Did the engsi hang inside or outside the yurt?
Here's a photo of a Kazakh yurt, taken in 1937.
The engsi is clearly shown, rolled up at the entrance. If you look carefully, you can see that the roll is halfway in and halfway out of the yurt, so when it was unrolled, the edges of the engsi would have abutted the edges of the felt outer covering of ther tent. That is, it was neither inside nor outside, just as the door of a modern house is neither inside nor outside.
The source of the photo is Peter the Great's Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg. I scanned it from Nomads of Eurasia (Basilov and Zirin, eds), p. 99.
Here are some additional images. As I recall, these photos were taken around 1910.
From the images, it appears that these engsis hang outside the doorframes. Although it's really hard to tell from the photos, 2 photos appear to contain pile weavings, while 1 photo contains a textile that is felt work.
Bob, any info on where these photos are from?
It is noteworthy that while Steve's ensi fits neatly in the door, Bob's are just slung from the roof and don't need to obey any strict size constraints.
I'm pretty sure that these photos are part of the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection from the Library of Congress. I had saved these images to my own computer some months back. I can't put my finger on the specific source URL just now, but a starting link is: http://frontiers.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfdigcol/aboutpg.html
As I recall, the photos are just tagged as "Central Asia", without any specific information for each photo.
From all that has been said and written, it seems safe to say that the Ensi (or at least a door flap of whatever name) hung on the outside of the oy or yurt. The second picture that Bob posted is the first that I have seen that may show a pile door flap. Every other instance that I have found has shown a felt door flap, but these have been almost always on Kirghiz or Kazakh dwellings. The Kirghiz equivalent seems to have been the Eshiktish which by derivation was hung outside the oy. (Eshik=threshold, tish (or dish)=outside.) Given the special nature of pile carpets, it seems unlikely that a pile ensi would have been a permanent fixture on the outside of structure exposed to harsh weather. It would make sense for it to be a special occasion piece put up to welcome a bride or important visitor.
Another possibility: could there have been two door flaps, a felt one on the exterior and another interior one hung for special occasions? Or used as a tent divider on special occasions? Any ithoughts?
For what it's worth, I was able to locate the original images at the
Library of Congress website. I downloaded the (very large) tiff files and have
cropped the photos to focus on the doorways. Here are the close-up
Thanks for the pictures, Bob.
The door flap in the first close-up looks definitely a pile weaving.
One should suppose that during daytime the engsi was kept in that way.
One should thus expect engsis having the upper part more discolored by sunlight
This doesnt seems the case - unless collectors engsis where never used or had very fast colors.
Actually, if the ensi was kept rolled up or folded above the doorway during the day, it's the back that would fade from light exposure; specifically, the part of the back that was outermost when rolled up (the area near the bottom of the ensi). Sadly, few photos of ensis in exhibitions, books, auction catalogs or magazine articles show the backs.
It depends on how the engsi is rolled up.
The ones in the above pictures seem rolled UNDER the front.
I mean, for the pile one: it seems the lower part was rolled under the upper one with the pile facing outward.
The same for the felt: what we see is the front face, not the back.
In any way, one side should be more sun-faded!
Perhaps, as Kenneth wrote, they were used only in special occasions.
You're right. I hadn't noticed that. In any case, if they were used regularly, there ought to be a faded horizontal band in the place that was exposed.
Its difficult for me to see from the pictures, but nothing in them
looks like a typical engsi-format rug. The last photo clearly shows a felt (or
a rug with a felt design) and the next to last photo shows what may actually be
a pile rug, attached to the outside of the tent with ropes and slung up and
over the top of the doorway. However, it looks wider than the doorway to me, so
maybe Johns idea that engsis should fit within the doorway, or perhaps be
a bit narrower isnt valid.
As a person with a scientific bent, I can appreciate any attempts to analyze engsis and other rugs using available data. However, trying to do this with data obtained from books and other second-hand sources is, in and of itself, risky. For example, how accurately were the measurements made? Could there have been transcription errors in the proof or in printing? How about pieces that are fragmented or reduced in length at either end due to wear, which may include some of the oldest and most interesting engsis? With this caution aside, I would like to make a suggestion. Rather than presenting the averages of the length to width ratio (or similar data) from engsis assigned to the different tribes, it might be more illustrative to plot these data together on graph paper, for example, length on the vertical axis vs. width on the horizontal axis. (Pinner and Frances in fact did such an analysis of Turkoman tent bags. See Tent bags and simple statistics, Turkoman Studies I). Then, any obvious clustering would become apparent, which might otherwise be blurred by averaging. For example, it might turn out that a subset of Tekke engsis lie outside of the main Tekke group and much closer to the Salors. Another possibility is that old-appearing engsis might tend to cluster together. This might occur, for example, if engsis evolved from a common ancestral type. One problem here is that there is not much agreement when it comes to estimating the age of rugs, although characteristics like wool quality, dye usage and colors, and even aesthetic judgments might have some usefulness. Also, how far back must we go to a prototype, if in fact one ever existed? Two hundred years? A thousand years?
What can be argued with a fair amount of certainty is that most surviving engsis date from the commercial period, after around 1880 when the Russian military and traders already occupied the region. As an aside, it is unfortunate that more of these early visitors were not professional ethnographers or anthropologists by todays standards, which probably led to the loss of much valuable information. In any event, the resulting social unrest and commercial pressures were undoubtedly important factors for change, perhaps causing engsis to rapidly evolve from whatever function(s) they once had, finally into decorative throw rugs for the Western market. Therefore, we should probably eliminate obviously late-appearing engsis (certainly ones with synthetic dyes or eclectic designs, etc.) from our analyses, including many Tekke, Yomut, Ersari, and even Saryk examples. So, now we are left primarily with engsis from the Salor (a tribe that declined as a result of military defeat before the commercial period), the Arabatchi (a small tribe that may not have felt much commercial pressure), the Chodor (to a lesser extent), and a few isolated tribal groups, a VERY small database of potentially authentic engsis with which to work. Even the Salor may have led a settled or semi-nomadic existence for a long time prior to their defeat, and arguably engsis made by settled groups might have served a different function than those made by nomads.
