Unlike almost all other types of antique rugs and flat-weaves the Anatolian kelim existed in an extremely protected cultural and geographically isolated environment. These conditions allowed the preservation of an historic weaving culture passed from generation to generation and an associated specialized iconography. Prior to the end of the 19th century these kelim were never articles made for export or commerce. They were produced exclusively for indigenous use, and therefore able to retain viable historic connection to this ancient weaving culture and its proprietary iconography.
From the exceptionally small number of earliest known archetypal examples it is clear very few of these weavings were ever produced. It has also become recognized their rich and highly symbolic iconography has connections and roots in Anatolian, as well as Near Eastern, prehistory. These connections directly link them to religious and cult objects recovered from numerous archaeological sites dating back as far as 8,000BC and earlier. Some of these objects present important evidence supporting the theory archetype Anatolian kelim were not simply woven for secular domestic use but as cult objects that played a role in esoteric activity.
No known society ever uses their sacred icon to decorate secular objects, and thinking this was the case in Anatolia and these kelim is untenable. Richly decorated iconographic objects were always reserved for higher purpose, not domestic activity. This why it is believed these types of objects and these early kelim functioned as part of mankind’s universal fascination to explain existence and used in various rituals.
Cult objects decorated with sacred, complex patterns have always been an important part of ceremonies celebrating and honoring birth; the individual’s coming of age; marriage; and death, as well as to ensure animal hunting success; and in later post-agrarian societies fecundity of animal stock domestication and bountiful cereal farming harvest. This was their culturally sanctioned and mandated province. This was how they were made to be used and never for normal everyday household activities. Likewise, this is the reason some of these same icon make their initial appearance in the earliest northern European archaeological cave sites dating back into the upper Palaeolithic period, circa 25,000BC. The Anatolian kelim weaving culture’s remarkable preservation of parts of this iconography implies these weavings were also utilized within similar non-secular ethnographic and social contexts.
The history, and pre-history, of the Anatolian Plateau where these historic kelim were produced is a very complicated one. Remains of prehistoric human occupation and early evidences of civilization stretching back at least 10,000 years continue to be discovered. Functioning as the land bridge between Europe in the west and China in the east brought thousands of years of contact with every known religious and spiritual system. These migrations exposed this area to a myriad of often contradictory ways to view the universe and man’s place within it. In the later historic periods these alien beliefs were imposed at the end of a sword, as conquerors sought and were often successful in subjecting the Anatolian people to their foreign cultures and religious belief.
However, the Anatolian plateau was large and some of those villagers and nomads living in isolated, off the beaten track areas were able to maintain uninterrupted their ancient beliefs, including preserving the historic weaving culture of their ancestors, regardless of the cultural mores or decorative designs imposed by the latest dynasty or conqueror to rule in the capitals and large towns along the trade routes and coastlines. This indigenous Anatolian weaving culture appears to be best known and represented by the small group of early, archetypal kelim. These kelim are a veritable repository of iconography developed and distilled from a more than 10,000 year cultural tradition.
fig2 Detail Archaic period Anatolian kelim saf; Islamische Museum, Berlin Germany
Beginning in the Neolithic period, circa 8,000BC, an indigenous civilization flourished on the Anatolian plateau. At several archaeological sites dating from this period important wall-paintings, wall-reliefs and numerous decorated stone and clay idols, effigies and other objects have been recovered. Some of these prehistoric artworks exhibit icon that directly link with those found on these archetypal Anatolian kelim. This is not surprising given these weavings were produced in the same geographic area by weavers who appear to be descendants of this prehistoric culture and civilization. This is the real story of the Anatolian kelim, and the documentary evidence published in this analysis validates it.
The Anatolian kelim and the historic weaving culture that produced these archetypal examples was never researched or studied until long after it had disintegrated, and these weavings were equally ignored by collectors and museums until fairly recently. The destruction of the ancient cultural environment in which this iconography developed, and how it was retained in these early weavings, is a topic no one has ever tried to explain. Although the sequence of events that caused this disintegration are unknown, and most probably will remains so, the migration of many groups from the east and north (from Kurdistan, Turkmenistan and Persia) into the Anatolian plateau was one major cause. These incursions began in earnest during the 13th century and increased in the following centuries bringing alien weaving cultures with quite different iconographies.
Interestingly, it appears these alien weaving cultures were in the end far more affected and changed by contact with the indigenous Anatolian culture than it was by them. This is an excellent example of the impermeable and cohesive strength the historic Anatolian weaving culture possessed. But one major culprit that led to its eventual disintegration was just the passage of time. After hundreds of years of viability the prehistoric concept of a goddess/matriarchal/animistic pantheon, and the theology on which it was based, eventually was worn down and away by progressive incursions of new religious beliefs. Also no doubt the socio-economic and political microcosm of the Anatolian plateau continued to change, eventually bringing to even the most isolated groups central planning with societal engineering and management. Once the Ottomans became the dominant ruling elite in the late 15th century, they immediately began to institute agrarian and social land reforms that quickly made strong inroads into many areas that formally had remained independent and free from foreign control.
There is no question other contributing factors caused the historic kelim weaving culture to disintegrate. Proof of this is readily evident when the existing corpus of these weavings is subjected to art historical analysis. This process, which will be an integral part of this examination, reveals an almost mechanical breakdown of a potent ancient, sacred iconography and its progression to something that increasingly lost meaning and became purely decorative.
fig3 Detail Archaic period Anatolian kelim; Fine Arts Museum deYoung collection, San Fancisco, California
Two words are key to understanding this process and the historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture – proscribed and prescribed.
The subtle but significant nuance of difference between proscribed and prescribed explains the underlying mechanics and ethos of this weaving culture and the weavings it produced. Naturally this pertains to weavings made before the effects of cultural degeneration became overpowering. Once these two words were lost only weavings reflective of, and not genuinely part of the historic weaving culture, were produced. This trend becomes self-evident when the various types of Anatolian kelim from different periods are categorized, compared and studied. This process is known as art historical analysis.
Another factor, though one not germane to this analysis, needs mention: It is veritably impossible to still find examples from the Archaic period of Anatolian kelim weaving.
Since the late 19th century ethnographers, historians and carpet dealers have ventured into remote areas of Anatolia. They went to purchase and occasionally to research Anatolian village pile carpets, rarely until recently kelim. A majority of the information they brought back was not gospel, or anything past hearsay and outright fabrication. This was because the descendants of the groups responsible for producing these weavings were very protective of their ancestors, their past, and what little remains of their traditions and culture. And for at least a century these groups have been disconnected from their cultural history. It is something they might have vaguely heard about or possibly only imagined.
Also for the past 500 years, even in the remotest parts of Anatolia, various religious missionaries and zealots brought Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and other –isms. And, for the past 100 years or so, what can be easily called contemporary coca cola-culture made serious socio-economic inroads. Foreign influences have changed almost every facet of life, destroying connections to the past or at least obscuring them. Then, of course, there is the lack of any yet discovered written history. Together these aspects guarantee little historic information gathered by these researchers can be seen as factual.
Last, but not least, many groups who produced Anatolian kelim during the 19th, 18th or even 17th century were not indigenous to Anatolia. As previously mentioned, waves of migrations brought other kelim weaving groups from Kurdistan, Turkmenistan and Persia onto the Anatolia plateau. These groups had their own weaving culture and iconography, ones that were distinct and quite different from the indigenous Anatolian.
In conclusion it should be obvious the only real information available to unravel the complex history of the ancient Anatolian weaving culture, and verify what weavings are genuine products can only be found in studying the weaving themselves. Based on the extreme longevity of the iconography displayed on certain Anatolian kelim it is impossible to believe this connection is accidental or just coincidence. In pre-industrial revolution societies, like those that existed in Anatolia, no actions were left to chance. Life was difficult, and the members of these small-scale societies were busy taking care of the business of living. Spare time in the contemporary sense was an unknown luxury – living required constant work. And in Anatolia weaving was an important part of this process: Weavers did not weave to express their feelings or for any other reason other than it was an essential and required part of their life.
The production of domestic weavings decorated with simple patterns was important in that life work. But the production of complex patterned ones that displayed a rich iconography was a completely separate endeavor, one conceptually and factually different in all regards from those destined for household use. This complex iconography appears to have been solely reserved for these special weavings, and it implies they were never intended to function as ordinary secular objects. The archetype Anatolian kelim were one of the, if not the most, most sophisticated and complex iconographic weaving made anywhere in the Near East. Their iconography was steeped in ancient cultural meaning with its continuity made possible by strictly proscribed cultural mandate.
The historic Anatolian weaving culture was part of society, an everlasting communal “We” that was the creator not an individual “I”. Still to this day, remarkably, Anatolian weavers say this about their work, they recognize the spiritual control of their society and not their own as the creative catalyst. The concept of proscribed action defines this process and explains how each group’s seemingly proprietary weaving culture and iconography was able to transmit a vernacular of prehistoric icon to the weavers of Anatolian kelim in the Archaic period and beyond. These weavers did not dare change the proscribed form and even if they wished to they could not, their culture would not allow variance. They and many subsequent generations were bound within strong societal and socio-political convention. The fact the weavings produced by later weavers retained strong viable connection to the proscribed Archaic period iconography, regardless of a visible level of degeneration, demonstrates how influential this historic weaving culture remained even while disintegrating. This degenerative process caused progressive simplification, addition, subtraction and abstraction to the Archaic period’s richly embellished Anatolian kelim archetypes. Yet its retention likewise demonstrates an undeniable level of continued observance of its esoteric and spiritual importance.
fig5 Detail Archaic period Anatolian kelim; Fine Arts Museum deYoung collection, San Francisco, California
The concept weavers produced cultural sanctioned works controlled by a process of proscription has never before been mentioned in carpet studies. Nor had anyone recognized this was the underlying mechanic of the Anatolian kelim weaving culture until this author’s initial research was published in 1989. However, this cohesive continuity of design some kelim weavings display did not go unnoticed, as it was mentioned in passing in the brief catalog published for the world’s first museum presentation of Anatolian and other kelim held in 1965 at the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. In that catalog Charles Grant Ellis wrote: “The true value of the kilim lies in its consistency.” This observation was prescient though very far from recognizing this continuity and consistency happened as the result of the strict proscription/prescription inherent in the kelim weaving culture. It was not until this author’s IMAGE IDOL SYMBOL: Ancient Anatolian Kelim publication was released in 1989 the revolutionary concept an historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture existed and was responsible for the preservation and dissemination of an ancient iconography through proscription became known.
fig6 Detail Plate 5; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
The continued onslaught of foreign cultural influence eventually affected even the most isolated Anatolian kelim weaving groups. The former strict adherence (proscription) to reproduce a sacrosanct ancient iconography began to slowly but steadily to lose relevance and new ways of expression began to appear. This was the first sign of disintegration and the end of the Archaic period. Classic period kelim still maintained strong connection (prescription) to the ancient iconography but now displayed it with new stylistic flourish often in newly developed formats. This might be another difficult concept to grasp but it definitely was one that occurred, and Classic period kelim designs prove it happened. There was another factor inherent in this transition from the first to the second period: An obvious increase in kelim production but still much less than in the next two periods.
