Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XIV.A
Author:jc
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Tue, Jan 12th, 2010 08:48:21 PM
Topic: RK Examines Anatolian Kelim
Part XIV.A

As discussed in Part XIV, this archetype has a number of icon imbedded in its design and this set of icon is reproduced, to a greater or lesser degree, in every other Anatolian kelim of its type depending on the period of its production.

This is not phenomena; all other archetype, and their copies, demonstrate this same circumstance, which RK has referred to as prescription.

To re-cap for any new readers: This examination of Anatolian kelim forwards three basic premise:

1.There is a small group of extant Anatolian kelim, numbering 11 examples, produced during the Archaic period.

2.These archetype present a specific set of icon, or rarely a single icon, and as such are template for the later examples of their type.

3.All example of each archetype group can be placed on a continuum of relative date based on art historical comparison to the archetype.

The previous parts have presented documentary evidence and proof of these premise, and will continue by comparing a number of similar birth-symbol kelim to the archetype above.

Perhaps the best of those, and we chose the earliest and most faithful to the archetype we could, is this one:

late Classic period; 100 Kilims; Plate 95

While couple others we will soon illustrate are more visually similar to the archetype, this kelim has spirit -- a spiritual connection-- and presents an animated, living version of the archetype.

The birth-symbol have depth and character, qualities most other examples lack, or fail to properly articulate.

The large, somewhat over-powering top and bottom borders would have been a detriment had the weaver placed more birth-symbol icon in the field; but she didn’t, and that ‘knowing’ impresses RK, as well as makes her kelim into something exceptional.

The fact it is woven in one piece has little to do with anything, or it’s dating.

It is the balance, perfectly worked out proportions, expert color combination and blending that also make this piece.

Notice the prescribed treatment the two red ground outer side borders exhibit – here we see the birth symbol and reciprocal bracket rendered as on the archetype.

As you can see the reciprocal figure/ground relationship doesn’t have the crisp clarity of the archetype, but it is there and it’s no accident, proving this kelim’s weaver was privy to the archetype set of icon.

The plain striped filler between the borders on the archetype also found their way into this kelim as well.

These similarities are well worth noting, as the time/space separation from the original clearly limited the chance the complete set of icon would be reproduced.

Another notable aspect is the blank, motif-less, centers each of the eight birth-symbol have, which RK interprets as a memorial of the blank space between the fourth and fifth birth-symbol in the archetype.

The next of the group is also a late Classic period kelim, in fact we know of no example of this group that date earlier.

early Traditional period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 58

Ostensibly this example follows the archetype’s ‘form’ far more visually than the first one we illustrated.

But the plethora of misplaced emblem, the loss of any regard for the archetypal set of icon --save the birth symbol itself, the vaguely similar reproduction of the vulture/hand/bird side border and plain stripes -- relegate this piece farther down, the continuum, or as kelim art.

Notice the similarity of the top and bottom border, and the large dolls in the single decorated side border to Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol.

These are icon from the archetype set and here, as is often to case in later weaving, they have become ‘combined’ into and with another archetype icon set.

There is no mistaking this is prescription, as the tiny ‘dots’ above and below each of the dolls have been directly lifted from Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol proving this connection beyond chance, even in a climate of decline.

The decline the prescribed nature the culture of Anatolian kelim weaving suffered is responsible for this, and the many other instances RK can cite.

Remember there are no accident or chance occurrence when criteria like this are present, nor are there when none are.

This might be rule number 1 in studying Anatolian kelim.

The fact this kelim combined icon set from two archetype signify it is later than the first one we illustrated, as well as providing proof on a literal plane for the far more spiritual quotient that example possesses.

Next on the continuum would be these two kelim, neither is appreciably closer to the archetype, so we will list them together in no order.


early Traditional period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 37


Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating; Plate 41

The deYoung Museum kelim is typical for the better pieces made in the Traditional period, still expressing the main archetypal icon with fidelity; notice the proportions are far closer to it than the other two we just illustrated.

However, that’s all this kelim has going for it, as in every other respect it is way down on the continuum.

