Home > Turkmen Rugs >Ancient Gol: Turkmen and Anatolian
Mon, Jul 4th, 2016 02:39:57 PM
Topic: Ancient Gol: Turkmen and Anatolian

There is absolutely no doubt certain Anatolian Village rugs of the earliest period are indelibly related to equally ancient Turkmen ones. For this reason RK has been long been researching archaic gol, as we believe their identification crucial to furthering Turkmen and Anatolian rug studies.

Within the more complex, but probably not as original, iconography of gol found on these Anatolian Village rugs, and to a somewhat purer extent in the weavings of the earliest Turkmen, it becomes apparent there is a common vocabulary of important icon.

We have discovered enough similarities to suspect this heritage is certain, and think this an opportune time to make public some of our continued findings.

However, discovering these relationships does not answer the 64,000$ question: Which are the archetypal gol and which are later?

Beginning in the 13th century the historical record confirms certain Turkmen groups began to migrate into eastern Anatolia from their homelands in western central Asia.

It is a simple deduction to believe the still unknown gol iconography they carried was the archetypal. And what appears in certain archaic Anatolian Village rugs a later version, one affected by their own indigenous weaving cultures.

Plus although early Anatolian Village rugs are presently considered older than any extant Turkmen, the iconic gol they display may for that reason be more derivative than those found on the earliest weavings of the Turkmen.

And since RK believes there are extant Turkmen weavings as old as any now known from Anatolia, this possibility becomes more certain.

The best known group of early Anatolian rugs is the so-called 13th/14th Seljuk rugs, which by the way RK does not believe were in fact made in any Anatolian Village environment.

They are just too large for any true Village production and we place their production north and east in what is now known as the trans-Caucasus and Armenia, not in Anatolia.

In this vicinity, close to the Black Sea and well-traveled east/west Medieval trade routes, it is conceivable yet unknown large-scale workshops could very well have existed to create such rugs on commission order.

Clearly they were made for mosques and not for any other type of purchase.

The colors and the wool qualities they possess are quite unlike other Anatolian Village rugs, a fact still completely ignored by all other writers. And for these reasons, besides the fact only one of them has a gol design, they are far from germane to this study.

This is the only gol-centric Seljuk rug and it is quite interesting to note an abstract yet still identifiable birth symbol is its sole interior decoration

Sometime ago we published the fragment below, a detail also appears above, and staked out our claim it is a first generation Turkmen rug made in far eastern Anatolia, or perhaps further east and north in the lower trans-Caucasus, by migrants from Central Asia.

This would date it to the period of the earliest Seljuk rugs, circa 1,300AD.

A number of iconographic and physical features have led us to this rather controversial conclusion.

Notably the unusual remarkably thick and heavy weave, composed of relatively fine warp and weft with large clumpy knots, belongs to a rarefied and tiny group of Anatolian Village weavings we believe pre-date the 16th century, and in fact are likely even earlier.

We own several fragments, and know a few others.

This is quite interesting as no one else seems to realize how early and important this group is, though few even know its existence.

We first illustrated this fragment in context of its iconographic relationship to an ancient Saryk main carpet with the rare Timurchin gol.

Part one of this eight part series, entitled An Ancient Saryk MC and its Progenitor, was published in 2009 and can still be found here on RugKazbah.com:

However, research on this fragment and its relationship to early Turkmen weaving is part of a larger topic Archaic Gol: Turkmen and Anatolian.

Our work continues to reveal details no one else has found or published.

First, and perhaps bottom line, concerns RK’s theory the earliest, ie archetypal, Turkmen gol were octagons with a richly decorated rectangular or square box in their center.

In An Ancient Saryk MC and its Progenitor we theorized these icon rich central boxes and not the gol itself, or its format, displayed important iconography each Turkmen group used to identify itself, its proprietary weaving culture, and its individual insignia.

We discussed this in relation to Moskova’s “live/dead gol theory”, surmising she was correct there are live and dead gol, but not for the explanation she proposed.

