Home > Turkmen Rugs >Tracing the Timurchin
Sat, Nov 18th, 2017 11:41:22 AM
Topic: Tracing the Timurchin

(ed: In April of 2011, soon after RK discovered and acquired an ancient carpet fragment we believe was woven in the 14th century by a western Turkmen group who migrated into Anatolia somewhat earlier, we began to research the octagon gol known as the Timurchin. This fragment, which also is published on RugKazbah.com in an eight part paper -- An Ancient Saryk Main Carpet and its progenitor -- has iconography that appears to be directly related to this gol.

So do two other early but later Anatolian rugs. This relationship is examined below and we have placed it here in the Best of RugKazbah topic area to bring it to the attention of the many new readers who have recently learned of our website and publications.)

To say RK is interested in learning how the designs on Turkmen rugs developed might be an understatement, as this is where much of our research over the past decade has been focused.

We initiated this search with how some Bronze Age and older archaeological objects from Turkmenistan and neighboring areas maintained with Turkmen rug designs, and since the mid-1980’s when we wrote the text for the Tent Band/Tent Bag book we have published a number of them.

More recently, beginning in 2007, we began to explore the iconographic relationship they have with certain Silk Road western Asian textiles and, in the fall of 2009, published some of our evidence in the most recent Weaving Art Museum exhibition – Animals, Pearls and Flowers: Synthesis of Turkmen Iconography.

However interesting the scant information these lines of inquiry have provided, it often has raised as many questions as answers and consequently there still remain huge gaps in understanding just exactly where and how the iconography on Turkmen pile weaving crystallized.

Early Anatolian Village rugs are another area where we believe data can be found to help unravel this mystery.

And several months ago we discovered a very interesting connection but before discussing it we would like to say a few words to put it into perspective.

For as long as we can remember we wanted an archaic period Saryk Timurchin gol carpet, or even a fragment, and in June 2010 we discovered and purchased what we believe is the earliest, most significant Timurchin gol Saryk carpet extant.

detail, Timurchin gol from a complete early first period Saryk MC; RK collection

The photo above was published some months ago on RugKazbah.com in Part II of our series titled:
An Ancient Saryk MC and its progenitor

This gol exhibits evidence it is from an archaic Saryk main carpet (MC) and we suggest readers compare it with other carpets of the type.

However, this discussion is not about such a comparison but rather one with two Anatolian rugs with connections to the Timurchin gol embedded in their iconography.

We will show how certain features they display provide clues to how the Timurchin gol might have looked prior to the codification seen in an early first period example like that one above.

Plate 31, page 238; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum Istanbul; 1988.

Let's begin by focusing on the upper left and right spandrels where some key elements are present.

Detail; Plate 31; showing key elements found also in the Timurchin gol

Here is a close-up of the detail above.

Before we discuss this relationship we must state for the record we believe the Timurchin gol MC is pre-16th century, the Vakiflar’s Plate 31 first half of the 17th century and Plate 30 (below) late 16th century.

Likewise, we also believe the icon embedded in these two Vakiflar rugs and the Timurchin gol MC are descendant from a common ancestor, an even earlier presently unknown pre-archaic period Timurchin gol.

And because the process of design transference is not perfectly linear, but erratic and far less than ordered, these somewhat later Anatolian Village rugs can provide interesting insight into how the Timurchin might have looked in even earlier times.

Frankly, we are not sure which version, our Timurchin gol MC, Plate 31’s, or Plate 30’s is closer to that original.

However, we are sure they are related, and that is the purpose of this exercise -- to attempt to trace and plot that relationship by comparing some icon they all share.

The first of these we will call the crown icon

Detail; showing the crown icon as it appears in the upper left spandrel of Plate 31

One might wonder where this crown icon appears in the Timurchin gol, but rotating it 90 degrees should make that obvious.

We believe Plate 31’s more embellished crown icon was distilled and, as crazy as this might sound, lifted as an individual unit from the earlier and more complex one from the original Timurchin gol.

Below is all that remains of that earlier icon.

Detail from the Timurchin gol

For lack of a better name are going to call this icon the multiple crown.

There is another rug in the Vakiflar Collection that also has embedded interesting parallel with the Timurchin gol.

Plate 30; page 236; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum; Istanbul

We do not have a copy of the Vakiflar book with us but we are 99.99% sure both these rugs were discovered in the same Mosque, which provides another bit of evidence for the close iconographic relationship we believe they share.

The crown icon is far less visible here but, as the photo below demonstrates, nonetheless is quite present.

