Posted by Guido_Pizziola on 07-24-2002 09:10 AM:

About Kurdish Rugs


I am rather new at this internet thing but do know quite a bit about oriental rugs and their history. The presenter of this salon has, in my opinion, stretched the limits of believability in stating that Kurdish Rugs have an 8000 year history and, in fact, a
number of his other statements are equally unsupportable and rather off the wall.

His mention of Catal Huyuk and the textiles found there in support of this hypothesis again show little understanding of the issues he tries so hard to use to support his beliefs. For example the carbonized remains of textiles found there are better characterized as twined rather than weftless sumak.

Kurdish rugs are nice things and some of them do look archaic, however, there are none that I know of that actually are archaic. Collectors like this presenter and many others whose interests are focused on "lesser weavings" (this is my term and opinion), like Belouch and Kurd, seem to be trying to justify the rather inordinately high prices these weavings are now bringing by comparing them to other groups of weaving that really are "important" and really are old. They are shooting golden arrows into these weavings in the hopes their beliefs these things are important will become true. Far from the actuality.

Now please dont misunderstand my drift here. Some of the weavings we now call Belouch and Kurd are exemplary and their materials and construction are unfaultable. However, that said, please realize their designs are mostly copies or rote translations of earlier weavings made by groups totally unassociated with them, even though there may be geographic similarity.

My aim here is not to disparage them nor the collectors of them but rather to put into place what they are and to bring a little reality into this issue.

The presenter of this presentation is obviously a big fan of Kurdish weavings and I have not doubt he, and others, will be offended by my words. But before flying off the handle and issueing some more platitudinous prose in homage to the importance of these later weaving let them provide some real and true evidence to support such lofty assertions.

Posted by Steve Price on 07-24-2002 10:35 AM:

Hi Guido (and Everyone Else),

With all due respect to your right to disagree with Michael and, of course, to express that disagreement here, your post comes very close to being the kind of ad hominem commentary that we don't permit. I'm sure this thread will generate more than a few responses; please keep to the subject of the textiles and their history. Neither Guido's motives, Michael's, nor anyone else's are relevant to the truth or falseness of any statements about the subject, and to attribute venal motives to them doesn't constitute an argument bearing on the matter.

And, I think it is appropriate at this juncture to call attention to the question mark at the end of the title of Michael's Salon.


Steve Price

Posted by Guido_Pizziola on 07-24-2002 02:48 PM:

This is the text of an e-mail message Guido sent to me. it is posted with his permission. Steve Price

Hello Steve:

I must thank you for the email and your help.

As for posting often, I do not have much time to write into a discussion board or to spend a lot of time reading. I have been following the Oriental Rug world's various fascinations with James Mellaart's work and it was for that reason I decided to reply to this presentation.

I am an amateur archaeologist who is extremely interested in pre-bronze age periods and, naturally, this interest led me to Mellaart's incredible discoveries long before they became known to collectors like yourselves. I have even met Mr Mellaart and had the opportunity to talk at length with him, but this was in the late 1970's.

Mellaart's work has, unfortunately been misconstrued and misused by the rug world, a fact which should be addressed. Your site's most recent presentation is a perfect example of this and perhaps the author would be better served if he would spend a bit more time learning the facts instead of relaying the fictions. But I do not want to criticize, my intention was just to offer some clarity and objectivity to what I felt was a rather sensational view of this material.

And by the way, I do not mind if you post this message on the board, as for the moment other duties call and I can not write another post.


Posted by Steve Price on 07-24-2002 03:22 PM:

Hi Guido,

I don't believe Michael's Salon essay leans very heavily on Mellaart's work, if it leans on it at all. Mellaart was not the last word at Catal Huyuk, which is still an active archeological dig.

In most of Rugdom, much of Mellaart's work is now simply ignored, and there are some of us who consider the entire corrpus of his work to be without value because at least some of it appears very likely to be fraudulent. On the other hand, there are others who have worked the Catal Huyuk site, and there is no reason to doubt their reports.

I truly don't know whether the early textiles from that site are best described as twining or weftless soumak, and I leave that matter to those with more of a grasp of structural matters than I have. I don't think the question can be answered without some arguments that are more compelling than one person saying it's trining and another saying it's weftless soumak.


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-24-2002 03:32 PM:

A big fan of carbonized fragments

Dear Mr. Pizziola:

You are welcome to your opinions, express them freely. But your opinions are just that, as are mine.

Am I a big fan of Kurdish weavings? This is no doubt true.

Am I trying to promote them or justify their prices? Give me a break, not in the least. I am trying to stimulate a discussion of them so that they can be understood and appreciated, perhaps for what they are.

Most of the opinions you express are not really opinions, they are just contradiction. If there are statements you believe I have made that are false, the appropriate thing to do would be to identify the statement and the basis for your belief that it is false.

If many Kurdish and, off-topic but feel free, Belouch designs are mostly copies and rote translations, that means some are not. I am not sure we are in disagreement but to find out, you would need to identify examples that are and those that are not. Sweeping generalizations really add nothing but, again, contradiction based or unsubstantiated personal opinion.

I am probably as critical and disbelieving of Mellaart as you are. There is nothing much to say in his support except that it is undeniable that approximately 100 ancient carbonized textiles were found in 1961 and that Harold Burnham published his finding on them in Anatolian Studies 15 in 1965. Other respected scholars such as Helbaeck and Ryder have examined and discussed these textiles.

The textiles found at Catal Huyuk do have elements of twining about them. But I do not believe you are correct to say that they are better characterized as twined rather than weftless soumak. First of all which of the fragments are you referring to? Burnham showed a number of drawings and others have provided photos that show, among other other, constructions wrapped twine (soumak) construction. In fact, a number of textiles were found and are documented that have the construction I, and others, refer to as weftless soumak - soumak wrapping without intervening ground wefts. It is also true that these are most likely of bast fibre, probably flax, as I wrote in the Salon. This is not platitudinous prose, it is fact.

Here is what Marla Mallett wrote in her book Woven Structures:

"In both structure and technique, weftless soumak is distinctive. The structure is just what the name implies: no ground wefts between rows of wrapping. This is undoubtedly the most ancient soumak construction. Fragments have been found in archeological sites like Catal Huyuk in Central Anatolia that predate the invention of loom shedding devices. Nearly all survving weftless soumak objects are Kurdish saddlebags or storage sacks from eastern Anatolia."

See Woven Structures at page 68.

More platitudinous prose? Maybe, or maybe Kurdish weaving needs to be reassessed and put in a context along with those truly important weavings you say exist but fail to identify. My point in writing this Salon is not to answer every question so much as to raise the issues. If you want to discuss it fine, if you just want to contradict, well I am certain I can handle that too.

Michael Wendorf

Posted by Glenn Manser on 07-24-2002 05:28 PM:

Great salon

Dear Michael,

Thanks for hosting this most interesting salon.

I think Mr Pizziola's post simply reflects a long held view out there about the worthwhileness of Kurdish pieces as collector items. Like Baluch pieces they are now coming into their own as collectors begin to appreciate their wonderful aesthetic qualities.

Your salon is a very measured attempt to explore the mysteries of Kurdish weaving and put it into some sort of framework.


Posted by guido_pizziola on 07-25-2002 12:01 AM:

8000 years?

