Joel Greifinger
October 26th, 2014 12:28 AM

It's all a rak'at
Hi Patrick,

One example of how difficult it is to make attributions on flatwoven items that may have been produced by Khamseh Confederacy weavers is provided by the rak'at that you posted in the salon:

One dealer who has sold a number of rak'ats with this soumak structure (as opposed to others that are weft-substitution) has consistently attributed them to the Arab Khamseh. Here's one of those:

However, in his monograph on the Afshar of Kerman, Tanavoli writes that these rak'at originate from the Jiroft district in central Kerman province (and that the weft-substitution variety are mostly from Jabalbarez). He implies that the rak'at is exclusive to Kerman: "Just as the tacheh is the specialty of the Bakhtiari of Chahar Mahal, the rak'at is the specialty of the Afshars." This is one he attributes as Afshar:

This bag face, like your bag, has the common Khamseh border:

Are these rak'ats Khamseh? Did the Kerman influence, Afshar and otherwise (since Tanavoli says many are produced near Jiroft by the Persian speaking majority) spread this form further west? All the way to the Arab concentrations of the Khamseh Confederacy? To echo your quote from Brian MacDonald, at the time of writing (i.e. now), it's difficult to say.

Joel Greifinger

Patrick Weiler
October 27th, 2014 03:53 AM


The influence went both ways. Looking on the web for Jiroft weavings does not turn up any rakats. I personally consider Tanavoli to be among the most reliable authorities on Persian weaving, however. There is an Oriental Rug Review article by P. J. R. Ford from December/January 1992 with an Afshar rakat from Sirjan, halfway between Shiraz and Kerman, right about where Afshar and Khamseh may have mingled.
Was the monograph you mentioned from Hali, or this one from Turkotek?
When I went to the internet to find more of these rakat pieces, this Wikipedia entry caught my eye:

"A rakat, or rakʿah (Arabic: ركعة rakʿah‎, plural: ركعات rakaʿāt), consists of the prescribed movements and words followed by Muslims while offering prayers to God (Allah).
After performing the ablution, and evoking the intention to pray for the sake of God, the worshipper will stand quietly while reciting verses of the Quran. The second part of the rakat involves bowing low with hands on knees, as if waiting for God's orders. The third movement is to prostrate oneself on the ground, with forehead and nose on the floor and elbows raised, in a posture of submission to God. The fourth movement is to sit with the feet folded under the body. In the concluding portion of the prayers, the worshiper recites "Peace be upon you, and God's blessing" once while facing the right, and once while the face is turned to the left. This action reminds Muslims of the importance of others around them, both in the mosque (if the prayer is being offered at mosque), and in the rest of the world.
It also refers to a single unit of Islamic prayers. Each daily prayer has a different number of obligatory rakats:
Fajr — The dawn prayer: 2 rakats
Zuhr — The midday or afternoon prayer: 4 rakats
Asr — The late afternoon prayer: 4 rakats
Maghrib — The evening prayer: 3 rakats
Isha — The night prayer: 4 rakats, plus 3 rakats of the compulsory witr prayer
The Friday prayer consists of 2 obligatory rakats, and is offered in congregation in place of the afternoon prayer on Friday."

Now, is the term for the bags related in some way to the prayer ritual?

Looking on the internet for Shiraz bag turned up this "Small Shiraz Bag" piece from Harvard/Art:

It is probably Qashqai, but shows that this design was used regionally.

Here is a soumak piece from an R. John Howe: Textiles and Text presentation on Afshar Rugs and Textiles by Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman. (http://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2009/...xtiles-part-1/)
It has the bird-on-a-pole design found in the rakats, and is what I would expect a typical Afshar kilim to be. The rows with the bird-on-pole designs are in soumak with what looks like white cotton, and the rest is in designs one often sees in weft-substitution pieces from the Jebal Barez region.

Here is another piece from the presentation, with the bird and hourglass border, which I would have thought is Khamseh except for the more rectangular than square shape:

Unfortunately, no description of the weave was provided.
My large Khamseh khorjin has sections of dark blue wefts alternating with sections of red wefts.
Here are some Afshar indicators they mention in regard to their rugs: "The warps of Afshar rugs are usually ivory wool. Warps are invariably depressed, usually about 45 degrees, but town rugs tend to be more deeply depressed than tribal rugs. Afshars usually have two orange-red wefts between the rows of knots, which helps to distinguish them from Khamseh pieces, although single-wefted weavings are encountered."

