Patrick Weiler
October 28th, 2014 09:55 PM

Salt bags, Afshar?
Among the many types of weavings made by Persian tribes, salt bags factor prominently.
Here are a couple which exemplify one of the issues at hand in the salon; namely, the difficulty attributing pieces to the right tribe or region of manufacture.
This first piece is labeled "Baluch Salt Bag". It has reciprocal complementary-weft triangles on a striped, plain-weave ground. The back is stripes with the triangle designs only on the top row and neck.
My suspicion is that it is more likely Afshar, although it could be Khamseh too. With so little to base a determination on, possibly the deep green color may be telling, if one could find other pieces with that color.
This complementary-weft pattern is seen in a Kurdish salt bag from Varamin in the Tanavoli book Rustic & Tribal weaves from Varamin.

The next piece is labeled "Afshar Salt Bag" and was purportedly in the posession of Dr. Murray Eiland. The back of the tag says EI,M-6 and 2x2 3.

It has designs in weft-substitution and some twining. The major design is one seen in other areas also, including a Qarachurlu Kurd khorjin in the Tanavoli Varamin book. The back is plain weave maroon/red except, as with the first piece, the neck and top of the bag. The rosettes at the top and bottom of the bag are often found in weavings from the Varamin area.

Here is a piece which I posted in the mini-salon Fascinating Flatweaves. I mention this so Joel doesn't have to search the Turkotek archives to catch me re-using a piece from before.

And here is the other side:

It has the unusual structure of single-interlocked tapestry. Mention is made by Hull/Wyhowska of Khamseh double-interlocked tapestry flatweaves, but they probably mistook the structure for dovetailing. Marla Mallett shows this technique in Woven Structures and says it is quite unusual to find. For one thing very few people actually look for it, and for another it looks superficially like the more common dovetailing. Single interlocked tapestry is when a weft thread is inserted into the looped end of a weft thread adjacent and then it loops back the direction it came from. The interlocking is in between warps. Dovetailing is where each of the two weft threads loops around the same warp and one returns to the left and the other returns to the right. They don't loop through each other. This piece has five small pile designs woven in asymetric knots, similar to most Afshar weaves. There are also single knots of pile punctuating a few of the rows of plain weave on the front of the bag and the warps are brown - as you can see from the "ropes" on the shoulders of the bag which were at one time tied together for carrying. Khamseh or even a Kurdish attribution is also possible for this unusual salt bag.

These pieces show how motifs travel widely and often the tribal attribution of the weavers is tenuous.

Patrick Weiler

Marvin Amstey
October 28th, 2014 11:50 PM

This may seem like a dumb question, but I've read about and seen plenty of "salt" bags. Never did one have any remnants of salt in them. Has anyone actually seen salt in such a bag???

Patrick Weiler
October 29th, 2014 01:46 AM

Rock and Roll

Large, solid blocks of rock salt wouldn't have left many crumbs the size of table salt. The herders probably traded for blocks of salt which they would chop into the right size, unless they passed salt beds on their migration route. There are many salt mines in Iran, including one cave near Zanjan where half a dozen mummified men have been found, some as old as a couple thousand years. And some of the men were from hundreds of miles away. Bigger herds needed larger salt bags to carry more salt.
It is provided to the sheep and other animals at a water stop when sheep are migrating into high meadows with little water. This lets them drink more and they can last longer before needing more water.
From a paper in Advances in Environmental Biology about animal husbandry in the Alborz region of northern Iran, they also put rock salt in the manger of animals to prevent sheep and cattle from eating soil and to compensate for mineral deficiencies.
Here in Washington State, hikers are warned not to take a leak onto shrubs, because the mountain goats will eat the shrubbery which is not part of their usual diet. And they also will lick it off the ground where you urinate.
Here is a Khamseh salt bag, currently on the market:

Tanavoli, in Bread and Salt, shows three Khamseh salt bags in black and white; one is Nafar and one Baharlu. An internet search turns up many Afshar salt bags which look a lot like Khamseh work, but not many Khamseh salt bags. Once again, the poor Khamseh get short shrift.
Oh, and as with many weavings these bags probably had multiple uses. One report is that they sometimes carried seeds. Someone mentioned a bottle of olive oil being carried in one, although the shape of the bottle must have been quite narrow.