Good evening:

Since the presenter of this presentation has raised issue with my comments and, I always enjoy a good spirited discussion, I have decided to spend some time to explain the errors inherent there in more clear and unmistakable terms.
The very title used, question mark or not, and citation referencing the textiles he discovered leans so heavily on Mellaart’s findings yet the presenter summarily discounts everything else this archaeologist has written and discovered. Why? and why then cast dispersions on his reliability and even, and I must say incorrectly, assume that I, too, feel as he does?. What is going on here?
Let me state for the record that Mellaart’s unfortunate escapades in the rug world are truly a disaster, but to imply his work at Catal Huyuk, which is just one part of his professional accomplishment, is also flawed is truly preposterous. I do not want to present a history of Mellaart’s archaeological career here but I can not sit by and watch this presenter trash an extraordinarily endowed scholar and academician.
Just for the record has he ever read any of Mellaart’s many works other than those aimed at the rug world? He cites reference to Anatolian Studies but has he read the four detailed excavation reports Mellaart wrote after each seasons dig at Catal that are contained in that periodical? Has he read the Thames and Hudson book on Catal that Mellaart authored? My guess is not based on the flippant dismissal he delivers at this talented archaeologist.
As I said I do not want to turn this into a paean to Mellaart and, in closing, let me reinterate that I too do not put much credence in Mellaart’s adventures in the rug world nor do I agree with those who blindly have followed him down this slippery slope, but I can not accept the presenter’s discounting all the documented and highly accepted reports ofMellaart’s four season’s digging at Catal as one and the same.
Unfortunately I do not have the time, inclination or energy to critique this entire presentation or to answer many of the points the author raises in his answer to my post, however, please accept the following as evidence of my ability to not only hit the ball back into his court but to make what in tennis is called a passing shot, ie. one which can not be returned.
1. The presenter’s pique at my saying his presentation shows an interest in pushing the prices of these Kurdish weaving seems rather unusual since he began his presentation with the following “”"How do you know if a rug is Kurdish or Caucasian?" The answer? "Well, if you are selling it, the rug is Caucasian. If you are buying it, the rug is Kurdish." Would you think me incorrect to assume one of the author’s reasons for choosing that and placing it at the beginning of his presentation had nothing to do with a desire to see these weavings more highly valued?
2. The textiles of Catal Huyuk to which the author refers have still not be studied enough for anyone to make definitive conclusions about them but one fact does seem to be conclusive : that they were made without using a loom . This fact therefore totally discounts the basis of this argument and its reference to an 8000 year tradition, which is really the only salient part of this authors presentation as the rest is only his “opinions” about the wonders of Kurdish weaving.
3. I am always amazed at how rug collectors and scholars are so sure about the attributions they place on antique weavings. Its almost as if the dead weavers themselves appeared and whispered in their ears “hey there mister – I made this’. In reality we know so little about who made what, when, and where that to ascribe any really old weaving to more than a general provenance is again going down another very slippery slope. Kurdistan is such an amorphous weaving area where many groups – Persian, Turkish, Caucasian, Armenian and who knows who else – lived and traveled through that to declare weavings Kurdish seems absurd. It negates the fact that they may have been made by weavers who never considered themselves to be Kurdish.
4. The author’s citing “many of the world's earliest surviving textiles (textiles dating to 6000 B.C.) have been found in sites within the so-called Fertile Crescent - including sites within historic Kurdistan which may have been home to the ancestors of Kurds or known to these ancestors since antiquity.” I also find to be rather misleading as there are, in reality, not many of these textiles and I for one have never heard of any coming from Kurdistan. But, perhaps, the presenter’s references are merely poetic and my thinking they should be anything else, foolish.
5. The weaving technique weftless soumak or simple soumak requires a loom but the Catal textiles were loomless – sorry to repeat this error but, since the author mentioned it so strongly and it underpins his presentation, I wanted to be sure everyone notes its fallaciousness as it pertains to this argument. And by the way, the reason both weftless soumak and twining have no structural weft in no way implies any similarities between them. So the textiles found at Catal Huyuk and those in this presentation have absolutely nothing in common. And that is a fact.
6. This author’s further assertion warp weighted looms might have was used at Catal again points up his misunderstanding of the facts and furthermore the selective use of these mistakes to prove his argument. In fact, no actual loom weights have yet to be recovered at Catal nor have any looms been found. This is also fact.
7. In closing I can not spend my time commenting on the conclusions of the sources of kurdish designs, their antiquity or influence on other groups other than to point out that not one of the designs on any of the weaving illustrated in this presentation shows any individual character nor is any a prototype. They are all derivative patterns, which can be easily shown to have their roots in other earlier weaving traditions. This is also fact.

Please understand my position : I am not taking exception to anyone’s passion or love of Kurdish weaving, only the attempt of this author to make them into more than what they are.
I truly hope all concerned can see this difference and appreciate the spirit in which I have attempted to clarify my position.

Posted by Steve Price on 07-25-2002 06:22 AM:

Hi Guido,

I would like to comment on just a few points in your last message:
1. You seem sure that the little thing Michael (the presenter of this presentation's name) used in his opening about a rug being Kurdish if you're buying but Caucasian if you're selling is purely promotional. I don't see it that way at all. It seems to me to be nothing more or less than a fairly entertaining way to state a fact. The fact is, rugs from different places have different values even if otherwise comparable, and Kurdish rugs have less value than Caucasian rugs do, all other things being equal. In any case, the issue of Michael's motivation in making the statement is irrelevant to the truth (or lack of truth) in his assertions about Kurdish rugs and weaving history. Just as your motivations are irrelevant to the question of whether you are right or wrong in your criticisms of those assertions.
2. Why do you think the question mark in Michael's title is irrelevant? I think the fact that it is a question is central. The following two sentences have very different meanings: "Steve Price is an idiot." "Steve Price is an idiot?" The different meanings derive completely from the punctuation.
3. You wonder why anyone would discard all of Mellaart's work just because some of it is generally regarded as fraudulent. I am one of those who do - I stated so in an earlier message. My reasons are simple. I am an academic, and the rules of the game in academic research includes it being an honor system. The default position is that if someone says he did or found something, he is believed. We assume that our colleagues are honest, honorable people, at least in their professional activities. When someone commits professional fraud, his credibility is lost, not just for that instance, but completely. Nothing he has published is accepted until someone else repeats his findings. This, by the way, is one of the reasons why academics will go to such lengths to protect their reputations for integrity. They are finished professionally if they lose that.


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-25-2002 08:58 AM:

This makes it love - 30

Good Morning Mr. Pizziola:

My argument concerning weftless soumak or transverse weftless soumak, to be even more precise, relies in part on carbonized textile fragments excavated by James Mellaart at Catal Huyuk. These were initially recorded in his Preliminary Field Reports. This, and only this, is true. I have neither stated nor implied that his excavation of these carbonized textile fragments is flawed. Likewise, I have stated and implied nothing concerning his initial Preliminary Field Reports.

These carbonized textile fragments exist in Ankara, have been examined, studied, documented and reported on by numerous scholars. It is not really relevant to a discussion of these carbonized textile fragments and/or a Kurdish weaving tradition in relation to them whether I discount all of Mr. Mellaart's other work or not insofar as I simply do not rely on it.

Regarding your so-called passing shots:

1. Since you do not know me, it is presumptuous for you to question my motivations. I would prefer it if you would question only my arguments and conclusions until you at least understand them. Failing that, I could question your motivations. But then, that really is a sideshow to the more interesting topics at hand, topics which I have not argued I have all the answers to.

And the recording of an old dealer witticism serves to explemify several points. First, that Kurdish weavings remain, to use your quaint term, a lesser weaving group in the eyes of most dealers. I say because Kurdish weaving has not been given its proper place because of politics, because of ignorance - whatever. Second, that in the marketplace, such as it is, many dealers still cannot distinguish a Kurdish rug from a Caucasian. Even to many respected dealers today, a Kurdish rug is a Bijar, a Sennah or a Kolyai Kurd. I believe this to be not only inaccurate, but to mischaracterize Kurdish weaving such as we can begin to understand it. I have made these arguments in the Salon and in Hali 113, but rather than comment substantively, you question my motivations. This reflects, I believe, more on you than on me.

