Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >MAD or just Ersari/Beshir?
Author:jc
email: jc@rugkazbah.com
Sat, Jun 2nd, 2007 04:10:33 PM
Topic: MAD or just Ersari/Beshir?

Until actual scientific procedures/techniques and processes are applied to pre-commercial period weavings, there can never be any real discussion of, not only the problem of Middle Amu Darya(MAD) attributions, but those of almost any other pre-later 19th century Turkmen weaving group.

Naturally, the same can be strictly said of all other near Eastern rug producing areas as well. However, examples from Turkey(Anatolia), the Caucasus region(greater Armenia) and Iran, while almost as mysterious, do often times appear to be easier to provenance.

That said, and quite understandably, rug research is, at least in RK’s opinion, stymied by this lack of scientific principles/proof and not until this barrier is lifted will we ever be able to far more assuredly, let alone positively, provenance genuinely old and historic examples.

Or, for the matter, will we ever be able to positively relate and group examples together with any reliability.

RK knows this well and we are not asleep at the wheel here. We are moving, albeit slowly, to establish procedures to utilize the scientific testing methodologies that now exist (and would be necessary) to investigate and collate the types of salient factors needed to establish a database of scientific Oriental Rug criteria.

It is clear only after such a database is available to rug cognoscenti, dealers, collectors and researchers will they, or anyone else, be able to properly support and prove their contentions, ideas and opinions.

Sorry for the long preamble but RK can not stress enough the necessity for rug studies to make use of the latest scientific tools and techniques, as relying on the limited information available from structural analysis, naïve dye analysis (like spectrographic) or design comparison, which are the only methods in use today, is totally inadequate.

Likewise, we are extremely leery and unconvinced many of the latest rug “theories”, or older ones, concerning the grouping of weavings into clusters, will be supported by the scientific analysis and resulting database of information we want to see established.

It seems, at least in discussing Turkmen weavings, the hottest contemporary topic is trying to establish groups for Middle Amu Darya MAD weavings.

Formerly called Ersari and Beshir, these terms have now been cast aside and the general MAD attribution has taken over.

This is not to say there are no efforts to break MAD down into smaller, more specific clusters but RK believes the present situation with its lack of the determinable (provable) common (shared) criteria is woefully inadequate for this task.

So in the end we believe these efforts will be, in the end, no better or specific than calling these weavings by the old general terms: Ersari and Beshir.

Here are two MAD weavings with the same design layout – similar main gols but far different minor gols, borders, etc.

It should be abundantly obvious the upper example is much newer but what else can we determine?

As RK has only handled it and not the other, we cannot definitively determine if they both are related in any other ways than by design.

To do this properly would require establishing a database like the one we mention above.

We will be glad to further this discussion depending on reader participation.

Author: jc
email:
Sat, Jun 2nd, 2007 04:10:33 PM

At this point in time trying to sort of the differences between Ersari, Beshir, MAD and Kizil Ayak weaving is basically an exercise in futility.

However, that does not mean we should all give up but rather realize any results are only provisional and probably will, like many other of today's attributions, fall by the wayside when other more scientific tests are applied.

RK has read what the Turko-Idiot, Virginia Commonwealth University professor steve price, wrote concerning our assessment of the Kizil Ayak chuval we posted in this thread.

We have also received several emails that questioned our belief this chuval is not "very old", as david reuben stated it is.

By the way, RK knows and has spoken to reuben enough to deduce he is nothing more than a mediocre London carpet dealer aspiring to be an "expert". RK says he has a long, long way to go before fulfilling that goal.

We are reposting the Kizil Ayak chuval reuben postulated about to facilitate comparison with another one that genuinely is "very old".

We stand by our assessment and to demonstrate what RK considers to be a "very old" (ie. pre-1800) Kizil Ayak chuval, we would like to post the following detail:

Although not exactly the same both these chuval exhibit enough similarity to support this comparison and to show why RK placed the other chuval in the second quarter of the 19th century.

Author: jc
email:
Tue, May 29th, 2007 07:20:48 PM

John:

Now we understand what you were inferring in saying structural analysis is not scientific.

You were not questioning the science of structural analysis but it being used for rug group identification.

We can agree with you here, too - it is not positive - but even though many structural criteria are not specific to one group, like your Yomud symmetric knot analogy, they do, at times - think "S" group - provide a good measure of identification accuracy.

Here is the Kizil Ayak chuval you mentioned:

While RK knows some ruggie's eyes will believe they are looking at a chuval with "archaic" features, in reality these articulations have been lifted from pieces that genuinely are "archaic". This one ain't.

RK would gladly pin our patented pastiche moniker on this chuval but it is way, way above our dreaded airport art designation.

It's a good example of a chuval of this group but not a champion, by any means.

RK would date it second quarter of the 19th century on picture alone. However, if were had it in our lap we would not be surprised to revise our dating to the first quarter.

Surely it is not post-1860 or pre-1800.

Author: John Lewis
email: john_lewis@mac.com
Tue, May 29th, 2007 01:10:07 PM

In saying that structral analysis is pseudo-scientific, I am not saying that it does not have a use, simply that is not scientific. One of the tests of someting being scientific is that it must ALWAYS be true e.g. the angles in a triangle on a flat surface ALWAYS add up to 180 degrees.

If we knew that the Yomud tribe were the only tribe that wove with a symmetric knot then every piece with a symmetric knot would be a Yomud piece.

We know little about the tribes in 1800. We read that taking captives from other tribes was common practice. I cannot believe that a woman captive would always be forced to change her knotting style to conform to that of the tribe she has been captured by.

