Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-10-2008 04:29 PM:

Let's Not Forget Turkoman Weavings: Trolling For The Silent Majority

Greeting all,

It is called Turkotek for a reason, after all. And there have been quite a few folks writing here over the years who were, and are, active Turkoman collectors. So, this is a thinly veiled attempt to lure them out in the open (I don't have a good Turko-truffle pig) and discuss how their taste and interests in Turkoman goods have developed over time.

In my case, focus for serious collecting wandered north as my initial interests in Afghan goods gradually drifter toward the better documented and much older Turkoman relatives. These first two pieces were acquired quite a while before I began to delve into traditional Turkoman weavings.

20th century Afghan Turkoman utilitarian goods sometimes come with dramatically nontraditional colors, but can be interesting nevertheless:

Most Afghan Turkoman pieces are closer to what we would consider normal in terms of construction and design, but still some distance away from classic Turkoman goods:

There are some oddball Afghan Ersari (whatever that actually is) pieces out there that I just can't resist; this is one. The design drew me like a moth to a flame; this is a fairly recent purchase, long after the interest in Turkoman goods began:

Our first real Turkoman piece was this Yomud chuval, unspectacular by many measures. The shops in that region had very little true Turkoman inventory, and the relative abundance of such pieces was not something we really understood at the time:

Our next purchase was a little more interesting; this piece has pile around the bottom and up the back roughly 5 inches. Such a feature is not particularly common on Yomud goods:

There was a nice confluence of increasing knowledge and opportunity at one point, and the next two pieces presented themselves. Chaudor goods are not particularly common at any time, and we decided to accept the synthetic red in this piece for what it is and make the purchase:

Similarly, true Saryk work is not particularly common and when this piece was offered it was a no brainer:

I will share a new acquisition now, which I think is a step up, in some regards, from many Turkoman chuvals. The definition of common is now quite clear, and unless I've missed something somewhere, this piece is pretty interesting:

The minor gul design is quite unusual. I've only seen one published reference with a similar gul. Lots of green on this piece; note alternating green and blue from one major gul to the next as well:

Here's a couple closeups of the back, with some construction detail visible:

And last, a little teeny tamga-like feature in an otherwise empty elem panel:

OK, Turkoclams, it's time to open up and tell us a little about the progression of your Turkoman collecting history !

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Dinie Gootjes on 02-11-2008 10:38 AM:

Hello Chuck,

Sorry that I cannot show much in Turkoman progression. We don't have many Turkomans, and they all look fairly pedestrian. I really love your Chaudor. Apart from the aspect of rarity, it looks so carefree and friendly compared to many other Turkmen pieces. Probably the effect on me of the little flowers. I first saw them in white in Mark Hopkin's on-line exhibition (Sorry, I honestly did not set out to Baluchify this thread, and I will not show any pictures.) When shortly after that I found another Baluch with those little flowers in the border, I could not resist buying it, though the mice had had a taste of the poor thing. Stupid mice, why don't they leave the antique ones alone and focus on Pak Baluch, if they really need a bite of carpet?! Anyway, I had never thought to find these flowers used so beautifully in a Turkmen piece. Are they unusual in them?

Is your "oddball Afghan Ersari" a victim of the browning virus? We have one that does not have the one-off design you fell for, but it does have that brown general colour. I will ask Steve to put in the pictures. Ours was at first dark brown all over, and it reeked of tobacco. OK, "flea store" find... I washed it several times, till the water ran almost clear. In the process I just about passed out from the fumes. I always wondered whether the tobacco would have been an element in the discoloration, but seeing your piece, maybe it was not. Bad dyes again? Anyway, lovely pieces. One of the great things about this forum, I find, is the quantity of beautiful pieces shown. As they are not for the most museum quality, it gives hope to the newbie with many mediocre pieces. Obviously, there is hope of improvement without having to win the lottery.


Posted by David R E Hunt on 02-11-2008 11:12 PM:

Hi Chuck

I for one still love Turkmen material. But I'm afraid I have about gotten to the point that my tastes have outstripped my budget
More on this in a moment, for now on to examples of this progression.