This process of iconographic break down, the proliferation of new design elements in Anatolian kelim production and increased kelim weaving was not sudden. Apparently it was progressive taking place over a number of generations, probably at least two hundred years, and resulted in weavings that fail to exhibit the former exceptionally high quality of materials, particularly dyes but also wool quality. Also, there was a marked increase in the modernization of the hand tools used for spinning and plying, as well as the loss of certain weaving techniques, especially eccentric-wefting. These factors and others demonstrate foreign weaving groups, ones no longer controlled by the historic weaving culture, began to weave kelims in Anatolia. However since many of these weavers used identifiable iconographic features taken from the indigenous historic kelim weaving culture, it appears to have remained influential and viable. In fact, this is a practical demonstration of the transition from proscription, the strict mandate of icon expression, to prescription, one that was far less controlling.
The number of remaining Classic period weavings, which is notably larger than those of the Archaic period, shows weavers not only began to produce more weavings but more importantly changed the way the iconography was utilized. New formats were developed and certain icons that formerly had been stand-alone and singular now became combined with others or newly developed design elements. The weavers remained bound by prescription, which is evident in their continuing to reproduce albeit with changes iconography from the historic weaving culture. This Classic, or second, period produced the majority of the so-called “early” examples that have been published and exhibited. By direct comparison it is quite easy to differentiate these from the Archaic, or first, period.
Dating Anatolian Kelim
There is naturally an unerlying dating question inherent in Anatolian kelim studies, and since no one can possibly calendar date any example made prior to the later part of the 19th century some other method must be employed. The best available is to group examples with similar iconography, and then build a time-line continuum based on the varying quality of their dyes, wool, weaving techniques and iconographic content. Based on this method of art historical analysis a relative dating profile can be secured for each example. Granted art historical criteria are not scientific but they are quantifiable, and until new more effective scientific methods are developed this is the only available dating methodology. So far it has proven effective when carefully and objectively done.
fig7 Detail Archaic period Anatolian Kelim; Vakiflar Museum collection, Istanbul Turkey
To address the dating issue this author has identified four periods into which all extant Anatolian kelim can be divided and classified. The first and earliest is the Archaic period; the second the Classic period; the third the Traditional period; and the fourth the Commercial period.
There are only eleven known examples from the Archaic period. The iconography they display appears to have originated in and remained for centuries deeply embedded within an historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture. The numerous art historical comparisons explained in this research paper convincingly prove these kelim were the templates used by all later kelim weavers throughout Anatolia.
In the next, Classic period, there was a substantial increase in the number of weavings produced. Some exhibit great similarity of format, materials, and nuance of iconography with their Archaic period models. This can only be explained by the proscriptive influence of their historic weaving culture. Others have reworked formats with new iconographic elements, yet these too are often based on Archaic period models. These design commonalities are the hallmark for identifying Classic period Anatolian kelim weaving, a time when transition from strict proscription to the looser less controlled prescription seems to have initially occurred.
The third, Traditional Period, initiated iconographic styles and formats that broke completely away from the earlier period’s inviolable proscription, and in many cases the less restrictive commands of prescription. Iconographic connections to the earlier periods are still present but they are obscured and often well camouflaged. It is probably during the end of the first period and the beginning of the second periods when the line between secular and non-secular Anatolian kelim weaving and usage initially became blurred. But by the end of the second and beginning of the third it apparently no longer was an issue and they became irreparably intermingled.
In the final fourth Commercial period proscription and prescription are basically non-existent. Each kelim weaving group, or individual weaver, was released from any cultural influence. Interpretation, not repetition, became the prime source of kelim design form and format. Even though these weavings still, at times, display a noticeable affinity with iconography from the past, almost everything became entirely new, different, and in all respects unlike anything that resembled what the historic weaving culture had been all about. However as lost as it became, the remarkable fact the historic weaving culture was transmitted to numerous later generations of weavers, over a substantial geographic distance and at least a five hundred year time span remains impressive.
fig8 Detail Archaic period Anatolian kelim; Fine Art Museum deYoung collection, San Francisco California
The Discovered “Undiscovered” Anatolian Kelim
During the later 1970’s a small group of European and American rug dealers began to haunt the Istanbul bazaar looking for old and antique weavings to export and sell back home. The appearance of intrepid, and some less than intrepid, foreign dealers motivated local Turkish dealers to seek out types of weavings that previously had been unwanted and unappreciated in the bazaar. Selling damaged, and even very damaged, weavings had never been possible for the local dealers and their tourist cliental, but now this new breed of foreign dealers would gladly purchase such pieces. This was not missed by the ever enterprising ‘Stanbul rug dealers and they began scouring the countryside and brought back to their shops and stalls all types of damaged older, very old, and even occasionally genuinely ancient rugs.
The level of their discernment for what they were acquiring was far less than their energy to acquire and, needless to say, knowledge of what they had acquired even less. Same was often the case for the foreign buyers. Regardless many damaged rugs and fragments began to seep into the Istanbul bazaar and then percolate into European and American rug dealer and collector’s hands. Along with these pile rugs, and basically for the first time, old Anatolian kelim also began to be rounded-up in the countryside and brought to the bazaar for sale. Like the plethora of old and damaged pile rugs that were for the most part totally uninteresting, once in a blue moon an ancient masterpiece would appear; the same paradigm existed for kelim. This situation was directly responsible for the discovery and resale of the few now known ancient, archetypes. However, unlike historic archetypal examples of Anatolian pile carpets, which still to this day can and do occasionally appear, this was not the case for archetypal Anatolian kelim, which just disappeared from the market as suddenly as they had appeared.
It was only during the brief period 1978-1980 the few previously unknown archetypal examples were brought to the Istanbul and Konya marketplaces and were purchased by foreign dealers. The rest is history.
This examination of Anatolian kelim is based on a very simple thesis: There is an extremely small group of archetype examples. Each one is a proprietary iconographic statement of still unknown and unidentified original weaving group. These groups maintained historic weaving cultures that preserved their proprietary iconography and provided the transmission source for those iconographies to reach subsequent generations of weavers. These archetypes are the rosetta stone of the historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture and tradition. This concept cannot be understood without understanding the second part of this thesis: These weaving cultures were ancient and functioned within inherently sacred and esoteric traditions that over an extended period of time progressively became secular and profane.
As already stated all Anatolian kelim can be divided into four major weaving periods. This methodology is based on the fact the iconography on all Anatolian kelim from the three later periods was originated by the weavers of the few Archaic period examples. In other words there is a direct causal design relationship all Anatolian kelim share with an archetype, or with a combination of two or more archetypes. To begin to document this thesis the eleven Archaic period examples need to be presented along with their present provenance. This is done in no particular order or regard to their importance, value or beauty. Each is equally important, valuable and inherently beautiful. **Each of these archetypes will be referred to as Plate One through Plate Eleven, the bold type face and numeric word, not number, to differentiate them from the other Plates referenced in the text.**
There is one in the Vakiflar Museum Collection, Istanbul Turkey, but it was regrettably not illustrated in the comprehensive catalog published in 1982, authored by Balpinar and Hirsch and remained unpublished for many years thereafter. Another is in the Berlin Islamic Museum Collection, Berlin Germany. It was first published in black and white in Kilim authored by Yanni Petsopolis in 1981. Five are in this author’s collection and are illustrated in the 1989 “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim” publication. The remaining four are in the Fine Art (deYoung) Museums Collection gifts of Caroline and McCoy Jones and published in the 1990 catalog “Anatolian Kilims”, authored by Cootner, et. al.
Plate One: Vakiflar Museum, Istanbul Turkey; Inv. No.S93; 1.72 x 3.60cm, 5’8” x 11’10”
Plate Two: Islamische Museum, Berlin Germany; Inv. No.I 3088; 153 x 395cm, 5’0” x 14’1”
Plate Three: Author’s collection, USA; 325 x 72 cm, 10’8” x 2’5”; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2.Plate 1, 1989
Plate Four: Author’s collection, USA; 337 x 72 cm, 11’3” x 2’5”; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2.Plate 2, 1989
Plate Five: Author’s collection, USA; 240 x 125 cm, 8’ x 5’published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2.plate 3, 1989
Plate Six: Author’s collection, USA; 275 x 67 cm, 9’2” x 2’3”; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2. Plate 4, 1989
Plate Seven: Author’s collection, USA; 372 x 74 cm, 12’5” x 2.5”; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2.Plate 5, 1989
Plate Eight: published “Anatolian Kilims”, Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco, California; Inv. No.1987.387; 210 X 102cm, 3’6” x 6’9”
Plate Nine: published “Anatolian Kilims” Fine Art Museum, San Francisco, California; Inv.no.2003.87.4; 383X182cm, 6’X12’7”
Plate Ten: published “Anatolian Kilims”, Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, California; Inv.no.1989.79.2; 254 x 141cm, 4’7” x 8’4”
Plate Eleven: published “Anatolian Kilims”, Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, California.; Inv. No.2003.87.3; 254 x 142cm, 4’8”x 8’4”
Archaeology and the Anatolian Kelim
This examination’s thesis could not have been conceived without this author’s discovery the highly symbolic iconography on these archetypal Anatolian kelim, and at times their later copies, can be directly related to certain prehistoric decorative ornamentation on architecture and cult objects discovered on the Anatolian plateau and nearby areas. The earliest of these date to the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. There’s no coincidence a number of these archaeological sites are located in the center of the geographic vicinity where many millennia later most of these weavings were produced.