2. Your statement that it is conclusive that the carbonized textile fragments from Catal Huyuk I reference were made without a loom is patently false. Moreover, if you are knowledgeable of the field reports and subsequent studies of these carbonized textile fragments as you proudly claim to be then you know your statement is false. Both Mellaart and Burnham assume a warp weighted loom was used. It is true that no loom weights have been found, whether the looms were wood or wood and clay, they are gone with time. But most commentators continue to believe that warp weighted looms in an elementary form were in use. The carbonized textiles fragments themselves speak to the use of a loom.

It is accurate to point out that whatever loom was in use, it had no heddles. An early pottery shard from Dunartepee in Kars circa 3000 BC is early depiction of a loom without heddles. The weftless transverse soumak fragments central to my argument were made without heddle or shed - just as I argued in the Salon. Weft twining also uses no shed or heddle. Both of these techniques are very simple and related to basketry. You may recall that Helbaeck in Archaeology in 1962 also depicted remains of rush matting, some basketry and impressions in clay of coiled grass used for baskets.

It would also be accurate for you to point out that the plain weave tabby textiles excavated have been assumed to be darned with alternate sheds picked by hand. And it would be fair for you to argue or make the point that the presence of twining in Catal Huyuk implies that the accompanying plain weave fabrics were most likely darned. But this does not mean that the fragments done in weftless transverse soumak were darned or that they were made without a loom.

Here is what Burnham had to say on the subject:

"The textile tools of Catal Huyuk were undoubtedly of wood, and no recognizable trace has survived. In view of our knowledge of the extended distribution of the dropped spindle throughout the Near East in later periods, it seems likely that this was the tool used for spinning. Witht he presence of the heading cord described above, the type of weaving equipment used may be conjectured. The use of heading cords implies knowledge of the warp weighted loom....This special treatment of upper edge of the cloth was required so that the prepared warp might be sewn to the beam with the ends hanging from it." page 173, Anatolian Studies 15.

3. I am not certain of all the attributions used to describe these pieces. I am reasonably certain that my attributions are corect as far as we can know and I am reasonably certain that Kurdish weavers wove all the weftless soumak pieces depicted. For several, I even know the village from which they were collected. In any event, all of the weftless soumak pieces I show were collected for me by experienced pickers in Turkey. It is possible that they are all wrong, but I doubt it. Kurdistan is a crossroads with a difficult history. I mention this only briefly in my Salon because entire books have been written on the subject. That said, Kurdistan is a historic place and Kurds are a people. You can say whatever you wish, or do what the Turks do and make it illegal to even utter the words. It changes nothing. This Salon is an effort to bring a framework for acknowledging, discussing and understanding weaving in this area. If you think it so meaningless and stupid, why bother posting at all?

4. You are correct, the archaeological record is thin. All the more reason to think long and hard about what we do have. Sites from C.H. to Lake Urmia have turned up perhaps several hundred fragments and there are huge gaps. The task is formidable. What to do?

5. Correct. Weftless transverse soumak requires a loom. We do not know for certain, but the loom was most likely a simple warp weighted loom. See # 2 above. Other alternative looms are possible.

What you seem to fail to understand is that both twined and weftless transverse soumaks were found at Catal Huyuk. You can argue the contrary as long as you wish, but you will still be wrong. I am also not stating or implying similarities between twining and weftless transverse soumak. They are apples and oranges.

6. See #2 above.

In short, I do think one of us needs to go back to the literature and the documentation of what was excavated at Catal Huyuk and I do not think it is me.

7. This is not fact, it is contradiction. In any event, where do you see me making arguments about prototypes? That said, your claim that none of these weavings shows any individual character is one you and I will have to disagree on. I hope that others who look at the Salon and the pieces depicted there will consider whether any of these pieces show a particular character. I personally believe that many Kurdish weaving do demonstrate a unique charater.

So much for your passing shots. I believe the ball is squarely in your court.

Michael Wendorf

Posted by guido_pizziola on 07-25-2002 09:15 AM:

The following was written before the latest post from the presenter appeared. I will try to comment further on that later today if the spirit moves me. But in answer to his post my I just ask again if he or the moderator have read any of Mellart's work besides the commentaries that have appeared in ORR and Hali magazines? Both seem to shy away from this question and so far their reticence is proof of their not having done so.
Also concerning the textiles at Catal and their manufacture. The presenter again states they were loom made but nowhere in any report, commentary or analysis has this fact been proven or even unequivocably stated. Therefore, it is not me who needs to go to the library, verro??

Hello Steve:

First let me comment about discussion boards – they are infectious! I have never posted on one before and somehow seem to have quite quickly become enamored of doing so, at least so far.
As I wrote my time is short for playing around on the net, however, archaeology is a topic I am fascinated by and rugs have also captured my attention and interest. That said, I feel that because I have done my homework, ie. reading about both subjects for many years and also having some hands on experience in both fields, I am qualified to offer valuable and meaningful commentary.
Also having been involved in the business world, but not the business of rugs, my experience there affords me some measure of expertise there as well.
Now to answer your comments:
1. If the presenter was not interested in the prices of these kurd rug he never would have started his presentation with such a lead in. This is as obvious as the nose on your face, but if you choose not to recognize this fact that’s ok,too – its your nose! My mention of this does not imply Wendorf’s work is ONLY commercially oriented but it does signify his interest therein. And by the way it is not really entertaining but just another truism, which points up the dishonesty that is rampant in the world of selling rugs. Also the reason Kurdish rugs have less value than a Caucasian rug is quite obvious to all and it not only market mechanics that are responsible.
2. My motivation for commenting is to set the record straight with facts, something that sadly seems to be lost on you and perhaps the presenter as well. Your comments do not address what I have written in this regard, they only address your “opinion” about Mellaart.
3. Your idiot metaphor is also, for me at least, not very well put. Question mark or not Wendorf’s implications are clearly made : Kurdish weaving has an 8000 year history. He who questions weather or not you are an idiot is in a similar position, ie. The implication of something.
4. As for the central issues here, again at least for me, the discarding of Mellaart’s work are you really serious. Anyone can make a mistake or make an error of judgment, right? Mellaart’s faux pas is undeniable but if he had presented the rug work as supposition and conjecture then all would have been better received. He didn’t and this is his problem, but to discount all that came before as also dubious is completely foolish. Remember, Mellaart’s discovery of Catal Huyuk and Hacilar, as well as his writings on many other aspects of Near Eastern pre-history are not only accepted by the academic community but used as text-books in many many universities as important teaching tools. Catal Huyuk is being investingated again and the finding there support undeniably Mellaart’s work and findings. Have you read his work, or are you like the presenter of this presentation only privy to what Mellaart wrote in the works aimed at the rug world? Again, I am sure you and he haven’t so your opinions concerning who and what Mellaart is are, in my opinion, less than worthless, Please go do some homework, read Catal Huyuk- A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, read The Neolithic of the Near East, find and read Anatolian Studies vols. XII, XIII, XIV and XVI, read Excavations At Hacilar – you might learn something and I will bet your “opinions” of Mellart’s work will be changed.
5. I do not mean to “put you or the presenter down” but your position here is untenable and frankly, ignorant.
6. Lastly, if the presenter was so adamant that Mellaart’s work is so flawed, why does he obsess with some of the most sensational aspects of Mellaart’s writings for the rug world that all concerned will admit are somewhat spurious?
7. If this presentation remained on firm ground, ie. How much the presenter “loves” kurd rugs, I would have not commented, as I can whole heartedly respect anyone’s subjective “opinion and feeling” but when those opinions were presented as fact, just like Mellart’s opinions were presented as fact, I felt it necessary to reply. Oh and by the way, why have neither you nor the presenter seen fit to retract, or at least recognize, the errors and mistakes he made that I enumerated in the last post. If I am presumptive of your continued contemplation of them, then please forgive me.

