Home > Turkmen Rugs >RK reviews rageth's New Perspectives part 6
Sat, May 7th, 2016 01:41:30 AM
Topic: RK reviews rageth's New Perspectives part 6

Fig.124 Sogdian silk shroud according to rageth was “…not only the model for the chuval with Salor gol, but for the design concept of the Turkmen khali in general.

At the beginning of volume two rageth explains “Despite this work’s subtitle “A New Perspective”, certainly not every new “perspective” in this study is entirely new.” This seemingly modest statement is in reality a vast understatement to say the least because in our estimation there is not one new perspective in its 880 pages.

It is new, however,” he continues “to approach Turkmen carpets and the origins of their designs in a more comprehensive and broader cultural historical context.” Again this grossly over values his work and discounts that of others, RK included, who have pursued the same goal years before rageth even was thinking about this. For instance the “Tent Band Tent Bag: Classic Turkmen Weaving” published in 1989 contained our brief but comprehensive outline of the archaeological history of south-west Turkmenistan and its influence on Turkmen weaving iconography.

And the Weaving Art Museum exhibition “Animals Pearls and Flowers–Synthesis-Silk Road Textiles and Turkmen Iconography” online since 2009 highlighted for the first time the relationship some of the ancient textiles and other weavings unearthed along the silk road and only recently made public have with Turkmen icons, amulets and symbols found on certain of their early pile weavings.

Left: Detail ancient banner gol fragment; formerly RK collection; Right: Egyptian loop pile weaving thought to be 7th-8th century AD, Benaki Museum. These illustrations, from the Weaving Art Museum “Animals Pearls and Flowers–Synthesis-Silk Road Textiles and Turkmen Iconography”, demonstrate the Turkmen gol format was already well-developed 700 years before their earliest known weaving; .

Calling rageth and his publication a johnny-come-lately in this regard is not unwarranted.

If there is any major preoccupation in rageth’s book besides c14 dating it concerns the Salor tribe and their weavings. It is obvious from the onset rageth believes their weavings are the epitome of Turkmen life and culture. And his text goes to great lengths to try and prove this idea.

Unfortunately from all appearances and perspectives to focus solely on their weavings, not the mythic recounting of alleged history of the Turkmen people starting with Oguz Khan their theorized Adam, this surely is not the case. Trusting what was written in the few known accounts, and here we a talking about historical accounts written long before Europeans like the famous Marco Polo ventured into south-west Turkmenistan in the late 13th century, is chancy at best.

Details of center, elem and border from an ancient western Turkmen engsi that displays glowing color; unpublished, RK collection

As someone famous once said “History is written by the victors”. Nothing could be more accurate. And since this geographic region has been embroiled in armed conflict seemingly forever can those writers, who were all supported by patrons who were all warriors, be trusted to write anything that was not approved by their patrons or flattering to them? Of course not.

Then the accounts written by post Marco Polo Europeans are totally based on what these earlier writers wrote. So anyone today who believes they can unravel a complex ethno-historical problem, like who really were the ancient forebears of the Turkmen that made the earliest carpets, is fooling themselves and their readers.

There is little doubt rageth’s page after page in the beginning of volume two, pages 429-510, regurgitating what other writers have written about the Turkmen and specifically the tribe called Salor is not only boring dry reading but whatever conclusions he tries to establish relative to the them, as weavers and their weavings, are dubious and eminently questionable. Nothing is really known about them, or even if they actually made any of the weavings rageth and everyone else calls Salor.

There is substantial discussion about the ‘salor gol’ and rageth wonders aloud about Moshkova and tsavera’s opinions. In doing so he writes “The Salor gul indeed probably does go back to an ancient local ethnic group; the Salor not only adopted the design, but probably absorbed the remaining local segment of the group.”

If this isn’t enough conjecture to proverbially choke the horse rageth adds the coup de grace “This ethnic group was not nomadic…but a group with a highly developed urbanized and agronomic culture with Iranian roots, namely the Sogdians.”

OK a reader might say but what is the basis for such a blanket statement?

As superficial as rageth’s proof is, “A 7th-9th century Sogdian silk(fig.124) showing a design composition of 4 x 6 rosettes in the field, narrow side borders, and ‘skirt’-like attached borders at both ends(alem)” becomes ever more unbelievable when he adds this silk “might not only have been the model for the chuval with Salor gol, but for the design concept of the Turkmen khali (ed. MC) in general..”

Fig.124 Sogdian silk hanging; Shroud of St. Lambert in the treasury of the cathedral of Liege, France. In the catalog description dye test results are said to be in appendix I, table 10 but there is no table 10 in appendix I, table10 is in appendix II. Plus one of the abbreviations for the color compositions is not among those listed. Small errors better editing would have corrected.

So rageth maintains he has discovered the linchpin, the veritable fountainhead of all Turkmen carpets?

Well, not exactly as the next sentence modifies his sweeping statement “At the very least, the design concept of the Turkmen chuval and khali and that of the Sogdian silk could have common roots.”

As Paddy O’Shay might remark “Yeah but ‘tis a long way to Tipperary.” This type of unbridled, let’s just call it, enthusiasm to make outlandish connections from a shred of evidence and blow it up to encompass an absurd attempt to prove a major discovery, and then discount it greatly in the next sentence, is the type of amateurish jibberish that is heavily sprinkled through rageth’s volume two text rendering it almost useless.