Patrick Weiler

Marvin Amstey
October 29th, 2014 04:10 PM

I understand the importance of salt and its use as blocks. One of the largest salt mines in the US is within 30 miles of where I live and provides most of the salt for the roads in the NE. My question still stands about salt in these little bags with narrow necks. I would still expect some salt residual - even from blocks, and how do you fit an 8-10 inch cube of salt into that bag? Call me a skeptic.

Steve Price
October 29th, 2014 04:50 PM


Washing one of these things once would remove any traces of salt left in them, so even if someone opened one up to look for it, there probably wouldn't be any.

The shape restricts it to some dry material that consists of small pieces, and various writers who've done field work call them salt bags (that's suggestive, at least).

Why didn't the Turkmen make any? That question was raised 15 years ago in a Salon . The answer seems to be, that's just how things are.


Steve Price

Patrick Weiler
October 29th, 2014 05:22 PM

Namak Attack
The practice of carrying salt in a bag to be used in cases when the herder was aware that little water would be available at a higher-elevation meadow makes sense. Herders who did not migrate in areas with that type of topography and terrain wouldn't need to use salt bags like these.
These bags are called namakdan, for the Persian word namak, which means salt. We have animal-husbandry words for function-specific things like feed-bags saddle-blanket etc. So the name was most likely attached to salt bags for good reason.
Another reason for the narrow neck may have been to prevent animals from getting into the bag. Livestock can be persistently mischevious that way.
As for why there are no traces of salt in the bags on the market, even if they weren't washed, I don't know of many collectors who actually taste their pieces before they buy them. Except for this piece, though:

Patrick Weiler

Filiberto Boncompagni
October 29th, 2014 07:01 PM

Honey, could you pass me the salt bag, please?

Patrick Weiler
October 31st, 2014 06:19 PM

A salt, no battery
The Oriental Rug Review was a tabloid/newspaper from 1981 to 1987, when it became a full-color magazine until ceasing publication in 1996 - around the time I got terminally interested in tribal rugs. I was able to buy a box full of them several years ago from the publisher, Ron O'Callaghan, on ebay. He sells the still-remaining 30 or so back issues (I guess they are all back issues now) on ebay. For a while, he began an attempt to publish the entirety of ORR on his website, but it is no longer active.
A few articles can be found here:
And a couple of ORR articles are on the Thomas Cole Antique Rugs and Textiles web site. Here is a link to the one on Salt Bags from Kerman:
A couple of relevant quotes:
Salt bags were used " to transport and store salt and a variety of loose materials like seeds, nuts, and so on."
And, regarding who made all these things:
"such products were made by the Osturi and Buchaqchi tribes as well as in the town of Sirjan itself. Tanavoli cites the Buchaqchi Ashraflu clan as belonging to the Afshar tribe. Other writers seem to consider the Buchaqchis as separate from the Afshars."
Joel mentioned the Buchaqchi in another thread on rakats. So, it looks like I will have to rename the salon The Curious Question of Osturi and Buchaqchi Kilims.
Buchaqchi seems to be a name which briefly surfaced back in 1993 at least. I do not recall ever seeing a tribal weaving with that name, though. It looks like Afshar became the handy reference, as P.J.R. Ford stated in the ORR article:
"I cannot attempt to distinguish, as Parviz [Tanavoli] does, between the genuine products of the Turkish-speaking Afshars and those of the Persian-speaking tribeswomen and settled villages who clearly outnumber them"
Among whom we can probably place some Khamseh and Buchaqchi.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
October 31st, 2014 09:42 PM

Oriental Rug Review online
Hi Pat,

The demise of the ORR website is a significant loss since a substantial number of the articles from Vol. 8-16 had been posted online.