Posted by Steve Price on 07-25-2002 10:05 AM:

Hi Guido,

First, I remind you for the very last time: we debate ideas, sometimes very vigorously and heatedly. We do not permit calling people ignorant, stupid, venal, meanspirited, etc., when doing so. That contributes nothing to the argument - it results in heat when what we need is light. I am not going to permit debate on this site to degenerate into the food fights we've all seen on others.

To more substantive matters:
1. Michael Wendorf is the name of the person you keep referring to as "the presenter", and it will add civility to your posts if use it.
2. The fact that neither Michael nor I have directly stated whether we have read Mellaart's writing doesn't constitute proof of anything, contrary to your flat-out assertion to the contrary. For the record, I have read excerpts of Mellaart's work, all within the context of his reports about weaving. The commentaries on his work in ORR and HALI demonstrate convincingly that he included fraudulent information in his reports. I'm not an archeologist, but I am a university professor and I know the standards that are used in academics. Error is tolerated; everybody makes mistakes. But your conviction that a scholar can submit fraudulent reports of his scholarly efforts without losing his credibility is simply wrong. I'm ignorant of lots of things, but this isn't one of them.
3. The lead-in sentence is, in my opinion, exactly what it appears to be. It has no sinister undertones, in my opinion, and even if it did, that would not bear on the correctness or falsity of anything else in the essay. To put it bluntly, you are invited to keep your opinions of other peoples' motives to yourself if you want to remain welcome here.
4. The only assertions you made of factual errors in my posts are, I believe, responded to in this one. I leave Michael's response to him, of course.


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-25-2002 11:51 AM:

Mr Mellaart's and Mr. Pizziola's credibility

Dear Mr. Pizziola:

Perhaps you should consider treading more lightly, you are on the verge of exposing yourself, not to mention your motivations.

This Salon was not conceived of as either an attack on or a psalm to Mr. Mellaart. He was responsible for the initial excavation of the carbonized fragments referenced in the Salon. No doubt he is or was a competent scholar. He has also engaged in a pattern of deception and falsehood that undermines his credibility. It is not just the reconstructed drawings, it goes back even to the Dorak Affair. If you want to defend Mr. Mellaart, you will have to do so alone. Perhaps you will agree to host your own Salon devoted to this?

The arguments I make, like the carbonized textiles, are quite separate and distinct from Mr. Mellaart and his credibility.

It could turn out that you are correct, that no loom was used to make any of the carbonized fragments including those described by me and others as weftless transverse soumak. But this would mean that numerous competent scholars whose credibility has never been questioned including Helbaeck, Burnham, Ryder and others are all wrong. It would also mean that the very construction of these weftless transverse wrapped soumaks is misunderstood by everyone who examined them. This includes Mr. Mellaart himself. For additional respsonse, please go back to # 2 of my previous post.

It is axiomatic that interpreting the past is subjective. This interpretation, however, should be based on whatever empirical evidence is available. Mr. Mellaart has been discredited because he engaged in interpretations based on no or fabricated evidence. You can continue to believe what you wish, you can consider the empirical evidence for yourself and reach whatever subjective interpretation you want. The empirical evidence is out there and it demonstrates that weftless transverse soumaks, as well as other simple textiles were woven as early as 6000 B.C. I think the connection between these weftless transverse soumaks and Kurdish weavings of much later vintage is worth further consideration and interpretation. I have presented my interpretation.

Michael Wendorf

Posted by Marla_Mallett on 07-25-2002 08:35 PM:

Here are drawings of three of the several textile constructions found in carbonized form at Catal Huyuk. These are from Harald Burnham’s report, “Catal Huyuk: The Textiles and Twined Fabrics, Anatolian Studies, 15, 1965, pp. 169-174. They illustrate both the wrapped and twined structures found at the site.The third figure shows the heading cord construction that indicates the likely presence and use of a warp-weighted loom for a darned fabric.


Posted by Bob Kent on 07-26-2002 03:52 AM:


While one might find other reasons (e.g., dyes, wool, aesthetics) that we'd all agree upon to appreciate Kurdish rugs, GP states that their importance is significantly reduced by a lack of age and design originality. Moreover, GP notes that this lack of originality is so clear that for example all designs shown here can easily be shown to be derivative of other weaving traditions.

I am new to rugs, and I know that a lot of effort has already gone into this thread, but I am a fan of several of these designs. I wonder if GP might choose a few of the presented designs including the first rug (Blue field, octogons, offset knots? - I recently found a similar rug that I like very much) and maybe the 'shikak' one and explain a bit about their origins. This might be interesting and clarify the design-originality issue a bit... Thanks to everyone, I love the topic! see you, bob kent

Posted by Guido_Pizziola on 07-26-2002 03:25 PM:

Greetings Mr. Wendorf:

Your most recent response has an air of suspicion about it. Why? You speak about me exposing myself, can you explain what you mean? As for the topic at hand, leaving Mr Mellaart aside for the moment, which seems to boil down to the method of manufacture of the textiles from Catal and their relationship to your presentation, my comments and not yours are closest to the truth. You assert they are loom woven and cite several researchers in support of this, in fact you even cite Mellaart himself, but (deleted with consent of the author) none of them proved they WERE loom woven and all of them clearly harbor doubts as to this fact.

But leaving that issue aside also, I found your (deleted with consent of the author) relationship between these carbonized bits of cloth (deleted with consent of the author) full of assumption as you criticize Mellaart for presenting.

For the record, the bits from Catal are the only pre-6000 B.C. "textiles" now known. Yes there are others but they are more knitting or basket-weaving, ie twinned or like macrame, than the Catal fragments, which by the way bear in NO regard any similarity to anything you might in the greatest stretch of anyone's imagination call kurdish. (deleted with consent of the author) Fact is fact, no-one who has examined them and written about them states unequivocably their status as loom woven. (deleted with consent of the author) I, too, have read the abstracts dealing with them and nowhere did I read what you state as fact.

Also another error you make is calling weftless transverse soumak loom weaving, (deleted with consent of the author) this "technique" can be either loom or loom-LESS woven. You have made the typical mistakes many researchers make - fitting
the facts to the theory, rather than the reverse.

(deleted with consent of the author) Again, I find nothing objectionable about you waxing poetic about your "love" of kurd pieces, only your (deleted with consent of the author) > attempts to make them "important" through association (deleted with consent of the author).

Now then, just for the record, would you and Mr Price please unequivocably state what actual archaeological work of Mellaart you have read (deleted with consent of the author)? It is far easier to read the sensational view of his work presented in rug magazines then to read the many academic papers, research documents, excavation reports and books Mellaart has authored.

I do not wish to open the can of worms and begin to debate the importance of kurdish iconography, or even if there in one , however, I challenge you, or anyone else out there, to present any kurdish weaving with a design that can not be shown to have been copied from another (earlier) groups weaving. In fact I find their designs rather repetitive and at best rather boring and ordinary and their color palettes without subtlety and magic. But that's just my opinion.

P.S: Your remark "It is axiomatic that interpreting the past is subjective" really means little when discussing facts and hopefully, Mr. Wendorf, that is what this is all about - facts. Am I not correct? Also to your, and I quote again "I think the connection between these weftless transverse soumaks and Kurdish weavings of much later vintage is worth further consideration and interpretation." I can only ask why, when the facts belie even the slightest connection, as the technique is different, the patterns different (the Catal pieces have NO pattern) and the materials are different. So what, Mr. Wendorf, (deleted with consent of the author) is analogous between them??

