussing them. I don't know a whole lot about American Indian weaving, but I did attend the exhibition in Denver in conjunction with the last ACOR. My impression was that influence by Turkish kilim designs was plausible and even obvious, but I saw nothing that looked even vaguely Turkmen-like. And if my recollection is correct, the explanation for the Turkish kilim influence was that traders brought those things for the Indians to copy beginning around the middle of the 19th century, and there seemed to be documentary evidence for this. The traders' purpose was to make Indian textiles more appealing to the mass market. As for the pentagonal blankets of the Indians of the Pacific northwest, I don't know how likely it is that any made before the fourth quarter of the 19th century would have survived, but I'm not astonished to hear that none did. That doesn't persuade me that there were none before then. Perhaps some whaler brought a Tekke asmalyk with him, and perhaps this did take the Pacific coast Indians by storm. But the asmalyk would have had to make quite a trip to even get to the Pacific coast of Asia, and I think the explanation that the Indians adopted the pentagon from the Tekke requires too many ad hoc assumptions. One, that a Pacific whaler had an asmalyk (which seems fairly unlikely). Two, that he showed it to a significant number of Indians in the northwest. Three, that they almost instantly added it to their repertoire in a fairly widespread way. The alternative explanation, that they figured it out all by themselves, seems satisfactory. At least, it does to me. Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  02-29-2000 on 10:04 p.m.
Steve; There is certainly nothing weak about your logic, reality is just reality no matter what. American Indian studies concerning weavings is scientific. The introduction dates of various breeds of sheep are carefully documented and the microanalysis of the wools from these sheep are pathonomonic for the sheep themselves, thus dating the weaving. I know one whole line of very popular weavings and bead work design has been traced back to a doctor who had a central asian beaded pouch on his wall and had treated a number of Indians associated withthe earliest manifestation of the design! You forget these people are non literate. This means that they have vastly better recall than we do, they really need it. Literacy makes us stupid. I am sure you see this. Not stupid like an idiot, we just don't need great memories. We can write it down and look it up later. This is a major difference. Indians, even a very few Indians, seeing an exciting inately sympathetic design might very well found a whole new line of design. it has already happened for the record. I am not even trying to say that my ideas about those pentagonal NW coast cedar bark weavings holds any water, just that these kinds of things can and do happen. Keep this in mind when dismissing the unexpected or anti-intuitive alternative. We are in need of fresh paradigns in this field. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  03-01-2000 on 06:24 a.m.
Dear Jim - I would be interested in the citation of the dating by wool from a given type of sheep. And it may be entirely aprocryphal, but I seem to remember that some NW American Indian tribes produced elaborate craft items during the year and then burned them all in religous ceremony at year end. If so, this might account for the fact that only rather late pentagonal examples are known. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Pentagonal Textiles in Other Cultures
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-01-2000 on 08:37 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Jim, A few messages up in this thread you asserted that non-literate groups had/have memories superior to those of literate peoples. In part, you state ...these people are non literate. This means that they have vastly better recall than we do, they really need it... I am sure you see this... we just don't need great memories. We can write it down and look it up later. I couldn't disagree more. Everything I know about how people learn and remember suggests that literacy is a help to remembering, not a hindrance. Memorization requires repetition and organization of information, and the written form is enormously more efficient than oral communication at permitting these things to happen. I can read this message over and over in much less time than it would take to say it even once, and can rearrange it much more conveniently than I could if I were only carrying it around in my head. Does memory improve when you need it more? This is probably something on which the psychological literature could shed some light. I have no idea whether it's true or not. Either way, though, it's a fact that modern, literate people need their memories, too, and use them a lot. Probably at least as much as non literate peoples do, perhaps even more. Steve Price

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