Beginning in the Neolithic period, circa 8,000BC, this region was home to the earliest yet discovered evidence of large-scale human occupation. This was more than 6,000 years before similar developments occurred in the upper Nile Valley in Egypt, and even earlier than the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia. Archaeological sites, like Hacilar, Catal Huyuk, Göbekli Tepe and others from this period continue to be unearthed in this region. The prehistoric buildings and decorated objects recovered prove the remarkable level of cultural and artistic achievement these societies were able to produce. Among the ever-increasing inventory of discoveries are numerous cult burial objects decorated with a collection of images that have important iconographic parallels with much later ones displayed on Archaic period Anatolian kelim.
The discovery of Hacilar in 1959 and then Catal Huyuk in 1960, by English archaeologist James Mellaart, were the first to demonstrate the existence of such an ancient and highly developed indigenous Anatolian civilization and make public architectural decorations and cult objects decorated with highly symbolic and suggestive iconography.
fig9 Archaeologist James Mellaart working to carefully uncover a wall-painting from beneath layers of later white washed pigment at Catal Huyuk circa 1963; photograph courtesy and copyright Arlette Mellaart
More than any other Anatolian archaeological site Mellaart’s Hacilar and Catal Huyuk provided a treasure trove of decorated objects, some with unmistakable iconographic links to the earliest Anatolian kelim. Other objects from later Bronze Age sites located in what is now eastern Europe have also proven immensely important in documenting these links and timeline of historical continuity. The four comparisons below demonstrate some of the best, most convincing and powerful.
fig10 Left: clay female burial effigy figure; circa 1500BC; Right: detail Anatolian kelim Plate Three
This small baked clay and incised female effigy figure was recovered from Cirna, a late Bronze Age archaeological site in Romania dating from circa 1,500BC. The important semi-abstract indented-shape this female effigy displays bears an unmistakable iconic relationship to the five similar icon woven on the Anatolian kelim, Plate Three, as the detail on the right in fig10 shows.
fig11 Left: vulture painting detail from Catal Huyuk shrine VII.21 circa 6,500BC; fig13 Right detail Anatolian kelim Plate Five
The vulture was a key icon in the Anatolian Neolithic pantheon of images because of the role it played in the cult of death ritual where dead bodies of certain individuals thought to be the priest or ruling class were placed outside the settlement in the open air for excarnation. This process allowed wild vultures to eat and remove flesh from the bones of the corpse. Afterwards, a clean skeleton remained and was collected to be interred under moveable floor platforms in some buildings at Catal Huyuk. These structures are believed to have served as charnal houses and sacred ancestral shrines.
fig12 Left: leopard shrine with plaster wall-reliefs with painted decoration; Catal Huyuk shrine level VI circa 6,000BC; Right: detail Anatolian kelim Plate Six
The association of the female goddess figure with animals, particularly the leopard, is a theme that often appeared in Anatolian Neolithic imagery. There are many examples from Hacilar and Catal Huyuk, this Catal Huyuk shrine room with an imposing plaster wall-relief of two front facing leopards with painted spots on one of its interior walls the most dramatic. The Anatolian kelim pictured to its right portrays a similar scene.
fig13 Left: plaster all relief of the female effigy, goddess, in birth position, Catal Huyuk shrine VII crica 6,200BC; Right: detail Anatolian Kelim Plate Seven
The birth symbol, or birthing goddess as this icon is commonly known, traces its iconographic roots back past the Neolithic p into the even earlier the upper Palaeolithic when more schematic versions were carved on cave walls. This plaster wall-relief is one of two similar ones found at Catal Huyuk. They are undoubtedly the models for the more codified corresponding design on the archetype Anatolian kelim, like it became for numerous later weavings with far less articulated versions.
The fact the historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture was able to preserve viable connections to these and other prehistoric icon for thousands of years implies the influence of an inviolate strict adherence to a symbolic vocabulary learned, observed and followed by generations of kelim weavers. It is apparent this weaving culture began to slowly disintegrate and expression of its long preserved iconography became progressively blurred, then obscured, and eventually entirely hidden lost forever in later weavings. The comparison analyses of the Archaic period kelim groups and their later copies that follows will document how this process evolved.
Archaic period Archetype Anatolian Kelim
After thirty years of intensive collector and dealer activity to locate and acquire early Anatolian kelim, the reality only eleven archetypal examples have surfaced is a remarkable statistic. This is particularly the case since well over six hundred considerably old examples have been published, with probably an additional ten percent known but still unpublished. A list of those published:
64 plates: “Anatolian Kilims and Radiocarbon Dating”, 1999
115 plates: “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe”, 1982
110 plates:”Anatolian Kilims”, 1990
110 plates: “100 Kilims”, 1991
10 plates: “Anatolische Kelims/Die Vortrage”, 1990
50 plates: “Goddess from Anatolia”,1989
9 plates: “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”, 1989
64 plates: “ Frühe Anatolische Kelims. Sammlung Prammer / Early Anatolian Kilims from the Prammer Collection”, 2005
92 plates: “ Josephine Powell Collection: Kilim Örnekleri / Examples From Kilims”, 2007
218 plates:”18th-19th Century Anatolian Kilims: Gülgönen Collection / 18.-19. Yuzyil Anadolu Kilimleri: Gülgönen Koleksiyonu”, 2011
Many of these, and others, have been published online on various websites since the year 2000. In this context 'old' refers to kelim made in the Classic and Traditional periods, well before the Commercial period (circa end of the 19th century which coincided with the western European ‘orientalist craze’ for decorative weavings that created enough foreign demand to stimulate the first organized ‘factory/workshop’ production of decorative kelim in Anatolia). The total number listed above is far larger than six hundred because of duplication, as some are published twice or even more in some cases. Allowing for duplication, and another ten percent not yet published, there are well more than six hundred. In comparison this shows how extremely rare the short list of eleven Archaic period examples truly is.
But rarity in itself is never noteworthy -- what is noteworthy these eleven examples are the masterpieces of the oeuvre and the templates all other Anatolian kelim have copied. Now that’s a grand statement, but it will be proven by demonstrating every type of now known Anatolian kelim format and design, even modern ones, were mainly derived from one, or a combination of, Archaic period kelim iconography. These can then be divided into specific design groups and placed on time-line continuum. Using this type of analysis all their major features, and secondary elements, can be compared and shown to have been directly or indirectly derived from those articulated on Archaic period examples.
Just a word or two about carbon-dating(c14) of Anatolian kelim. There is no doubt this procedure is valid for many types of objects, including weavings and textiles. But, in fact, only those that have been throughout their entire existence, including post-discovery, remained protected from contamination – be it atmospheric, proximity to coal or wood burning fires and stoves, or exposure to cleaning solutions and chemicals, etc. Since no Anatolian kelim has been scientifically recovered from any underground, or protected environment like a tomb, a sarcophagus, a turbe, mausoleum or a coffin, there is not one that does not need to be ‘decontaminated’ before undergoing c14 analysis. Since there is no accepted universal protocol, and the various decontamination procedures in use are not standardized nor nearly as proven and efficacious as c14 process itself, and in addition since all c14 dates require calibration against a ‘known’ the idea and belief any laboratory can successfully and convincingly date an old Anatolian kelim is patently false. Further complicating the dating issue is the situation not one old Anatolian kelim has a date, even a questionable one, woven into it. Nor are there any early western paintings or book miniatures with unmistakable representation of a kelim. This is very different from Ottoman and Safavid court carpets, which can be found in dated European old master paintings and early eastern miniatures and other drawings.
There is, however, a painting Susanna im Bad (Susanna in the Bath) from 1526 by Albrecht Altdorfer(1480-1538) that shows what appears to be an Anatolian kelim from that period. The painting was discovered by this author in 1984 in the Staatsgemaldesammlungen Alte Pinakotek, inv.-Nr. 698(State painting collection Old Painting) in Munich, Germany.
fig14 Susanna im Bade (Susanna in the Bath) 1526 by Albrecht Altdorfer, b.1480 - d.1538
Detail of what appears to be an Anatolian kelim in the foreground.
This painting was done near the end of Altdorfer’s long and widely heralded career, and provides the only evidence yet discovered of what appears to be an Anatolian village kelim dating from the 16th century or earlier. And while this identification is somewhat circumstantial it is nonetheless well-worth examining. The first piece of evidence is the presence of the “S” icon, which is rarely if ever seen outside the confines of “Turkic” (Anatolian and Turkmen) village weaving cultures.
fig16 Detail Susanna im Bad with red arrow pointing to the “S” icon
This simple icon has a long history, which can be traced back as far as the Late Bronze Age to a rare group of baked clay female effigy. At this time the ‘S’ icon is represented as an elaborate braided or plaited hairstyle where the hair is twisted into a large ‘S’ on both sides of the head. There is ample evidence of its use in other later context as well, sometime interpreted as a snake but usually only as a minor element within a more complex iconography and less frequently on its own. In post-Archaic periods of Anatolian kelim it can be found as both, but in the Archaic period it appears most impressively as a single, stand alone icon, fig5 Plate Eleven
A far more ubiquitous icon found in the Turkic ornamental library, as well as other Near Eastern weaving cultures, is a sequence of reciprocal hooks found on secondary borders better known as the ‘running dog’ or latch-hook. Its appearance on the Altdorfer weaving is another indication of its connection to historic the Anatolian village weaving tradition.
fig17 Detail red and white reciprocal hook, or running-dog, border
There is another icon that is rarely seen on any weavings other than Anatolian kelim in this detail, a white arrow points to it in the close-up below.
In the painting this emblematic icon is turned on it side but when viewed vertically it becomes anthropomorphic and has great resemblance to the birthing goddess icon discussed above. The next illustration provides a very clear picture of several of Altdorfer weaving’s other stripes and, while this iconography is not as directly traceable to any particular Anatolian iconography, it is overall too close to be just coincidence.
But the keystone evidence this weaving is a kelim and not a pile rug or other type of flatweave can be seen in the enlarged detail below where black arrows 1, 2, 3 and 4 point.
fig20 step-terrace outlined motif
The arrows 1, 3 and 4 point to the unique step- or terraced-outline all motifs on slit-tapestry, aka kelim, always display. This is a technical aspect inherent in the construction of all slit-tapestry weavings. Altdorfer’s articulation of this distinct structural characteristic solidifies the kelim identification. Had this terraced, stepped, outline not been present these design outlines would have been drawn with a solid, not a broken dot-dot, line. If there is any doubt, arrow 2 points to a frequently seen design motif -- a step-outlined half polygon -- seen on countless Anatolian village kelim, and rarely if ever on other weavings made in different techniques. This is final proof Altdorfer was painting a slit-tapestry -- a kelim -- and not a pile weaving or some other flat-weave like a jijim or soumak, as none of these produce terraced-outline iconography in the painting.