Here we find a bench seat composed of post synthetic bags, with a palas hanging in the background. All earlier purchases, and quite nice too, but they are not antiques.

It's in my sitting room that I keep the good stuff. My tastes are ecclectic, and I have here, from left to right, a Yomud bag face, a Kirghiz bagface, a Baluch prayer rug, a Kizil Ayak bag face, and last, a Tekke engsi. All antique, and all (hopefully) natural dyes.

Yes, they can be expensive, but it has been my experience that with a little diligence, and willingness to make concessions in regard to condition, you can find beautiful material that even a person of average means (such as myself) can afford.

Take the above Tekke engsi. True, not a top shelf example, but it dates to before 1880, which is respectable age for a Turkmen, has all natural dyes,and a design less busy than a lot of Tekke engsi out there. Interestingly, and by coincidence, the colors of this engsi are very similar to the colors in the kizil Ayak chuval to the left. In short, a respectable Turkmen, and bought for a third of the asking price of a distressed example with synthetic dyes. Shop around.

The internet is a great place to find Turkmen material. I started to add to my collection not too long ago, but someone beat me to it.
I see what I think are beautiful pieces with some frequency, and they are not all $10,000.00. I think you can do well within the $1,500.00 range. Reduces the frequency with which you buy, but altogether, maybe this isn't a bad thing.


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-14-2008 12:37 AM:

Hi Dinie,

Nope, no peroxide blondes here. This image shows the back, including indications that red was briefly part of the plan:

It's actually a little more towards gray-brown. At one time in the post-World War II decades, red pieces made in Afghanistan were chem-washed and sold as "Golden Afghans". I've never seen one in person, only in books (See O'Bannon's: The Turkoman Carpet)

Dave, I wouldn't complain about a closer peek at thet Kizl Ayak and the Baluch prayer rug - those are both quite interesting to me. Also, you're right about the internet - in combination with some patience.. I'm in the middle of another internet experiment right now; with luck it will be wrapped up and available for an image or two while we're still chatting here.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Dinie Gootjes on 02-14-2008 01:53 PM:

Hi Chuck,

Gasp, noooooooooooooo. Not a golden Afghan. Many years ago I just managed to withhold myself from buying one of those that had kindly been woven in the right colour, with only a shiny shine treatment. And now I fell for one? But seriously, were smaller, functional pieces also treated with that wash? The colour is certainly not golden, but a true brown, and the wool has no lustre to speak of. Also, the only colour really affected is the red that is in the main field. The brick red and orange are very faintly tip faded, maybe even just mellowed. The ivory is if anything a tad darker, no sign of bleaching at all. The blue and lightly yellow flecked blue-green look completely the same both sides. Help me, anyone!!!!!!!!!!!

Dinie in horror

Posted by David_Hunt on 02-17-2008 01:52 PM:

Hi Chuck

These two weavings have been discussed rather extensively in the past here on Turkotek, as follows.

Here is a link to a discussion of the Camel ground Balouch , and to a discussion of the Kizil Ayak

Good luck with that latest purchase, I'm curious to see what you have picked up.


Posted by James Blanchard on 02-19-2008 05:01 AM:

Hi Chuck,

I agree it's time to smoke the die-hard purist Turkomaniacs out. I am definitely not one of them, but more about that later.

Of the pieces you have shown, the two that would intrigue me the most are the 3rd ("Afghan Ersari) and last. The "golden" palette of the 3rd one isn't top of my list, but the design surely has an appeal. If that piece had a good M.A.D. palette it would be even better.

The last one is an interesting one, and I especially like the scale and drawing of the minor gul. I also like the colours. I think it is a "keeper". Congratulations.

My own trajectory through Turkomania has been a bit helter skelter.

My very first acquisition and second rug purchased ever was an Ersari engsi (purchased in 1986). It remains in pristine condition and has very lustrous wool that is a very deep and rich red. I still like it, even though I realize it is of little significance from a collector's standpoint.