(deleted with consent of the author)

PPPSSS: I just noticed the posting by Marla Mallet of diagrams of the weaving structures, well three of them at least, of textiles recovered at Catal Huyuk and they do not resemble, in any degree, anything called kurdish. I have photos of the textiles illustrated in Anatolian Studies and they too do not look like any modern or older kurdish weaving. Again Mr Wendorf, where's your proof??

Posted by Steve Price on 07-26-2002 08:11 PM:

Hi Guido,

You address one question to me in your last post: ...please unequivocably state what actual archaeological work of Mellaart you have read? It is far easier to read the sensational view of his work presented in rug magazines then to read the many academic papers, research documents, excavation reports and books Mellaart has authored.

I thought I answered this one already, but let me try to do it better this time.
1. I have read only those excerpts of Mellaart's work that appeared in ORR and HALI. I am not an archeologist, not even an amateur, and the only part of his work in which I am interested is that pertaining to weaving.
2. Apart from a sort of morbid curiosity - the kind that makes people slow down as they pass a really awful automobile accident - I see no reason why anyone interested in the history of weaving should read Mellaart. It is fairly conclusively shown that he made fraudulent reports of his findings in at least some instances, so his writings are not a reliable source of information. In academia (at least in the life sciences, which I speak to from nearly 40 years of experience), once an investigator has done such a thing, the entire corpus of his scholarly contributions is thrown out by his professional community until specific findings are confirmed by others. When that happens, those findings - and only those findings - are taken seriously.
3. You mention that he has written some textbooks that are still used. I know nothing of that, but if the textbooks are of a fairly general nature and are well written this is plausible. Anything he published in the professional literature would make up a very small part of a general text, and if he doesn't cite his own work extensively some instructors may choose to use it.

I hope this clears things up.

Steve Price

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-26-2002 11:50 PM:

Tennis anyone?

Greetings Mr. Pizziola:

This evening, in your honor, I enjoyed a fine Bistecca Pizziola; thank you for this namesake delight. The menu also offered chicken, but I thought it might send the wrong signal.

To satisfy your curiosity, I will share a few of Mr. Mellaart's contributions that I have, at a minimum, familiarized myself with:

Earliest Civilizations of the Near East, 1965.
The Neolithic of the Near East, London 1975.
Excavations of Catal Huyuk, 1961, First Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies XII, 1962.
Same, 1962, Second Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies XIII, 1963.
Same, 1963, Third Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies XIV.
Same, 1965, Fourth Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies XVI.
I confess I never bothered to read The Goddess of Anatolia.

I also am not a professional archaeologist although I have access to the staff and library here at the University of Michigan. My review of materials is mostly, but not exclusively, related to textiles and weaving. I have also been trying to stay in touch with Ian Hodder's work that is current at Catal Huyuk. In addition, I have been trying to arrange a week in Ankara next summer with a ph.d candidate in archaeology from UM to examine what is there.

Having disposed of this odd task and taking you on your word that we are leaving Mr. Mellaart aside, at least for the moment, perhaps we can return to issues relevant to this Salon? Perhaps we can also do without passing shots, even lobs and focus more on a serve and volley? Serve and volley really suits the forum and topic somewhat better as this is not really intended as a match sport. That said, if you enjoy tennis, I invite you to come and play. I will turn the lights on and after a few sets we can even take a steam. Consider it an open invitation.

I take it you now accept that in addition to twined textiles, which are not part of my discussion or argument, there exist textiles that we are calling weftless transverse soumak.

You are correct that I assume, without knowing for certain, that these weftless transverse soumaks (that date to circa 5980 - 5780 BC) were woven on a loom. I also assume, without knowing for certain, that the weftless soumak weavings depicted in my Salon were woven on a loom. You are also correct that I cited numerous researchers, let's call them archaeologists, in support of this, including Mellaart himself. I think this was in response to passing shot #2 and where I also quoted at length from Burnham.

You point out in your most recent post that "none of them proved they WERE loom woven and all of them clearly harbor doubts as to this fact." I cannot know what doubts these archaeologists harbored, if any. Neither can you. We only know what they reported and what they concluded from the evidence available to them. In this way, you are being quite selective in your memory. The lack of proof you reference stems from the fact that whatever loom might have been used has been lost due to decomposition and/or oxidation. Perhaps it is worthwhile to quote Burnham again:

"The textile tools of Catal Huyuk were undoubtedly of wood, and no recognizable trace has survived. In view of our knowledge of the extended distribution of the dropped spindle throughout the Near East in later periods, it seems likely that this was th etool employed for spinning. With the presence of the heading cord described above (See drawing fig. 3 from Anatolian Studies supplied by Marla Mallett), the type of weaving equipment may be conjectured. The use of heading cords implies knowledge of the warp weighted loom."

You also make a significant point that the technique we are calling weftless transverse soumak can be done on a loom or without a loom. I am not a weaver and unaware of the evidence that would support your statement. I would appreciate your sharing it with us. Ultimately, I do not think that whether the technique can or cannot be woven without a loom changes my argument.

The argument again being this:

1) This weftless soumak technique is unique.
2) We know this unique technique was used as long ago as 6000 BC and that it represents the earliest form of soumak. It also predates the invention of loom shedding devices and the heddle.
3) In the 19th century, Kurdish weavers wove a variety of storage sacks and bags in this same technique. No other weavings groups used this unique technique into the 19th century other than Kurdish weavers, so far as we know.
4) Is this mere coincidence or is there a connection?
5) Considered together with other weavings, I argue there could be a connection - call it a tradition. This tradition was so deeply ingrained that Kurdish weavers continued to use this unique technique as handed down to them to weave a variety of storage and saddle bags.

You summarily reject the very notion that the possibility of such a weaving tradition is worth considering. I find this odd. To further support your summary conclusion you finally state that the Catal Huyuk fragments and the Kurdish weavings have not the "slightest connection" between them. First, you claim the technique is different. Well, I believe I have shown already now several times that the technique is not different. Second, you claim the patterns are different. Here, I think you are reaching the point of desperation insofar as I have never made any claim that the weaving had the same patterns. Of course, you know from having read the reports as well as I that the fragments are, just as I wrote, carbonized. Thus any pattern they may have had is not discernable.

Here is what Burnham had to say on this point:

"One point naturally of interest in connection with these earliest of textile finds is whether they were colored or patterned in anyway. Due to the carbonization and the fact that they are all now dark brown to black, the possible use of dyes cannot be ascertained. Various plants that are excellent sources of natural dye stuffs still grow wild in the neighborhood of Catal Huyuk as they probably did in antiquity....

In the study of the surviving fragments, no evidence for patterned weaving of any kind could be found." page 173.

Third, you claim the materials are different. This is, of course, true. As I wrote in my Salon, the fragments are bast fiber, probably flax. But, if you have done the research you claim, you also know that in 5800 BC wool was too hairy, too kempy and too pigmented to be suitable for spinning, dyeing and weaving. Ryder's research in this area is well known. So you are merely stating the obvious. Again, I do not believe this makes a connection impossible. Certainly you have not established why this is relevant.

Weaving is not static. There have been innovations in loom technology, in materials and dyes and weaving itself. This does not mean, as you would have it, that weavings in the same technique necessarily bear not the slightest connection.

Finally, I believe that I have presented a few Kurdish designs that I believe might be their own. If you wish to challenge any of them specifically, I would be delighted to hear your argument.

Obviously, we do not view Kurdish weaving and color palettes the same. But I leave you to your taste and opinion.

