It’s a real pity no positive information exists to define what the iconography on historic Turkmen weaving meant to those who made it.
That dearth of information also applies to all historic Near Eastern textiles further complicating understanding such artworks and even how they relate to other earlier ones.
For many decades RK hoped some manuscript, travel account, diary, etc would be discovered and from this document at the very least some of these intriguing designs could be deciphered.
No such luck and this problem remains a huge one; one that is presently impossible to overcome.
However because a voluminous number of now known to us and widely published examples exists we can provisionally, and accurately in some few cases, trace the development these icon, amulet, talisman and power symbols underwent over rather long periods of time.
Once again by defining these relationship no “chicken or egg”, B came from A, status is revealed -- rather they demonstrate how certain iconographic elements changed over time, as well as show how they became transmitted over often great distance.
When such information can be ascertained it can be combined with what is now known about the movement, ie migration, of certain groups furthering understanding the connections among and between historic weaving peoples.
In Part V we illustrated this slit tapestry(kelim weave) textile,
one we believe to be an important key to help unlock the mystery surrounding design meaning.
We must stress just because it was supposedly discovered in Fustat, the old burial ground near Cairo, does not guarantee it was woven in Egypt, nor does it securely date it to the protocol normally assigned for textiles found there.
On the contrary, RK believes it to be much earlier, and we would not be surprised if it was woven before Christ.
We have examined it and although we were prevented from taking any samples for analysis, or actually touching it, we did perform quite a good examination.
The only color besides a buff ivory is a very unusual, rich copper red –- the textile is very finely woven and appears to be incredibly fine and silky wool, although it might actually be finely spun linen or silk.
Some months after we had the opportunity to study it we discovered and purchased the following textile from a dealer who had found it as part of a lot of miscellaneous scraps sold in a “textile sale” by one of the large London auction-houses.
early slit-tapestry fragment of unknown origin; unpublished
Our fragment is undoubtedly related to the V&A’s but it is clearly a later, far less potently iconographic and articulated version. We must state here we know of no other similar or related textiles, and trust us we have looked far and wide.
Color-wise it is very similar; though that, said somewhat different.
It, too, has a buff ivory and a red copperish color as well.
The V&A’s exhibits a far richer and deeper red while our is much lighter – more yellow-red than rich red.
The warps are in our memory quite similar so is the weft, however, in our fragment it appears (again in our memory) to be less tightly spun and therefore somewhat ‘thicker’ and ‘flossier’.
A propos to our publishing it at this time we should mention we have recently sent a tiny sample for dye and fibre analysis, and as soon as those results reach us we will publish them here.
Both the V&A and our slit-tapestry textile show a much earlier version, archetypal for the V&A and prototypical for ours, of the back-to-back icon we illustrated in Part V.
The fact it appears in these textiles, in the Anatolian fragment and disguised in the Saryk MC’s Timurchin gol is not a coincidence or accident; far from it.
Were it only to appear on our early slit-tapestry fragment this connection might be questionable, however, since there are other important icons the V&V textile, ours, the Anatolian fragment, and the Saryk MC gol share it is far more difficult to discount.
Before we deal with the more complicated ones let’s look at the more obvious.
First of these is the “S” icon, which you can plainly see repeated several times in the V&A slit tapestry and in the center box of the Anatolian fragments large octagonal gol.
It also appears, but disguised, in our ancient slit-tapestry textile and the Timurchin gol.
We cannot explain why there are no plainly visible “S” icon in them but we can easily demonstrate how they are there by changing the figure/ground orientation of their iconography.
This technique, figure/ground analysis, should not be viewed as spurious, as it is, and has been accepted as a viable in textile research.
Another more significant is this detail from the V&A slit-tapestry
detail showing two confronting long neck birds(swan?)
Again this icon reappears in the Anatolian fragment where, at the top of the vertical arm of the back-to-back icon, are a pair of very well defined flag-like semaphores, reproducing here the bird heads from the V&A example
The Anatolian fragments birds are not shown confronted but back-to-back, a different but related pose
Another plainly obvious analog can be seen in these two photo
confronted bird icon from the V&A slit-tapestry(left) and as an abstract central ornament from our fragment(right)
The confronted birds also appear in the Saryk MC Timurchin gol and although they are somewhat disguised they are still quite easily identified.
This detail from the top of the Timurchin gol shows the confronted birds icon – here the birds are vertically aspected
In fact this icon appears several times within the Timurchin gol, as this detail from the center, and a close-up of one side, shows
Analog like these, and others we could demonstrate, point out the importance icon such as the “S” and the confronted birds held, how they held their importance over centuries and how various seemingly unrelated weavings actually are iconographically related.
You might wonder where all this is going and why we have presented two unknown ancient textiles in the context of this discussion.
To be blunt, we believe both these slit-tapestry textiles were not made in Egypt but rather in the vicinity of far western China and the borders of eastern Turkmenistan.
We would like to get a sample of the V&A textile, as well as the Pazaryk carpet and compare them to not only our textile but also some of the most archaic Turkmen rugs in our collection, as well as others we know from other collections.
We are sure the Pazaryk carpet was not made in southern Siberia (Altai), where it was found but rather south and west of there – maybe in Turkmenistan? By the way, RK is not the first person to suggest the Pazaryk could have been made in Turkestan, and it is truly amazing no one has done intensive dye analysis and compared the results to early Silk Road textiles or any of the small number of now recognized archaic Turkmen weavings.
Introducing these two ancient textiles in our discussion of the Saryk MC and Anatolian fragment shines some faint light into the dark recess and unknown historic iconographic background of a Turkmen gol, like the Timurchin.
We would be the first to readily admit this is conjecture, but it is conjecture based on analysis of a strong iconographic relationship.
This is the only tool available and while we are sure many will scoff at what we have just presented we’d like to see them disprove it.
More to come, stay tuned