Mafrash with rare trellis pattern displaying the most likely as yet unestablished archetypal version of the aina gol, cat. 67, hoffmeister collection
The next, fourth story, deals with the Tekke, who Tsareva calls Turkmen “newcomers”.
Historically speaking, and by this we mean according to the scant written sources detailing the ethno-historical origins of the Turkmen, the Tekke are supposedly not an ‘ancient’ or more to the point original group.
According to Tsareva, and others who study, read or just quote from these few sources, they burst on the scene in the 16th century and were then, as Tsareva tells it, part of the Salor confederation.
RK is surely not an expert in this area, and in fact we do not bother to directly study them, as we consider this information to be little more than hearsay (but do believe some is truthful and important for our, and everyone’s Turkmen studies).
So why are we not interested in studying this information?
Well, as Voltaire quipped “History is nothing but fables agreed upon”. To that we add, agreed upon by the victors and their confederates, surely not by the losers and the vanquished.
Also, these 99.9% of these accounts were not written by Turkmen themselves, and when they might have been it is clear they were written for a Khan or Emir who wanted to get his version of what happened across—most probably at the expense of a real and proper account.
So while we think those who wish to study and research Turkmen history are surely doing a good thing, RK does not necessarily buy all that they read is factual.
In this light we do not believe the Tekke did not exist before the 16th century and have the history, or lack of it, that Tsareva claims.
This is logical, as it is clear by the latter part of the 18th century the Tekke are extremely powerful and actually overran just about everyone else.
What their history really is RK can’t say, but we can say they didn’t come from nowhere, and were nothing, prior to the 16th century.
We also don’t buy Tsareva’s incredibly simplistic formula as to how the Tekke became so powerful
“ …the Tekke represented a strong and rapidly expanding component of the Salor confederation. By the eighteenth centry they had begun to act as coherent, monolithic unit…One reason for their economic strength was teir active trade with Iran and other countries, involving camels and camel hair…”
Were this the case would not many Tekke woven products use camel hair?
Frankly, we think Tsareva has got it wrong and it is the Salor who traded camel hair with Iran.
This would explain the fine brown camel hair weft almost all the earliest “S” group, aka Salor weavings use, and also why very, very few Tekke weavings contain camel hair.
We should mention Tsareva does cite a fragment of a Tekke MC (in the hoffmeister collection, cat. 31) having “camel hair weft”, which is a rare occurrence and one we have also occasionally encountered.
We also question her belief the Tekke were major commercial traders, as she bases this on a short, small comment Abdul-Ghazi wrote about meeting Tekke merchants in 1651. Perhaps in the mid-19th century and later this was the case but we sincerely doubt it before then.
RK also does not agree with her cat. 35 and 70 are “likely products of the seventeenth century or even earlier”
Tekke germesh, cat. 35, hoffmeister collection
Tekke mafrash, cat. 70, hoffmeister collection
Tsareva mentions one more hoffmeister Tekke weaving, a torba, as being the third in this grouping she considers to be the earliest.
Here we agree, as it is the torba we have already cited in Part II.
Tekke torba, cat. 40, hoffmeister collection
We also concur cat. 35 is earlier than 70 but, regardless of the not so secure C14 dates(shown below) for the germesh, we do not believe it is earlier than the 18th century.
The variation of the Tekke tree icon it displays, one we call the type 2 version, is quite well done. But it is not as well articulated as others we know, particularly this one from an ancient engsi.
Tekke tree icon, type 2, from an archaic Tekke engsi, RK collection
Also what we like to call the Tekke ‘spinning rosette’ elem icon is, like the tree, well done but again not what we consider archetypal, ie 17th century in Tsareva terms.
Here for comparison is what we consider an archetypal version, also from a Tekke engsi
Tekke spinning rosette icon from an archaic Tekke engsi, RK collection
Just a word or two about RK’s position on dating: As many readers know we do not like to age date, ie 17th century/ 18th century/etc, preferring to continuum date using four category – Archaic, Classic, Traditional and Industrial – we then divide each into three sub-category – early, middle and late.
So when Tsareva is referring to a weaving being 17th century we can only relate it to our early Classic or Archaic periods.
Anyway, the Tekke torba, cat. 40, would in our continuum be late Archaic period.
The Tekke germesh would place as mid-Classic, and the Tekke mafrash late Classic period.
We hope publishing the details of superior and earlier examples proves our comments about the hoffmeister pieces.
The hoffmeister Tekke MC are, in our opinion, good but not exceptional, and we would say the same for his Tekke chuval, khalyk and mafrash.
And although Tsareva lavishes praise on them, this is only natural as she is being paid to write this text, as well as the fact we do not believe she is really that expert in determining an old Turkmen rug from an ancient one.
Clearly hoffmeister isn’t, or he would not have loaded up on so many examples we place as late Classic to mid-Traditional.
There is, though, another notable Tekke torba hoffmeister managed to bag, cat. 42.
Tekke torba, cat 42, hoffmeister collection
This torba reminds us very much of the one we formerly owned and is illustrated in the Tent Band Tent Bag Book.
It too had earlier versions of the so-called peikam main border and large torba gol, which were were cut off at their sides by the vertical side borders, whereas cat. 40’s just touch the border.
Cat 42 is an exemplary weaving, but again one that is not Archaic period, but rather early Classic Period.
The most salient feature determining this is the overly large secondary chemche gol, which seem to overpower the major gol. This is a trait no archaic period weaving would exhibit.
The two hoffmeister Tekke engsi are also not much in our eye.
In fact we don’t like either, knowing others which dust them and make them look like the late Classic Period pieces they are.
However, just because a weaving is late Classic Period doesn’t damn it, but few from this period are anything to interest us.
One that does is cat. 39 a rare type of khalyk with small banner-type gol and three triangles, with a variation of the pattern most Tekke engsi sport above their niche, hanging off the lower horizontal borders.
Dated “no late than the early 19th century” in the catalog, we couldn’t agree more.
Regardless of its not great age, RK likes it but we like cat. 67 even more.
“ Rare trellis design mafrash, cat. 67, hoffmeister collection
This mafrash is a winner and while we would debate placing in the 18th century, or provenancing it to the Akhal, such arguments are immaterial to its originality and mystical visual qualities.
If we had to chose one piece from those in the Tekke section of the catalog it would be this one.
Let’s get back to Tsareva’s text where she makes this oblique comment concerning the two Tekke engsi
“Both show the readitional Turkmen ensi composition…Yet in many details the Tekke variant is different from that of the Salor or Saryk, demonstrating aspects of the original Tekke tradition.”
And what pray tell might that “original Tekke tradition be?
Don’t ask Elena Tsareva because she leaves any answer hanging like a horse-thief at a necktie party.
Continued, see Part VIIb