Art and science
This is a fascinating salon. It seems to me that the art historical approach will not solve origin issues. Mostly because these woven pieces are essentialy anonymous. And as Sophia might suggest anonymous is a woman.
One character who is missing from the discussion is the sheep. This domesticated companion, wool, milk and meat provider could produce evidence of a new kind.
Why not develop typologies based upon comparison of D.N.A. taken from rug fiber? Such a study would be far more effective with nomadic goods where the rug and the sheep are well aquainted. It's quite possible this would open new areas of investigation.
In any case I'm sure some of you will have fun with the idea.
That's a cool idea. Don't forget the cameliids They get nasty when ignored
This might work especially well for dating old Navajo and other American textiles, because there are fairly precise dates available for when certain breeds of sheep were introduced to them - sometimes with disastrous results. I think it was the Merino type whose wool was too soft & fine? It wouldn't be hard to check. Another time the Army took away the Navajo's sheep and they almost starved - this was during the very bad times, when The People were being hunted down and taken to Bosc Redondo - they suffered horribly.
At other times the weavers used commercially spun & dyed Germantown wool. This was four-ply, very fine, and came in brilliant colors.
Anyway I believe the Merino idea didn't last very long and the old Churro breed regained its place of honor.
Curiously, I believe some Oriental rugs are made from New Zealand wool.
Greg, Sophia -
The notion of using wool in rug attribution is one being actively worked on. A couple of years ago, Ned Long, a trained working scientist, gave a lecture at a TM rug convention that got "pushed off the stage" prematurely by a schedule that ran late.
In it Ned talked in part about the liklihood that we will soon be able to analyze wool and tell where the sheep it came from grazed. Now wool often travels after sheering but this could help a lot in many instances.
And, Sophia, of course you are right that Merino wool has been used for some time in oriental rugs. "Manchester Kashans," seen nowadays to be very collectible were the result of a Kashan wool merchant having a lot of Merino wool from New Zealand, who decided to ask his wife to weave some rugs from it, and sent it to Manchester, England for processing before weaving. And some contemporary producers (for example, Chris Walters in his Tibetan production in Nepal) mix Tibetan wool which is quite rough with Merino to give some softness without entirely giving up strength.
R. John Howe