So what WERE engsis originally used for? The most common proposal is that they were tent door rugs. However, several arguments have already been made against this idea, which can be summarized as follows: 1) the lack of expected weathering and fading on many examples thought to be old; 2) the existence of few really convincing pictures of engsis in use most pictures show felts, or possibly pile rugs of indeterminate design and size; 3) just as most engsis are bigger than the average prayer rug, most seem to be too small for door rug use, whether or not they were hung inside or outside the yurt entrance; 4) the use of an accessory germach to increase the length is possible, but germachs seem to be much rarer than engsis with only Tekke and very rare Arabatchi examples known, and 5) as opposed to thick, heavy felts, most engsis would serve as poor barriers to the cold and wind. Some believe that engsis were used only for certain festive occasions, such as weddings, and that most of the time they were stored away with other dowry goods. I sort of like this idea. Many believe experts that the majority of the engsis surviving today are commercial products resulting from Western demand, or that they were made as part of the prescribed dowry long after they ceased having any utilitarian function. These ideas also seem plausible. Speculation by some that engsis were used in a totem-like fashion (i.e., to denote clan or social status) or that they were used in religious (e.g., shamanistic) rituals are intriguing but cannot be supported with any evidence.
So where to go from here? It is unlikely that the engsi format arose in isolation. So one tack might be to look for it and associated design elements in old rugs (and art forms) from other cultures and tribal groups, both inside and outside of Western Turkestan. As was proposed in a post from another thread in this Salon, compartmented rugs might be a starting point, specifically, compartment rugs from Turkey; also, the garden carpets from Iran, and a possible analogue to the four-square hatchli format seen in an old rug from East Turkestan (see Schurmann, Central Asian Rugs, plate 90). Even rugs not organized into compartments could be looked at for their shared design motifs and similar structural features. Although the original meanings and significance of the motifs and design elements used in Turkoman engsis and other rugs may never be known, the Turkoman women appear to have had names for many of them (see Tzareva, Rugs and carpets from Central Asia). Perhaps not surprisingly, these names appear to be have been based upon the motifs resemblance to common animate and inanimate objects found in everyday life. Religion with its associated mystical and spiritual aspects undoubtedly played an important role in Turkoman life, however, reality was comparatively harsh and the main preoccupation would have been with obtaining the corporeal necessities. Thus, the kejebe (wedding litter on the camel) motif seen on some Turkoman engsis (also the more explicit depiction of the wedding caravan on the elem of Arabatchi engsis) may express hope for material wealth, a good marriage and many children. The kush (bird) motif perhaps symbolized birds of pray and therefore success in the hunt (but see also, Neergaard, Turkmen tent band figures used as design elements on carpets and bags, Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, Volume 5(1), where it is proposed that similar design forms are intended to represent Toyon Kogor, the lord of the birds and ruler of earth and sky). Other ornaments may have been used to ward off the evil eye, ensuring health and prosperity. Whether we ever know the purpose for which these rugs were made or the meanings of their designs, they will remain for me a source of great fascination.
Im curious to know what evidence anyone has found in the way of damage at the upper corners of their ensis or what evidence of any attached hanging apparatus has been found Just imagine the stress on any weaving hung from only a couple of points and then repeatedly jerked around.
Dear folks -
I need to correct one indication by Mr. Anderson in the immediately preceding post.
The notion that width of engsis might be important was not my idea but rather one that occurred to Peter Andrews as he considered the Ersari lady's indication that in her experience (she is likely in her 50s) engsis were placed on the inside of the tent door.
Mr. Andrews as some of us know, is probably the world's foremost scholar on such tents having published in 1997 a very scholarly two volumes entitled: "Nomad Tent Types in the Middle East."
Peter has promised to look to see if the "scores" of Yomut tent door widths he recorded in the 1970s in the field are locate-able. But it was his suggestion that most Turkmen tent doors are likely 120 cm or narrower.
Tomorrow I will give you a long quote from these two volumes in which he discusses the "door flap" for a typical Yomut trellis tent.
R. John Howe
I've seen a number of ensis with the upper corners torn, I assume from the stress of being hung from them. Same for some juvals and torbas.
Jourdans plates 57 and 58 show two Tekke ensis with "hanging apparatuses" - the first one looks positively original.
Also another Tekke "Door Hanging ensi, 133x181cm" from the catalog of 1993 Genoa Exhibition "Carpets of Central Asian Nomads, has "At the corners, small woven and pile rectangles folded to form a point with 55 cm long plaited warps". The exhibition was organized by Elena Tsareva and showed almost the same pieces of Dudins exhibition on ORR web site.
I can post the scan, if you want.
Robert, congratulations for your comprehensive posting!
Quote from Peter Andrews Volumes
Here, below, is the long quote I promised you from Peter Andrews volumes on Nomad Tents in the Middle East. This quote if from Part I, Framed Tents, Volume I, page 67. It is headed Tellis tent: Turkmen of Iran: Yomut and Goklen.
But first, for context, here are two of the beautiful drawings of the sample Yomut trellis tent that Andrews provides in Volume II. These drawings are to scale based on Andrew measurements. The first two are by Susan Calverley. The third is by Andrews wife, Mugul, who is also a rug scholar, part Turkman by heritage, and who accompanied him in the field.