My next small group of Turkmen weavings, purchased almost 20 years later, was not much more inspired. Among them was a very tightly woven Tekke chuval with 9 Salor-type guls. The design is pleasing, but the colours leave one wanting.

My next couple of acquisitions still appeal to me quite a bit. Both appear to be from the later decades of the 19th century, but both have marvelous wool and are in mint condition. The small Tekke mat has been discussed at length before. The Tekke engsi is actually a personal favourite, mostly because of its excellent condition and velvety handle. It is a rug that I like to have “up close and personal”. It doesn't photograph easily so I've included a close-up shot of the bottom to try to illustrate the lovely colours and texture of this piece. Having said that, I have come the conclusion that I now would not be inclined to go for a “traditional” Turkmen piece that is not particularly early and special. Most of later pieces have lost their appeal for me. Unfortunately, I doubt that my budget would permit me to get the type of piece that might attract me, but I will keep looking…

Most recently I have become interested in the so-called “quasi-tribal” weavings (according to Hans Konig’s terminology) of the M.A.D. region. I haven’t found many, but am still on the lookout. I find this grouping of rugs to be creative and often powerful. Here is one that I have shown before. The brilliant, clear colours and design lead me to think that it might be as early as the 3rd quarter of the 19th century, but I could be mistaken.

I wonder if others' "Turkmen trajectory" has been similar to mine. I tend to think mine has been rather typical.


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-20-2008 01:10 AM:


I like your last MAD rug. Your Turkmen collecting progression is similar to mine, from pedestrian (for walking on) to collectible.


Your sitting room looks more like the entry way to an antique rug dealer shop. Way to go! (What is that Baluch doing in there?)

What is interesting is that all three of us have a Tekke engsi in our collections.
I had long given up on finding a decent one at a "reasonable" price, (OK, I was willing to go a bit more than a six pack and a pizza) but found one that had been de-accessioned from a regional history museum. It had been cut-and-shut and was missing a bit from the top, but the colors are great. I found it in an American Indian art store of all places.
I traded all my Salor main carpets for my Pak Bok mat, but here is a taste of what remains:

Early e-bay piece, tobacco pouch or chanteh:

Antique store piece with some green with faded yellow showing up as lighter blue. Only two-thirds remain-must have been a divorce and I got the woman's piece:

e-bay dizlyks, not too old:

The aforementioned engsi:

One of a pair of kizil chuvals of mid-19th century age with 600kpsi pile sections:

As James says, "I have come the conclusion that I now would not be inclined to go for a “traditional” Turkmen piece that is not particularly early and special." I tend to keep my cash in my wallet unless a piece really speaks to me (Truly a sign of having gone off the deep end of the rug collecting continuum-talking to rugs).
I just visited the De Young museum and saw their Turkmen exhibit. One thing that was instructional is the amount of orange in many very early Turkmen pieces. And the brilliant colors of some of the older pieces is striking. I was thinking of trading some of my pieces for theirs, but the security guards were not very supportive.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by David R E Hunt on 02-20-2008 08:49 PM:

Hi James

I'm in agreement with Patrick (and yourself) on this one, that an addition to your collection should "speak to you". Some of my best finds have been the consequence of a gut reaction, a little adrenalin rush if you will. Learn to trust your instincts. Looking back over my rug career, I remember some things (a Khamseh rug and a Quashgai bag come immediately to mind) which precipitated an immediate gut reaction (wow!), which it turns out were well founded, to judge from what I have seen and know now. If the piece doesn't speak to you, don't buy. Well, at least for the big bucks

Hi Patrick

Thanks. Well, now that I have that Baluch prayer rug, I can die in peace Yes, I like a lot of orange-red in Turkmen's myself, but personally, I think them a better indicator of pre synthetic dyes in general, than specific to greater age. I don't know if it's just me, or if there is in fact this class, which is expressed as a basic color theme in Turkmen rugs, of terra cotta grounds with more subdued tones. Perhaps more a function of the dyeing process than the weaver?

