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Chapter Two
Mon, Mar 26th, 2012 05:23:30 PM
Topic: Breakthrough Turkmen Studies
Chapter Two

The publication of our research on the archaic Tekke minor gol is but part of the story we have been seeking to unravel.

It actually is Chapter One of this research, which starts with the archaic minor gol as ground zero and moves forward in time tracing the influence it has had on succeeding generations of Turkmen gol. Once recognized identifying the degeneration of the iconographic elements it establishes is basically an easy effort. So is setting up a continuum of later examples.

Finding the parallels with the kurbaghe gol, the Arabatchi chuval and torba, the eagle group torba and the chemche gol took far more deductive reasoning, study and analysis.

But Chapter Two, discovering the deep-roots of iconography from which the archaic Tekke torba minor gol developed, is a far more difficult exercise that perhaps can be likened to an intellectual Indiana Jones expedition.

After reading our Breakthrough in Turkmen Studies (Chapter One) there should be little doubt the archaic gol and the Tekke torba it appears on are ancient Turkmen work. To play the age game we'd have to say equally as old as the early Safavid carpets, placing it circa 1500 +/- conservatively.

Note: Trying to determine anything but the comparative age of an ancient Turkmen weaving with others of its type is really impossible and nothing but a fool's game. That's why we do not wish to engage in such guesstimating, and do so only to operationally define it for our readers and nothing more.

Our aim here, in Chapter Two, revolves around the iconography of some weavings we believe might hold the key to discovering what those deep-roots are.

The first is an ancient symmetrically knotted Turkmen engsi we have owned for a number of years, and have twice before published details on RugKazbah.com. It, too, is a Turkmen weaving we date in the early Safavid period, circa 1500.

Detail, ancient Turkmen engsi; symmetrically knotted; RK Collection; New York

This complex gol-like icon, as well as an additional but yet unpublished icon, appears in the horizontal panel of the 'cross' that divides the four quadrant all true engsi display.

The vertical panel has completely different iconography that is also archetypal and as highly significant, especially for our purposes of determining the sources of Turkmen knotted-pile weaving.

The iconography in the detail above is extremely rare, we can remember only two other engsi where it appears, though both were far less complex, their versions far less articulated and substantially younger by a large margin.

Perhaps one day we will publish the entire engsi but for those of you who are curious enough to make the effort searching through RugKazbah will turn up two other details.

The complex gol from the engsi is ostensibly different than the archaic Tekke minor gol, however, after some close inspection a number of similarities can be found.

And it is these elements, combined with those in the archaic minor gol, which have led us to believe this combination can provide a good look into what a even more archaic version of our Tekke torba minor gol might have looked like.

We can also believe the weaving we hypothesized in Chapter One, with a version of the archaic minor as both main and secondary gol, displayed a version of this amalgam of icon, amulet and emblem.

The next illustration is a lesser known member of a small group of knotted-pile weavings and fragments that are very famous -- Seljuk rugs.

So-called Seljuk rug fragment

We are not going to dwell on our thoughts about who could have produced the so-called Seljuk rugs, or where that might have taken place. Nor will we continue to refer to them as so-called in this paper and just call them Seljuk, though it should be understood we do not necessarily agree any or all of them were woven by the people called Seljuk.

We will also present some ideas we have about this tiny group of rugs which are relevant to this discussion.

This fragment, like the engsi detail, might at first appear unrelated to the archaic minor gol, although after some careful examination, as the detail below demonstrates, their relationship becomes eminently evident.

Detail Seljuk fragment turned 90 degree to accentuate the similarity its iconography has with certain parts of the archaic minor gol

The repeating 'mirhab and twin tower' minor border on this fragment is also worth mention. Taken together with the unusual iconography in the field, it is not difficult to imagine a combination that demonstrates a very simple, and more codified, version of both the engsi detail and the archaic minor gol.

Detail, Seljuk fragment showing the 'arch and twin tower' amulet flipped 180 degrees

RK has seen a number of the Seljuk rugs and fragments in person and noted they can be divided into several groups based differences in their materials and colors, forget design. They surely can not be considered a homogenous group and it is for these reasons we have often wondered exactly who made them, when and where. And, of course, if any of them really are Sejuk, or just Seljuk period weavings made by indigenous Anatolians or weavers from elsewhere, or expressly made for the Seljuks according to an iconography they supplied to contract weavers.

These and other questions hang heavily over these rugs but, regardless of who made them, several others besides the one we illustrate above are likewise related to the archaic minor gol iconography.

Again this is perfectly understandable as the Seljuk were a Turkic tribe that migrated to Anatolia from Central Asia, presumably bringing with them a favored catalog of icon, amulet and emblem.

Before we illustrate them it might bear good sense to mention all the Seljuk rugs and fragments can be divided into at least two broad groups -- those with medallions and those with all-over field designs.

Which of these is the earlier mode or style is an obvious question.