This first drawing is of the Tent frame with cordage.
The second drawing is labeled Perspective of complete tent showing felt ties.
This is the text section headed Door flap:
informants claimed that until 1920s the usual door was a felt flap rather than the wooden door leaves usual nowadays. The flap was still seen occasionally in 1970-74. The outer felt face is backed by a mat of canes held horizontally and bound with vertical goat hair lines: this allows the flap to be rolled up, still with the felt face outward, in such a way that it will remain in place at the lintel, held by friction and its own weight, when the doorway is open. It is made 110-120 cm wide to overlap the doorposts and the front edges of the wall felts on either side, and 185-230 cm long. The canes are 1m. long, and usually split in half before being bound, all facing the same way, with 8 goat-hair lines spun S of 2 or 3Z passed around each in turn at 10-13 cm intervals. They are then laid cut side downwards on the felt, and the edges of the felt turned over their ends along the long sides and at the bottom before being sewn down, forming an edge 3-7 cm wide. The top part of the flap reaching from the level of the lintel upwards is tapered so that it can be inserted easily under the edge of the front roof felts: it varies in width at the end from 55-88 cm and in length from 18-66 cm. Ties are provided at each of the top corners, and sometimes at the top centre. Where the tapering upper tongue is long, a pair of ties may also be provided at the top of the rectangular part: these can then be attached to the the top of the door posts horns, about 10 cm above the lintel. These may be of black and while plaits. Another set of ties is provided lower down for securing the flap at night. The felt face is usually decorated with scrolled branching patterns of colored wool laid in while fulling. This is the only instance in which the felt tents themselves are coloured. The former importance of the door flap is still indicated in the way in which the top corners of the cane screen are invariably cut back on either side of the doorway to allow its insertion. The unique Yomut name of the flap, tarp yapar, indicates the sound with which it closes with a clap, or its speed, in a wink. Among the Goklen it is called the is ensi.
In the example, the flap is 110 cm wide at the bottom, narrowing slightly to 106 cm at the lintel and then more sharply over 18 cm to 88 cm at the top; the full length is 185 cm. There are eight goat hair binding lines on the canework, both no leather strips, and the felt edge is folded over for 3 cm only. There are three ties at the top end, 65-75 cm long, in triple plaits of goat hair yarn, plied S of three Z.
Here are the drawings of the door flap from Volume II.
Now, of course, this is all about a felt door flap, but it gives a concrete picture of the logic that guided its size and shape. I also provide this passage just to give you an example of the meticulous description that Peter Andrews provides in these two volumes.
One thing to be noticed about this door flap is that it is much more a length twice the width shape than are most engis, which at about 4 feet wide by 5 feet long are more nearly square.
R. John Howe
Marla, I have a Tekke ensi with hanging ropes attached to the top
Thanks for the illustrations John. Then the door flap is a
cane-reinforced felt about 6 to 7.5 feet long and 4 feet wide so as to overlap
the doorposts? Sounds like a fairly sturdy arrangement, well insulated against
the cold and strong enough to withstand the wind. Most engsis are smaller than
this. So, unless tent doors were also smaller in times past, it would appear
that the engsi was never intended to be a functional door cover.
My Ersari engsi has the same corner ropes as seen here. But I believe
Marla's point that the continued wear and stress would pull them off. This
particular piece was probably not used. Interestingly, I had a Yomud main
carpet with the same braided ropes in each corner that I guessed were used for
pulling the rug over some goods and tying it down on a camel, elephant or
Tie One On
Here is another Turkmen trapping with tie ropes. (I do not remember the
source of this photo)
This one has them at what are usually called "closure marks", the small, blue "V" shapes just below where the ropes are attached.
I do not recall seeing many of these bags with "stretch-marks" or wear at the points assiciated with these rope attachment points, but it may be that the entire top several rows of the bags were cut off when they were prepared for sale, so any distress to these areas would have been removed.
It may well also be that the engsi and many bags like this one were not "used up", but kept as dowry keepsakes. Another idea regarding engsi's is the likelihood that they were used inside the tent to separate an area - possibly that of newlyweds from the rest of the tent. (the so-called "door to Paradise"? )
This would have minimized the wear one would associate with use as a tent door.
Patrick, very interesting! This is the first confirmation I have ever
seen that the 'closure marks' were actually closure marks! This example,
however, does not appear to be analogous to the hanging ropes that appear at
the top corners of many asmalyks, torbas, and ensis. Btw, looking again at some
of my ensis, I noticed damage to the upper corners in some of them that I
hadn't paid any attention to before. There is little doubt that many ensis were
designed to be hung from their top corners and not tucked into door flaps as
suggested by Andrews. Anyway, the wide variation in ensi sizes suggests that
they were not as a rule meant to fit exactly into a confined
A quick note
Several months ago, during the Tent Pole Cover salon, we got onto the topic of ensis, and I'd like to repost a couple of the text blocks here because we agreed to wait until this salon came along before continuing. We got to the ensi part by digressing away from a discussion on Turkoman weddings.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, "ensis" are called "purdahs". Purdah (pardah) is the term used to describe the generally Islamic phenomena of separating women from the world of the men. Some refer to it as lifelong prison and slavery. The men, on the other hand, do not.
Regardless, I propose the reason that we have no photos of ensis being used as tent/oy doors is because they weren't used as tent/oy doors. I think that they were used as doors for internal dividers within the tents/oys that separated the womens space (or private adult space) from other areas within the tent/oy. They may well be the bridal curtain, which could explain the very special, and entirely different appearance, that ensis have compared to other Turkoman weavings.