We maintain these archetype octagon gol, and their iconographically rich central box, were ground zero in the development of the various gol found on all later periods of Turkmen weaving.

Next we started to focus on what related data could be gleaned from early Anatolian Village Rugs in support of our theory?

Thanks to the past 30 year publishing boom far more than a hundred pre-1750, a goodly number of pre-1700, and a far smaller group of pre-1600 are now available for study.

However, when only looking for the earliest gol-centric examples, very few are available for our purposes -- ones with an octagon medallions (gol) with a central box.

Among this tiny group are, in our opinion, some of the oldest Anatolian Village rugs.

It is not surprising to consider these might express non-indigenous iconographic features and in fact be the best repository of original Turkmen iconography brought by the first generations of migrants from Central Asia.

Ancient Anatolian Village rug with icon rich octagonal gol and central box; Heinrich Kirchheim collection; published Plate 201, Orient Stars

It is one of the most iconographically important Anatolian Village rugs we know.

In the Orient Stars publication it is dated 16th century and said to be from Karapinar, both we could not disagree with more.

We date it at least a century earlier, and based on its color palette would venture the guess it was woven north and east, in the highlands between Aksaray and Nigde.

Every feature of this rug is archetypal, even the so-called cloud-band border, which is not a cloud-band but rather, we will soon show, a complex niche icon.

In the detail of octagonal medallion, below, a group of icon directly related to those found on Turkmen weavings can be discovered.

Before discussing them, let’s compare this gol with the one on our fragment.

Obviously both are octagons but examining their center boxes provides evidence the fragment is conceivably the Orient Stars rug’s archetype, as well as documenting our revolutionary gol theory.

Clearly the Orient Stars center box is far less icon rich but the area between the box and the gol perimeter is far more loaded than the fragment’s simple 12 birth symbol and 9 S icon. RK believes this loss of significant central box icon, the migration of what remained out of the center, and the addition of others filling up the gol is the result of the number of weaving generations that separates them.

Birth symbol icon from RK’s fragment

The birth symbol, which seen in terms of Turkmen iconography is a double confronted kotchak with a diamond between, far more often appears on eastern Turkmen weavings than western ones.

But it is omnipresent on ancient Anatolian weavings, particularly Kelim.

Though hidden by being halved, the Orient Stars octagon also contains the birth symbol icon sitting outside the central box. The photo reconstruction below makes it reappear by rejoining the two identical kotchak (half birth symbol elements) now placed above and below the central box.

This transliteration of cutting in half or doubling important iconography often appears as early icons undergo changes in succeeding weaving culture generations.

It is quite probable the prolific use of the kotchak in Turkmen weaving can trace its history back to the iconic birth symbol, which is again nothing but two confronting kotchak with a diamond in between.

The S icon also appears on many varieties of early Turkmen weavings, especially in the minor borders of most “S” group weavings, which were not named for it but rather as an abbreviation for Salor, the Turkmen clan suspected by many as being the weavers.

As an aside RK does not in any regard subscribe to this idea but we do absolutely agree “S” group does describe a particular group or cluster of rare Turkmen pile weavings.

This S icon also appears in the minor borders of many early Anatolian Village rugs, as well as in the vertical stripes of certain Anatolian Kelim.

In our TENT BAND TENT BAG: Classic Turkmen Weaving publication, 1989, we set out our idea of this icon’s history and perhaps some interested reader’s remember, or will be motivated to find out.

In the detail below we have used arrows (--->) to show their positioning.

Another well-known Turkmen design, the chemche gol, can also be discovered though perhaps too well hidden within the Orient Stars gol; see the photo below.

And one other Turkmen icon, the kejebe, perhaps somewhat disguised makes an appearance as well.

In RK’s previously published “Whither Kejebe” analysis, which can be read here:
we laid out where and how this seemingly very important Turkmen icon could have developed.

We suggest its re-reading to place the Orient Stars Octagon gol version within its continuum.