I hope that I have responded candidly to some of your concerns. And I wish you a good evening.

Michael Wendorf

Posted by Sophia Gates on 07-27-2002 12:08 AM:

The Importance of Mellaart

Steve, Guido, Marla, Michael, et. al.,

Some thoughts, first about the digs in ancient Asia Minor: I can't claim to have read extensively from Mellaart's work in this area, but I've become somewhat familiar with it from several different angles, so I'd like to mention them here.

First - the very existence of those ancients and their artifacts has given students of human history a new glimpse into our past. The history of textiles is intimately intertwined (ahem - interwoven?) with the history of human endeavor, so the fact that textiles this old have been found isn't at all surprising to me. Indeed, I think if textiles weren't inherently so perishable we'd be finding a lot more of them and many that are much much older. What surprises me is that anybody would be surprised at their discovery! Alas, we can't know for sure whether people 8,000 years ago in Asia Minor had looms or not and if so, what they were like - but I'd be surprised, frankly, if they DIDN'T have them. After all homo sapiens has been around considerably longer than that. Other discoveries in Europe have been pushing our concepts of "prehistory" back thousands of years.

Secondly - I wouldn't be so quick to assume, Steve, that because Mellaart overreached himself in one aspect of his work that one must dismiss the rest of it. I think the points he was making - both about the possibly sacred nature of weaving and weaving motifs and about worship of The Goddess, deserve serious study and examination. I've encountered mention of the Catal Hayak excavations in treatises concerning The Goddess in the ancient Fertile Crescent, before the time of male gods and monotheism. And, studies of the Hopi and the Anasazi in the Southwest U.S. have revealed kiva art both striking and sacred in nature - and weaving to this day is performed in the kivas - the sacred places. Not that the two are connected necessarily - but I believe it's possible to infer that the very nature of making cloth is so important to human life that it may well have had sacred overtones in the ancient Near East as well.

In short, I believe some of Guido's points are well taken and that the rug community might want to rethink some of the presently unfashionable Goddess/kilim theories.

As far as the relative "importance" of textiles is concerned, however, I'd like to offer another perspective. Like Michael, I adore Kurdish rugs. I don't find their designs derivative or boring, any more than Celtic folk music is derivative or boring. The most natural Kurdish designs, the ones most commonly found on tribal pieces - diamonds and lozenges, stepped pyramids, eye shapes, so forth - grow both out of archetypal forms AND out of flat-weaving techniques, out of the gridlike forms imposed by the craft of weaving itself. Are they "original"? Yes and no. No, they aren't UNIQUE. BUT - each rug, each bag, is absolutely an original, made by a person much more intimately connected to its making than the weavers of the most fantastic workshop rug.

So - are they less valuable for being simple geometric forms? I think not! Certainly the market is waking up to the fact that simple everyday items made by people to use can be beautiful and useful and therefore precious. Humble items, like the plain Japanese tea implements which are so prized by that artistically wise and sophisticated nation, can be as valuable as the most complicated and original object. Why? Because of what they provoke in us; because of what they meant to their makers; because of what they can tell us about our world and about our past.

Can we prove a link between the Kurds of today and the ghostly weavers of 8,000 years ago? Perhaps not directly - but on the other hand I don't see why we shouldn't at least consider the possibility of a link. Nothing comes from nothing, and human history is nothing if not a story of knowledge hard-won and carefully passed down, generation to generation.

Posted by Steve Price on 07-27-2002 06:06 AM:

Hi Sophia,

Thanks for your thoughtful (as always) post. One piece is directed to me, so I will say a few words about it. Specifically, ...I wouldn't be so quick to assume, Steve, that because Mellaart overreached himself in one aspect of his work that one must dismiss the rest of it. I think the points he was making - both about the possibly sacred nature of weaving and weaving motifs and about worship of The Goddess, deserve serious study and examination.

This has two major elements in it:
1. The first is the matter of whether Mellaart's fraudulent report of his findings has any repercussions on the credibility of the rest of his work. In my discipline it disqualifies him as a scholar, and the community of scholars rejects any unconfirmed finding he made in the past or makes in the future. Perhaps archeologists have different professional standards than life scientists do, but I doubt it.
2. The second is whether some of the ideas he proposed have merit. I don't dismiss this at all, my position is simply that whatever merit they have must be based on something other than his professional status. The specific points you cite about the sacred nature of weaving and weaving motifs, and Goddess worship, are unquestionably worth serious study and examination. This would be true if Mellaart had never written a word. In fact, his writings constitute a distraction, not a contribution, to the serious study and examination of these matters.


Steve Price

Posted by Yon Bard on 07-27-2002 09:27 AM:

Michael, I think the fact that weftless Sumak was found in 8000 year old excavations as well as in 100-year old Kurdish weavings cannot be taken as meaningful. There are countless examples in many areas of techniques being reinvented in different places and epochs. Unless one can find a continuity of examples spanning the millenia there is little that can be inferred from such a coincidence.

Regards, Yon

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 07-27-2002 09:59 AM:

Mr Wendorf and all- granted the relationships between weave technique and design ascription are tenuous, and that the further removed from the present all the more dubious, I believe most would agree that a relationship exists . Check my "Old Rugs In Instanbul" post for further elaboration. And, Mr. Wendorf, I noticed a reference to a Mr. Ryder and his research on wool and it's suitability for textile use - would you know of any sources, on line or other, where I could find this research? Seems to be something I need to read. I only have one thing to say about Kordi rugs- Gorgeous! I for one have no problem discerning between apples and oranges. -Dave

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-27-2002 10:08 AM:

continuity of examples

Dear Yon:

I do not necessarily agree although I agree that the ultimate question is, as you as well as Mr. Pizziola in a somewhat different way, whether anything can be inferred from the existence of these two groups of weavings. As I wrote in my Salon, this may be mere coincidence. On the other hand, it could be something much more - particularly when considered within the entire corpus of Kurdish weaving. I continue to find it surprising that amateur archaeologists, serious rug collectors and researchers are so quick to summarily conclude that nothing can be inferred and that to even consider the issue is a waste of mental energy. Perhaps it is because so much conventional wisdom and so many cherished beliefs would be tarnished.

Moreover, while we are unlikely to find a continuity of examples, this does not mean that such examples did not exist. Rather, it means that even if they did, we are unlikely to find them because they were not preserved. As utilitarian weavings, the fact that they were not preserved is not surprising to me.

Finally, I do not know what you refer to or mean by "countless examples in many areas of techniques being reinvented in different places and epochs." While this may be so, these unspecified examples may well all be distinguishable from weftless transverse soumaks. Why? Because weftless transverse soumak is unique. The fact that we are unlikely to find such a continuity of examples means exactly what when we know that an ancient technique and method of construction that predates the invention of the modern loom was also or continued to be practised by a particular weaving group long after the need to use this technique and construction method had vanished?

I, for one, think it could be more than coincidence. But I acknowledge that this could just be my own cherished notion. What I am waiting for is for the naysayers to present a non-conclusory argument why it cannot be so and why it all must be coincidence.

Regards, Michael

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-27-2002 10:34 AM:

M.L. Ryder

Mr. Hunt:

Thanks for your post.

Ryder's work is discussed and summarized in Barber's book, Prehistoric Textiles. A must have book. Further references also found there.

You may go to the source as follows:

Ryder, M. L. (1964) Reports of Textiles from Catal Huyuk, Anatolian Studies, XIV (1964), pp.175-76.

Ryder, M. L. and Gabra-Sanders,T. (1985) The application of microscopy to textile history, Textile History, 16, no. 2 (1985) pp. 123-40.

Where is this Old Rugs in Istanbul post you refer to?