I think this because of 1) the liguistic connection, 2) because the dimensions of ensis and purdahs are consistent with the larger Kirghiz reed screen dividers, and 3) because the looped hanging straps (that I've seen in photos) are just right for hanging on a line strung across the interior of a stick frame oy.
--End Block 1--
Now, a couple of the photos in this salon do look like they captured pile weavings used as door flaps, so my comment about "no photos" is no longer reasonable. I will say that none of the images are DEFINITIVE with regard to the classic ensi designs we see, but one in particular is quite close.
Steve continued to bait us regarding ensis in the Tent Pole Cover salon, so I added this next block later:
--Block 2 --
OK Steve. I'll add a little something to the things-to-consider heap, but mainly to get it on the record because I can't be assured of having the book or a working computer later on. We'll discuss the picture later, when John is ready.
I have laid hands on a book entitled "A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus", by Capt. John Wood, Indian Navy (Reprint: Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1976). Capt. Wood took a 3000 mile excursion up the Indus to the upper reaches of the Pamirs in 1836. No illustrations but a couple of nice maps. His attention to detail is remarkable.
He visited a Kirghiz encampment, and the following are some excerpts from his text (he wasn't one for small paragraphs):
"We now asked permission to rest awhile in one of their kirgahs, and were immediately led up to one of the best in the encampment. Its outside covering was formed of coarse dun-coloured felts, held down by two broad white belts about five feet above the ground. To these the dome or roof was secured by diagonal bands, while the felts which formed the walls were strengthened by other bands, which descended in a zig-zag direction between those first mentioned and the ground. Close to the door lay a bag filled with ice-the water of the family. On drawing aside the felt which screened the entrance, the air of tidiness and comfort that met our eyes was a most agreeable surprise. In the middle of the floor, upon a light iron tripod, stood a huge Russian cauldron, beneath which glowed a cheerful fire, which a ruddy-cheeked, spruce damsel kept feeding with fuel, and occasionally throwing a lump of ice into her cookery."
"The kirgah had a diameter of fourteen feet, a height of eight, and was well lighted by a circular hole above the fireplace. Its frame-work was of the willow-tree, but between it and the felt covering, neat mats, made of reeds, the size of wheat-straw, and knitted over with coloured worsted, were inserted. The sides of the tent, lined with variegated mats of this description, not only looked tasteful, but imparted a snug and warm appearance to the interior. Corresponding to the outside belts were two within of a finer description, and adorned with needle-work. From these were suspended various articles appertaining to the tent and to the field, besides those of ornament and the sampler. Saddles, bridles, rings, thimbles, and beads, all had here their appropriate places. One side of the kirgah had the family's spare clothes and bedding. In another, a home-made carpet hung from the roof, making a recess in which the females dressed, and where the matron kept her culinary stores and kitchen apparatus. The opposite segment was allotted to the young lambs of the flock. A string crossed the tent to which about fifty nooses, twenty-five of a side, were attached, to each of which a lamb was fastened."
--- End of quotes ---
Lots of information in there, and I'm wondering if the carpet mentioned might have been an engsi .
--End Block 2 --
I'll add a comment at this point: It seems to me that most of the ensis in existence today are actually in pretty good condition, and I think this adds credibility to the notion that many ensis were used as interior dividers. Wouldn't a piece used as an exterior flap show significant evidence of exposure to the elements, and have substantial distortion at fold and hinge points ?
Regardez: How many felt door covers survive today ? (Captain Wood is careful to note that the door flap is felt but the interior wall is a home-made carpet.)
Further, I doubt that it's just a coincidence that the Afghanis and Pakistanis refer to these pieces as purdahs. There must be a cultural connection there.
I'll leave it there for now; I'm travelling and it may be a couple days before I can get back to respond to additional comments.
(p.s. If this salon is still going when I get back to my home computer, I'll post a couple scans of illustrations from another old book)
Pile or Felt Doorflap in Photo
I have been looking more closely at the photograph that seems to show a pile ensi. Since this would be the first time I had ever seen a pile door-rug photographed in situ, I downloaded the complete TIFF uncompressed file and played a bit with the contrast. Upon further examination, I am now not at all certain that it is not felt after all. The way that the motifs pucker out in relief as if quilted and the general fall of the material looks like felt after all. Also, the design itself does not look like any pile ensi design I have seen, but then I could easily have missed something.
Am I the only one who sees this as felt or do any of you have doubts that it may not be pile?
Best Regards to all,
One More Reason for "Not Inside" Use
(I wrote this post before I saw Chuck Wagner's that is a couple above this one, so I'm not responding to what he says. But to follow on his suggestion that the engsi might in fact have been used as an internal curtain, I will post separately a couple of detailed internal layouts that Peter Andrews provides.)
There is one more reason for thinking that engsis, during the years when they were in more general use, albeit likely for special occasions only, were NOT placed, as my Turkmen lady friend thought, on the inside of the tent door.
It is, as many of us know, because there was another Turkmen format for that precise purpose. This type of Turkmen weaving is most frequently described in the rug literature as a kapunuk, or door surround. (In the last quote in the introductory salon essay, Peter Andrews used the term qapiliq to refer to this inside door surround; I specifically questioned him about its meaning and he verified that it denotes a door surround. I did not ask him if this is a Yomut-specific term, but given the literature usage of kapunuk that seems likely.)
Here is a Tekke version:
Loges gives its measurements as: 0.88 (0.23) X 1.08 (0.61) m.
Here is a Chodor version that may be older:
Loges measurements are: 1.13 (0.34) X 1.10 (0.21) m.