They do not say how Khamseh's are wefted differently, though the Afshar "red" is more of an orange color - so maybe red Khamseh wefts are less orange.

There was a mention of the people who lived in the area before the Afshar came - possibly ancestors of some of the later Khamseh; "Centuries before the arrival of the Afshars in Kerman province, the area was inhabited by a variety of Persian, Turkic and Arabic-speaking tribes. Among the most important were three Baluch tribes, two Lori tribes, as well as some Lak tribes."
And this possibly relevant (to the salon); "Edwards also notes: “The Persian weavers of the Sirjan valley far outnumber the 40,000 nomadic Afshari and their rug production is greater.”
And: "In general, Afshars have a somewhat less flexible handle than do Khamsehs. They are somewhat more flexible than are Qashqa’i pieces."
This may not be relevant to flatweaves, though, but this is: "Proximity allowed the Khamseh tribes of Fars and Neyriz to the west, to exert considerable influence on Sirjan weaving, so many of the latter, especially the flatweaves, are hard to distinguish from those of the Khamseh. Striped rugs and those with tree designs are made both in Sirjan and Neyriz."
And: "Pockets of Afshar (also Khamseh) are found in the neighborhood of Neriz, a town in Fars province to the west of Kerman."

There was a piece brought in by someone in the audience, which was labeled "Complete Afshari khorjin in soumak technique".

The construction of the border and guard stripes, though, are identical to the Khamseh cradle from the salon. As far as I know, none of these cradles are said to have been made by Afshar weavers, so one might reasonably assume that this khorjin is Khamseh.

The takeaway from the Textiles and Text presentation is that there was a lot of Khamseh weaving influence (including prior to the Confederation) in Kerman province and that differentiating them is problematic.

One last tidbit from the Textiles and Text presentation mentions pieces similar to this final flatweave from the salon:

"Shiraki peech: another square-ish format, a flatwoven cover about five feet by eight feet, with a complicated structure in which plain weave is combined with weft wrapping, brocading and weft substitution to produce images and motifs that are often diamond shapes."

I wouldn't call 5x8 "squarish". But indicating that these shiraki pieces were covers would be reasonable, as we know that kilims were used by some tribes for covering their possessions which were lined up at the back of the black tent, often on top of rocks to keep water from damaging them.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
October 28th, 2014 05:31 PM

Bird of the day
The Bird on a Pole design as a tribe-specific indicator is not very good.
As we have seen, it is common to these rakat pieces and also to a farther west Qashqai origin. It is also often seen in Shahsavan work.
The rakats all have the bird heads facing in the same direction, like an overhead silhouette of a bird flying, or a manta ray swimming. Most other versions have the top bird head facing one direction and the bottom facing the other. Like Steve Martin in Walk Like An Egyptian.

Here is another funky rendition:

I am not sure of the origin of this piece. It has thin cotton warps, but it has single wool wefts, mostly very dark brown with a section of white wefts and at the bottom, red-orange wefts.
You can see the orange wefts at the bottom where I have disassembled the piece so you can see them easily.

The rabbit-head/cloudband motif seen in the top two horizontal bird panels is common in Kurdish work. "North west Persian" is about as specific as I can be. The colors, along with the single wefts, lead me in a Veramin direction. But it is not as finely woven as most Veramins.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
October 28th, 2014 07:53 PM

Making a helluva rak'at

There is an Oriental Rug Review article by P. J. R. Ford from December/January 1992 with an Afshar rakat from Sirjan, halfway between Shiraz and Kerman, right about where Afshar and Khamseh may have mingled.
Was the monograph you mentioned from Hali, or this one from Turkotek?

The Tanavoli book I referred to was Afshar: Tribal Weaves From Southeast Iran (2010). In it he writes, "Sirjan is definitely the most important center of Afshar weaving in Kerman Province." You may be right that its location in western Kerman close to Fars Province may have facilitated mingling with elements of the Khamseh, but I would suspect that this is the part of Kerman where Afshar weaving influence would be strongest.