Regards, michael wendorf

Posted by Steve Price on 07-27-2002 10:50 AM:

Hi Michael,

The "Old Rugs in Istanbul" thread is on our Show and Tell Board. I've just copied it to the forum devoted to your Salon, so that it can be archived as part of it instead of being a lost reference in the discussion.

That took about 5 keystrokes. I really love this software package!


Steve Price

Posted by John Collins on 07-27-2002 04:46 PM:

What's real?

Dear Sirs,

Are Messrs. Wendorf and Pizziola speaking in code? What could the "commercial" motivation which Michael is accused of possibly be? Conversely, what "agenda" did Mr. Pizziola almost "give away"? I don't know whether to laugh or throw water on them.
As for my friend Michael's 8,000 Year Theory, Yon Bard was succinct. Two examples of a technique, separated by 8,000 (!) years with NO intervening evidence are as close to irrelevant as if the information were random. (Does anyone remember the "academic" lady in the Monty Python sketch who spent an interminable time announcing her "theory, which is mine, and mine alone", and it turned out to be that "dinosaurs are teeny at one end, get relly really big in the middle, and the taper off at the end".?)
I like Kurdish rugs, too. In fact, I have spent some hours with Michael looking at them. Why is it not sufficient for Michael to enjoy and study the Kurdish rugs he obviously loves without attaching them to this "grassy knoll" theory? Aren't they "important" enough on their own?
I confess that I like "Persianate" themes. I will even go so far as to state without shame that the design vocabulary that the Safavid Dynasty bequeathed upon civilation is just peachy with me. These shortcomings of mine, however, do not prevent me from enthusiastically enjoying tribal work. My dear friend, however, feels empowered to declare that Kurdish rugs of the type he doesn't like are not Kurdish at all. This is a breathtaking leap of hubris worthy of Chauvin.
Michael declares that Bijars are not Kurdish as we (one assumes this is the royal "we") have come to know them. He further states that some respected dealers still call them Kurdish.
He is correct. In fact, everybody but Michael sees them as Kurdish. He states that this "mistake" began with Cecil Edwards (who may have known something about Persian rugs). However, all writers from the early 20th century on, including M.S. Dimand who called them Kurdish work, and great ones at that.
There is a plethora of rugs which are called "Bijar". They range from the truly tribal to the truly commercial. While some centers of production (especially in the 20th century) were non-Kurd, most Bijars (especially in the 19th century) were made by Kurds.
No 21st century American collector has the right to declare which Kurdish products are "real", based on his personal preferences.

John Collins

Posted by Guido on 07-27-2002 05:43 PM:

match point?

Greetings to All:
First to Mr. Wendorf I hope your steak was enjoyable and I must thank you for the offer of a tennis match but my advanced age doesn’t permit me to engage in such strenuous exercise! Thirty years ago, however, I am sure I would have given you some tough competition but for now perhaps this will be limited to discussing your presentation.
Along those line let me put into perspective what you and Mr. Price seem to still find objection to:
1. The fragments recovered from Catal Huyuk are believed to be some type of burial goods and most probably were wrappings for the excarnated bones. (Excarnation is the practice of removing the flesh from the skeleton before burial). They were all small pieces and have a thin fine texture. Let me quote from Anatolian Studies and the Third Preliminary Report where these textiles as first discussed and illustrated as Plate XXIV – “The skeletons were laid on mats, placed in baskets or most common of all wrapped in cloth, skin or fur. There are traces of skull-caps, string skirts, fringed garments, shawls and fine cloth (Pl.XXIV). Straps of cloth or rope held the wrapped up corpses together.”
2. Now then these woven fragments, all of which came from this location and are so described above, to which Mr. Wendorf refers are clearly cloth not bags, not rugs, not hangings but CLOTH. Leaving aside the question of their method of manufacture, none of them possesses any similarity in weight, texture or purpose of use with the Kurdish weftless transverse soumaks as his presentation claims.
3. The fragments from Catal are further described in Catal Huyuk:A Neolithic Town in Anatolia as showing “…great technical skill…” being “…plain tabby weave..plain weave…(others) with a widely spaced weft producing a shawl- like textile…others show knotting resembling a fish-net pattern…”. No where are they said to be bags or rugs, mats or hangings.
4. So where is the evidence, beside descriptions of a technique that is also arguably dissimilar, to support and validate your assertion these late 19th and 20th century Kurdish weftless transverse soumak weavings are related to textiles made in 6000BC?
5. You also reference the existence of other 8000 year old textiles besides those from Catal Huyuk in attempting to prove your point but all of these which are presently known have even less similarity than those from Catal, as they are clearly not woven but knotted, netted, twinned or knitted.
6. All the Kurdish soumaks you illustrate are clearly not cloth intended as clothing and nowhere have I, or anyone else I would believe, heard of Kurdish people wearing weftless transverse soumak shirts or pants! So again, how can your analogy be considered as valid or even congruent?
I will stop here as the above is enough to negate your claims and while I can appreciate all the effort you put into your presentation and postings in support of it I can in no regard see any truth in it.

deleted with the author's consent) Can I rest my case now (deleted with the author' consent)?

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-27-2002 07:06 PM:

what's authentic?

Dear Readers:

My friend John Collins accuses me of "hubris worthy of Chauvin," states that I improperly feel "empowered" to declare Kurdish rugs of the type that I do not like to not be Kurdish at all, and that no 21st century collector has the right to declare which Kurdish products are "real" based on his personal preferences. With glass of wine in hand, I might feel honored that a man of such understatement has bestowed all of this upon me. In this forum, I feel a response is necessary.

If I am guilty of hubris then I am certainly in good company with my friend John. What empowers me to state or argue anything about Kurdish rugs must be exactly that which also empowers John to discuss his views of Kurdistan, "Kurdishness" and "authentic" Kurdish rugs as he did in his article Power and Simplicity, The Evolution of the Central Medallion Design in Bijar Rugs, 1840 - 1940 published in Hali 111. My reply is found in Hali 113.

Having publicly rejected technique (as well as design) as a means to identify a Kurdish rug, I suppose one cannot be too surprised to learn that John considers my argument regarding weftless soumaks to be "random information." And while John's love for Persianate designs and the design vocabulary of the Safavid Dynasty is actually shared by me, I do not believe they necessarily represent a "Kurdish" tradition, and certainly not one of long standing.

Though John seems to deny it, I enjoy a good Bijar, a good Sennah and a good Hamadan Kolyai. I simply do not think of them as Kurdish even though many may have woven by Kurdish weavers, John's efforts to link the Bijar structure to Kurds notwithstanding. The distinction here is possibly a small one, but a significant one. The fact that a Kurdish weaver wove a particular rug does not make it necessarily traditionally Kurdish. As I wrote in the Salon, I think of Bijars, Sennahs and Kolyai rugs - each with their own structure - to be responses to specific commercial demands.

Whether John confuses this point or simply ignores it matters not. John has spent a lot of time trying to establish Bijars as Kurdish rugs; I see it differently and it has nothing to do with my preferences or what I like or dislike. In fact, I like most things, even John.

John also brings M.S. Dimand into the fray. Of course, Mr. Dimand's most well known work - Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art was published in 1973, not the early 20th century. And Mr. Dimand does not calls Bijars, Sennahs or Kolyais Kurdish, he says that south of Azerbaijan lies the "mountainous country of Kurdistan, with its central province of Ardalan, inhabited by nomadic Kurds." He then goes on to say Kurds wove rugs in Garrus and Bijar, but he does not call them Kurdish or Kurdish rugs. In fact, they are village rugs of high quality woven to be sold and woven in many instances by Kurdish people who were inhabitants of those villages. Ditto Sennah. He also mentions that other "well-known Kurdish rugs are woven in Sauj Bulaq." Dimand pp. 91 -92. So what were the nomadic Kurds weaving and what about them Sauj Bulaqs?

