Unraveling the mysterious origins of oriental carpet iconography is a major interest of RK’s. So is plotting the subsequent dissemination, both over time and geographic distance, and we are ever on the lookout for comparisons where a set of distinct design elements exists.
We are sure by now our readership knows what a set is but for those newer viewers: A set is a group of three or more icon, amulet or talismanic designs which appear in weavings that might otherwise seem less likely to be related.
Not so long ago we discovered and published what we believe to be an extremely early eastern Anatolian pile carpet fragment with a strong underlying relationship to a prototype Saryk Timurchin gol main carpet.
Fragment number one: ancient Anatolian carpet fragment with pre-archetypal Turkmen Gol, published RugKazbah.com in "An Ancient Saryk Main Carpet and its Progenitor”
Part one of that paper can be read here:
And the other seven parts can be found here:
About two years later a similar but considerably later Anatolian fragment appeared.
fragment number two
Soon thereafter a third related Anatolian fragment that is not as old as the first but substantially earlier than the second appeared.
Fragment number three
RK then published them with additional commentary.
Now an even later example, an end-of-the-line but complete carpet, has come to light.
Complete carpet number four
Though this carpet is unmistakably related to the others, and has enough elements of the set to prove it, we believe it was not woven by the same group responsible for # 2 and 3.
Its coloration being the most obvious difference, but there are other more subtle ones, particularly its alien border iconography.
Not so subtle is the substitution of large rectangles instead of the octagonal medallions/gol that formerly contained this groups most distinctive iconographic features. Features that have now undergone significant codification but are still recognizable.
Left: detail rectangular medallion carpet number four, where the icon has been doubled; Middle and Right: Details from medallion/gol fragments three and one with original depiction of this icon
For these reason we believe it was woven by someone who had little to no real cultural ties to the weavers who created the others but was more than casually conversant with their earlier weaving tradition.
It displays four elements of the iconographic set. See if you can identify them.
OK, times up –- just kidding.
Let’s now list them, and then several additional the three fragments share.
1. The birth-symbol, illustrated below, in the medallions
2. The outer ‘saw-tooth’ border surrounding the medallions
3. The latch-hook inner border surrounding the medallions
4. the rather now bastardized hooked element that has been doubled and is the sole element that fills the inner rectangles.
Left: Detail fragment one; Right: detail carpet number four
Here are several other key elements of the set the three fragments display, one of which (the first we mention) does appear in number four but it has become almost unrecognizable hidden under a plethora of latch-hooks and in ancillary colored diamonds.
We are speaking about the outer border, shown below, from fragment number one.
Left: Detail main border fragment one; Right: Detail main border complete carpet number four
They, numbers one and two, as well as number three all have an interlocking ‘S’ minor border.
Inner minor ‘S’ border fragment number one
Lastly, the aforementioned octagonal medallion/gol fragments #1, 2 and 3 display.
The appearance of these shared elements virtually guarantees these weavings are intimately related – and there should also be no doubt #4 is their far younger sibling.
Rarely has RK discovered four related pile carpets capable of demonstrating such a documentable and deep multiple century continuum.
This is far more commonly found, but still rarely, when researching Anatolian kelim.
The reason probably the far more migratory nature of Anatolian carpet weaving groups versus those whose major weaving tradition centered on slip-tapestry.
Also the far more isolated and insular cultures of these kelim weaving groups encouraged and allowed the preservation of intimately related examples over long time-periods, ones extending at least 200 year and often more.
There is no doubt in our mind fragment #1 is 400-600 years old and carpet #4 later 19th century, circa 125 to 150 years old.
The iconography on these pile weavings, like that seen on the few equally ancient archaic period kelim and their later 19th century relatives we have published, compares a set of iconic, amuletic, and talismanic elements so important to their respective weaving traditions they were able to maintain a viable presence over such remarkably extended time-frames.
We are never surprised when we uncover a new set of weavings with such an extended heritage, a heritage that in today’s ‘here today gone tomorrow’ world is as alien as a volcanic rock-tipped spear and lion-skin kilt.