Being a painter known for his incredibly realistic and finely delineated oil paintings and engraved print-making, Altdorfer proved a skilled hand and eye attuned to fine line realism and accurate representation. This last detail shows the weaving’s long warp fringe, another unmistakable detail this is a kelim and not any type of European tapestry which never have such exposed warp fringe.
Thesis Further Explained
With the preceding parts as background the relevance of the two terms, proscribed and prescribed, will progressively become clearer and so should the following:
1. all Anatolian kelim are based on iconography enumerated and expressed in the Archaic period examples.
2. each of the eleven Archaic period Anatolian kelim is a template for all the other examples of its type
3. copying or recombining the iconography from one or more of these Archaic period kelim was the design source for all the later Classic, Traditional and Commercial period examples. The last two producing weavings that can mostly be referred to as combination type kelim
The concept of proscription, as it pertains to the historic Anatolian kelim weaving tradition, is inherent to this analysis. Therefore, any examination of Archaic period Anatolian kelim, and their subsequent copies and spin-offs, must also recognize the following:
4. During the Archaic period only an extremely small number of weavers indigenous to the Anatolian Plateau were producing kelim. Through their historic weaving culture they were privy to an ancient iconography with design roots stretching back to imagery from the Neolithic period. This ancient weaving tradition was embedded in their cultural origins and continued lifestyle, and it remained viable despite disruptive external geopolitical events, particularly the incursions by Central Asian and other groups beginning in the 10th century AD.
5. This historic kelim weaving culture seems to have been strictly proscribed because it was able to preserve and transmit from each weaving generation to the next a collection of ancient esoteric, non-secular, icon over a remarkably long period of many millennia.
6. However when internal and external societal pressures eventually reached a tipping point, this cultural cohesiveness began to disintegrate causing a progressive loss of iconographic character and content. This occured at the same time an increased number of kelim weavings began to be produced most probably by newly arrived non-indigenous weaving groups from the east. No longer did this historic Anatolian weaving culture and its societal conventions bind weavers to produce kelim with this proprietary proscribed esoteric iconography. Nor did the awareness and knowledge of that iconography remain within its very limited former cultural confines.
7. This important demographic change signaled the end of the Archaic period. Whereas formerly only a few weaving groups had been producing complex-patterned esoteric kelim, a progressive number of these weaving, though changed in substance and character, slowly began to appear. This is the origin of some Classic period weavings that in many ways resembled earlier ones but in fact are quite different in many details. The migration and comingling of foreign weaving groups on the Anatolian plateau was no doubt responsible. While the iconography some of these kelim display ostensibly continues the Archaic period there are small, and important, noticeable differences. These prove their weavers remained aware and still somewhat connected to the historic weaving culture but were no longer under its profound and static influence. As this Classic period finishes and the next, the Traditional period begins, many more kelim were produced and exhibit greater variance from the former norms. These kelim most likely were also the products of newly migrated foreign weaving groups unfamiliar with the indigenous historic Anatolian kelim iconographic tradition. This resulted in a definite and distinct disconnect, and these kelim are quite easily identified. Some must be considered the first generation of domestic, secular weavings to display elements related to the esoteric Archaic period kelim iconography.
8. By the end of the third, Transitional period, the transition was complete and a great number of kelim with watered-down versions of the Archaic period iconography and formats were produced to presumably function as domestic objects used within a secular environment.
9. The final, Commercial period, saw ever larger numbers of Anatolian kelim produced that bear only vague, oblique, and even no, references to the historic esoteric iconography. The Anatolian kelim was transformed and became a profane object with an under-layer of barely recognizable iconography that formerly belonged to the historic weaving culture.
Proving the Thesis
To start the process of proving this thesis the saf, or multiple prayer arch type of kelim, is an excellent place to begin. Relatively few of these exist allowing changes in iconography to be easily documented. The Archaic period example, Plate Two in the east Berlin Museum, sets the format and form for all the others of the group. Several later ones will be illustrated to construct a timeline continuum in order of their proximity to the archetype.
Plate Two Archaic period saf, Islamische Museum, Berlin Germany
The next saf is from the early Classic period.
fig22 Early Classic period saf; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”, plate 6
The next, which was photographed in Turkey and now is in a private German collection, and another formerly in a private California collection that is its virtual ‘twin’, are the third example in the chronology. They are also Classic period but from the end of this period, the late Classic period.
fig23 Classic period saf; published “Goddess from Anatolia”; pg. 91, plate 15
fig24 Classic period saf, formerly in a California Collection in the late 1980’s, present whereabouts unknown
Another somewhat later saf, from the Transitional period, is now in the deYoung Museum and published in “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection” plate 94
fig25 Early Traditional period saf, deYoung Museum Collection
The last saf in this continuum that could easily include a few more examples was also photographed in Turkey in 1980, and its present whereabouts are unknown.
fig26 Traditional period saf, whereabouts presently unknown
These six examples set-up an easily defined continuum to trace this iconic format from its beginning, Plate Two, through to the adulterated but not obliterated final genuine version of the late Traditional period. Comparing the detail of Plate Two with the others vividly demonstrates prescription the historic weaving culture exerted, as well as the progressive degeneration and loss of integrity this format suffered as that influence waned. The time period involved in this process is actually unknown but a good estimate would be 300-400 years.
fig27 Detail Plate Two, Archaic period saf; Islamische Museum, Berlin Germany
Plate Two’s stark but intensely elegant, perfectly proportioned and architecturally sound geometry established a difficult template for all other kelim saf to exactly reproduce. Of all the known copies only the next in the continuum fig22 is able to produce an animated original work not just a lifeless reproduction. This was made possible by the weaver’s close connection to the historic weaving culture. The addition of numerous ancillary amulets -- the butterfly icon in the central niche; the rhombos icon, two within each niche and four between each niche; and several other amulets below and above the niches -- though absolutely unnecessary additions do not, in the end, detract or diminish the archetype’s vision. Unlike this type of accretion that characterizes almost all kelim made in later periods here it is so artfully done as to add another dimension to, and not subtract from, the archetype. This is the sole example of such expertly done accretion to create a version that is almost as good as the archetype. Otherwise the fact all the additions and subtractions were unsuccessful in improving the archetype is perhaps the only constant that can be identified in Anatolian kelim studies. This is a direct result of progressive disintegration of the historic weaving culture and the loss of its proscribed control over the proprietary iconography it preserved. One later weavers could not recreate, let alone improve.
Weavers in the Classic period were still clearly under its influence, for instance notice how the large niches are virtually identical to the archetype and fig22. But the looser, less inclusive prescription of this period permitted weavers to add or subtract iconographic elements. As fig22 shows initially this loss of connection to the weaving culture did not cause irreparable alteration but as the Classic period continued on and then melded into the Transitional its effects became manifest. Explaining why these icon and amulet were added is not possible. Perhaps these were proprietary to another later weaving group or equally probable the century or two separating these weavings saw the assimilation of the earlier weaving group by another. If so, the very similar but unique deep, dark burgundy red border they both display, and the very similar wool quality, implies as close a physical relationship as an iconographic one.
The influence Archaic period iconography had on all later periods is astounding considering the long time periods involved; the geographic movements both voluntary and forced various Anatolian plateau weaving groups experienced; and the destructive effects of foreign invasions and migrations.
This next saf in the chronology fig23 and its ‘twin’fig24 return to the simple stark, unadorned archaic format.
This was done, however, without capturing its three dimensional and monumental presence. More significant are the addition of two vertical bars between the niches and the border. These are unnecessary and a distraction. This demonstrates the end of the proscribed archetypal form and the initiation of a new prescribed one.
Perhaps some might think figs23&24, and not fig22, should considered the next chronologically after the archetype since, except for the side-bars, their plain appearance seems to present a closer match. This is not the case, as the important dye-stuff evidence proves. The archetype’s niche has two colors a light red and a deep blue. These are present in none of the other saf except fig22. None of the others have this deep luminous blue, the luminous light blue or especially the bright light red. There are other important similarities the archetype and fig22 share. The first and most significant is the weaver’s ability to create an animated presence. The second is the similarity of the fine line articulation of the archetype’s border -- compare fig 22 with the progressively cruder versions figs23, 24, and all the others display. This demonstrates disintegration of the weaving culture proscriptive dictate, the transition to the less demanding prescription, and finally the complete loss of its direct influence and the weaver assuming a greater role than the weaving culture once maintained.
There are other types of Anatolian kelim saf, the most closely related is fig28 and a somewhat similar example fig29. The most obvious difference their larger size, two panel rather than one-piece construction, and coloration.
fig28 Late Classic period saf; published “Vakiflar Museum: Flatweaves/ Flachgewebe”, Plate 17
The two halves were probably not originally placed together as this photo shows. The bottom half would have originally been flipped around (the left side on the right and the right on the left) so the red ground trefoil border on the right side of the bottom half would line up properly with the upper. But regardless how it is pictured, this kelim and the next warrant inclusion as a sub-group. The main reason the proscribed archetypal niche format and form. However, the inclusion of some common lesser elements like the new versions of the reciprocal trefoil border at each side and the upper and lower borders show accretive prescription.
Figs28&29 differ in one very noticeable aspect the depiction of the niche pointed roof. The latter repeating the archetypal style while the former
introduces some tweaking by adding additional colored stripes to the peaked roof-line. This culminates in the rounded profile the second from the last niche has, and the multi-colored treatment given to the last one on the right. Obviously this adds nothing to the archaic form and can only be seen as interference to an established prescribed form.
fig29 Classic period saf; published ”Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating”, plate 9, (Vok collection)
Fig29 is by far the better of the two and surely earlier. Another saf fig30 demonstrates somewhat different connections to the archetype.
fig30 Late Classic period saf; published “Vakiflar Museum: Flatweaves/ Flachgewebe” cover and Plate 16
Like fig 29 A major difference here is the border treatment with its top and bottom borders remaining similar to the archetype, its side border later copy of Plate Ten’s simple scalloped border. Fig29’s side border exhibits very rarely seen reciprocal pattern. This is the earliest version of the so-called ‘arrow-head’ motif that reappears on a group of unrelated later Classic and Traditional period examples that will be briefly discussed later.