As a final mention, below, is an identifiable but quite abstract version of the Tauk Naska, another prevalent and seemingly significant Turkmen icon from the center box of the Orient Stars gol.

Is it any great surprise there’s a Turkmen style birth symbol in the center of this early Tauk Naska gol? The detail is from an archaic Chodor MC

So are these just iconographic coincidences?

Or accidental design similarities?

We highly doubt such interpretations, and readers familiar with our set theory will surely agree these are anything but proof of a common heritage.

Last but not least the icon many might refer to as a “cloudband”, which might be one in other instances.

However here in the Orient Stars main border, RK postulates, they do not represent the far eastern “cloudband” but rather what we see as a complex niche icon.

Seeing it next to the detail below from an early Beshir prayer rug should, we trust, be sufficiently convincing evidence.

Left: detail of the upper most part of the prayer niche, or mirhab, from an early Beshir prayer rug; Right: detail of the Orient Stars Octagon Rug border

Here is the Beshir prayer rug in full

The ex-Bernheimer collection Beshir prayer rug recently sold at Christie London

Comparisons like those above are both pertinent to our arguments and the only proof positive way to support our theory.

We realize they are not absolute proof but remember when proof is beyond a”shadow of doubt” it is considered definitive for a verdict in a court of law.

The Orient Stars Octagon Rug is a masterpiece Anatolian Village Rug. Its iconography is archaic and its format a template for countless numbers of later pile carpets with similar but far more codified spandrels, pendant medallion, and of course central octagonal gol/medallion.

The main border provides sufficient differences from others where the complex niche loses meaning and becomes an ordinary so-called cloudband, and its minor borders so rich with animistic imagery become morphed into the later stiff stylized uninspired “S” motif.

These are not so subtle hints separating it from other later version.

But when it is compared to our fragment it becomes clear the fragment comes from a far earlier time period.

A time before the codification and reinterpretation of Turkmen iconography make their appearance.

RK presents the above as “work in progress” with the understanding it is, like many other ideas we have published, not meant to be seen as a final word.

Also we do have additional information but it is more tenuous than the above and until we can provide more secure documentation it will remain unpublished.

Author: Barry OConnell Mon, Jul 4th, 2016 02:39:57 PM

Without reviewing my notes I think the Seljuk Conversion was about 1050. But they had been vassal to the Kara Khitan and also apparently hired out to the Khazara. So throw a little Chinese and Judaic influence into the mix. They were well east of Khiva in those day

Author: HP Muller
email: hanspeter.muller@gmail.com
Tue, May 31st, 2016 06:10:49 AM

The Seljuqs converted to Islam in the 11th century.

As mentioned earlier, they were responsible for the Sunni Revival after centuries of shi’ism in particular of the Imamis and Ismailis. They were Turkmen, not Mongols. Who actually wove their surviving large royal carpets for their extended tents in even larger fenced camps, I can’t tell.

Wasma’a has got her PhD in Harvard, but her thesis has never been published. I found her article very much revealing.

In a way it answered the question how artisans constructed extremely complicated patterns of brick and later tessellation on monuments all over Iran and Turkestan. It is obvious that strict Sunni Seljuqs would not have allowed floral and animal motifs but rather geometric patterns.

Author: jc
Tue, May 31st, 2016 05:15:23 AM

The cross and direct influences of the Seljuk, and yes on them, are very significant topics, which unfortunately there is little chance of understanding. It wll take the discovery of a long lost manuscript or traveller's chronicle detailing some who made what, where, with drawings, to set the record straight.

Such a discovery is not impossible, as there are thousands of unread and unknown works lying gathering dust in many repositories throughout the Near and Far East, as well as in Russia and perhaps Northern Italy. Eventually, RK is sure, one will come to light.

We surely all hope to be around when it does!

As for John's question where the Seljuk carpet with the hexagonal gol was woven RK can make a guess: Aksaray.

We surely have no evidence to support our guess but until some appears we will stick to it.