Fortunately, the Wayback Machine Internet Archive has captures of the site from as late as Sept. 2013 that allow access to the articles that had been published to that point. Here's the link:



Joel Greifinger
November 1st, 2014 12:21 AM

Oy, Bochaqchi

Tanavoli cites the Buchaqchi Ashraflu clan as belonging to the Afshar tribe. Other writers seem to consider the Buchaqchis as separate from the Afshars.

After many years and a number of earlier publications on Afshar weaving, Tanavoli finally published Afshar: Tribal Weaves From Southeast Iran in 2010. There he reviews the positions on the origins of the Bochaqchi. Some, like Edwards, believe that the Bochaqchi were separated from the Afshars only after the Afshars had migrated to Kerman. Others, that the tribe was originally affiliated with the Afshars who were settled in Zanjan and Rey and were moved to Kerman by Nader Shah. Still others believe that they have no tribal relation to the Afshars and have entirely separate tribal structures. He doesn't weigh in on which position he believes is strongest.

He concludes the discussion with these observations:
"Today, Bochaqchi rugs and textiles can hardly be distinguished from those of the Afshars. Several groups around Sirjan, Chahar Gonbad, and Bolvard appear to be producing Bochaqchi textiles; these regions belonged to the Bochaqchi in the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century...If a line between the Afshars and the Bochaqchi were to be drawn, it would run between Sirjan and Baft. The Bochaqchi occupy the northern region of this area, from Sirjan to Bardsir, and the road from Sirjan to Bandar Abbas. The Afshars reside to the east and south of Baft and in Aqta. Based on this geographical dilineation, I have associated the Bochaqchi with the northern Afshars rather than with the southern Afshars (who are known as the Aqta Afshars), to distinguish the textiles of these two tribes from each other."

All clear now?


Joel Greifinger
November 14th, 2014 06:45 AM

Rubbing salt into the ponderous Baluch/Afshar flatweave conundrum
Since the name of this thread is "Salt bags, Afshar?", I thought it would make sense to introduce this salt bag that I'm pretty sure isn't Afshar, but plausibly could be. The differential attribution of similar pieces has been through the Turkotek mill on at least a couple of previous occasions.

This one is 27" x 18". The field alternates bands of weft-substitution with soumak, which also frames the neck of the bag. There are lots of silk highlights in the field decorations.


One of the factors that leans me towards a 'Baluch' (and more specifically Timuri) attribution for this namakdan is the analogy with end finishes on Timuri rugs, like this one. This rug also features silk in both the end finihes and in the field:

But, also see the border on this Jabalberez Afshar rak'at for comparison:

An earlier discussion centered on this quite similar namakdan:

posts #149-221

and earlier, this one:

in this thread:

What were the conclusions? 


James Blanchard
November 16th, 2014 12:15 AM

Hi all,

Tanavoli opined that the following two bags were "Jabal Barez". They've been posted on TT before, but I thought it might be relevant for this thread.


Patrick Weiler
November 17th, 2014 01:58 AM

Jabal, Babble, Rabble

Yes those bags look like what we are calling Jabal Barez. Weft substitution is widely used by Afshar in that region. .
It is sandwiched between the Baluch region to the east and the Khamseh to the west. The prevailing belief is that the Baluch influenced the Afshar. But there are Afshar in Khorasan Province who used weft-substitution also.
Here is an Afshar from Kalat District northeast of Mashad, from the ORR Flatweaves of Kerman Province article.

And a Rugrabbit Kalat salt bag:

The Afshar were sent south, into "Baluch Territory" from the north. Did they learn weft-substitution from the Mashad Baluch and take it with them south and did the Baluch they moved near in Kerman learn it from them?

This piece was called Afshar by Mark Berkovich who showed it at ARTS in 2009.
But it has that squared-box meander border and what looks like twill reciprocal brocading at the top, both more Khamseh feeling than Afshar to me.