This format, it may not put too fine a point on things to specify, is contrasted with the similarly shaped khalyk which is perhaps one-half to two-thirds as wide and is thought to have been a decoration either for the breast of the wedding camel or for the (top front?) of brides litter. (There are Yomud "khalyks" that are wider and composed of several such sections that puzzle the authorities.)
Here are two Tekke khalyks also from Loges:
He gives the measurements of the top one as: 0.43 (0.27) X 0.73 m. His measurements for the second one are: 0.4 (0.34) X 0.71 m.
It seems unlikely a kapunuk and an engsi would have been used together on the inside of the tent door.
R. John Howe
I don't see anything about the design that indicates felt. But if it _is_ felt, the level of design detail that's observable even in these photos would make this one heck of an interesting piece of felt work! Here's an attempt at enhancement using Photoshop's contrast and sharpen controls:
The drape on the left side is strange, but the right side of the piece doesn't look like at all "poochy" where it is folded under itself. It'd be most helpful to see a color image. The Prokudin-Gorskii collection consists of glass plate negatives and contact prints. The LOC has been able to make some great color prints from the glass plate negatives, but this image appears to have been scanned from a contact print so it's most likely not available in the original glass plate negative.
The conventional wisdom, which is right most of the time, is that felt ensis were used routinely and pile ones were for special occasions. The fact that we don't have many really old felt ones around is easily understandable from the fact that they got hard, daily use and looked awful by the time they were old. Besides, few collectors cared about central Asian felt until pretty recently, so not many would have been preserved in collections.
But what did the Turkmen do with pile ensis between special occasions? Well, using them as internal dividers in the yurt makes sense, and they were sensible people. So, perhaps the answer to the question, "Was the ensi a divider inside the yurt or a door flap?" is, "Yes, it was a divider inside the tent and yes, it was also a door flap sometimes."
Chuck says he's never seen old ensis in poor condition. Those don't find their way into books very often, but one dealer at the Indianapolis ACOR had a Tekke ensi that looked very old to me, and it was in tatters. I've seen a few others like that, too.
Felt or pile Ensi
Your Photoshop enhancement does push the surface back toward the pile option, though I know that there are very fine felts as well. Thank you very much for keeping the question alive, since this is a crucial area of doubt.
It would also help if a language scholar could further identify the origin of the word itself. John's lady who says it comes from "yengse" or "back of the head/nape," could be right. But I have doubts. In Turkic languages "en" or "eng" is the way to make a superlative. "Iyi"="good"."en iyi"=the best. And "en iyisi"="the best of the all" "En" also is the word for "width" and in Kirghiz "ensiz" means "narrow." It is probably none of these and may come from a Mongolian source("Egsi" is the Mongol word for "felt") or even Chinese, about which I don't have a clue. There are probably a lot of other possibilities.
I mention this abstruse issue because almost all of the other yurt related words have a functional meaning, such as kapilik(or kapinik), eshik tish, tegerich etc. It would be odd if ensi, however spelled or pronounced, did not.
Sorry for such a long post,
Best regards, Ken
I want to correct any impression I may have made that Ms. Meredova, the Ersari lady, to whom I have referred, suggested that "engsi" comes from "yengse." She emphatically did not. She merely indicated when I said I had "my head down" working, that "yengse" means back of the head. She did then go on to say that most "engsis" in her experience were hung on the inside of the tent door. But these were separate points. As I have tried to make clear in a separate thread, Peter Andrews also felt that these two words were not related but indicated that one must be cautious since neither of them apparently has an etymology. This was the reason he did some additional checking.
Just want to make sure that any potential confusion I may have introduced with my "story" does not persist.
R. John Howe
I would like to add some more pictures of yurts. The engsis arent neither knotted nor Turkmen but I think they are quite interesting and give additional illustration of Peter Andrews descriptions of the construction of yurt flaps.
The door of the Kirghiz yurt to the left consists of two layers
- a reed screen with enforced edge and a decorative felt at the bottom and
- an ornamented felt which is folded back. (Turkmen peoples, I suppose, on special occasions would have replaced this felt by a pile knotted engsi.)
The on the Kazakh yurt to right the similarly decorated reed screen is folded twice (and not rolled as on the pictures above). The second layer (felt or knotted rug) isnt attached.
A Karakalpak reed door as well decorated with a panel (most probably knotted on the open shed) is shown in Music for the eyes . Elena Tsareva, not referring to a specific people, writes that door hangings were made of knotted textiles, felts, reed screens or a combination of all of these. They were used according to weather conditions.
Its probably a bit off the theme here, but the panels decorating the bottom of the reed screens look very much like germech, dont they?
One could argue that the germech-like elems which can be seen on many engsis have their origin in the panels sewn on the reed screens. If the engsi would have been folded as seen on the right picture only this part would have been exposed to the sun and because its of a different coloration a bit of fading wouldnt do much damage to the aesthetic of the whole weaving.
And apart from that, if folded this way one can see the whole (germech-)panel but doesnt have the impression of seeing only a part of the engsis ornamentation.
Interesting seems to me also this North-Caucasian Nogaian wedding-yurt .
I believe to have seen a picture of a similar Central Asian flag/door but I didnt find it anymore...
I also wanted to post in this context a picture of one these odd-shaped Chodor rugs usually called either prayer rug or engsi. Maybe someone could help with a reference?
I guess that pardahs would be a different thing: Azadi shows a striped Yomut rug which he describes as a pardah. This rug copies flatweave designs and I suppose that most of the textiles used to divide the yurt were just flatweaves.
A friend of mine had such a striped Yomut rug which had ropes still attached and so could support the assumption of its use as a pardah.
On the other hand, there are also huge main-carpets with ropes, possibly used to secure the carpet if rolled up?