The side border’s exhibit some degree of prescription but the figure/ground relationship is not well reproduced and the addition here of that important icon RK has mentioned is quite out of place.

The unitary repetition of an emblem like it in the centers, as well as between the eight birth-symbol (notice this number repeats the archetype) and in the upper border can be ascribed to the weaver’s displacement from the archetype, another sign of Traditional period work.

This kelim is undoubtedly a half; the lower border a quite degenerate version of the one on Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol.

It is interesting to read the tongue-twister big-word-say-next to nothing text description in the catalog.

It begins “The muted colors of this great kilim create subtle harmonies that soften the dramatic impact of the stacked hooked hexagons.” and goes straight down hill from there.

We are going to illustrate a couple of the others, but before we do let’s quote a bit more from the description for this one.

Here, however, the use of the ground color for the interior of each motif throws the hooks into strong positive relief; this, in turn, allows us to view the design on the horizontal axis and thus we can see a classic Neolithic image – a goddess with arms raised.

This nonsense is typical of the ‘goddess-fever’ Garry Muse and other kelim dealers and collectors were infected with circa 1990.

There is no doubt some of the iconography of the Anatolian neolithic period can be glimpsed in certain kelim, but the fact this kelim’s birth-symbol is an ageless universal motif was lost on Muse and others, whose limited understanding of the idiom prevented their assessing what is neolithic and what is nonsense.

One more quote:

Highly schematic figures, twinned chromatically, appear in the minor end panels. This double image occurs in two gold twin idols from the Bronze Age, one of which is in the Museum of Civilisations in Ankara. The side border is unusal and has an archaic feel to it; colors reverse sequentially between pairs of rectangles and their interior motifs, adding dynamism to a very simple design.

Those minor end panels do have the important icon, and its reciprocal, but this iconography has absolutely nothing to do with the referenced gold “twin idol”.


The Museum’s description: Twin idols; height : 4 cm; found in the royal tombs in Alacahöyük; 2300-2000 BC; product of Hattian art; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey” ,

By the way Muse’s text does not illustrate these idol, perhaps had it he might have realized his erroneous citation.

This is another example of goddess-itis and the silly references not only Muse was prone to make.

This kelim does have a genuine quality but because it is so late that genuineness is its strongest, and only, virtue.

The one illustrated above, along with it, exhibits many of the same deficiencies but it too has some of the icon set of archetype.

Again, this can be detected in the side borders where the reciprocal birth-symbol is missing the bracket; the birth-symbol have been twisted 90 degrees changing the reciprocal between them into something different that appears to us to be a type of hexagonal ‘star’.

The plain stripe borders are included, but the “S” icon, in a post-archaic period interlocking form, has now been introduced into the mix of iconography this kelim presents.

The addition of this foreign, ie from another archetype, icon is again typical of Traditional period work.

Again the same prescribed number of birth-symbol, eight, are shown here, well demonstrating the staying power these archetype icon set possessed.

The red and white upper and lower simple reciprocal border apes Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol, and the single emblem in the field, above and below some of the birth-symbol, have been lifted from an extremely early Classic period kelim we illustrated in Part IV.

Border detail; Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; Plate 8

While we’re identifying sources, the interlocking “S” border has been taken from a Classic period striped kelim illustrated in Part VIIIA.

Border detail; Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; Plate 9

One last comment: Notice the small, almost unrecognizable, vulture icon that have been reduced to just an ‘H’.

They can be seen in the lower half to the left of the first blue birth-symbol on the left, and to the right of the last blue one; as well as to the right of the last blue on the upper half, and 9 others scatted about, four on the top half and five on the bottom.

Lifting and reproducing icon from other archetype, as we see here, is a hallmark of kelim made in the later Classic, and throughout all of the Traditional period.

These two kelim, both from the deYoung Museum collection, would follow on our continuum.

Again they are listed in no order as they both are Traditional period.

Traditional period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 38

Traditional period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 35

RK really doesn’t have much to say about pieces of this ilk.

They interest us not, as there are no interesting features and their time/space separation from the archetype has lessened the prescriptive nature of the weaving culture that produced them.