What’s interesting but highly questionable is the c14 dating of fig30 done by the laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland and published in the 1999 catalog “Anatolian Kilims and Radiocarbon Dating: A New Approach to Dating Anatolian Kilims” returned a 100 percent probability for a pre-1635 origin.
AD 1435-1530 (57.4%)
AD 1534-1635 (42.6%)
This is exceptionally dubious considering the Archaic period saf, Plate Two, returned the following c14 dating:
AD 1487-1610 (27.2%)
AD 1611-1689 (37.6%)
AD 1733-1813 (25.0%)
Something is wrong here, and it is not the continuum described above that suggests Plate Two is substantially earlier than fig31. It is likewise impossible to believe many of the other c14 dates in this catalog are correct or that they are more credible and accurate than the art historical evidence to the contrary.
Additionally, there are two related subtypes of Anatolian kelim saf. The first like those above are true saf, but for all intents and purposes the second can only be considered pseudo-saf. Fig30 pictured on the cover of the Vakiflar kelim book is the earliest and best example of the first subtype. This saf repeats the archetype format. It is woven in one piece, has seven (more) distinctly stylized niche/mirhab with the same characteristic border and sparse unadorned field. These shared design elements make up what can be called a set, a group of defining characteristics. The set concept is an integral part of identifying the relationships kelim of different time period share, and to which group they belong. There are also several defining features separating it from the archetype, perhaps the most obvious the peaked niche roofs are not supported by touching the towering sidewalls. Rather they have their own support directly under them. This change to the profile of the roof niche, as well as the completely different coloration and codified form are why it is considered a later subtype. These are surely not improvments, rather they are unmistakable signs it was woven long after the archetype, and the Classic period examples illustrated above. Fig30 is undoubtedly a good looking photogenic kelim, but that beauty is only skin deep as it fails to achieve the righteous religosity of the archetype or fig 19’s animation, sheer design elegance and palpable energy. One further prescribed feature they share is the motif suspended within each niche.
fig31 Detail Berlin Museum Archaic period saf with black arrow pointing to the small icon that is the model for the larger amorphous central design element within each of the seven mirhab of fig30
The rather gross and heavy-handed treatment they experienced make fig30’s almost unrecognizable. This type of accentuation of archetypal iconography another sign of weavers still under the influence of a waning but still present historic weaving culture.
Before examining the second subtype, the pseudo-saf, another related format, the thin-mirhab subtype should be mentioned.
fig32 Late Classic period thin-mirhab saf panel fragment; published “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 9
It is hard to believe these thin-mirhab kelim were ever used as saf. Calling them by this name is rather euphemistic their mirhab far too narrow to have ever functioned as niche for prayer, the main purpose of all saf. Though there is a caveat here: The association the iconic prehistoric niche has with the concept of the mirhab. This is definitely rather recent in the far larger sense of its long existence since prior to Islam, circa 700AD, the niche had already been an important icon for millenia, one that is believed to have signified a sacred place or shelter. Therefore, it is very possible this connotation, and not one denoting the place to pray and point to Mecca, is most likely the original meaning preserved by the historic kelim weaving culture. In many Anatolian villages where the women still weave kelim the mud-brick houses have wall-niches to store precious objects, and even weavings. This tradition continues the age-old significance, respect and importance of the niche as an icon. One thing is certain, Plate Two was used for prayer and so apparently was fig19, as both display wear and damage consistent with such use.
The addition of a toothed rhomb, an icon taken from Plate Eight, in the center of each thin-mirhab niche rather than the proscribed one explained above is another good reason to suspect these weavings are later, domestic, secular ones. Their mirhabs never meant for prayer but far more probably to function as covering for some sacred protected places.
The second subtype pseudo-saf fig33 are like the thin-mirhab subtype not really saf in any genuine meaning of the word. Their double, rightside upside down mirhab discounting this as their intended function.
fig33 Classic period pseudo-saf; published “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 6
Figs33&34 are among the very few produced in the Classic period, most examples date from the Traditional period.
fig 34 Late Classic period pseudo-saf; published “Vakiflar Museum: Flatweaves/ Flachgewebe”, Plate 18
The doubled niche format is the most obvious reason for the pseudo saf term, although other authors theorize these weaving were used for prayer. But even if they were, this has little real meaning because a plain cloth with no mirhab at all can be used for religious observance. It is impossible to believe this double ended, mirrored format, which served no purpose for prayer, were originally prayer kelim. And considering there is no Archaic period example of the type, and all of them are very derivative of the archetype believing they were meant to function as saf is unsupportable. However, their use as protective coverings for wall-niches in homes and their large size could very well explain their function.
The comparison below will help explain why fig33 and not fig34is the earlier.
fig35 Left: fig 33;Right: fig34
Fig34 is a beautiful kelim; its colors are excellent with some successful finesse at blending them ensemble, the weave is expert, and the design has some movement and more importantly good balance. These are characteristic found in all Classic period examples and are hallmarks.
The same can be said about fig33; however, it possesses a greater connection to the historic weaving culture. Notice both display an important icon from the Archaic period, the S icon, in exactly the same location the stripes flanking the double-ended mirhab. But fig33’s still retain the vertical extensions at the top and bottom as the archetype, while they are absent from fig34. This is no accident, it is a solid clue of proscription and a more direct iconographic connection to the historic weaving culture. There are others, perhaps the most visible the icon in the broad border on either side of fig34’s mirhab. This repeating multi-colored element has been called a bird thanks to its winged appearance, or stretching its identification even further as some have done to the elibende the hands-on-hips goddess figure. But the S icon hidden between these elements in reciprocal figure/ground is a far more significant feature. Most probably at one time it was the figure with nothing objective in the ground. The S icon will be further examined, as will additional aspects of the proscribed/prescribed paradigm and the larger concept of understanding and dating Anatolian kelim using art historical analysis.
Before demonstrating the indelible iconographic relationship each archetype Anatolian kelim maintained with their respective groups, it seems pertinent to add additional evidence to the saf comparison.
The thin-mirhab and pseudo-saf subtypes just did not pop out of nowhere, they developed from progressive changes to Plate Two’s iconic format.
Fig36a can be considered the transitional prototype for the thin-mirhab subgroup.
fig36 Left: early Classic period thin-mirhab group prototype (fig36a); published “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 1; Right: Detail fig32; late Classic period thin mirhab type; published Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 9
The major design difference between it and the archetype is again the niche roof-line. This new style was lifted from fig30, where the roof does not intersect with the towering side-walls but rests on its own added support underneath each side. It’s a small nuance but one that completely changes the niche form, and returns the missing architectural integrity the thin sidewalls fig36a and others of this subgroup lack.
It is quite interesting to quote authors Ian Bennett and Garry Muse’s description of fig36a (plate 1) in the deYoung catalog because it show to what extent hyperbole and misinterpretation invaded Anatolian kelim studies in the late 1980’s. In fact, it continues to this day with authors still unable to realize the syncretic relationship these weaving have with an archetype, and with other design groups as well. A large part of this misunderstanding is rooted in their misconceptions many later Anatolian kelim are much earlier and have more iconographic significance than they can be proven to have through comparative analytic techniques. Muse and Bennett’s comments being a good represetative example.
“ One hundred eleven kilims follow this one, of which many are supremely great. Yet I am tempted to assert that this is perhaps the most wonderful of all known kilims, if only to indicate how highly I value it. I think of it as an archetype. Its composition of multiple arches is an ancient and uniquely Anatolian concept and I know of no other kilim where the rendition of the multiple-niche composition is so clearly and purely stated.(*1) The discipline of its austere palette is exceptional; The harmonic sequences and relationships of just two colors, red and blue, epitomize Anatolian weavers’ inimitable brilliance in the use of color. The series of six archlike(sic) forms are unidirectional and their likeness appear again and again on Anatolian kilims, both on some of the great examples in this collection and, in their thousands, on kilims still being woven today. This kilim gives us the context for all that follows and, despite thousands of years that separate it from its source, it still resonates with the power of long held beliefs.(*2) Thus I view it as both a beginning and an end. I have placed it first in the catalogue, but I just as easily could have put it last. I have structured my observations to reflect this view, and I recommend that anyone working through the plates sequentially return to this kilim. This is a village weaving by a woman who has long since disappeared and whose name is forever lost. Yet here, as her memorial, is a vision of eternity.
(*1). This kilim is remarkably similar to a multiple niche depiction on a wall painting from Catal Huyuk, ca. 5,900 B.C., James Mellaart, Catal Huyuk (New York: McGraw-Hill; London: Thames and Hudson, 1967, fig. 8.
fig37 Wall-painting showing mortuary or Paleolithic period reed houses; discovered at Catal Huyuk level VI circa 5,900BC
(*2). In James Mellaart, Udo Hirsch and Belkis Balpinar, The Goddess from Anatolia, vol. 2 (Milan: Eskenazi, 1989), James Mellaart argues the arch form is the guardian of the goddess, the shrine of the deity. It is also according to him the cave, the primordial womb, the representation of all wisdom and power.”
Regrettably, this description and many of the rest are wildly incorrect particularly claiming to be representations of all wisdom and power. Far from it as the hyperbole, absurd allusion, and undocumented assertions belie even a modicum of wisdom. This part of the catalog, the one hundred plus Plate descriptions, was credited to Garry Muse, the dealer who found all the 111 pieces in the Jones’s collection. With and through the assistance of Cathrine Cootner Muse sold the group en masse to McCoy and Caroline Jones. This author knows the nitty-gritty of the back-story to Cootner’s maneuverings and could write extensively about them, however, this is not the time or place. That will come sometime in the future. But it is now pertinent to make several additional comments.
The first concerns Muse being credited with authoring this part of the book. Actually it was written by Ian Bennett, who was paid to hold Muse’s hand and take Muses’s ‘thoughts’ about the kelims in the collection and not only put them on paper but frame them in an intelligent manner, something Muse could never have accomplished. Ian Bennett was a skilled oriental rug commentator, writer and one of the best of our generation but all his expertise did not include deep understanding of historic Anatolian kelim or knowing the limits of Muses’s substantially less than the satisfactory knowledge about them.
The text they produced, like the description to Plate 1, is sadly deficient in all respects. It is also telling Bennett’s name remained unmentioned anywhere in the deYoung catalog, including the list of authors.
To further document these assertions specific comments on Muse and Bennett’s descriptions, marked M&B to the catalog’s Plate 1 (fig36a) follow. They also pointedly demonstrate the lack of substance Anatolian kelim studies was mired in and still remains.