RK would have to come down on the medallion, and not the all-over, side for the simple reason the majority of extremely early textiles from Central Asia, which pre-date the Seljuk rugs by centuries, have medallions and lozenge, not all-over patterns.

But this idea is surely not written in stone, or should we say woven in wool? And we are sure there were some very early all-over, non-medallion, weavings as well. Trouble is none are extant...

This being the case, we are pretty sure there were even earlier versions of the Seljuk fragments we illustrate, and they could have presented the gol we are imagining.

Some years ago in the Weaving Art Museum exhibition titled: A New Look At Some Ancient Carpet Fragments, http://www.weavingartmuseum.org/wamri/preface.htm, RK illustrated a group of tiny knotted-pile fragments we consider to pre-date the Seljuk rugs found in the Ala al-Din and Beysheir Mosques. Some writers have called these fragments Seljuk but this is nothing but more name dropping, as there is nothing known to connect them with the others.

Regrettably, none of them have enough remaining iconography to directly relate to this discussion; although one, shown below, does tantalizingly present what appears to be an the earliest version of the paired bird or animal head profile icon we will soon mention.

Ancient carpet fragment; Carl Johan Lamm Collection; National Museum; Stockholm, Sweden

Another possible source lies in the mystery of what exactly the rugs known from miniatures painted during the Timurid period actually looked like. And although glimpses of them appear in a small number of those miniature paintings no actual rug or fragment exists. The weavings that do appear in those miniatures support the idea medallions, and not all-over patterned rugs, were the style at that time.

It is also conceivable a medallion with even earlier iconography than the archaic minor gol displays was Timurid.

However, even more questions surround exactly what the relations between the Timurid and contemporary Turkmen groups were, so this entire topic has little information to go on.

Again, it is perfectly possible iconography on some Timurid knotted-pile carpets was similar to Turkmen and gol based. Hopefully someday a weaving of this type will surface and be recognized.

Let's now look at another Seljuk rug where iconography related to our archaic minor gol appears.

RK believes this is a second period Seljuk rug; Mevlana Museum, Konya

Dividing the small group of Seljuk rugs in first and second period, ie earlier and later, seems to make perfect sense to us and we are surprised no other researcher or writer has done this. The simplification, and yes codification, of the iconography shown on the first period examples typifies the second period.

As an example, the first Seljuk rug fragment we illustrated is first period, and this one second.

Here the field pattern is a synthesis, or combination, of elements from the border and the earlier first period rug's far more eccentric and highly articulated field pattern. This is no accident and we are sure the second period example is some long decades earlier than the other.

This iconographic dilution cannot be attributed to the skill of the weaver, or lack of it, an idea some in RugDumb seem to think explains the degeneration all types of rugs, soumak and kelim exhibit.

Comparing the main borders provides an additional piece of the puzzle, one that substantiates our contention it is a later, ie second period, weaving

Plus a major iconographic element, the somewhat abstract but nonetheless recognizable paired bird or animal head profile, integrated into these main border, provides another significant link to the archaic Tekke torba. Not to the minor gol but rather the major, ie the so-called torba gol.

Top: Detail first period Seljuk rug border; Middle: Detail second period Seljuk rug border, Bottom: Detail archaic Tekke torba major gol

The first period Seljuk carpet's border is unfortunately damaged and does not show the full repeat, but what remains is enough to see its version of the paired bird or animal head profile was more complex and similar to the archaic Tekke torba major gol.

The photo below shows details of the second period Seljuk rug border and the archaic Tekke torba major gol. There are four small white arrow,v, to highlight the paired bird or animal head profile, which are upside down, for those who might have trouble identifying them.

Upper: Detail Tekke torba major gol; Lower: first period Seljuk fragment border; both with white arrows,V, showing paired bird or animal head profile icon.

There is another other paired bird or animal head profile icon but this one is hidden in the negative space, also called reciprocal, in the first period Seljuk rug's border.

Detail first period Seljuk rug showing paired bird or animal head profile icon hidden in the negative, also called reciprocal, space

Note: We are not presenting this, and the other, analog to prove Turkmen rugs are derived from Seljuk ones, this is not at all where we are coming from. Rather we believe there was a common ancestor from which they all drew important iconographic elements.

And at this point in time we also believe the Seljuk border with the paired bird or animal head profile was actually derived from a medallion or gol that existed in a far more ancient period of weaving.

The fact the archaic Tekke torba's version is far more complex and intricate in comparison to what is displayed on the Seljuk main border can be interpreted as supporting this contention because we seriously doubt that complexity is accretion.

Detail from the border of the first period Seljuk fragment with white arrows,^, to show the one of the earlier version of the paired bird or animal head profile icon remains and the place where the second one would be were it not damaged

We believe there should be little disagreement these versions of this icon, and the other points we raise, provide a good look into the deep roots of the archic Tekke torba. Also the rugs called Seljuk have iconography that is related to this puzzle.

Clearly there are other parallel that can be drawn and should we not visit this topic again soon we hope our readers will do some work on their own to discover them.

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