The discussion began with a consideration of whether double niche rugs are
really two-ended prayer rugs. I think not, but many others disagree.
The issue of whether Belouch group prayer rugs were made for local use or for export to the west was raised. Chuck Wagner wondered whether the Moslem tribespeople who made them would have allowed significant religious appurtenances to be sold to westerners for what would obviously be secular purposes. Michael Craycraft informed us that although the Belouch group peoples are nominally Sunni Moslems, most are really not familiar with the traditional Moslem rituals and few actually pray. He believes that religious restrictions would not have influenced their ability to sell the rugs to western markets.
Should the arch on prayer rugs be called a mihrab? That is, is it a prayer niche or and architectural element? It appears likely that the arch on prayer rugs originated as an architectural element, but whether this has implications to its meaning in, say, the 19th century, is debatable.
One question that was discussed at some length is whether the arch always belongs at the top, especially when other directional elements become upside down when the rug is viewed this way My own view is that when all of the obviously directional elements and motifs are rightside up when the "arch" is inverted at the bottom, the "arch" really isn't an arch at all. I believe that my opinion represents a fairly small minority school of thought on this.
David Hunt introduced a camel ground Belouch group rug, and the discussion led to very informative posts by Sue Zimmerman on the properties of various kinds of silk and how they interact with dyes. This is one of those fairly frequent occurrences in which the conversation reaches someone with knowledge in an area about which most of us are ignorant, and we all become enlightened by that person. This sort of thing, in my opinion, is the greatest strength of holding public discussions in which anyone can participate.
My thanks to everyone who contributed to this.