I like these kizil chuvals. Kind of hard to understand the attraction from a photo, but the details found in those pile bands can be incredible, and the texture is something which really has to be felt to be appreciated.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 02-21-2008 08:15 AM:

Hi Patrick,

Does the deYoung Exhibition include a bunch of rugs from the George and Marie Hecksher collection? I recall that someone put up a link to those rugs on TurkoTek a while ago. I thought them to be extraordinary, a cut above, or at least away from, the usual suspects. Even the high end Turkoman pieces can take on the "seen one, seen 'em all" aspect. (You must fight off that feeling all the time in the bunker.) But those Hecksher rugs were different. Do you agree? If so, what can you say about them?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-21-2008 01:31 PM:

De Old at De Young


The exhibit includes rugs and trappings from the Hecksher, McCoy-Jones and Wiedersperg collections along with some De Young acquired pieces including (if my memory is correct) a Saryk prayer rug purchased to commemorate Cathryn Cootner's tenure (Associate Curator-in-Charge of The H. McCoy Jones Collection of Tribal Rugs at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, per
There are no photographs allowed at this De Young exhibit, although one can take pictures without flash of other exhibits in the museum. The reason was that since several chapans from a private collection were included in the exhibit and were not allowed to be photographed, they issued a blanket no-photos prohibition for the entire exhibit. There is a catalog of many of the pieces in the exhibit, Between the Black Desert and the Red: Turkmen Carpets from the Wiedersperg
Collection, but not of the Hecksher pieces that I know of.
There were a number of Saryk and Arabatchi pieces which often incorporate "louder" colors and many rugs dating from the mid 19th to early 19th century. The exhibit included a variety of types, including 1/3 of a full-pile, white ground tent band along with 3 other pieces of pile tent band, a few main carpets, a full-pile kizil chuval and many chuvals and torbas.
It is touted as the largest museum collection of Turkmen pieces outside Russia. I am pretty sure it is not as large as the largest Turkmen collection in private hands, though.
There are around 40 pieces in the exhibit and according to Dianne Mott, the curator, she was assisted with the exhibit by Peter Poullada, President of SFBARS, and a serious Turkmen collector. He has recently gone MAD, along with Erik Risman of the Rug and Textile Society of Indiana, who gave a talk at our Seattle STARS rug group recently about Middle Amu Darya weavings.
Now that I know what truly exceptional Turkmen pieces actually look like, I will be on the lookout for pizza-and-beer-priced versions.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-22-2008 01:09 AM:

Lonely Rug

It is possible to search the database of the De Young museum from this page: If you put the word Turkmen in the search field, you can see quite a number of pieces, although I do not know if all the rugs in the exhibit can be accessed and the reproduction quality is not excellent. This rug below is in the study section of the De Young Textile Department. It is the only rug that I was allowed to photograph, and without a flash. There was no label on it, but it "could be" a non-Turkmen Central Asian carpet:

I call it the "Loch-Ness-Monster" carpet, due to the representation of the so-named sea creature depicted twice in each quarter of the gul - ready to eat the unsuspecting quadruped. Notice the diagonal design in the internal colors of the guls, as though it is a section of an infinite repeat.

My suspicion is that there was just such a monster in the Caspian Sea at one time and this representation has come down to us on these rugs.

I plan to petition ICOC for a grant to study this theory and present my findings at the next conference.

Academically yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Larkin on 02-22-2008 07:31 AM:

Hi Patrick,

Great work. I love that study rug. I take it you saw it close up, in person. Was there any structural data? What did it look like to you? Old?

I saw the de Young database, but I didn't notice any of the Hecksher rugs in it. Some of them were really off the beaten track, yet clearly "Turkmenesque," somewhat like your study example.