Author: John Lewis
email: john_lewis@mac.com
Tue, May 31st, 2016 12:53:23 AM

Hi Hanspeter, Yes they lived in tents, even if much later those tents were inside courtyards within buildings as in Khiva.

So where and what were the "workshops" where the Seljuk rug - third picture down in Jack's post - was woven?

Also, to what extent did the Seljuks convert to Islam? to what extent did they retain their Mongol (Tengrist) worship?

I am not an expert in either the history of the region or rugs but Jack's "common ancestor" is logical and there are lots of pointers to the Mongols.

I found the Wasba Chorbachi paper interesting (I am a quantum chemist and mathematician by background) with some quite interesting implications if the patterns are of Seljuk rather than Islamic origin. I need to read it and some of his other papers.

Author: HP Muller
email: hanspeter.muller@gmail.com
Mon, May 30th, 2016 09:34:58 PM

John, they all lived in tents.

Malik-shah, according to Durand-Guedy (2013, p. 173), “enjoyed unparalleled authority during his long reign and had walled gardens (bagh) and buildings called kushks constructed for his own use on the outskirts of Isfahan, as well as a large fortress on a nearby peak.104

Nevertheless, everything indicates that Malik-Shah continued to live in tents. … In 484/1091, Malik-Shah inaugurated a new travel pattern and undertook to winter at Baghdad. He launched a huge construction project north of the capital city, where the Saljuq camp was usually set up, but nothing indicates that he modified his lifestyle before his sudden death [in 1092].”

The royal tents were pitched in a fenced area (saraparda) with an entrance building (kushk), but that is no palace. Durand-Guedy illustrates his chapter with couple of historical paintings of later periods indicating various sultans receiving subjects in their camps.

Baghdad was destroyed after a short siege by Hulagu Khan in 1258.

This brought the Abbasid caliphate finally to an end and also ended Seljuq hegemony.

The Mongols were nomads too, living in tents and camps.

As regards chinoiserie they imposed on their subjects, it is evident. Look at so many miniatures from Iran of the 13th to 15th centuries which invariably show Mongolian faces. The depiction of the prophet’s face, unthinkable under Seljuq occupation, seems to be a new development under Mongolian rule, see here https://aliqapoo.com/2014/01/12/depiction-of-the-prophet-muhammad-under-mongolian-occupation/.

Mongolian chinoiserie of Iranian art is also evident from metalwork, chinaware etc. See, for example Yuka Kadoi ‘s monograph of 2009, http://www.amazon.com/Islamic-Chinoiserie-Mongol-Edinburgh-Studies/dp/0748635823/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464668135&sr=1-1&keywords=chinoiserie+iran.

Iranians have always been masters of adapting and adopting current and fancy styles imported by their new masters. What’s true is lack of direct evidence of Mongolian influence on textiles from Iran which have not survived but may be seen on contemporary paintings and miniatures.

Author: john lewis
email: john_lewis@mac.com
Mon, May 30th, 2016 03:52:34 AM

BTW Hali Issue 99 page 73 has a painting of the Chinese court (dated 1396) show what is quite clearly a "Turkmen style" carpet. Over the years I have seen lots of articles about the confluence of Islamic (arabic) and Turkmen (Turkic) culture but few about the cross-fertilisation of Chinese and Mongol cultures w.r.t. weaving. War banners may be a common link? I have always liked the theory that early Turkmen weavers used their skill to deliberately create a 3D "waving in the wind" effect and an infinite field.

Author: john_lewis@mac.com
email: john_lewis@mac.com
Mon, May 30th, 2016 02:31:27 AM

Thanks HP for the Seljuk post. Very interesting. Is there any meaningful distinction between living in cities and in tents? You mention that the chieftains lived in tents outside the cities. Much later the Khans of Khiva lived in tents inside their palaces, within cities. I read this in one of the "travels" books, I will have to dig out the reference. The Tekke who by many accounts were Turkmen "baddies" (although to what extent that view is correct is debatable) also wove large carpets - the Tekke mains - some of which were woven (according to David Reuben - Hali 145) in 16th Century. They would have needed "city production" would they not?