1.M&B“ One hundred eleven kilims follow this one, of which many are supremely great.”
Frankly this sounds exactly like Steve Jobs talking about Apple computer’s latest and greatest new model, the only adjective missing is insanely. Ian Bennett, who possessed a highly educated and brilliant mind, was perhaps, along with Charles Grant Ellis, the greatest, and most prolific, writer on historic oriental rugs working during the period 1975-1990. However, Bennett never researched or wrote about Anatolian kelim or its historic weaving culture and this is painfully clear from the bumbling, bombastic text he produced. Bennet was chosen to ‘assist’ when Muse, who regardless of his finding important kelim had a rather dim and inarticulate understanding of them, was tasked to write the catalog’s Plate descriptions. It was hoped with Bennett as ghostwriter they could produce something of value but that hope was far from realized, as anyone who understands the subject can readily see.
Just a quick aside for the record about how and where this author met Garry Muse. It was circa 1975. At that time, Muse had just begun traveling to Istanbul, Turkey and bring back to the USA mediocre, late tourist-quality airport-art woven tschatchka. At our first meeting, which was in San Francisco, Muse offered an invitation to visit his apartment in Noe Valley to see his ‘stuff’ and quite frankly the lack of even one interesting weaving was amazing after listening to all his prior claims. Looking at his pieces and expressing no interest in buying any disappointed Muse. However, when an offer to ‘tutor’ him so on his subsequent trips to Turkey so he could be better prepared to find early rugs and kelim was made he brightened up, readily agreed, and plans were made to meet a month or so later in London, England. It’s a long, complex story what then happened but suffice it to say thanks to this tutoring his eyes were opened to what makes great Anatolian village carpet and kelim weaving and Muse eventually got the hang of things and found some of the best and most important examples.
The behind the scene story of Garry Muses’s career is a truly fascinating one that is at great odds with the myth that has been created about, and around, him. By the way that myth was not spun by Muse himself; rather it was created by several people who needed to place him on a pedestal so they could use him and that pedestal to further their own agendas, for their own gains.
2.M&B “Yet I am tempted to assert that this is perhaps the most wonderful of all known kilims, if only to indicate how highly I value it..”
The fact Muse values Plate 1 highly is unassailable, that’s his opinion. But to state it is the most “wonderful of all kilim”, and then not offer any documentation, reason or rational is nothing but typical rug-dealer hype that has no place in a museum exhibition catalog.
3.M&B “ I think of it as an archetype.”
Again this is Muse’s opinion and without any documentary support it remains nothing but a fanciful allusion and demonstration of an inability comprehend the complex history of the historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture. Fact is the Berlin saf shown again below is far and away the archetype for this group, as readers will soon realize if this is not already the case.
4. M&B“ Its composition of multiple arches is an ancient and uniquely Anatolian concept and I know of no other kilim where the rendition of the multiple-niche composition is so clearly and purely stated.”
This is blatantly incorrect as multiple-niche saf exist in almost every other type of oriental rug, including very ancient Persian and east Turkestan examples. And compared to the Berlin saf Muse’s appreciation of fig36a is myopic to say the least. Muse does not reference the Berlin saf, and even if he foolishly believes the one he formerly owned and is discussing to be better he should have. This is an error of huge proportions and another demonstration of his inability to properly discuss his former collection.
5. M&B“The discipline of its austere palette is exceptional; The harmonic sequences and relationships of just two colors, red and blue, epitomize Anatolian weavers’ inimitable brilliance in the use of color.”
While this statement is arguably true, it falls incredibly short of being anything more than hyperbole, and it is surprising a scholar like Bennett allowed this fabulously incomplete and naïve comment to stand, even if his name was not going to be attached to it. Examining this statement makes clear it is naïve, as there are two distinct shades of red and two different blues. It is their interplay and harmony that creates the “harmonic sequence” and brilliance. By the way, this author has spent countless hours with Muse over the past 35 years and we know him well enough to positively state a phrase like “harmonic sequence” never fell out of his mouth or dripped off his lips – this is pure Ian Bennett. However as intellectually attractive as it is, it’s many long yards short of any goal post that could have been reached had even a brief discussion of the interplay the two tonalities of red and blue been more expertly explored.
6.M&B “ The series of six archlike(sic) forms are unidirectional and their likeness appear again and again on Anatolian kilims, both on some of the great examples in this collection and, in their thousands, on kilims still being woven today.”
This is not hyperbole, it is completely incorrect, untrue and ridiculous. There are no, nor were there ever, thousands of saf, or even hundreds produced. Though maybe in Muse’s dreams he might have seen them, we defy him or anyone else to produce even 250 Anatolian saf kelim of any age, old or brand new. There is no doubt the entire text Muse and Bennett produced is as seriously flawed as this description. But, one last comment: The fact Ian Bennett’s name appears absolutely nowhere is a dastardly deception, and perhaps had his name been slated to appear he would have worked harder to produce something of value instead of the worthless throw-away patter that characterizes Garry Muse’s contribution to the deYoung catalog.
There is much more factual information that can be said about Anatolian saf and saf-type kelim. Plate 1 in the deYoung Kelim catalog exhibits the transition state from the monumental Berlin archetypal kelim saf to the later Classic period thin-mirhab type.
fig38 Detail, Plate 1, published “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 1
Here the niche-mirhab is very high and each niche is proportionally much narrower than the square, balanced, wide proportions of the archetype. This is not only less aesthetically pleasing but more importantly has another very practical aspect. These saf niche/mirhab can be considered architectural structures and their depiction offer clues to their age. The deYoung saf has niche that are top heavy, their thin sidewalls would surely ube nable to bear the weight of such thick, peaked roofs. In comparison the architecturally correct proportions of the archetype, as well as Plate Eight, provide further evidence the deYoung saf is a later fabrication and its design based on degeneration of the earlier form.
There is no doubt the deYoung saf is considerably old and important in the continuum. It is the earliest Classic period saf of the thin mirhab type and the prototype for this group, as well as certain other related saf, like shown (again) below.
In common with many Classic period kelim, this saf introduces new design elements, as well as reinterpretation of the archetypal form. Such changes were in turn then often adopted by later generations of weavers. Once again this process can be attributed to the breakdown of the historic weaving culture and loss of proscription. This not only influenced the development of the thin mirhab type but also other saf, like fig38a.
Perhaps the best way to determine the relative age of these saf is comparing the position of the (two halves of the) peaked roof relative to the sidewalls. Notice on the archetype they touch the sidewalls at almost its highest point. The closest to this format, and not surprisingly chronologically, is fig22 where the peaked roof intersect the sidewalls almost as high up. On all the other saf the roof panels are placed much lower down. Fig30 and other later examples have roof panels that do not even touch the sidewalls. They introduce a new form that negates any connection to the necessary architectural/structural component. But more importantly it establishes iconographic evidence to support the chronological dating formula and later position on the time-line continuum.
There is one other type of Anatolian pseudo-saf kelim worth mention. These could rightly be called the thin-mirhab pseudo-saf type, as they display a combination of features from both those sub-groups. Far fewer of these exist and the one below, dating to the early Classic period, is the earliest of the subgroup.
fig39 Classic period; Detail; Plate 9; “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, 1989
Within this format an important Archaic period icon, the S, is repeated in narrowest stripes, those flanking each of the somewhat wider double-ended thin-mirhabs. Interestingly enough, this icon is placed in exactly the same position on two of the previously illustrated Classic period pseudo-saf figs33,34&40.
fig40 Left: Pseudo-saf detail fig33; Right: Pseudo-saf detail fig34
This is once again a demonstration of historic weaving culture proscription. A subtle but crutial piece of added evidence is the uncommon feature of repeating the vertical extensions attached atop and below each S icon exactly as they appear on Plate Eleven. To further cement this connecton both kelim have an extremely rare amulet fig41 in one of their other stripes. It appears in ther early saf types like outer-most border on fig39, and the third stripe from the each end of fig33. Viewing only the blue almost anthropomorphic shaped area of this icon as the original design could well explain the source of fig33’s three large codified pseudo-saf medallions, with the addition of fig34’s crosses as later additions as well.
Fig41 Left: detail fig 33; Right: detail fig39
These relationships become even more significant considering the similarity of the S icon these weavings share with those on the archetype Plate Eleven.
Fig 41 Plate Eleven detail; “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”, Plate 27
It is easy to see the format of fig39’s Sicon is closer to the archetype. This, and other factors, like the substantially less accreted and crowded look and far more distinct design articulation are reason enough to place it in the early Classic period and fig33 somewhat chronologically latert in the continuum.
Prehistory and the Anatolian Kelim
Fig42 Detail effigy icon Plate Three
In the middle 1980’s there was a fevered interest in the Anatolian kelim, much of which brought to light and was centered on what can be succinctly be called the “goddess theory”. Basically this theory long existed within archaeological circles describing the theory early mankind’s religious attentions worshiped a supreme, omnipotent, female deity. The beautifully carved and modeled stone female effigy figures from the Palaeolithic period, circa 20,000-30,000BC, discovered at various human occupation sites in western Europe provided evidence that grounded this theory in archaeological fact. The most famous of these figures is the Venus from Willendorf discovered in 1908 near Willendorf, Germany.
fig43 The Venus from Willendorf
Prehistoric female effigy figures like it and others have been linked with the existence of a prehistoric goddess cult. In the 1960’s archaeological excavations in central Anatolia were the first to discover later but far more sophisticated Neolithic period occupation sites, dating circa 6,000BC, where numerous carved stone and baked clay similar female effigy statuettes were recovered. Archaeologists interpreted this as a continuation of the goddess cult begun in the Palaeolithic period with good probable cause. However, this idea and these Neolithic female effigies soon became grist to the mill for Anatolian kelim dealers and collectors, who then proposed fanciful misinterpretations and even greater exaggerations to explain their visual relationships to some designs found on later Anatolian kelim weavings.