No offense, but the monster is clearly from the Aral Sea. Tellingly, the Amu Darya is a feeder. More important, the Aral Sea is shrinking, which would account for so many of the critters bobbing around the rug, and put a late production date on it. There's still time to shift the focus of your research.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-22-2008 10:38 PM:



Like any good scientist, I come to my conclusions before beginning the research.
Evidence be damned.
That rug was in very good condition and the colors all seemed bright, clear, mellowed and natural. The greens were apparently indigo/yellow and the yellow is lemony but not harsh or faded.
There was no label or data at all, structural or otherwise. It may have been from the late 19th century.
When I put the word Hecksher in the De Young search field, one Chodor piece came up that was in the exhibition. It is a very nice piece and the colors on the link are pretty good.
There are also a lot of OK but not great weavings in the De Young archives, too.
Some of the early 20th century bags are not "top drawer" but they represent examples of their type. There is a lot of chaff amidst the wheat.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 02-23-2008 06:51 AM:

Hi Pat

Your comment reminds me of the apocryphal story of the scientist who makes a presentation at a professional meeting and is asked a question at the end. His answer: "We haven't done that experiment yet. The results are shown on the next slide."

A related one concerns Galileo. He cancels a visit to his mother, telling her that he has to do an important experiment on the tower of Pisa. He says that he knows exactly how it will turn out. "Why do you have to do it if you know what the result will be?", his mother asks. "To convince the idiots", Galileo answers.

One of the seldom recognized sources of bias in science is that when the results are in accord with expectations, the work often isn't looked at very critically. When expectations aren't met, the investigator is likely to go to great lengths to look for possible errors.


Steve Price

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-23-2008 08:41 AM:

Hi Pat,

Next time, get a quick shot of the back while they're looking the other way.

There is a small possibility that this rug is a Baluch knockoff, but I am very much inclined to say it is a Karakalpak piece.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-23-2008 09:19 AM:

Guys, you have a really BAD memory!

A dozen of similar rugs were discussed in November 2004, starting with a carpet belonging to Itzhaj Mordekhai. The rug “shot” by Pat appears also in Opie’s “Tribal Rugs”, as Karakalpak, fig 17.23 . (At the time the picture was signaled by Stephen Louw and no, to be honest this wasn’t in my memory, but on my computer HD )

The discussion went on for two pages but I think it could be condensed by the following contribution:

From Richard Isaacson

This design of this rug is used by at least three distinct groups in Uzbekistan, each with different structural characteristics. From the discussion of its handle, and the colors of the Sarkalka "S "border, this probably belongs to the group which is called "Turkman Uzbek" by Moshkova (O'Bannon translation) and is from Nurata. It is discussed in O'Bannon's last article in Ghereh (sorry, but I am traveling and don't recall the date, but this is around January 2001).

The drawing of the Tauk Nauska animal in the octagon is said to correspond to that used on an earlier group of these rugs, i.e. it has a distict head and a tail. Later drawing of the animals have two tails, as seen in the Jim Blackmon example (which has a different structure and was woven by yet another, still unknown, ethnic group).

Despite all the claims in the literature starting with Bogolubov, it is absolutely NOT a Karakalpak rug. I have been to Karakalpakstan and looked at all the rugs in storage in the collection of the Savitsky museum in Nukus. They all have the unique identifying signature for Karakalpak structure: symmetric knots with camel hair wefts.

The gentleman is a Washington collector of non-Turkmen Central Asian weavings.



Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-23-2008 10:44 AM:

Good Hard Drive, Filiberto


Yes, that is EXACTLY what I said, too:
"it "could be" a non-Turkmen Central Asian carpet:"
And I did not even need to check my hard drive!
Nurata is more known for their suzani production and there are not too many rugs that are described as Nurata.
Some of the more obscure rug and kilim making areas are not well documented in the current literature. My in-depth research on Nurata rugs has extended all the way to the stormy, isolated outpost of San Francisco. And there are not too many Nurata rugs here, either.
Another major storm is headed this way, so I will saddle up the camels and head out.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-24-2008 08:46 PM:

OK Filiberto,

Quando vedremo alcuni dei vostri esperimenti iniziali ?


Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-25-2008 05:54 AM:

Hi Chuck,

All right.
Later... in another thread.