Detail of Plate 30 showing the crown icon

Unlike on Plate 31 it appears mirror-imaged, as well as part of a far more complex icon.

Detail showing complete complex icon where Plate 30’s crown is displayed

Although it is surely accreted, it is perhaps the closest we can get knowing how the original Timurchin multiple crown icon once looked.

To demonstrate this we have compressed Plate 30’s complex icon and placed it next to the multiple crown from the Timurchin gol.

While it is obvious they are not exactly alike, it is obvious a more than coincident relationship exists, and more importantly for this discussion how this sheds some light on the archetypal ancestor of the Timurchin gol and the multiple crown icon might have once looked.

The repetition of design elements in Turkmen gol, and the repetitive nature of their rugs even in the earliest extant examples, is not something found in early period Anatolian Village rugs where far less repetition and a much larger vocabulary of icon exist.

The reasons for this are unknown but a good guess would be early period Turkmen rugs were made for use within secular confines, while Anatolian Village rugs were non-secular and basically destined for mosque, shrine and turbe.

The religious aspect of the weaving culture that produced Anatolian Village rugs was highly organized around the mosque and there can be little doubt, because of their ubiquitous presence in mosques, these rugs were part of organized religious practice and devotion.

On the other hand, the religious nature of the Turkmen groups who produced these weavings was not organized, nor did mosque and shrine exist for their intended use, or preservation.

This meant the Turkmen rug and its particular group-centric iconography stayed within the close confines of each weaving group; and, unlike Anatolia that was a cross-roads for countless cultural migrations, Turkmen included, there was a very limited amount of outside iconographic contact and influence.

This isolation would on first glance make the Turkmen rug a better repository for holding original iconography but because weaker Turkmen groups were constantly being absorbed by stronger ones, and in the process had their traditional iconographies destroyed or merged into their captor’s, it is conceivable the origins of their earliest icon and complex iconographies were lost and/or codified.

It is sure their preservation was far less secure.

This was not the case in Anatolia where the historical record shows far less inter-group, and intra-group, conflict and amalgamation until well into the late 16th century.

And for this reason it is quite possible Anatolian Village rug iconography, though far more accreted and complex than that present in Turkmen rugs, can in some respects provide better clues to their common ancestral origins.

If any one sentence would encapsulate what RK is trying to demonstrate with this exercise it would be above.

Below is the next icon the Timurchin gol and these two Anatolian Village rugs share.

Timurchin gol center box with three petal flower icon repeated at the end of a unique double-mirror 45 degree axis

This icon not only appears in the Timurchin gol but also on other MC gol made by the Saryk, Ersari and Beshir (Amu Darya) groups. It is also found in the center panels of many Saryk engsi, as well as occasionally showing up on later torba made by various groups now referred to as Amu Darya and Kirgiz.

However, the higher level of naturalistic drawing, the crisper articulation of each element and perfect proportions of this icon in our Saryk Timurchin MC, and to varying degrees some others we could mention, put serious weight on our belief the Timurchin gol is the original site for it, ie the archetype, and the others all subsequent copy.

It is highly significant this format -- a double mirror 45 degree axis with flowers -- is present on the two Vakiflar Collection Anatolian rugs.

Plate 30; page 236; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum; Istanbul

This detail is, of course, what we are referring to.

Detail showing large single bud-flower on double-mirrored 45 degree axis; Plate 30; page 236; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum; Istanbul

We have studied these rugs carefully and have discovered other, more subtle connection to support our seemingly far-out conclusion these two Anatolian rugs are close relatives of the Timurchin gol.

First, as the photo comparison below demonstrates, both Plate 31’s crown icon and Plate 30’s single bud motif have three nearly identical curlicue or fancy twist minor elements.

Detail of crown icon and single bud-flower showing their triple curlicue

This might seem circumstantial but considering the Timurchin gol has a double-mirrored 45 degree axis with a three bud flower, and Plate 30’s version only a single bud, those triple curlicue might very well be the vestigial remains of the Timurchin’s three bud arrangement.

As for the curlicue in the crown icon we can only suggest it, too, comes from the same circumstance – a distillation of the numerous hooks on the perimeter of the Timurcin multiple crown icon.

But this curlicue tangent is just that, something ancillary to the main point here, so let’s get back on that track and examine some further connection the double-mirrored flower on a 45 degree axis of the Timurchin gol maintains with these two early iconographic Anatolian Village rugs.

Plate 31’s lower left and right spandrel also have embedded vestigial remains of the flower but here the double-mirrored axis is only implied.

Detail from the lower spandrel of Plate 31 showing a motif normally seen as a five- spot; though considering the context of this discussion, its layout could imply connection to the Timurchin flower’s double-mirrored axis set-up.

