Posted by Kenneth Thompson on 09-22-2002 08:09 PM:

When did the word "Ensi" come into use

Dear All,

Does anyone know when the word "ensi" began to be used for this type of weaving? I had assumed that it was a term that came out of the early 20th century Russian rug research/literature (which I don't have) that seems to be the basis for much of what we know about the history of Turkmen carpets.

Then, serendipitously, I came across a quote in Brian W. MacDonald's 'Tribal rugs--Treasures of the Black Tent,' in which on page 18 he cites the following from Sir James Abbott's 1839 'Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva:'

"The best woven girths, like other fine woven artifacts, are not used throughout the year as they are likely to get spoiled by smoke in winter and mutton fat. The Engsi (door rug) was hung on the outside of the door frame so as not to conflict with the inward opening door-leaves, and with the pile facing outwards."

I don't have this book--and probably won't as long as its current price races towards four figures--but I would be curious if anyone knows whether there are any other early references to the ensi which might help not only establish the age of the earliest pieces but also confirm that they were used as door rugs.

Regards to all,


Posted by R. John Howe on 09-22-2002 10:37 PM:

Ken -

I didn't say so explicitly but in the "engsi-yengse" thread I quoted Peter Andrews on his check of "Clawson's Dictionary." This is a "Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish" and when he checked Peter reported that neither of these words appears in it. So it seems more recent than that. Peter was going to ask another scholar friend but has, I think, been on vacation in Turkey for the entire duration of this salon.

So that's all I can contribute. I looked quickly again through Eugene Schuyler's much admired "Turkistan," in which he describes his travels there in 1873 meticulously. Unfortunately, Schuyler traveled mostly from town to town and while he reports being in some tents as he went along, this was mostly due to transportation failures he experienced. When he describes "Musselman" life it's almost always in a town setting, so I didn't spot any reference to "engsi" in that book.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 09-23-2002 06:15 AM:

Hi Ken,

I think it is significant that your quotation from Abbott's record of his travels unambiguously places the use of pile ensis as door rugs for yurts to before 1839. There is a school of thinking that this didn't happen until much later. In view of Abbott's report, it seems reasonable to suspect that it goes back much further than that.


Steve Price