Author: HP Muller
email: hanspeter.muller@gmail.com
Sat, May 28th, 2016 11:54:31 PM

Hi HP:

Thanks for the little lessons on the Seljuks.

When we have time our webmaster will trace the links and upload a few of the pictures.

No doubt textiles influenced and were influenced by iconography in other mediums, and the relationships are undeniable.

And while some of those other mediums are datable, regrettably few of the textiles are. So the essential questions of who/what influenced who/what are lost.

Your post makes clear the Seljuks were sophisticated but did they design and build their monuments? or was this contract work done by others. And if so by who?

The same questions underlie the supposed Seljuk carpets, I say supposed because no one knows who made them, or when or where.

One thing is sure to have created such large and heavy carpets, like to have built such imposing monuments, would have been almost impossible for tent dwelling groups. The organization, the labor requirements and of course the cost seem unlikely to have been borne by those in such circumstances.

RK has never deeply studied the social and ethnographic details of the Seljuks so thanks for the peep into this subject.

Please do continue to share your findings with us.


As there was no further input from the first commenter, I want to discuss and put into question the above claims about what the Seljuqs knew about Islamic art in the 11th century.

It was in fact under the Seljuqs that stunning brick ornament spread on facades allover Iran and Anatolia. The Seljuqs were not just marauding warriors.

This dynasty of steppe nomads, which trace their origin to Seljuq (d. 1038) who btw served in the Khazar army before he converted to Islam, defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert in Anatolia in 1071, and fought the Crusaders.

Recently converted Seljuqs are generally regarded responsible for the Sunni Revival of the 11th and 12th centuries. Under their governance Iran saw its first, in a long series, cultural climax after the Arab conquest in the 7th century.

Why did the Seljuqs leave their central Asian steppes? It might well have been climate change, the “Medieval Warm Period” (see here https://aliqapoo.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/2000_years.png) which may have forced them to seek new pastures in the colder Iranian plateau and Anatolian highlands.

Based on a note in Parviz Tanavoli’s book on Shahsavan flatweaves (http://www.amazon.com/Shahsavan-Flachgewebe-aus-dem-Iran/dp/3512007376/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464502836&sr=1-2&keywords=parviz+tanavoli+shahsavan, who had emphasized similarities in Seljuqs’ brickwork decoration and weaving patterns in Shahsavan produce, I have hold for some time that what nomadic Seljuq tribes supplied was textile culture.

Brickwork resembles weaving patterns, not vice versa.

As an example, consider the famous Kharraqan towers (1068 and 1093 CE) in Northern Iran (see here https://aliqapoo.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/kharraqan011.jpg).

They are located about one km west to the village of Hisar-I Valiasr and 33 km west to Ab-I Germ on the Qazvin-Hamadan road in the Qazvin province.

Believe it or not, but they have been (re)discovered just 63 years ago by William Miller.

They were badly damaged in an earthquake in 2002. Due to their extraordinary ornamental brickwork (see, for example, here https://aliqapoo.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/kharraqan-brickwork.jpg) the towers belong to the finest Seljuq monuments found in Iran.

Execution of artistic ambition directly relates to that of the Maragah towers, one of which may display in fact Penrose aperiodic tilings some 700 years before described in the West (https://aliqapoo.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/281-450.jpg).

The Kharraqan towers have been built by Muhammad b. Makki al-Zanjani, apparently from nearby Zanjan.

As the Seljuqs had arrived just one generation before, it might be assumed that Muhammad was in fact a local architect.

But how did he execute his masters’ ideas? The towers are tombs, and the occupants are unknown Seljuq chieftains. The towers do resemble typical trellis tents, so-called khargahs, which are still in use by Turkmen tribes.