However, the flower-like element illustrated below, that is likewise embedded in Plate 31's upper left and right spandrel, adds additional initiative making this connection far more concrete.

Detail from the upper spandrel of Plate 31 showing a flower with a double-mirrored 45 degree, as well as a 90 degree internal axis.

As vague or difficult parts of our argument might sound, the overall concept the ‘simple’ Timurchin gol is related to the more accreted and complicated iconography Plate 31 and 30 display should now become more apparent.

As is often the case with early period Anatolian Village weaving, these rugs have far less complicated and accreted iconographies than later examples.

And while they, like the Timurchin gol, are complex and surely not ‘simple’, they posses a far greater degree of purity, unencumbered by senseless repetition or the introduction of ancillary motif, than their numerous later copies.

This is an important point and one that invariably can be used to help differentiate early Anatolian weaving from its descendants.

Before we move on the finale of this comparison we need to mention the somewhat hidden large-scale double-mirrored 45 degree axial arrangement Plate 30’s central medallion also contains.

Large-scale double-mirrored 45 degree axis design incorporated in the central medallion of Plate 30

There is one more iconographic element these weavings share, perhaps the most important.

We will call it the central assembly, as it is a composite of several iconic elements.

Since we have staked out a position the Timurcin gol is the earlier version, and Plates 31 and 30 are later editions, let’s look at the central assembly as it appears there first.

Detail of Timurchin gol showing central assembly

There are three major elements – the center rectangular box containing the double-mirrored flower on a 45 degree radial axis, a double ‘C’-hook with a bird-head attached to its bottom extremity and two groups of other smaller single hooks above and below them.

Now let’s see the central assembly in Plate 31

Detail of central assembly Plate 31, page 238; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum Istanbul; 1988.

And the one in Plate 30

Detail central assembly Plate 30; page 236; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum; Istanbul

Here is a photo comparison of all three

Comparison showing central assemblies; Plate 31 above, the Timurchin gol in the middle and Plate 30 below

We have studied this photo very carefully and believe the two Anatolian rug display accreted reinterpretations of the simpler, less convoluted, version in the Timurchin gol.

However, we do believe some of this complex iconography was once part of the archetypal ancestor of the Timurchin gol.

Which parts were originally there?

We cannot hazard a guess, nor would doing so be meaningful.

It is clear to us, though, the highly codified nature of Turkmen gol, even one as rare and archaic as the one illustrated in this discussion, were derived from far more complex archetypal ones.

Short of discovering far more ancient examples, exploring the relationship Turkmen rugs have to early Anatolian rugs, archaeological objects and other genre of early weaving, like the Silk Road textiles, is the only way those origins can be plotted.

And when they hit paydirt, as we believe this exercise has, they can at least slightly illuminate the distant, dark past of the Turkmen rug.

Author: jc
Sun, Apr 3rd, 2011 12:00:48 AM

Another note: Our Ancient Saryk MC and its progenitor paper and what appears herein, Tracing the Timurcin, are not mutually exclusive.

Rather they should both be seen as our attempt from two different sides to provide answers to the underlying, unanswered questions and issues surround the origins of Turkmen weaving and their gol medallions, particularly the Timurchin.

Obviously, this is a work in progress and as new information becomes available, and new insights can be drawn, it will remain to be seen if what we have already postulated proves correct.

Author: jc
Sat, Apr 2nd, 2011 10:53:12 AM

We also think it pertinent to mention the later versions of the double mirror 45 degree flower axis.

The two most common versions are illustrated below

The upper, which appears on numerous Ersari and other Amu Darya carpets is far more common than the lower, which is from the elem of a Beshir engsi.

Notice the loss of articulation both of these exhibit compared to the Timurchin’s.

It is not surprising the version on the Beshri engsi is closer, as it is a classic period weaving while the other, from the Ersari carpet, is at best a mid-period traditional weaving.

The comparative differences like this are perhaps the best way to determine the relative age of a Turkmen rug.

Author: jc
Fri, Apr 1st, 2011 11:10:25 AM

Before any of you eager beavers think you have figured out something we missed let RK put you at ease.

We know a number of other points of reference we could cite to substantiate our thesis but frankly believe we have done enough. Plus our time and desire to write more are both short.

We will, however, add one more -- notice how both of the two Vakiflar rugs have octagonal fields.

In later carpets the fields come to a point at the top and bottom extremities making hexagons, but these two are octagons.

And guess what shape the Timurchin is -- right an octagon.

Coincidence? We doubt that highly.

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