By the way this textile is illustrated in the Washington Textile Museum’s 1980 Turkmen exhibition catalog “Turkmen”, where such egregious claims were wisely not made.

The only way to understand how rageth could possibly believe the Sogdian silk has anything to do with Turkmen carpet designs, let alone be the source of their origins, is to view his expertise, knowledge and experience with Turkmen weavings as frightfully incomplete and novice. A thought that is undeniably upheld when reading this publication with expert eyes.

Continuing to prove his point rageth tells readers “The Salor gol strongly resembles the rosettes of this silk, the only difference being the design of the silk with its roundish forms is less abstract, while the knotted chuval, because of the technique of carpet weaving, is more stylized.”

This is another almost ridiculous statement as the fineness of knotting, and the two level warp construction, would allow the weaver of a Salor weaving to emulate quite well those rounded contours. Also design-wise any similarities the Salor gol has with the rosettes on the silk are so general the same could be said the silk’s resembling the Holbein medallion or the rosettes found on the earliest Spanish carpets. And what about the rosettes on the weavings seen in Timurid miniatures?

RK sees the Salor gol as a later creation, a type of confection, and the fact not one of the earliest S-group MC, chuval or torba displays one should be proof enough.

Then, of course, there is the argument RK has promulgated and publicized all Salor weavings, aka S-group and its open right cousins, are not as old and historic as those of other groups, were undoubtedly made in large town workshops, and many if not almost all of them were possibly not even made by Turkmen weavers.

Like his junkie’s dependence on the results of c14 radiocarbon dating, rageth is equally as strung out on the nebulous idea that is becoming increasing less apparent to more and more people: The greatest and best Turkmen weavings are not necessarily Salor.

Sorry we’re not buying rageth’s preoccupation extolling Salor weavings and those almost 100 pages of supposed proof falls as far short as the validity of his c14 test results.

The facts belie the significance of the Salor, aka S-group and open right weavings, being the corner stone of Turkmen weaving culture, and were rageth’s position correct there would at least be some proof. There is none but this has not kept rageth from trying.

One of the major arguments he offers, the lack of any other weaving group using the Salor gol before the 19th century, is a two edged sword. That no other groups expressed interest in using it does not mean they couldn’t have had they wanted to, and because weavings with the Salor gol do not predate the middle of the 18th century, or maybe even somewhat later, and are almost all of a very homogenous nature (color and technique wise), it is likely their influence and importance was limited to a very small number of people living in a very small geographic area. Otherwise the limited spread of this gol would surely have been far wider and earlier than it can be shown to be.

Bending the facts to fit his theory cannot overcome them, and instead of trying to prove the mythic reputation of the Salor weavings rageth would have been far better put to have accepted the reality maybe, just maybe, their weavings were not as important as today’s dealers and collectors have been indoctrinated to believe.

Their major attraction is glowing color, a shiny red that reflects light in an arresting manner. But this quality is not theirs alone and RK knows and owns other Turkmen weavings that also glow.

Detail main border and sainak outer border of a vary rare circa 1750-1800 eastern Arabatchi engsi. The asymmetric open left knotting and materials point to this probable attribution, but what is no question is the glowing color it radiates; RK collection

But they are not glowing cherry reds, they are glowing with various shades and combinations of red-tan, red-brown and purple some with blues that also glow. It comes with no surprise these rare examples are among the earliest Turkmen weavings we know.

What makes them glow?

First, we believe that answer lies in the ethno-cultural, geographic and physical environment where these weavings were produced. Very different ones to those in which later weavings were created.

Second, we believe the supreme quality of their wool carefully chosen and taken only from animals pastured in very cold conditions that forced increased production of the animal’s naturally protective oils, like lanolin, that was then dyed with the highest quality dyestuffs in locations where the water contained naturally high amounts of various mineral salts combined with hundreds of years of ageing to crystallize those oils in the dyed wool produced their pronounced glow.

This supposition cannot be answered, or even hinted at, from rageth’s dye testing because the dye tests he organized were only focused on insect dyes, leaving other equally as important dyes untested. And the lack of intensive fiber analysis is another short-coming of his publication

RK would enjoy organizing testing of these Turkmen weavings but until we are able to raise the necessary funds doing so frankly is not a high priority for us.

But, we truly think it is a shame rageth was able to raise enough money to do great work and then failed miserably, wasting a golden opportunity to produce scientific test results that could have made more than an initial start to build the necessary database to address this and other far more important questions than trying to get dates using c14 radiocarbon testing that is ill-suited to the task.

more to come, stay tuned…

Author: jc
Sat, May 7th, 2016 01:41:30 AM

In the New Perspectives publication one of the perspectives rageth touts is his attempt to prove Turkmen weaving iconography developed from and out of a pre-existing one comprised of developments from Egypt in the west to Chna in the east.

While there are scores of similarities they do not necessarily equate with the conclusion he has reached. The possibility all of them are derived from an even earlier tradition, more likely, or they developed independently, less likely.

In any event as we have written, rageth is definitely not the first writer to link the western pan-Asian design vocabulary with the Turkmen one.

The conclusion to our "Animals Pearls and Flowers - Synthesis of Turkmen Iconography" succinctly elucidates this idea and we point readers to it.


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