And throw in this Berkovich piece labeled Southwest Persian, with the rectangular (more Afshar like) format and the more Khamseh like "hash-gul" motif along with the back-to-back C Khamseh motifs in the border. The half-latchhook design surounding the field, though is the most Khamseh like design.

Joel, the first bag you showed in your post looks more Baluch, but the last one more Afshar because of the "hash gul" motif.

Patrick Weiler

Filiberto Boncompagni
November 17th, 2014 11:24 AM


Joel, the first bag you showed in your post looks more Baluch, but the last one more Afshar because of the "hash gul" motif.
Sorry but I have to disagree, Patrick: the three salt bags shown in Joel’s post # 11 (ESPECIALLY the first and last one - which is mine, by the way) are too similar in layout, construction, colors, borders etc. to have a different provenance, whatever it is.



Joel Greifinger
November 18th, 2014 07:29 PM

Twill be making a hash of it

it has that squared-box meander border and what looks like twill reciprocal brocading at the top, both more Khamseh feeling than Afshar to me.

Perhaps the border provides some justification for the Khamseh vibe you get from this salt bag, but the twill at the top of the neck is a very common feature on Afshar namakdan.

Of the dozen flatwoven salt bags shown in Wertime's "Some Salt Bags From Kerman Province" (ORR 13:6), eight have this twill pattern (that is there described as "reciprocal weft weave"). In Tanavoli's Afshar, of the four salt bags, three have this feature. These two overlap the two publications and he specifically comments on this element of the design:


Joel, the first bag you showed in your post looks more Baluch, but the last one more Afshar because of the "hash gul" motif.
I agree with Filiberto about the common features of the three salt bags I posted in #11. I think they are all 'Baluch' with the strongest indication not the design elements, but the shape. While there are exceptions (there always are ), Afshar salt bags tend to have wider bases in relation to the length of their necks. In terms of the appearance of the hash gul, versions of this design appear in 'Baluch' material (in the so-called 'tile' design and in the center of chantehs [bottom row below])

and show up just about everywhere. Here's another from Anatolia:

A design feature that intrigued me on the first of the three salt bags in #11 (mine) was the drawing of the 'diamond and animal heads' in the neck and across the middle. I wondered if this version appeared in both 'Baluch' and Afshar weft-substitution designs.

So far I have found it on this mixed technique 'Baluch' kilim in the weft-substitution stripes:

and a similar serrated rendition on this 'Baluch' salt bag:

but not yet on any Afshar weaving.


James Blanchard
November 19th, 2014 01:21 AM

Hi Joel,

Here is another salt bag with that design which I have associated with the "Baluch". The palette of this one might suggest something down towards the Sistan region, I suppose.


Joel Greifinger
November 19th, 2014 04:24 PM

Hi James,

The green on brick red in your bag really makes the design pop.

Here's another 'Baluch' rendition on a salt bag from the Albert Mazzie collection that was displayed at ACOR6 in Indianapolis:


Patrick Weiler
November 20th, 2014 06:08 PM

Thieving Baluchi's

You mentioned the "diamonds and animal heads" design perhaps being exclusively Baluch because you have seen it in their work, "but not yet on any Afshar weaving."

It is not possible to determine which direction this design traveled, from Baluch to Afshar or the other way around. But, as Paul Smith has so eloquently put it in another thread, "all thread roads lead to the Baluch".
Proof that the thieving Baluch stole it from the Afshar.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
November 20th, 2014 10:40 PM


the drawing of the 'diamond and animal heads'

You mentioned the "diamonds and animal heads" design perhaps being exclusively Baluch because you have seen it in their work, "but not yet on any Afshar weaving."
Is drawn like ????????

I wasn't saying that this way of drawing the design is exclusively 'Baluch', just that I hadn't seen any similar Afshar renditions.
Still haven't.


Patrick Weiler
November 21st, 2014 12:35 AM


I was pretty sure the small size of the photo might make it a bit hard to distinguish the rows, at top and bottom of that piece, of those "diamond and animal heads" design.
One reason it is difficult to make out is because of the positive/negative aspect of the design. In yours and James, there are only two colors used. The Afshar version in the rah-rah kilims use multiple colors, complicating the "reading" of the design. Or, I need glasses.