In brief, the “goddess theory” offered up the proposition certain Anatolian kelim patterns represent the “goddess”, and therefore are directly linked to the prehistoric carvings and the prehistoric goddess cult. One kelim design in particular, known as ‘elibelinde’ which means hands on hips in Turkish, became the poster girl and rallying cry for this belief and theory.
fig44 Anatolian kelim with ‘elibelinde’ motif; cover of the “Goddess from Anatolia” publication, Balpinar, Hirsch and Mellaart , 1990
The hoopla surrounding this theory was immense, and unfortunate. Mostly because while there does appear to be a relationship between certain key Anatolian kelim icon and prehistoric ones, the elibelinde is not among that small group. There is no doubt the ‘hands on hips’ pose was present during the Anatolian Neolithic period, as this baked clay female statuette from the archaeological site of Hacilar demonstrates. There are several others but this one is the best and the earliest.
fig45 Female effigy; Hacilar, level VI, circa 5,700 BC
The “hands on hips” image also appears to have existed during the far earlier Paleolithic period, as the two figurines below can be interpreted to show.
fig46 Two stone carved female ‘goddess’ figurines, Paleolithic period circa 25,000BC; left: from Kostienki I (eastern Europe), right: from from Balzi Rossi (Italy)
However none of these figurines actually has hands on hips but rather, like these two, only arms at their sides. And not one besides the Willendorf figure has articulated hands, and her hands are not on hips but across her breasts. The ‘hands cupped under breasts’ pose also appears in the Neolithic period, as the large baked clay and paint-decorated statue below demonstrates. Though this pose is far more closely related to an important Anatolian kelim icon, the birth symbol that will be explained later.
fig47 Baked clay painted large female figurine with hands cupped under breasts, Hacilar
Proponents of the ‘goddess theory’ including the authors of the deYoung Anatolian kelim publication -- Cootner, Muse and Bennett -- had no in-depth understanding of the archaeological facts. But this did not stop them, and many others, from proposing outlandish claims, all of which were eventually debunked and abandoned. One important lynchpin of the critique was the lack of any Archaic period Anatolian kelim with the elibelinde motif, or even one that suggests it. Since all Anatolian kelim with this design are no earlier than the late Classic and Traditional periods, it is hard to believe the Anatolian kelim ‘elibelinde’ is anything but a more recent design invention. Of course it is possible there was once such a kelim that has yet to be discovered. However, this explanation is tenuous considering no additional ones from the Archaic period have been found after more than thirty years of intense collecting activity and research. This is the most obvious flaw connecting the ‘elibelinde’ design with the “mother goddess theory” and archaeological evidence on which it is based.
But there is a larger issue here, and one that is far more factual: There is a documentable relationship key icon displayed on early Anatolian kelim have to certain prehistoric archaeological artifacts . The best illustration of this was presented in this author’s “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim publication where four prehistoric icon -- what has become known as the indented shape female figurine, the vulture, the spotted-feline, and the birth symbol – were shown to have direct connection with Archaic period Anatolian kelim.
The following in bold typeface is part of the description for Plate 1 in the Weaving Art Museum exhibition:
“Archaeology and Anatolian Slit-Tapestry Weaving”, which introduced and explained the prehistoric indented shape female figurine style and documented its relationship to the ancient iconography on this kelim. A longer and more detailed version appeared in the 1989 publication “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”.
Plate Three; 10ft 8in x 2ft 5in/325cm x 72.5cm; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; volume 2, Plate 1; 1989
This art historical examination, and that of three other kelims in that publication, documents their relationship with archaeological objects from the late Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age periods. Some additional annotations to the original online version have been included, but the fig numbers refer to the originals.
“At first glance this kelim appears very similar to Plate Four, which will be discussed later, as both have the same materials, colors and similar design. They only differ in one technical aspect -- Plate Four has warps of one brown and one white thread plied together and Plate Three has two white threads plied together.
Plate Four, “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”, vol.2 plate 2
The source for the repeating main patterns, formerly known as the ‘keyhole design’, has been greatly refined and the following description will provide a far more accurate explanation. Actually this icon is a woven representation of a type of prehistoric female idol, first carved in stone during the Paleolithic period and later modeled in fired clay during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods. This striking icon reproduces in woven format the progressive development female figurine sculpture that occurred throughout Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region including Anatolia from c.30,000BC to c.500BC experienced. Surprisingly the earliest known effigy figurines are female representations, not male.
Paleolithic female effigy; from left to right: from Kostienki I (eastern Europe), from Willendorf (central Europe), from Dolni Vestonice (eastern Europe), from Balzi Rossi (Italy).
Female effigies like these have been recovered from Paleolithic cave sites located in many parts of Europe. These idols invariably exhibit an important style, one this author has called the indented-shape, which will be proven to be the source design for these figurines and their woven representations. A very specific group of idols made of baked clay with incised decorations supplies the key piece of data necessary to positively link the indented-shape kelim icon to these prehistoric prototypes.
Baked clay statuettes from Romania; Girla Mare culture circa 1,500 B.C.
These idols were recovered from Cirna, an archaeological site in Romania associated with the Girla Mare Culture. They are dated c.1,500BC, nearly at the end of this design continuum that began in the Palaeolithic period, c.30,000BC. At that time the first rudimentary, transitional, schematic female figures were engraved on the walls of several cave sites in southern France.
fig.12, Left: Schematic female figures c.15,000BC; engraved on a rock slab, Paleolithic period from La Roche at Lalinde, southwest France; Right: fig.13, Ceramic female figurine c.5,000BC, Vinca Mound, eastern Europe
Fig.12 is one example of those crude efforts. It is particularly significant because it provides the earliest reference to another style of idol depiction, the sitting goddess Fig.13. Two mammoth tusk carvings Fig.14 and Fig.15, found at Mezine, a late Paleolithic site in southern Russia, exhibit further, more recognizable abstraction of the indented-shape figurines.
Left: fig. 14, Schematic female figurine from Mezine, south Siberia, late Paleolithic; Right: fig.15, Schematic female figurine from Mezine, south Siberia, late Paleolithic period.
These effigies also introduce two other important symbol the radiating diamond and the reciprocal hook design that are often encountered in early Anatolian slit-tapestry, kelim, weavings. Technological advances in producing stone carvings, but particularly in pottery making during Anatolian Neolithic period, allowed more realistic modeling of figurines than during the Paleolithic when only cruder stone sculpting was possible. Figs.16, 17 and 18 are typical and present the earliest sitting goddess style fired clay figurines as well.
Left: fig.16, Female figurine carved in soft limestone, Natufian period from Wadi Fellah, Paleolithic period; Middle: fig.17, Female figurine carved in soft limestone, Natufian period from Wadi Fellah, Plaeolithic period; Right: fig.18, Clay statue of a now headless goddess with flanking leopards from Catal Huyuk, level II, Neolithic period
The idea of a seated deity versus a standing one reflected changes in the figurine forms associated with the great social, political and cultural transitions experienced by advancing Neolithic culture. Perhaps this symbolically represented the newly developed urbanization and growth of large settlements like Catal Huyuk and Hacilar, during this period. Two unique carved stone idols Fig.19 and 20 show the earlier abstract style, which is very reminiscent of the well-known Paleolithic style.
Left: fig. 19, Carved grey limestone schematic figurine from Catal Huyuk, level VI, Neolithic period; Right: fig.20, Small figurine carved in black stone 7.8cm from Catal Huyuk,level VI, Neolithic period
By 5,000BC a figurine, Fig.21, shows the stylized indented shape as a refined, repeatable and easily recognizable icon. A somewhat earlier figurine Fig.22 from a c.6,000BC site in Yugoslavia was perhaps its prototype.
Left: fig.21, Burnished red ware figurine c. 5,000BC from Hacilar, Neolithic period; Right: fig.22, Terra-cotta figurine c.6500BC 3.5 cm from Gladnice, southern Yugoslavia, Neolithic period.
A late Neolithic effigy vessel Fig.23 is decorated with a radiating diamond design remarkably similar in style to the concentric multi-colored radiating outlines of Plate Ones woven indented-shape icons.
fig.23, Effigy vessel painted red on burnished creme background with inlaid obsidian eyes. From Hacilar level I, Neolithic period
The central indented shaped motif on the effigy vessel's crown further emphasizes the connection of this design with the deity. The indented-shape tradition continues as the dominant figurine style until c.2,500BC when new and different styles of effigy figurines begin to appear.
Perhaps the most well-known style is the violin-shape Fig.24, which will eventually replace the indented-shape style throughout the entire eastern Mediterranean region. However, this is more a stylization than a departure and the indented-shape continued to be produced in some remote areas of the Aegean until c.500BC as Fig.25s and 26 both from Greece demonstrate.
fig. 24, Carved white marble violin shaped figurine c.3,000BC from Beysultan, Turkey
fig.25 Intact figurine of large size 29.4cm from Greece, circa 1,500BC”
The indented shape idol’s longevity is remarkable and one of the main reasons to suspect the iconography on Plate Three is part of that same historic continuum. But there is another equally important piece of evidence capable of removing much of the shadow of doubt concerning mechanics of how this connection survived and maintained such a viably long time span.
fig48 Interior view of the Yeşil Türbe which is the resting place of Mehmed I, the fifth Ottoman sultan and ruler of Anatolia from 1413 to 1421AD
This türbe, in English a mausoleum or above ground burial place, was constructed for Mehmed I for his internment after death. It is part of a significant complex of buildings, including a large Mosque, known as the ‘Green Mosque’, begun by Mehmed I’s grandfather Murad I and finished by Mehmed I during his reign. The türbe and Mosque are decorated with ceramic tile work many believe to be the most accomplished and beautiful of any Ottoman ceramic tile decorated building.
In 1980 this author visited Bursa and the Green Mosque and the Yeşil türbe, which is situated above the Mosque perched on a hill. Upon entering the Yeşil türbe and seeing the royal catafalque, sarcophagus in English, it was amazing to see the indented-shape icon on all the ceramic tiles lining Mehmed I’s resting place.
fig 49 Detail of Mehmed I’s royal catafalque in the Yeşil türbe, Bursa, Turkey; author’s photo.