Finally, I do not believe I am declaring anything, whether based on personal preferences or not. I am trying to create a framework to understand a group of rugs that have been denigrated or ignored even by people who claim to love rugs. This a group of rugs and a people that may have an old and maybe even an ancient history notwithstanding the misfortunes of the last hundreds of years. No, I do not think Bijars, Sennahs or Kolyais - however beautiful or saleable they may be, shed much light on the story. In fact, I think they do the opposite. If this makes me worthy of Chauvin, then so be it.

Michael Wendorf

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 07-27-2002 07:35 PM:

Going in Circles

First, thanks to Michael for putting on this salon and including a grand range of beautiful Kurdish rugs.
They do deserve more appreciation (and not necessarily monetary - asserting that Michael has an intent to profit from this is disingenuous), just as the Kurdish people themselves deserve more appreciation.

The big issue in this thread is whether Kurdish weavings of the 19th century are related to neolithic weavings. Michael has issued that conjecture, and with plenty of reservations that I can discern, as it relates to just a few of the weavings in the Salon. The most that can conclusively be determined is that the technique of construction is the same. Any statement of fact that "Kurds" wove the Catal Hayuk pieces is incontrovertibly unproveable today, and I do not read that Michael is claiming such. But it does mean that someone did continue using the technique in the 19th century - reinvented or not.

Unfortunately we have a similar argument raging in the Pacific Northwest of the US. A skeleton (Kennewick Man) was recently found near the Columbia River pegged at 10,000 years old. The local Native American tribes claimed that he was their ancestor and demanded immediate reburial without any study of the bones. Scientists noticed similarities to Caucasian features and wished to confirm as much as possible about the bones. This led to conjecture that Europeans were in the Americas 10,000 years ago.

Both "Kennewick Man" claims are as absurd as the claim that "Kurds" wove the Catal Hayuk pieces. What it does mean is that there were people here 10,000 years ago, just as the Catal Hayuk pieces mean only that there was weaving being done 8,000 years ago in Anatolia. Determining who the Catal Hayuk weavers were, and who the "Kennewick Man" was, needs a lot more study than is likely even possible using techniques available today. Even as conservative as many tribal peoples are, they can walk, and probably did walk in response to the many environmental and cultural changes over the last 8-10,000 years.

James Opie, in his book Tribal Rugs, attempts to make the same distinction that I think Michael is making:

"My primary effort here is much less ambitious, focusing once again on distinguishing rugs that contain traditional tribal designs from those based on urban patterns. The latter category includes rugs from the Kurdish towns of Bidjar and Senneh, where high standards continued throughout the nineteenth century. Commercial weaving workshops in Kurdistan date back at least several hundred years and probably much longer...The similarities of folk patterns in rugs from Kurdistan and from the southern Caucasus are so striking that at times it is difficult to know if a certain rug should be labeled Kurdish or Kazak....Parallel comments can be made about many Kurdish rugs from Anatolia...However, the possibility that Kurds influenced an extremely broad range of traditional rug and kilim patterns in Anatolia is rarely, if ever, acknowledged. The diffusion of Kurdish people into both the Caucasus and Anatolia could well date to the first millenium B.C."

Well, Michael, Opie takes you about halfway to 6000B.C.!

He goes on to say:

"Given the strong urban and commercial ingredients in Bidjar work, it can be debated wheher these are truly Kurdish rugs. However, Bidjar is well inside Kurdish territory, and the great majority of weavers there were Kurds."

So, by default the rugs were probably woven by Kurds, but by Michael's definition, they are not entirely "Kurdish", any more than a paint-by-numbers picture is "Art". But it also does not mean that they are not extremely wonderful. I would gladly exchange all of the rugs on my floor for 19th century Bidjars.

I personally do not think that much of this information is either Hotly Debatable or even entirely relevant to the Salon, though.
Considering that the last rug in the Salon is quite likely a workshop rug and also just happens to be one of Michaels favorites shows that he does not dislike urban Kurdish pieces.

This Salon should be providing us a better idea of what good Kurdish rugs look like, some distinguishing characteristics, reference material suggestions and some comparison pieces from the respondents. Not antagonism and certainly not two pages devoted to whether Melaart should be reinstated to scientific acceptibility, any more than we should be debating whether Pete Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Glenn Manser on 07-27-2002 07:52 PM:

Patrick !

I couldn't agree more .

With no disrespect meant to anyone, let's move on from this constipation that appears to be limiting the discussion of Kurdish weavings.


Posted by Steve Price on 07-27-2002 08:08 PM:

Hi Folks,

Since part of the issue here is the question of who was the cultural ancestor of whom, I'll toss in a semi-relevant, but true, story.

A few months ago I visited Catal Huyuk with Mehmet Ucar (he's in Konya, and it's only about a 45 minute drive to Catal Huyk, even less if the police don't stop you for speeding). As we walked, he wondered aloud what happened to the people who were here 8000 or so years ago. "Mehmet abi", I said, "their descendents are still in Turkey, and they all own rug shops."


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Wendorf on 07-28-2002 08:30 AM:

over time and reasonable inference

Dear Readers:

This thread has brought to light a group of ancient fragments. I think the importance of this group of 8000 year old fragments is denied by no one. Interpreting these fragments and their significance, like the past, is subjective.

I doubt that I or anyone else could ever offer the level of proof demanded by Mr. Pizziola to connect them with Kurdish weavings. There is neither a smoking gun nor a confession. There is only a relatively small number of carbonized fragments.

But proof comes in many forms. One of these forms is circumstantial. By circumstantial I mean evidence that tends to prove a fact in issue by proving other events or circumstances which themselves provide a basis for reasonable inference of the occurrence of the fact in issue.

I have not argued that that these fragments were woven by Kurds. What I have argued is that there is a Kurdish weaving tradition and that this weaving tradition could be ancient - it could be an 8000 year tradition. Part of the evidence for this tradition and the possibility that this tradition is ancient is the fact that Kurds wove weftless transverse soumaks long after the need to do had vanished and long after any other groups who may have also done so had abandoned the technique. It is not the only evidence even though this thread tends to make it appear that the argument rises and falls on my ability to make a conclusive connection between the fragments and later Kurdish weavings. This is not the case.

And what about that conclusive connection? I think it is too easy to ask only for this. The past again is subjective and the real question is what reasonable inference, if any, can be made. Mr. Pizziola is quite right, the fragments are most likely burial textiles and though it is not conclusive for each textile, much less for the weftless transverse soumak, it is probably fair to characterize them as loosely woven, more like cloth. (by the way, I saw a piece of weftless soumak last year that was intended to be part of a vest). And, of course, no storage sacks, saddlebags or rugs were found among at Catal Huyuk. But what does this really mean? The pastoral nomadic lifestyle that gave rise to the saddlebags and sacks that Kurds wove in this technique was most likely not yet established 8000 years ago when the fragments were woven. Thousands of years would likely have passed between 6000 B.C. and the invention of the modern loom. Are we really to believe that only burial textiles were woven in this technique and that weavers did not adapt the technique to meet their needs as those needs evolved?

It is all reasonable inference. It is what archaeologists, amateur and professional, as other interested people do all the time. Whatever the truth is, I hardly think the evidence I have presented justifies a dismissal of Kurdish weaving as derivative. I think it justifies a reexamine of Kurdish weaving and the place of Kurds in the history of weaving.

I hope this Salon continues with a broader examination of Kurdish weaving and does not remain confined only to the weftless soumaks.

Thank you, Michael Wendorf