After a successful siege of Isfahan in 1050/51 by Toghril Beg it is usually held that the city had been made a capital of the Seljuq Empire under one of his successors, Malikshah I who commissioned the construction of the south dome of Isfahan’s Great Mosque.

The old city of Isfahan is still a living museum of stunning Seljuq monuments, including tall minarets.

Far more of such buildings can be found in the countryside. One might wonder, though, what "a capital city" actually means for nomads such as the Seljuqs.

Where had the palace of the sultan been?

It is amazing to learn that this question has largely been ignored until very recently.

According to Durand-Guedy (http://www.amazon.com/Turko-Mongol-Rulers-Cities-Brills-Library/dp/9004248765/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464502768&sr=1-1&keywords=Turko-mongol+rulers, in particular his own chapter on the tents of the Seljuqs), Seljuq chieftains did not live in cities.

They rather dwelled in luxurious tents pitched in vast camps outside the city walls.

No remains have been unearthed, though, as textiles usually won’t survive many centuries. A palace has never been identified.

Is it Islamic art?

Seljuq brick decoration has certainly been considered so. In particular, its astute display of geometric ornament would fit western prejudices in this regard, see for instance Wasba Chorbachi’s essay here http://ac.els-cdn.com/0898122189902605/1-s2.0-0898122189902605-main.pdf?_tid=65e97746-2568-11e6-8f0a-00000aab0f01&acdnat=1464504279_32122c740e9299332a2d057e4b35d828.

After all, Seljuqs were devout Muslims as any recent convert. Of course one has to question whether there is any Islamic art at all.

Muslim artists (as any humans) have always adopted what they have found being present, be it conquest or migration.

Sorry for all the links, in particular to pictures. Jack, maybe you want to upload these?

Author: jc
Wed, May 25th, 2016 02:02:51 AM

Greetings Ako Co:

The movements, migrations, forced or by choice, of weaving groups are undoubtedly important in carpet studies, when groups moved they brought with them their specific iconographies, techniques, materials and colorants.

But since the changing ethnographic landscape is not truly well understood, and worse the who made what, when and where questions even less, this complicates trying to determine the influence and origin of the historic, pre 1800, carpets, kelim, soumak and other weavings that are the focus of carpet studies.

There are only theories, few facts. This is why RK concentrates our efforts on the weavings and tries to as little as possible get involved in the issues you raise.

All that said, carpet studies is advanced enough to differentiate a Turkmen weaving from an Anatolian one. And were there enough of the earliest examples, the job of sorting out the who made what, when and where questions would be far easier to postulate.

But there are not enough. So the few that do exist, like the one we illustrated in this paper, are fun to guess at, but really hard to use to draw any positive conclusions.

You are welcome to try and explore this topic at further length, I am sure many readers would be interested.

Author: Ako Co.
email: ako@akololo.com
Tue, May 24th, 2016 11:18:53 AM

Many genetic investigations in recent years shows the marginal and slight genetic influence from turkmen on the anatolian populations, even in westanatolian-please inquire! Sincerely

Author: Ako Co.
email: ako@akololo.com
Tue, May 24th, 2016 11:06:58 AM

Generally there is a big doubt about the influences of turkmen on anatolian carpets. The seljuks where comparatively a little number of warriors with no knowlege about carpets and any interest on carpets an arts. They were not with families on the way. Just mobile an quick warriors every where. The arts in form of buildings and carpets that was grown there, was a SERVICE from indigenous people to the seljuk occupaying forces. This is comprehensible and logics too. The influence of ostanatolian carpets on turkmen carpets in turkmenistan some hundert years later is the logical consequense of immigration of kurdish tribes to turkmenistan. Turkisized kurdish tribes are settled since or before 1700 in turkmenistan, and they are integrated under the SALOR und SARYK tribes especially. This is a well-known fact there. The carpet design where changed in turkmenistan in some hundret years, together hand in hand by turkmen and kurds,- the senne-knot ist an important evidence and proof of this. Sincerely

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