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.