Marvin, I love your Ersari engsi but according to the Rietberg Museum, Zurich its a Chodor chuval...
Best regards and many thanks for the interesting salon,
This is somewhat out of topic but as Patrick showed one example in an earlier thread that got Yon Bard interest I add this picture for information, showing another Yomut chuval with ropes still atached at the closure marks
Source is :Teppische aus Mittelasien und Kasachstan Exhibition catalog of the Russische Ethnographic Museum Leningrad Ermitage plate 80
I add here some pictures coming all from Teppische aus Mittelasien und Kasachstan Exhibition catalog of the Russische Ethnographic Museum Leningrad Ermitage
References of the plates are included in the name of the jipeg file.
First let me show this picture from a Khirgiz eshyk tysch. Long ropes attached at each upper corner are still present.
And here is a close up
Here is now a Saryk engsi showing both worn upper corners, a braided fastening band fixed along the top border and the sideway oriented candelabra discussed in another thread.
close up of the two color braided band
Close up of the sideway oriented candelabra
Now let us look at a Tekke engsi showing two colors braided ropes at each upper corner
and here a close up
Here is another Tekke rug with another kind of fastening system. At the base of the ropes there is a (piled?) triangular stripped reinforcement
You can better see it in this close up
and here are two close up assembled in one picture of the corners of two Tekke RUGS (not engsi) showing the same construction as on the upper engsi. This construction is may be typical of Tekke pieces. At least I didnt find any other piece that wasnt Tekke showing this structure.
Is the presence of fastening systems a way to sort pieces which were woven for local use?
The first of the "Tekke rugs" is according to E. Tzareva an engsi and I would agree with her on this. But it looks very Yomut to me, not Tekke.
The following rugs are good examples of Yomut-weavings.
The main-carpet I mentioned in my previous post was a Yomut as well. There isnt any pile on these prolonged kilim-stripes which form the basis of the ropes (at least in the case of the carpet Ive seen in the wool).
You are right the first Tekke "RUG" I show, which is
with the striped weft faced reinforcement at the base of the rope is an engsi and not a rug and it is presented in the book as an engsi. I apologize for this mistake.
This is a response to Chuck Wagners suggestion that since the Afghan term for engsi is purdah and since this latter term is also sometimes used to refer to the area in which female members of a family (e.g., in the case of a harem) are separated from others in an Islamic home, perhaps one possible use for the engsi might be for such purdah screening in the nomadic tent. Chuck quoted one traveler and visitor to a nomad tent who reported seeing a carpet used as a kind of privacy curtain.
I think this is an imaginative suggestion and it seems true that many textiles that we tend to see as used in singular ways in fact had multiple uses. So I am not here discounting the possibility that what Chuck suggests may have been in some cases correct.
Peter Andrews work, which I have been mining liberally in this salon, makes a different suggestion.
First, in the Yomut community Peter studied first hand, a newly married couple did not usually live together. After the marriage was consummated on the wedding night, the bride typically returned to her familys home and the couple did not live together for perhaps the first two or three years of their marriage. About the fourth year, the bride joined the groom, but again usually the couple does not yet have a tent of their own, so they live for a time with the grooms parents. During the initial period after the bride comes to the grooms parents tent, it is held to be important that the bride avoid contact with her father-in-law and in fact most of the more important members of her husbands family. To provide for this there is a sequestered area of the tent in which the bride sits. And there is a cloth used to provide this private space. Here is part of Andrews discussion of this aspect:
If a new bride is living with the bridegrooms parents, she can sit with her face uncovered behind a curtain, tuti, of cotton with coloured tags hung on a black and white rope, tuti yupi, stretched across the heads in the same northwest corner or northern part of the tent where the couple also sleep
Andrews provides a drawing of this sleeping arrangement that also shows how this rope would be arranged with the tuti, hanging over it.
Andrews cites William Irons on the tuti, and in George OBannons little volume based on what was then Marvin Amsteys collection, Irons says, The tuti was usually gaily decorated brightly colored strips of cloth, but was not a fine piece of weaving. It was placed on a rope and arranged so that it could be pulled back, opening up the area behind it one occasion
So while Chuck Wagners suggestion might sometimes have been the case, it seems that in the Yomut communities that Andrews and Irons studied first hand, there was a different textile, the tuti used to create the purdah-like space in the tent and it seems not to have been a woven carpet.
R. John Howe
Dear R. J.Howe and all- Not that I am a linguist, but it is my understanding that the term Purdah is Persian and not Turkic, and that It does refer to a room divider/dividing rug suspended by straps- And to complicate it even more I have seen some of these large rugs with robust hanging straps being sold as Purdah-yet with that exploded Mina Khani pattern common to the Ersari and Beshir, and a vigorous rendering at that! Market influences?
I found the odd engsi Ive mentioned in my previous post:
Chodor, Ensi (?)
Orientteppiche aus Österreichischem Besitz, Vienna, 1986, p. 117
I wonder whether the tapered form only corresponds to the form of many reed screens used for yurt doors or (less likely?) whether it represents a knotted version of a flag/door as seen in the picture of the Nogaian wedding-yurt.
Width: One More Time
Dear folks -
Just when you might think we've finished with this thread, I have found a reason for one more post here about door width.
Yesterday, while visiting the Textile Museum library, I also peeked in at their upstairs gallery where they've been responding to frequent calls to make Meyers' collection more accessible by putting up pieces from it under different themes.
The current theme is the use of silk in rugs and textiles and one piece they have is an older Turkman door surround with sumptious silk decoration in places. This piece is in good condition and seems likely to have been used only on a special occasion basis.
