The Turkmen rug is, no doubt about it, the most unknown of all the types of oriental rug.
There is, however, lots of pseudo-knowledge with some of it is based on the scanty reports of their ethno-history.
Too bad not one of these reports, mind you, includes even one pre-19th century sighting of a rug in situ that’s described well enough to be identified.
And then, let’s not forget, there is all the name-calling: Tekke this, Salor that, etc, etc., that are again unverified provenance for any pre-mid-19th century example.
so-called “Salor” engsi
So it all boils down to the weavings themselves, they are the one and only piece of real evidence we have, all the rest is just blah blah blah.
This is why RK never bothered much to “learn” about Turkmen ethno-history, nor have we been interested in attempting to play pin the name on the weaving game that seems to occupy the time of most researchers and hobbyists.
Rather, RK has concentrated on studying the myriad types of Turkmen weavings and then grouping as many of the truly old “appearing” examples we can find based on verifiable criteria -- color, material, and structure.
Then we work on establishing a continuum for each specific group based on the identifiable and quantitative changes in those factors, plus those in their iconography.
We believe this provides the only method available to begin to understand Turkmen weavings, and through such comparisons how their particular iconographies developed.
This methodology does not tell, and so far nothing else has, what these early weavings were all about for their original owners, nor does it explain why they were woven for them.
Likewise, we cannot imagine the same socio-economic determinants active in the 19th century were also present in earlier times when these weavings were produced, nor can we imagine they were made for, or used for, domestic or mundane purposes, as it appears they were in the 19th century.
Of course we are only referring to complex-patterned ones and not to those made with simple, rote and repetitive designs like stripes, boxes, etc.
We are not afraid to say we imagine the earliest Turkmen weavings were created for spiritual purpose with sacred iconography that was the symbolic representation of their unwritten/spoken lore.
This preamble is to put into perspective the following ideas concerning how an engsi like the grogan example came into being and how its deviant form was quite possibly generated.
RK harbors no thoughts engsi were not among the, if not the, highest expression of that spiritual spoken universe the Turkmen undoubtedly maintained.
We say undoubtedly as all their neighbors: to the north, the Sythians; to the south, the Indians; to the east, the Chinese; and to the west the Persians (and others) all had long standing vibrant spiritualism and religious beliefs.
But before we dissect the grogan engsi we must make a few more thing clear.
We know our limits and the limits of our methodology; so we hope this is clear to all, especially those who do not believe there are archetype Turkmen weavings.
Or that the incredibly subtle, but nonetheless visible, differences comparison of each specific type demonstrate are the result of one weaver being a better weaver than another.
We can demonstrate over and over how the archetypes, ie the “better” ones, were the models for those later ones, ie those not as “good”, and were not the result of one weaver being a better one.
OK, enough perspective, let’s get down to some nitty-gritty.
The grogan “Salor” engsi, which we will henceforth call the WH engsi as it was allegedly “discovered” in West Hampton, Long Island and also until it can be positively determined to be “S” group or not, has a number of aberrant features.
Here is a list we have cataloged so far:
1. the color is far from typical for "S" group,
although there is another similarly colored, an “S” torba we know that belonged to an English collector.
2. the triple-tiered elem with a curious iconography in the top and bottom rows that is then repeated in the outer border.
3. the equally curious and even more strange iconography in the elem’s middle row
4. the missing three-sided (left, right and top) synak border(or any other) which, in other examples expresses a virtual open, rather than closed universe, whereas the WH engsi borders are all four-sided and enclose it in a frame (ie. creating a closed-universe versus an open one)
5. the addition of the Saryk-style double kotchack inner-border surround in the four field quadrants rather than the typical “S” group engsi use of it only for top, bottom and not the sides which again implies a closed versus an open universe
6. the use doubled curled-leaf, aka P or recumbent animal, borders rather than the typical “S” group engsi single one— we believe the archetypal form is tripling the curled leaf border, as this allows the most complex interplay of its elements
7. the appearance of the #, aka tik-tak-toe, signs wedged between the curled leaf is atypical and again a convention we see as later and not archetypal
What does all this mean?
Our position is the WH engsi is a middle period concoction that leans heavily towards early Tekke-style iconography.
We say concoction because it is, as the following analysis will prove, a complicated pastiche created by grafting some unique features from an extremely rare form of Tekke engsi onto the typical standard “S” group engsi format.
We will, as soon as we have the structural data on the WH engsi, present our evidence how the most curious of all its deviations, the elem, was developed.
So stay tuned…