One could say they are distant cousins far removed from the family tree.

What does interest us, solely mind you for the confines of this discussion, is the catalog text for Plate 35.

RK has again added our comments in bold type.

This is another incredible kilim that makes word seem inadequate.

Well, if you have nothing to say then, RK imagines, one might be speechless when confronted with a kelim like this.

It demonstrates a profound understanding of color and form, its grandeur deriving in part from its size and the scale and proportions of its motif.

Actually there is nothing profound about this kelim, or Muse’s comments.

Far from it, as the “understanding” he mentions, in RK’s opinion, only represents Muse’s inability to understand it.

The juxtaposition of the five primary colors-- blue, red, yellow, green and white – on the area where the birth-symbol sit is nothing we find to be profound, though it is highly attractive.

If this shifting field color is studied, even cursorily, there is a pattern the weaver followed.

Had she replaced the two red ‘column’ between the three rows of birth-symbol, and other the two at both sides, with similar shifting color changes for the red diamonds that form those column, her kelim might really have been profound.

Leaving them red creates a certain static drag, and prevents this color shifting from visually taking off.

There appears to be a deep awareness of ancient imagery, which is expressed with uncompromising power on many levels, extending to its coarse weave and thick warps and wefts.

The author’s mentioning a “deep awareness of ancient imagery” is laughable, so is seeing this rendition as very ‘ancient’.

The coarse weave, thick warp and weft, are also signs this kelim is not historic but rather a later work by a weaver working with coarse materials to hasten the process, and not to, and this is equally as laughable, “express uncompromising power.”

The disposition of color is deliberate and assists in the creation of the images.

On the surface this statement is patently obvious, and doesn’t really need mention.

However, considering the “disposition of color is deliberate” in every kelim, one might wonder where the author is going here.

Make no mistake Muse is going nowhere, as the “disposition of color” in this kelim doesn’t create the images.

Far from it; it clearly obfuscates identifying them, not to mention those images are well known from the countless other kelim, they surely are not originated here.

This is an example of big word-it is and losing sight of what really needs to be said, as well as demonstrating Muse and Bennett actually don’t know what they are talking about.

Each of the four-hooked hexagons arranged in three vertical columns, holds the so-called birth-symbol in its center on a separate ground color”.

The authors are lost because the birth-symbols are formed in-between those colored centers with the red diamond columns between the two parts of the birth-symbol, not inside them.

Though Muse does get it right in the next sentence, doing so negates what he just wrote, only adding confusion on top of error.

This symbolic motif links the major elements on the vertical axis. The thin line connecting the negative motifs across the red field creates another level of images interdependent on the first. This multi-dimensional aspect of the design is a feature of early kilims.

Honestly, this is hog-wash because a clearly articulated iconography is a “feature of early kilim”, not a “multi-dimensional aspect” created by clever, or less than clever, color juxtaposition.

Kilims with rows of four-hooked hexagon constitute a distinct design type of which this and the following six are examples.

True, true, they are Mr Muse but according to our analysis the six are, like this kelim, all later renditions where the icon set has been lost, and their frequent combination of alien icon in the mix has done nothing to facilitate their understanding.

As an aside, Muse once told us this kelim was the most expensive one he ever bought, so perhaps that’s why he is gushing about it.

One last comment: Notice the border on the right side. This is a very late version, a combination, if you like, of the interlocking “S” border and a highly degenerated vulture or “hand/bird” as Petsopolous called it.

This next kelim, also from the deYoung Museum collection, is far more worth words of praise, as it is not contrived as RK finds the piece we just finished discussing.

Traditional period; Anatolian Kelim Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 41

Here is a weaver who produced a weaving with far more understanding of the archetype and, at the same time, created an exciting interplay of color and form.

The balance and proportions are typical for the Traditional period; the birth-symbol slightly too large for the field space, same for the brown ground main border and its ungainly motif invention, each one containing the reciprocal of that important icon RK has mentioned in its center.

But these faults are, when the whole is considered, not terribly detrimental or unattractive, and in the final analysis this kelim is one RK would rather look at than the heralded previous example.