One is not allowed to touch exhibited items at the TM but I could get my hands close enough to determine that the opening in this piece is just about three of the lengths of my hand wide. My hand is almost precisely 20 cm long and so this opening is only about 60 cm wide. People would definitely have brushed this piece at the sides as they went and out (I am a sizable person but my shoulders are about 65 cm wide), but the external width of it is less than 120cm.
R. John Howe
Purdah in Turkish usage
In Turkish, "perde" is the standard word for a curtain. Turkish has for a long time been heavily laced with Persian words. Following Ataturks reform of the alphabet, there has been an effort to substitute "pure" Turkic words--words from Central Asian languages--for words of Arabic, Persian, and even English derivation. The effort has partially succeeded, but you often have to learn two or three words for the same thing, since they can appear at random in publications or even on road signs (eg, "tamir" and "onarim" both indicate a road under repair.)
Peter Andrews published a picture of a tuti somewhere, but I can't find it. It looks like a bedsheet with rows of good-luck/apotropaic tassels all over it.
Regard to all,
Did to silk in the TM Turkman door surround come from Europe, the Caspian area, or China? Sue
Well, of course, there's no way of knowing in a particular instance but there was silk production in Central Asia in some of the areas in which the Turkmen with the engsis and door surrounds lived. Bukara was not only a major marketing outlet for Turkmen weavings, it was one city in which the suzani and ikats were made. And the Ferghana valley had a silk production even larger than Bukara's and even exported silk to East Turkestan. Suzani designs are embroidery in silk and were sometimes done on a silk ground. Ikats designs are made with silk warps. So the fact that there is silk decoration on some Turkman pieces (and it was sometimes lavishly used in pile areas) is likely the result of local silk production, not imported silk.
R. John Howe
I would like to know where, in fact, the silk came from. Silk was also being produced in Europe through the 18th century. Georgia and even Greece were producing silk well into the 19th century. It could have been brought to the Turkmen with dye from Germany or otherwise, too. Someone should know this, shouldn't they?
We have a lot of things here in the US produced locally that we buy from China. If we want to know influences we should know what influences they were exposed to. If there are facts available I think they should take precedence over conjecture. Don't you? Sue
I agree that factual data is always preferrable to conjecture, but it's going to be difficult to determine where silk in a given Turkmen piece came from at least until they develop far more fully the techiques that permit one to tell such things from the dyes and from the wools.
And the Turkman lived close to, if not directly on, what is famously called "The Silk Road," and likely for a reason. So imported silk is always a possibility.
Despite this, the fact that it is also known that there was vigorous local silk production in the areas where the Turkmen lived (cotton too) to the extent, in the case of the Ferghana valley, that they actually exported some in the direction of China, (the treatment silk production in Bukhara in the catalog by Andy Hale and Kate Fitz Gibbon on the Goldman ikat collection is extensive) seems to me to provide a pretty sound basis for thinking that the silk in Turkmen carpets is mostly of local origin. Turkomaniacs have examined all kinds of arcane features of their beloved rugs since the 1970s at least and I've not heard someone raise this question before.
And I'd don't know how you'd determine its answer for a given Turkmen piece.
R. John Howe
I am not asking out of idle curiosity. I am doing a lot of research to discover the answer to a question raised by my last research. A German connection would defiantly answer this question once my new research is applied to it. If there is no German connection resolution will be more difficult, but the new information will be illuminating nonetheless. I am in the process of cleaning it up for posting.
Can you, or can anybody else, clarify the approximate time frame of old, middle and late engsis? Unless I have missed it, I cannot find this information in this salon.
I have read the shamanism thread. There is one thing I want to clarify now. Please don't think that my suggestion that the Hatchli pattern could represent the two phases of the Milky Way's appearance at migration times is exclusionary. I believe Jourdan's suggestion is valid. I also think the Hatchli pattern is a door and a garden, too. What I am suggesting is that there is another level of concrete meaning woven into it which allows for it to be more than a two dimensional representation. I think that the design encompasses a third axis which allows it to be viewed as more than a schematic.
A "Milky Way's eye view" requires of the viewer to mentally pull the upper cross bar into the heavens and push the lower cross bar to the opposite side of the earth. Once this is accomplished the viewer can see the "sky map" with the vastness analogous to that which is portrayed in western art by means of three point perspective. In other words I think that the illusion of space is not, as we have been taught in the West, a Renaissance invention, but a western translation. Clear? Sue
I can respond to the part of your post that asks about the ages of ensis. In my opinion, the oldest ones we have were probably made around 1800, give or take 25 years. Most antique ensis were made in the last quarter of the 19th century. Those made later aren't antiques, and, in any case, a very large number were made for sale to the west after 1875 or so.
Does everyone agree that the oldest ones are late 18th/early 19 century? No. There is a school of thought, to which I do not subscribe, that there are Turkmen textiles around that date back to the 15th century. Those who believe that, probably also believe that a significant number of ensis predate the 18th century. The people in that group, by and large, have old Turkmen textiles for sale.
Thanks! That helps. Sue
Steve, you made the following remark:
"Does everyone agree that the oldest ones are late 18th/early 19 century? No. There is a school of thought, to which I do not subscribe, that there are Turkmen textiles around that date back to the 15th century. Those who believe that, probably also believe that a significant number of ensis predate the 18th century. The people in that group, by and large, have old Turkmen textiles for sale."
If this isn't ad-hominem, I don't knoe what is. Ii is OK to contest the carbon 14 datings on scientific grounds, but not by imputing base motives to their promulgators.
Sue, when you theorize about the meaning of the ensi patterns, do you think the individual weaver had these things in mind, or just that that's how the pattern was originally developed? I am sure it is fun to "see" things and speculate about their meaning and origin, but please be honest and tell us what you really think is the likelihood that your particular interpretation is the correct one.