Here is an Afshar rendition on the market with a respected (for generally accepted, accurate attributions) dealer.

It, too, uses the two-color version of the design.
Afluch? Halfshar?

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
November 21st, 2014 01:31 AM

I thought you had faced it

I was pretty sure the small size of the photo might make it a bit hard to distinguish the rows... complicating the "reading" of the design.
I thought you already understood that I don't 'do' complicated.

I can certainly see that drawing of the design clearly in the latest bag (in #20) attributed as Afshar by the "respected (for generally accepted, accurate attributions) dealer".

I also am having trouble shaking the sense that it's related to this one, attributed in Powischer's Beludj as "Belutsch-Gruppe, Khorassan":

In September, 2012, a very wise ruggie started a thread on Turkotek that he titled, "Face It, We Aren't Sure". I'd like to applaud his epistemological modesty  and draw the same conclusion here.


Patrick Weiler
November 22nd, 2014 04:28 AM

Mixed Message

You mentioned " a very wise ruggie started a thread on Turkotek".
Too bad he doesn't post any longer.

Most of these weft-substitution salt bags, both Afshar and Baluch, look a lot alike. And we can't be sure if they are labeled accurately to begin with, so it is likely that there has been confusion all along.
The Tanavoli book Bread and Salt shows a few Afshar of Varamin salt bags in this technique, looking somewhat Baluchish. And one Za'faranlu Kurds of Varamin with the Khamseh octagram design, in pile.
He also shows several Baluch salt bags from Khorasan and some from Kerman. Too many are black and white. I would have gladly paid another $5 to get those in color.
All making things "complicated". Sorry.

We may never be Sure, but when we have a chance to clarify things a bit, it may add to the database of knowledge that the NSA has stored somewhere.

Patrick Weiler

Joel Greifinger
December 6th, 2014 01:46 AM

Things are not always black & white, though sometimes...

The Tanavoli book Bread and Salt shows a few Afshar of Varamin salt bags in this technique, looking somewhat Baluchish...He also shows several Baluch salt bags from Khorasan and some from Kerman. Too many are black and white.

Given the paucity of flatwoven pieces reliably attributed to clans of the Khamseh Confederation, sometimes you have to renew aesthetic appreciation for good 'ol black & white

This first one Tanavoli lists as the work of the Nafar clan and cites its technical similarities with weaving done by the Lors of Fars:

the next is given as the work of the Arab or Baseri tribes. The weave here is also similar to nearby Lori work:

And, to return to the sometimes ambiguous Afshar/Baluch differentiation in mixed weft-substitution and soumak pieces, this one is Baluch from the Khaf area of Khorasan. It has a lot of both technical and stylistic similarities with the one I posted back in #11 including the rendering of the 'diamond and animal head' motif discussed in subsequent posts.


Chuck Wagner
December 7th, 2014 07:04 AM

Joel, et al.,

Strong it is, the epistemological conundrum in this one:

No one seeing the front would suggest anything other than Baluch, for what it's worth...

May the farce be with you,
Chuck Wagner


Joel Greifinger
December 8th, 2014 12:42 AM

Strong like Jedi?

Strong it is, the epistemological conundrum
May the farce be with you
Greetings Yoda...uh, Chuck

Cryptic you are.
Conundrum there is?


No one seeing the front would suggest anything other than Baluch
Should they? Aren't those stripes of weft-substitution chevrons about as close to a 'Baluch' signature as it gets, structure-wise?

I don't remember seeing them on presumably 'Afshar' products. Although Jabalbarezi khorjins sometimes have chevron stripes on pieces with weft-substitution weave designs, my impression is that the chevrons are done using slit-tapestry, not weft-substitution as in the 'Baluch' versions.

As usual, Marla provides the best gloss on the techniques involved: http://marlamallett.com/ef-weft-.htm