Posted by Marty Grove on 02-25-2008 07:58 AM:


G'day Filiberto, Patrick and all,

Filiberto, where your gentleman Richard Isaacson states quite firmly a characteristic use of camel hair for wefts in Karakalpak weavings; another instance where the question of the use of camelid material in carpets shows itself... Will this ever be resolved?

Patrick, remember to couch and rumps to wind.


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 03-09-2008 09:54 AM:

Hi all,

This would fit better in the Baluch evolution post but most everyone shows up here and the current topic fits, so..

Marty, what an interesting coincidence that you should seize on the topic of camelid fibers. This has been a topic of discussion on several occasions in the past, and it will be again in a paragraph or two.

Dave, here's that piece I was waiting for. It took a while to close the transaction and shipping but it was worth it.

Here's a fresh addition to the heap. I'm uncertain of the date but last quarter of the 19th century fits well for me. I suppose that it could be early 1900's, but the garish (and loose) dyes that are more typical of the period do not appear here. There is absoutely no evidence of fugitive dyes and no tip fading anywhere (there is some full pile remaining on the left and top of the piece). The selvages are in the older four cord tradition, but the kilim ends are missing. The fatter and more depressed asymmetrical open left knotting style is also what I associate with older Baluchi pieces - the yarn is thick and rather loosely spun, as opposed to the tighter, thinner and almost undepressed knotting used in newer pieces that gives the back of the weave a flat linear appearance. Borders and the nature of the blue that was used make me want to place this in a Timuri group, but that's a tough call.

This fills an important hole in our collection; we've never fould an sufficiently unusual old Baluchi prayer rug that we could afford until now. It has some features that are less common in this genre - botehs, critters, and a decision to change the fundamental character of the design about 1/4 of the way through the rug:

Here's a closer look at the structure, at the bottom of the rug. Only at the very bottom of the piece do we see any knotting with minimal depression, a situation that goes away within two inches of weaving (and this may be related to the weave loosening up after loss of the kilims):

Here are a couple closeups of some key design elements. First, the Baluchi national emblem - the now extinct chicken-horse (a relative of the jackalope):

And, one of the botehs:

And, now, on to the camel hair topic. As Dave pointed out in a discussion of his rug some time ago, the camel-color fiber seems to have substantially different wear characteristics and abrasion resistance, in comparison to the other wools. At that time, Steve seemed inclined to reject this unit of measure, but here it is again, with no better explanation than the last time. The evidence mounts:

The appearance of the knots and fibers are somewhat different than the rest of the wools, which is better seen from the back. This is not definitive either, but it is an interesting feature to observe:

My recollection is that in one of the camel hair shouting matches someone brought up some methods, and persons and/or institutions, that could make a definitive determination. If that information is still available, I'm willing to sacrifice a knot or two to science.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 03-09-2008 12:22 PM:

Hi Chuck,

Besides the “visual test” proposed by Pat (picture of a gabbeh detail showing “a nappy, twisted look and not as uniform as the sheeps wool”)

which is interesting because it looks very similar to yours

… the method was the “burning test”, proposed by Sue:
I tested red Karakul and camel hair yarns. I also spun up some "control" yarn for comparison, due to, conveniently, (luck of the Irish?), having myself inherited those mentioned red hair genes and having no mohair like that on hand.
Here are the burn test results which I repeated four times with the same results.
Karakul: Smells and burns like plain old burning wool. Bulb of black ash on end of yarn which, when crushed, shows some specks of unburned red fiber ends which were left unblackened amongst the mostly black ones.
Control: Smells and burns like plain old burning human hair. Burned end just disintegrated without crushing.
Camel hair: Smells a little more like burning human hair, (sulfur?), than the wool smell and burns somewhere in between the other two in that it burns quicker than wool and boils a bit while burning which the others did not do. Although the camel yarn's color was darker than the Karakul it's bulb of ash was dark gray instead of black. When crushed there were no colored bits as there were in the Karakul ash.
Under x10 magnification the burnt end fibers of the Karakul were consistently rounded shiny and bulbous shaped with a little more concentrated red color than the rest of the yarn. The camel hair had no concentration of color on the burnt ends, which were also bulbous shaped, than there was in the rest of the yarn. The unburned side of the fibers kinked up, though, unlike the Karakul which stayed straight.
So, again, the main difference in my tests which set camel apart from the wool were these. The camel hair ash was dark gray, not black. The camel hair boiled as it burned. There was no concentration of colorant in the burned ends. There were no colored bits in the crushed ash. The fibers kinked up near the burnt ends. The smell was more like burning human hair than wool.