BTW there is a rather ill-mannered discussion underway on ****(professor clown's website, ed) about a Kizil Ayak(?) piece. I think looks older than 1850 - what is your view?

Author: jc
email:
Mon, May 28th, 2007 06:41:42 PM

After re-reading our post below, we felt it pertinent to mention the following about C14 dating.

1. The views expressed below only concern C14's use in determining the age of old Oriental Rugs, not other types of objects.

2. We firmly believe in the scientific validity of C14 but only in conjunction with archaeological material that has been carefully extracted from its source and then carefully protected from any new contaminants.

3. The contamination problems old Oriental rugs present are, at least in RK view, too difficult to be removed and, therefore, any results will be skewed and unreliable.

4. Until there is a completely satisfactory database of known-age wool samples, remember C14 dating is basically a comparison of an unknown with findings that are known, dating old Oriental Rugs with C14 remains limited and in our estimation questionable. The databases of known samples for silk and cotton are far more reliable and comprehensive than what presently exists for wool and C14 dating of these materials is far less questionable and, sometimes, even unquestionable.

Author: jc
email:
Mon, May 28th, 2007 05:29:57 PM

Greetings John and Happy Decoration Day:

Today is a holiday here in the colonies that was originally established in 1868 to honor America's war dead. But, like most of American History, today's americans don't know the first thing about our Country, its history or how it is being dismantled and destroyed.

OK, enough of that and let's take a look at some of what you wrote -- most of which, by the way, RK agrees with.

"I think that there are few truly SCIENTIFIC techniques that can be used to assist in determining the age of rugs."

RK agrees but please realize the testing we refer to has nothing to do with age determination. Rather the testing we are interested in undertaking is purely to forensically examine the physical nature of selected weaving groups.

"Carbon dating has its problems."

Here, here mate don't we agree. C14 analysis is, frankly, nothing more than an opinion, as no result is positive but only relative in nature. We have discussed our views on C14 and need not repeat them here.

"For natural dyes (anything that has a synthetic dye is modern and therefore ignored for this discussion), the mordant is as, if not more important than the dye itself in determining the place where the wool was dyed."

Yes, the mordant is an important component but there are others as well. Examining them and collating those findings into a database is, in essence, what RK intends to do.

This says nothing about where it was woven because the dyed wool could have been traded, It is an indicator.

Yes, true but if the materials a rug is composed of can be located geographically it would be a giant step.

"Structral analysis is not scientific - pseudo scientific at best."

RK does not agree. If the structural analysis is competently done the resulting data on, for instance, the spin and ply of the fibers and the exact style of weaving utilized is positively scientific and RK is surprised at your being a doubting-thomas in this regard. Perhaps, you would like to further explain your position?

"Forensic analysis of DNA might allow particular weaving families to be identified which may solve the "who" but not the "where"."

Again, knowing the "who", regardless of the fact the "where" is unknown, would be another giant step.

"To me, the design continuum (not scientific) offers the best indication of age - the secong rug just looks older than the first - but is it?"

Art historical analysis is presently the most salient technique to determine where a particular example belongs on the design continuum that can be formed for almost any weaving type. Honestly, we believe this technique to be miles ahead of C14 analysis and far more valuable to answer “how old is it” questions.

"How do we KNOW (scientifically?). Of course, the real question is "Does it really matter?"."

Until there is a scientific database of rug criteria/characteristics this question will remain unanswered. With it, RK is sure, we will come a long way on the road to solve these mysteries.

"A whole bunch of disciplines and their practitioners like to consider themselves as "scientific". Few are."

True, true but this occurs in every field, not only scientists. How many rug dealers really know about historic rugs? Or, for the matter, how many collectors really know what they are buying?

As for the comparison of the two MAD pieces in this post?

Well, take it from RK, the upper piece is probably 100 years newer than the other.

Age is not always commensurate with beauty but most of the time, especially with non-Classical non-urban examples, the older are mostly the more beautiful.

But, that said, the older examples are frequently damaged and most eyes would be detracted by this circumstance. Forget about the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” adage.

As far as RK is concerned, we would always rather own a historic and damaged example than one that is not historic but in good condition.

Author: John Lewis
email: john_lewis@mac.com
Sun, May 27th, 2007 03:57:59 PM

I think that there are few truly SCIENTIFIC techniques that can be used to assist in determining the age of rugs.

Carbon dating has its problems.

For natural dyes (anything that has a synthetic dye is modern and therefore ignored for this discussion), the mordant is as, if not more important than the dye itself in determining the place where the wool was dyed. This says nothing about where it was woven because the dyed wool could have been traded, It is an indicator. Various techniques are available to determine the mordant used.

Structral analysis is not scientific - pseudo scientific at best.

Analysis of pollen/dirt may give an indication of where the rug was used, but that also says nothing about where it was woven.

Forensic analysis of DNA might allow particular weaving families to be identified which may solve the "who" but not the "where".

To me, the design continuum (not scientific) offers the best indication of age - the secong rug just looks older than the first - but is it? How do we KNOW (scientifically?).

Of course, the real question is "Does it really matter?".

Rugs should be appreciated for their beauty alone. A Monet copy is as good as an original - just not as valuable.

Imagine a machine that could replicate EXACTLY an old rug. Does it matter that the second is a replica. Is it less "valuable"?

Old weavings should be preserved (i.e. not cleaned or repaired) until such times as scientific techniques CAN be used to extract information about them.

Imagine how many ruggies would be crestfallen (having washed their rugs) if in 20 years time a device could analyse the dirt in a rug and determine exactly where it had been used.

Of course, they may be disappointed by the answer "Basingstoke".

A whole bunch of disciplines and their practitioners like to consider themselves as "scientific". Few are.

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