The inclusion of the tooth-comb brown and white border, far more than any other aspect, ameliorates the errors of proportion, and along with excellent color, color choice, and use, this is an very admirable later weaving.

The only remnants of the archetype icon set, besides the birth-symbol, are the plain stripe side borders and the sole inclusion of the important icon in the centers of the birth-symbol.

For RK these are normal examples of later prescription, emphasizing the weaver was culturally connected, and not just tangentially as we would remark was the case for the weaver of the kelim above.

The next is an example of tangential association to the archetype and the specific weaving culture that produced it.

late Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating; Plate 23

This kelim is one of the very few examples of the birth-symbol group where the peaked-gable, or mirhab/niche, icon is present.

Note: It is a fragment and RK would venture to guess originally there were, just like in the archetype, eight of those peaked-gable.

But the migration of the birth-symbol, the major icon of the set, to the border(s) places this kelim far down on the continuum.

The repetition of the important icon in the center of those somewhat misunderstood birth-symbol, and the gable, demonstrate how effective and indelible prescription was, this kelim being well separated and distant in space and time from the archetype.

That is clear, however, there are other connection with that archetype, like the use of purple for the space under, not above, the gable and the thin plain stripe borders visible on the right side.

These, once again, are prescription at work and prove the continuity of ancient weaving culture among certain specific Anatolian clan and larger groups of clan.

This situation was proven by the excellent fieldwork Belkis Balpinar has done in Anatolia, her contribution to the Vakiflar kelim book introducing this proof and her text for the Goddess of Anatolia further expanding it.

What Balpinar has written should be required reading for anyone interested in Anatolian kelim, and RK highly recommends it.

The final true birth-symbol kelim is what we’d call the end of the line.

late Transitional period; 100 Kilims; plate 94

Once more the icon set of the birth-symbol, the border's reciprocal pseudo-birth symbol and plain stripe borders are present.

This is additional proof of prescription by an eternal and protected weaving culture certain Anatolians were privy to and lived.

There are two other birth-symbol type kelim groups we should mention.

RK would really call them both pseudo-birth-symbol or spin-offs as will be readily apparent from these illustration.

Traditional period; Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating; Plate 32

The repeated, almost entirely disguised and hidden birth-symbol is shown in the detail; the birth-symbol in the detail being the reciprocal white figure read on the half red and half blue ground.

And while this alone would not be enough for RK to include this kelim in this listing, notice the larger of the two border on the right side.

What appears, in full clear view, is the reciprocal birth-symbol and bracket rendered exactly like the archetype.

We have not mentioned this in connection with prescription but, like other cultural aspect, it did not move in a linear fashion, and the hidden birth-symbol, along with the reciprocal border, this late Traditional weaving exhibits is perfect example of this process.

It’s unfortunate the other side borders are not extant, as they might provide further evidence of this kelim’s close spiritual connection to the archetype, regardless it is clearly quite distant in actual time and space.

The inclusion of important icon, alone with no others, in the center of each of the border’s large birth-symbol is another clue to this connection; same with the lack of filler motif.

The second related group has already made an appearance in Part XIII.

Early Traditional period; The Goddess from Anatolia; volume 1; Plate XI, no.7



early Traditional period; Radiocarbon Dating & Anatolian Kelim; Plate 33

We add a third example.


former private collection, California USA

This group has birth-symbol secreted between the armed hexagon but notice there are no other element of the archetype icon set present in two of them; and only one, the important icon used here in a minor role, appears in the Goddess from Anatolia example.

What is equally remarkable is the absence, in either of the two, of any archetypal icon from the birth-symbol set, or any other.

The Goddess from Anatolia example does have a recognizable rendition of the dolls from Plate 1 Image Idol Symbol, dots and all, in its outer side border.

We believe this is no accident, and although RK cannot possibly conceive why this group was produced.

We can only presuppose these three kelim were woven at roughly the same time by the same weaver, or by a very small clan of weaver, who may not even have be cognizant of the history the hidden birth-symbol carried.

End Part XIV.A

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