I repeated the text and found out that the supposed camel hair thread (from a soumak mafrash), besides looking more fuzzy than the other woolen threads, burned also differently.

The institution that offered free testing – unfortunately for retailers only – was brought up by Jack Williams:


P.S. - nice prayer rug!

Posted by Richard Larkin on 03-09-2008 05:04 PM:

Hi Chuck,

Now that's a rug. I love that thing. I don't know how one can put an age on these things with very much confidence, but it is definitely old character. Who's to say how long some weavers held the line on standards, and how soon others went the other way? Judging from the look of the structure and your comments about it, this looks like one of those pieces that almost always show that minor border of reciprocating black and white hooks, no? They frequently weave the Mina Khani design.

My stock tag for the "national bird" you mention is "peacock," but that's as much of a guess as anything else. Your example looks like a horse who had something fancy done with his tail for the big parade.

On the "camelid" material, your close-ups give a very good sense of the apparent difference I think I see in the tan colored field material of the Baluch prayer rugs. It just seems to have a different quality than the other wool, perhaps more "matte" looking and less glossy. Or I may be imagining it. In any case, the difference, if it is there, shows up in your detail shots. After the "camel wars" on TurkoTek, I concluded that maybe the Baluch pieces didn't use camel wool, but merely a different grade or source of sheep's wool. Filiberto's shot also looks like a different material in the camel color, though perhaps for different reasons. His looks softer and nappier, which may be the quality of real camel wool (as I remember the debates).

Posted by David R E Hunt on 03-09-2008 07:55 PM:

Hi Chuck

Nice find. If memory serves, this type of prayer rug, with these hands in the spandrels and the bothes in the field, come from around Farah, and more often seem with a distinctive, runny red dye and camel dyed wool in the place of camel hair. A few years back I ran into some (a recent shipment it appeared) in a small import shop at Mazza Gallery in Chevy Chase. I thought some were interesting, but they all had the same really bad red dye and camel colored ground. I would be interesting to obtain one of these newer examples and compare it with yours.

You gotta love that rendition of a rooster. Also, what is going on with that dark square, surrounded by it's own "border", near the top of the mihrab. Some author attributed some significance to this device, if memory serves, but the nature of this significance excapes me. Yes, a central "tree trunk" of life, bothes in the field, this distinctive change in the field design (much more interesting than if the field proceeded per the norm), hands of Fatima, free range animal figures, four chord selvedge, what doesn't it have?

Your camel hair has the same look as in my prayer rug above. Especially when viewed from the back, the texture is remarkably similar. I was able to find some camel hair yarn on the net.

I like it!


Posted by Richard Larkin on 03-09-2008 08:50 PM:

Hi Dave,

You're right, Chuck's rug has the whole gamut. Baluch heaven.

Good link on the camel yarn. It's hard to judge, of course, but it does look softer than standard rug pile yarn. The typical camel colored Baluch yarn looks harder, if anything. Little stiff bristles in it. I remember that your very excellent TOL prayer rug showed the same effect. Maybe it is simply that the lighter color reflects more off those bristles than the darker colors, and it only gives the illusion of being different.

Is that black box at the top supposed to be the Ka'aba?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Paul Smith on 03-10-2008 02:14 AM:

Rich, Chuck--

Ka'aba for that box makes sense, but what then to make of the mythic peacock dragon-camel in front of it (critters rule!?), not to mention the tree leading to it. Those Baluchi gals must have been interesting Muslims. I personally think that they had some other significance for this entire design, but I haven't found the evidence for that, other than in my little mind. Anyway, I love this prayer rug...Congratulations on a fine piece....


