Detail: color plate 31, Ersari MC; collection David Reuben
Slogging through rageth’s text is slow going thanks to a number of factors, the endeavor being like a trek through dense undergrowth in the Amazon jungle.
It’s a sweaty muscle straining affair thanks to the poor organization of the material that requires going back and forth between the two volumes, and constant turning of volume one to view the color plates vertically.
Reading this book is no fun, unless you’re a masochist of sorts.
Like many authors rageth chose an alluring title but we see no new perspective or, in fact, anything that could honestly be so called.
Yes, there are those C14 dates and dye tests.
However, although the latter are unimpeachable if done correctly, the former regardless of their competence have little actual believability.
There are 11 weavings, out of the 127, in the color plate section that returned pre-1800 dates. In a future installment of our review RK will consider whether or not the C14 dating for these and other weavings can be considered valid in terms of other established dating methods, like art historical comparison.
For now we will just look at the C14 results themselves.
Only two, color plates 31 and 106 returned 100% confidence in their C14 result, ie only one time span with no other time periods mentioned.
Color plate 31 dated 1477–1659 (100%) and color plate 106 1452–1642 (100%).
Color plate 106; listed as private collection but probably hans sienknecht collection
There is obviously a large time span here, 182 years for color plate 3 and 200 for color plate 106.
Both of these MCs appear to be quite old but would anyone believe color plate 31’s C14 dating?
RK has to remark we don't, however, if we are wrong then everything we all know about the age of Turkmen weavings has to be reconsidered. This is but one of rageth's "new perspectives" we sincerely doubt.
Of course dates like these raise many questions, perhaps the greatest one: Why only two of the more than 100 Turkmen weavings tested returned such ‘positive’, ie 100% confidence, results?
Sorry, but RK cannot answer this, nor do we believe anyone can but we would surely give whoever wanted to try a run for their money.
There are many variables, both known and unknown, that can effect results and this is the major problem with C14 carpet dating.
The other 9 color plate weavings with a high confidence % of their C14 dates suggesting they are pre-1800 all have contradictory results of as little as 1 or 2% to as large as a 42% indicating they might be significantly later.
For instance, color plate 56, tested 1449-1535(57.9%) and 1552– 1640(42.1%).
plate 56, Tekke torba; peter hoffmeister collection
So which date should one consider as correct – the earliest or the later? Or perhaps their median? Or perhaps neither?
The C14 dating for color plate 73 is quite typical of most in the sense there are three, four, or even five different dates, granted most have low % -- 1502-1509(1.1%) 1517–1605(56.3) 1620–1671(40.5) and 1789–1799(2.1%).
Color plate 73, Tekke MC; david reuben collection
Here again, which date does one pick? Your guess as good as mine because this carpet, were it really that ancient, breaks so many ideas about the ages of Turkmen weavings we’d all have to start over.
For instance the over sized minor chemche gol are as large as the major gol. And the way those major gol are depicted, so staid and repetitious, does not at all fit into the paradigm early Turkmen weavers would gently play with gol designs as a type of personal expression. Something the weaver of this MC was definitely not thinking about.
We cannot help believing C14 carpet dating is guess-work based on science. It definitely is not science, regardless of rageth’s attempts to attempt to convince readers the contrary.
In the next chapter of our review we will take a brief look at the dye tests, since any discussion of the validity of C14 testing for Turkmen weavings is nothing but a dead horse rageth and others are trying to beat, and doing so in vain.
Before closing this installment we need to take a brief look at color plate 105, a very beautiful Yomut MC now in the DeYoung Museum thanks to its gifting by George Hecksher.
plate 105, DeYoung Museum Collection
We know this MC well, we sold it to Hecksher and spent some serious time with it. We cannot believe the C14 dating: 1493-1600(66.6%) 1615-1660(33.4) is accurate.
This MC for all intents and purposes is no earlier than middle 18th century as far as we know. It, like many of the weavings with the earliest C14 dates, breaks too many established conventions to possibly be taken as fact.
The rather simplistic rendering of the main border, the use of the same elem motif in both elem, the rather small gol. These are all stylistic characteristics not seen in the earliest Turkmen weavings that have been identified using the established conventions and ideas.
Stay tuned, more to come…