As you know, I am skeptical about the reliability of C-14 dating as applied to oriental rugs made within the past 400 years or so. I believe the statements in my post are true, and I was very careful NOT to say that the people who believe differently than me are frauds who are misrepresenting the stuff they have for sale. If anyone cares, I think some are and some aren't, but I can't read minds any more than anyone else can and my opinions of their motives are irrelevant.
It is a fact that most of the people who profess that there are Turkmen pieces around that are more than 300 years old are those who are trying to sell those pieces. It is also a fact that almost nobody can be totally objective about a piece in which he has a financial interest, particularly a large financial interest, particularly when he makes a living from it. So, their opinions on this matter, whether sincere or bogus, contain a source of bias. That bias may well be subconscious, but the question of whether there are 400 or 500 year old Turkmen pieces has consequences for them. It is inconsequential to me, and to most of us.
This, of course, is exactly why we don't permit discussion of items that are on the market. Objectivity, difficult to attain for almost anything, is even more difficult by orders of magnitude when there are financial interests involved.
This is ad hominem to the extent that it recognizes that we are humans and that this is human nature. It was not an attack on anyone's character, intelligence or motives.
The weaver would have to know what the symbols mean. She would have to know the "grammar", how to put the "words" into "sentences". I don't think she would have to know deeper meanings than the concrete ones or where they originally came from. She would have to know the story and how to tell it.
The only reason I'm telling what I see is that the symbols seem to be obsolete. If they were not I would have to consider who am I working for? The code value for symbols is enormous. They can be used for evil. I want no part of that sort of thing. I am too squeamish to look at the new rugs. I have just checked them to make sure the ones I'm studying are not used anymore. More than what you asked but important to say.
I am just following the direction the Engsi is leading me, and offering my findings as I go. I wouldn't do this if I wasn't convinced it was real, and could lead me to what I should be looking into next. It has lead me to history, not my cup of tea at all, but it is panning out.
It doesn't mean I'm right that I have probably spent more time looking at this sliver than it took to weave, and probably more time than anybody else on the planet has, but it does say something toward my belief it has something to say. So, yes, I think that what I have said up to now about it is correct -- not that what I have said is the whole picture.
I haven't seen enough close ups to work out the planets yet but I have worked out many other symbols. There are symbols which represent more than one thing, just as there are words that do, which will take more time to know.
I think I should be cut some slack. Engsis have been around a long time without being deciphered. I only began this when this salon started.
Since the subject has been raised, perhaps it is just my bias, but those things called "smiles" add absolutely no clarity to what is meant in a post and are offensive, ugly, and not funny. They hurt my eyes. Sue
The smilies are also known as "emoticons", which more nearly expresses what they're about. They are widely used on web discussion boards and even in e-mails to try to convey what is conveyed in face-to-face conversation by body language, facial expression and tone of voice - the unspoken messages sent by your emotions. None of those things is possible in a purely written venue, at least, not without getting terribly verbose. Many venues that don't use emoticons use other commonly understood shorthands for the same purpose; stuff like LOL (laughing out loud), ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing), and making sideways faces out of the colon, hyphen, and various forms of brackets in different combinations.
Obviously, they add to the enjoyment some people get from using these boards, and there are some who use them in ways that I think are creative and inoffensive (I'm thinking of Vincent Keers here). On the other hand, we don't think ugly or offensive are good things to be, and I guess I have to take you at your word when you say that they hurt your eyes, although I find it hard to understand that part.
I'd like to get other peoples' feelings on those things before taking any action. Would you open a new thread on our Miscellaneous Topics section soliciting opinions on this?
In other words, smilies/emoticons are nothing else than modern SYMBOLS. And their good side is that they cannot be used for evil.
If you are saying that modern symbols are simple and shallow, I disagree. Sue
Filiberto didn't say anything about the depth or simplicity of modern symbols, only that smilies are part of that group. Nor did he say that this subcategory of modern symbols is simple and shallow. Indeed, some people react to them much more strongly than I would expect if these were shallow symbols.
I've go to step out of this Chinese trick box and back to work on my evidence that you won't buy. Time is a tyrant. Ta Ta, Sue
I see, said the blind man as he picked up his hammer, and saw...
First, go back to Bob Alimi's post in this thread of 8/31/02 2:08, which shows
an enhanced view of a pile weaving used as a door flap on a yurt.
Then, look the new edition of Eiland & Eiland's Oriental Carpets:
Page 232, plate 206: A 19th century Tekke ensi
It MIGHT even be the same rug...
Chuck, great similarity, but the bottom-most panel (topmost in the yurt
picture) are different.
Thanks for putting in an append that actually deals with rugs.
For the sake of convenience, here's another view, this one flipped 180
Also, several of Pinner's quotes regarding engsis have been mentioned during the salon, but I don't recall his "Atlantic Collections" quote having been posted before. For what it's worth, here it is (from pg 173):
"The ensi is a door hanging with the design displayed outwards from the yurt. That its use was confined to the Turkmen wedding ceremony and perhaps for other special occasions, is supported by the fact that its colours rarely show the fading which would follow prolonged exposure to sunlight."
I think he's got it right.
Pardon me for taking the time to try to thoughtfully answer the rug question you asked me. It won't happen again. Sue
Sue, please forgive me. I am becoming cantankerous in my old
I understand, I forgive you.
Has anyone else noticed that the 1885 yurt drawing in John's opening essay has curtains drawn to the sides which could be pulled down, like the yurt's in the background, to protect the engsi from sun damage? Sue