Posted by David R E Hunt on 03-10-2008 05:41 PM:

Hi Richard,

It has been my experience that the camel colored wool( as seen in the more recent Farah prayer rug mentioned above) looks like the other wool in the rug. I suspect this distinctive texture symptomatic of real camel hair yarn, but of course I don't know for sure. How to tell?


Posted by Steve Price on 03-10-2008 05:49 PM:

Hi Dave

Here's a link to an organization that will test for whether a fiber is camel hair. My impression is that it's a microscopic examination of the fiber. I'm sure they could point you to the method. Getting access to a microscope good enough to look at the texture of hair should be easy in any high school or college.


Steve Price

Posted by David R E Hunt on 03-12-2008 10:45 PM:

Hi Steve

Yes, sheep wool has scales, camel hair has both scales and pronounced longitudinal fissures, or some such. Should be pretty straight forward. I spoke with one of the engineers over in the lab at work today, and he said to bring in a sample so we can put it under a scope. I'll let you know what we find.


Posted by David R E Hunt on 03-24-2008 08:07 PM:

Hi Steve

Sorry it took so long, but I have finally been able to get this so-called camel hair sample under the microscope, and it does seem to be camel hair. Not that I have extensive experience in this area, but the sample seems to fit the discription and compare to the line drawing example to which I have access. Will have to do for now, as I have no intention of cutting a six inch square out of my camel hair prayer rug and having it submitted for testing.


Posted by Steve Price on 03-25-2008 08:33 AM:

Hi Dave

Thanks for doing that. At least we can now be sure that camel hair really is used for some of the camel-ground Belouch tree of life rugs.


Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 03-25-2008 10:54 AM:

camel hair

Hi Dave,
I'm too busy today, but if you still have access to a microscope and want to do a real scientific test, one even with proofs, there are a few things you have to know first. I can help you with that tomorrow, if you are interested.

Microscopes are very good tools for investigation but they don't understand anything. You will have to. You will only have to sacrifice a few knot fibers. Sue

Posted by Richard Larkin on 03-25-2008 12:38 PM:

Hi Dave,

It would be interesting to read a description of what you observed, both in the (presumably) camel hair fibers, and in any sheep wool fibers you observed for comparison. Take Sue up on her offer and see what comes of it.

Posted by David R E Hunt on 03-25-2008 05:49 PM:

Hi Sue

Let's hear it. I'm all ears...


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 03-26-2008 12:54 PM:

OK Dave,

The first thing you need to understand is that Bactrian camels are duel coated. The down coat and the hair coat can be spun together or separately into yarn. Without getting too far into technicalities it is enough to say that the commercial skein of yarn you recently posted as ''camel hair'' was spun from the dehaired down coat. The down coat is the one of focus in the luxury fiber industry and the only one, in all fairness, that that industry's spokesmen and PR people should be expected to understand anything about. You need to understand that because, as things stand now, there is no way of knowing what you were looking at or what you were looking for.
Once again, to keep it simple, you need to have a slide of the fibers prepared by someone well trained in that field because the fibers need to be shown in cross section. You cannot prepare such a slide yourself.
This slide you need will show if the hair coat was spun by itself or with the down coat into yarn and if the fiber is from camel.
You must tell the person preparing your slide what I have told you here and that the unique distinguishing characteristic of Bactian camel hair coat fiber is that they are double-medullated. That should be enough for that professional to know what to do.
You can also have them prepare you a web postable image if you want to share results with others. Sue

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 03-26-2008 01:06 PM:

Bactrian camels are duel coated?
Must be battle camels!

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 03-26-2008 01:32 PM:

Yep, Filiberto,
For these wonderful creatures life certainly must be a challenging battle. They bear their lot in life amazingly well. Well worth a thought now and then. Sue