Posted by Tim Adam on 10-06-2003 09:35 PM:

The upside down asmalyk?

Hi John,

I was just wondering about the last asmalyk that you show. What do we know about it? Can we assume with some certainty that the location of the tassels is original? Just based on the design, I think this piece looks quite unbalanced 'upside down'. Consider the main border for example. The design moves up, which to me looks akward. So, I am wondering whether the tassels could have been added later.


Posted by R. John Howe on 10-06-2003 09:52 PM:

Hi Tim -

The upside down piece was my attempt at both a serious point (that the world is truly "un-neat" and that we should be careful of conclusion) and a joke.

Most tassles that we encounter on asmalyks nowadays are not original. They are very fragile and get disassociated from the weaving for a variety of reasons. Then someone adds newer ones.

My own opinion is that someone not fully familiar with usual Turkmen practice regarding tassles on asmalyks (or who perhaps had seen a Chilkat dancing blanket) put these tassles on this piece late. And the catalog writers at this auction house share some of the blame for this presentation, which was without commment.

So, no, I was not using it to make a serious argument, excepting that of caution about deciding much of anything for sure.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 10-06-2003 10:19 PM:

Hi John

For a long time people thought asmalyks were juvals - bags. With that in mind, the pointed end at the bottom made sense. Amos Bateman Thacher's 1940 book includes a Yomud asmalyk that he called a juval. The photo in the book has it oriented sideways, so you can't tell whether he thought the flat end or the pointed end was the bottom, but it was probably the pointed end.

The Hindman auction at the Chicago ACOR had an asmalyk with pompoms sewn on in the way you'd expect someone to do it if the point was at the bottom. Obviously, whoever put it on there didn't know about asmalyks.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-07-2003 06:03 AM:

Hi Steve -

The notion that some in the literature considered asmalyks to be a type of bag is a good point and one that I had misplaced. And it seems plausible, if one was not familiar with its actual use, to see it as a bag with the pointed end at the bottom.

If it were smaller, it might plausibly be thought that the pointed end was intended as a "fold over" closure, a la the salt bag format, but the size of most asmalyks would discourage that hypothesis.

I expect, that the notion that asmalyks were seen as likely bags is the most convincing explanation for why some placed tassels on the pointed side and oriented that side downward.


R. John Howe