The rak'at that Ford featured in his "Flatweaves of Kerman Province" article is in soumak like the "birds on a pole" examples. Like the one below (and a number of other soumak rak'ats that I've seen) it has this common South Persian border:

This field design is sometimes seen on soumak horse covers from Kerman generally attributed to the Afshar (though the Buchaqchi are also sometimes mentioned):

Jenny Housego pictured this one from Kerman with that same common border:

And speaking of Jenny Housego, she showed this "birds on a pole" design soumak rak'at with star border sitting amongst a variety of other items, all of which she called Qashqa'i:

And, just to provide a visual to differentiate these soumak rak'at from the weft-substitution variety from Jabalberez, here's one of the latter:


Patrick Weiler
October 31st, 2014 09:35 PM

Whaddya Know
Just back from another trip in the Wayback Machine to Afsharland, and I found something Steve Price left behind.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
November 1st, 2014 07:44 PM

Aliens Among Us?

Thanks for posting that Jebal Barez weft-substitution bag for comparison. If Housego was correct in assigning hers to the Qashqai, then the format and designs could logically have worked their way across the swath of SW Persia from the mountains of Jebal Barez to the Zagros, through Afshar territory, the inhospitable Khamseh region to Fars and beyond. Or the other direction...

As for the inhospitable Khamseh region, I just made that up.
The real inhospitable region is along the Halil Rud, which passes the Jabel Barez mountains. Wikipedia:
"The climate of the Halil Rud or Halilrood (Rud or Rood means "river" in Persian) basin is extremely hot in summer and of moderate temperature in winter. It is one of the hottest places in Iran and the world, with recorded temperatures as high as 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) in August, 1933."
It would seem that the locals wouldn't need a lot of pile rugs to keep warm.
So, when they went to the grocery store they weren't asked "Paper or plastic?" but "Pile or flatweave?".
There was a Bronze Age Jiroft (at the bottom of a triangle between Sirjan to the southwest, Kerman in the north and Bam in the southeast) civilization from 2,000-3,000BCE excavated starting in 2002 after a bunch of bronze and ceramic artifacts were confiscated from poor villagers who looted the sites, which produced a lot of artworks including those showing the "tree of life", "God of Animals", Birds and cylinder seals, leading archeologists to believe this area, between India and Iraq, was the origin of the Elamite language.

From http://www.cais-soas.com
Unfortunately, though the area was explored in the 1930's by Aurel Stein, most of the modern press coverage was sensationalized and scholarly excavation reports are scant. Even new-age Alien followers have jumped on the bandwagon claiming the connection to outer space. So, the NEW name of the salon is The Curious Question of Alien Khamseh Kilims.
In that spirit, here is a likely Jabel Barez area weft-substitution khorjin. The odd thing about this piece is that the back appears to have been removed and then re-attached.

And the back, where you can see the squiggly line at the top and bottom where it was attached:

The design and format in this piece is completely different than the rakat weft-substitution piece Joel shows. Often, the khorjin-type pieces are confused with Baluch work, but the designs are more like those found in Khamseh pieces like this one:

Patrick Weiler

Chuck Wagner
November 2nd, 2014 03:31 AM

Well, yes, as pointed out in the other thread, this last one is Bakhtiari (or so states the owner...)

Chuck Wagner

Patrick Weiler
November 2nd, 2014 11:39 PM

Bakhtiari by golly
The Bakhtiari story is a long and interesting one.
From Wikipedia:
"Bakht" is the Persian word for "chance" and "iari" literally means "companion". Chance companion, also translated as Bearer of Good Luck.

The famous movie Grass, about one difficult 1925 migration from their winter camp in Khuzestan to their summer quarters near Chahar Mahal, can be seen here:

They were instrumental in the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty in 1909, although leading to the Pahlavi regime who executed several of them fearing their influence. Today, instead of executing our political enemies, we let them go on talk shows.
As for their weavings, their soumak is known for the wide spacing between rows, allowing the ground wefts to show. Here is a large bag, 40"x51" (102x130cm) of soumak, complementary weft and pile:

The widely separated soumak shows the red ground wefts, especially visible in the blue field:

They also make flatweaves in the double-interlock tapestry method.
Here is one approximately 30"x30" (75x75cm)

This closer view of the front shows this technique superficially similar to dovetailing, but a bit less regular looking:

From the back it is clearly different:

They are known to make large kilims in this technique, but Chuck's was not determined to be double-interlock and we haven't got a photo of the back to confirm it. So, the jury is out if a dovetailed kilim with motifs similar to Afshar and Khamseh flatweaves is a Bakhtiari or not. I would certainly rule out Qashqai because it is not slit-weave and Afshar because it is not weft-substitution or soumak. Bakhtiari is less likely unless it is double-interlock, but it is a "newer" kilim so anything is possible, but the process of elimination sort of leans Khamseh for me.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
November 2nd, 2014 11:50 PM

Diamonds in the rough
Here is another Bakhtiari khorjin, in rather worn condition. It is soumak with a pile strip along the bottom of each bagface. It is not too easy to see from this shot, but the red ground weft is noticeable in areas of blue soumak - especially in the closure tabs. It also shows how the once realistic floral meander in the white border is now quartered boxes and diagonal lines. And the latchook medallions in the field have a five-diamond configuration which is most easily seen in the latchooks which have white diamonds in them.

The back shows several leather patches covering wear:

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
November 3rd, 2014 09:48 PM

All diamonds, no rough

their soumak is known for the wide spacing between rows, allowing the ground wefts to show.

Since we're now (somehow, in a thread about rak'ats :rofl:) onto Bakhtiari mixed technique khorjins, here's one where the soumak is unusually fine and regular.

In describing a very similar half khorjin, Michael Craycraft comments, "It is amazing to me how the best Bakhtiari weavings are passed off as Shahsevan while the most recognizable examples are passed over. This example is Shahsevan quality while still retaining its true signiture."

But, back to rak'ats for a moment, :deadhorse:


If Housego was correct in assigning hers to the Qashqai
That seems unlikely, given that this may be the only time this type of bag has been attributed as Qashqai. Reducing the likelihood is the drawing of the stars in the bag's borders which are identical to the way they are drawn in the Afshar horse covers and rak'at I posted right above the Housego photo in post #4. :flush:


Patrick Weiler
November 3rd, 2014 10:39 PM

Luring me in, Joel?
Well it could be Luri instead.
Yes, it is quite finely woven. I can see only a bit of red wefts in some areas.
Old rug dealers would say maybe a Qashqai woman married into a Bakhtiari family and brought her weaving skills with her. Or, as in most things, there are some who are just a lot better. I recall that some folks consider these Bakhtiari-type of bags with the straight horizontal pile section - different than the saddle-shaped pile - as being made elsewhere than in a tribal Bakhtiari setting. If I can locate a reference I will post it.

Here is another rakat, which I located on Spongobongo. It was sold at auction in Europe in 2007 as Bassiri.

It also appears to be divided down the middle. Probably for carrying beans on one side and rice on the other.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
November 29th, 2014 08:58 PM

How did the 'Baluch' get into this thread?

I can't quite make it out, but it looks like the face of that last Bassiri rak'at was done in either dovetailed or double-interlocked tapestry. If so, I think that's the first rak'at that I've seen that was not either soumak or weft-substitution.

The go-round on attributing the weft-substitution rak'ats and other types of bags (as witnessed in the "Salt Bags, Afshar?" thread) has been going on for a while now. Back in the day (i.e., 1998  ) George O'Bannon wrote that this one came from "a distinct group of Baluch weavings from the Kerman region of Iran, an attribution provided by Tanavoli, Bread and Salt, 1998."


Patrick Weiler
December 2nd, 2014 01:36 AM

My complements
There is another feature of that rakat, the closure tabs have a kind of reinforcement at the openings, similar to this Bakhtiari khorjin:

And it is hard to tell from the picture if the tabs themselves are constructed like these:

They are probably constructed from complementary wefts, some in a twill pattern, because I am not able to find any ground wefts. The texture is very dense, unlike the complementary weft bands bordering the closure tabs in the rakat and typical of the Qashqai Frieze of complementary weft construction.

Patrick Weiler

Patrick Weiler
February 7th, 2015 04:32 AM

Afshar, I don't think so.
Here is a full khorjin with the same design as the one found in many of the rakats posted. I located it on a John Howe Textile Museum blog entry,
It is said to be Afshar. Sure looks Khamseh to me. Notice the green and red complementary-weft frieze bordering the closure tabs, square rather than rectangular format of the faces, reciprocal red/green triangle minor borders and the twill closure tabs.

Another case of mistaken identity!

Here is a true Afshar version, shown on Marla Mallett's web site:

This one has the weft-substitution construction and angular S border that the O'Bannon piece has and similar to the one attributed to Jabal Barez below.

The case is not closed!

Patrick Weiler