Why Mehmed I chose this icon for such an important position is unknown, but suffice it to say it is highly significant for this discussion. It proves the indented-shape icon was a very important living icon up to the early 15th century, and for it to be placed on the catafalque of one of the most important early Ottoman sultan is something that cannot be thought of as just chance or coincidence. Mehmed I clearly must have known its ancient history and chose to be forever associated with it in his afterlife. There is no other possible explanation.
fig50a Detail Plate Three woven indented-shape effigy
Another tantalizing piece of the puzzle is the strong possibility some of the Archaic period kelim, especially those with white fields, were death kelim woven to be used as a shroud to dispaly the body after death and before internment. Here is a provocative quote from Belkis Balpinar’s text in the 1982 Vakiflar Museum kelim book:
“Donors of Funeral Kilims: The custom of donating a funeral kilim to the mosque is only rarely observed, but it does occur in different areas of Anatolia. It is suggested that it is connected with a certain weaving group, which splintered and moved in several directions. The usual tradition is that a kilim is used in place of a coffin. The body is wrapped and tied (often with tablet woven bands) and is carried to the graveside most commonly on a ladder. (In those regions there is also a saying that a person “climbs the ladder” when he dies). This funeral kilim is eihter(sic) donated to the mosque or returned to the family cupboards to be used again in a family burial. These kilim are mostly long and one-piece (430 x 160 cm – 450 x 180 cm, Plate 32). The funeral kilim, as mentioned, was probably a local, family produced item of the tribal groups of the mosque area. In summary, carpet or flat-woven rug donations to mosques were given for religious reasons: to gain God’s grace, to achieve personal guarantees for the future life, or to honor a dead person.”
This author worked closely with Balpinar for a number of years and don’t think I didn’t try to have her flesh out and expand what she wrote about kelim and their place in funeral observance. Nothing new was ever uncovered, but to this day belief the white field Archaic group Anatolian kelim were death kelim made by the group Balpinar’s text hints at before they “splintered” remains.
Concerning this possibility one of Balpinar’s co-authors, Udo Hirsch, recently wrote an article published in a Turkish magazine the following based on his ongoing ethnographic research and travels in Anatolia:
“Women from different rural groups and village communities weave them mostly for funerals. The funeral kilim covers the coffin of the deceased, in earlier times the body of the deceased, when he is carried through the village to the cemetery. After the funeral, the kilim is donated to the mosque.”
Clearly there is good evidence to suppose certain kelim and their iconographies were part of the funeral rites practiced by Anatolian villagers and the iconic tile work in the Yeşil türbe of Mehmed I certainly could be related to this ancient tradition.
fig50b Detail Archaic group kelim Plate Four; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, Plate 2
This kelim is also illustrated in the Weaving Art Museum online exhibition and its description is republished here, again in bold typeface and some additions.
fig50c Plate Four; 11ft 3 in x 2ft 5 in/ 337.5cm x 72.5cm; published “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, Plate 2; 1989
“These two kelim, Plates Three and Four more than any others, are the major iconographic source for many Classic period and later period subgroups. All the later examples have iconography that is directly, or indirectly, derived from the eleven Archaic period examples.
Plate Three is animated, approachable and vibrant quite unlike the serene, imposing monolithic presence of Plate Four.
fig50c Plate Three; published “Image Idol Symbol:Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, Plate 1; 1989
Visual differences aside similarity of materials, spinning, weaving, and dyeing all lead to the conclusion these two kelim were woven contemporaneously, quite possibly by the same weaver. Were they made as a pair, or is each half of a different pair?
Since Plate Four was considerably larger it is doubtful they were a pair. But the larger issue whether they, Plates Five, Six and Seven had matching other halves cannot be answered at this time. It is this writer’s opinion the Archaic group kelim in the horizontal panel format were, like later examples, woven as a pair.
But unlike later period two-panel kelim these were designed as a unit, each half able to be viewed alone and not necessarily as part of a pair. In keeping with that scenario they were originally attached on the upper edge -- as illustrated – and not on the lower edge as the later copies are always put together. This would have for instance allowed each panel with the indented-shape figures to be clearly portrayed, and not seen as a doubled-mirror-image. It is likewise possible these early two-panel kelim were created to be displayed draped over a large peaked object, like Mehmed I’s elaborate royal catafalque or a simplier wooden one, which would have allowed each half to appear as a separate, self-contained image.
One significant factor supporting this idea is the unidirectional aspect of their iconography when viewed separately. This is very different from most of the other Archaic and later period kelim. On even firmer ground is the observation the indented-shape iconography of Plates Three and Four is exceptionally ancient. So might be supposing these icon depict two different styles of deity representation - Plate Three the earlier prehistoric female ‘goddess’ style and Plate Four the later historic male ‘god’ style.
Theorizing their stylistic differences are based on this change from female or goddess-centered belief to a male or god-centered one is not beyond reason considering this change-over is well supported by the archaeological record where male effigies are almost non-existent until c.2,500BC but soon afterwards become the predominant style. During this time period, the late Bronze Age, progressive centralization of political, economic and military power led to a new type of male dominated societal organization and replaced the previous less efficient Paleolithic/Neolithic based ‘goddess’ model.
Regardless of their meaning these two kelim, and others, document ancient iconography remained embedded in the historic Anatolian weaving culture. The indented-shape prehistoric effigy figures provide essential proof of the meaning this icon repeated five times on Plate Three carries.
fig50 Left: Plate Four; “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol.2, Plate 1, 1989; Right: fig.10, Baked clay statuette 17.5cm circa 1,500BC, Girla Mare culture
This connection confirms this icon’s incredible longevity on account of its preservation within the historic Anatolian kelim weaving tradition and culture. This examination of the very small number of later Anatolian kelim of this design group demonstrates its viability even though the historic weaving culture had already begun to disintegrate by the time these later copies were produced
Plate Three has only six close copies, a raher remarkable statistic. These few examples make a continuum that is not much of a line-up, as all them are from the Traditional period. The fact none can be dated to the earlier Classic period is somewhat unusual, as all the other Archaic period Anatolian kelim groups have at least one example from that period."
There is, however, a related subgroup with an almost unrecognizable version of the indented shape effigy icon. Were it not for a collection, or set, of secondary elements they share with the archetype -- like the (pseudo)feathered side border, the white ground end panel, the butterfly icon placed between the large hooks atop each of the four major figures, and the small hooks attached to those large hook-arms – this connection would go unnoticed. The concept of using a set of secondary designs to document the relationship certain Anatolian kelim share is one first suggested by this author, and one that will play a significant role in the analysis of Anatolian kelim groups.
fig51 Late Classic period; “Anatolian Kilim: The Caroline and McCoy Jones Collection”; plate 52
It should not be a surprise each of the eleven Archaic period Anatolian kelim has a particular combination or set of associated minor design elements (amulet and emblem) that always appear with their specific major icon. As individual entities a number of these secondary elements are not exclusive to any set, nor does it seem they were proprietary to any one archetype. They frequently reappear in later copies, something that might explain the greater fidelity these depictions have as compared to the major icons that are believed to have mostly been proprietary. However, it is also possible their far less complex and more simplistic designs might be a more logical explanation.
Fig 51’s major icon shows substantial stylization compared to its most probable source the indented-shape effigy, while its secondary design elements are far less adulterated. But although the abstract appearance of fig51’s major icon might hamper connection with the distinctly anthropomorphism of Plate Three, the set of secondary elements they share proves a relationship.
There are several earlier examples in this subgroup. The oldest fig52 dates from the early Classic period.
fig52 Early Classic period Anatolian kelim; Published “Image Idol Symbol; Ancient Anatolian Kelim”;vol. 2, Plate 7
There are a number of factors indicating fig52, and not fig51, is the earlier, and the prototype for this subgroup.
First is major difference in coloration due to different dyestuffs and their preparation. With only careful visual examination to go on, analytic dye tests have not been preformed, fig51’s color palette is similar to weavings believed to have been woven in the late Classic and early Traditional, while fig52’s are far more typical of Archaic and early Classic period dyes, particularly the rich green and strong violet-purple. Also it has the white, rather than apricot, field color used for other Archaic period Anatolian kelim. Second is the less compressed articulation of the design that is best noted in the peaked niche areas under the first set of large hooked arms. Third is the iconography of the side, end, panels, fig52’s complex, evocative and three-dimensional ones compared to fig51’s much simplier two-dimensional attempt at the same iconography. Last but not least is the difference in the wool quality, certain technical aspects of weaving like more eccentric wefting and a more complex rendering of iconography, particularly the end panels.
To demonstrate how Plate Three’s iconic indented shape was transformed into fig51’s accreted hooked-arm copy another seminal factor of Anatolian kelim design (d)evolution needs to be considered. The pastiche or recombination of earlier iconography, its stylization and codification, well describes why kelim like fig51 exhibit features from two or more earlier examples. This is how the indented-shape and its design set morphed into the hooked-arm subgroup, specifically from a combination of their major, minor and also the reciprocal, figure/ground design elements.
Figs51&52 have a greater similarity to Plate Four’s major icon, it’s boxy shape far closer to theirs than the sexy curvaceous rendering of Plate Three. But the greater number and larger sized hooks displayed on the upper part of the latter make it clear both contributed. Also the hooked pole medallions between the former’s major icons also must have been influential in this process. This could explain where the double set of large paired hooked-arms on fig51’s were sourced. Comparing figs51&52 standardized hook-arms with the far smaller and irregular but organic, alive and animated archetypal version demonstrates the originality Archaic period iconography displays.
These processes taking earlier iconography and developing later design forms and formats provide ample evidence of the prescriptive influence the historic kelim weaving culture maintained.
To close this examination of this group the six kelim with its major icon are illustrated with brief commentary. Because none are earlier than the Traditional period they are, basically, quite homogenous a group leaving little varience for more analysis. Perhaps someday an earlier example will come to light. But once after more than thirty years of intense collecting effort it is quite unlikely one will just now pop up.
The earliest and best is shown first, but frankly this is splitting-hairs as they all are very similar. And although there are some interesting minor differences, when compared to the archetype, or even figs51&52, they all appear degenerate.
fig 53 Traditional period; “Vakiflar Kelim” publication Balpinar/Hirsch; Plate 32
fig54 Late Traditional period; “100 Kelim” publication, Yanni Petsopolos; Plate 75
This kelim and fig53’s field are almost direct copies of Plate Three and a perfect example of later historic weaving culture prescription.
fig55 Late Traditional period; published “Goddess from Anatolia”; Plate XXI,no.6.
fig56 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilim” catalog deYoung Collection; Plate 76
fig57 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilim” de Young catalog; Plate 75
fig58 Late Transitional period; published “100 Kelim” Yanni Petsolopos; Plate 74
Perhaps the most interesting comment related to the mechanics of the pastiche and prescription concepts in developing the iconography of the fig51&52 subgroup is fig57’s repeating the set of both fig52’s outer end panels and its plethora of eight-hooked hexagons with the archetypal indented-shape. It is also worth noting fig58 introduces the ancient S icon in the four concentric waves outlines surrounding its third from the left indented shape figure. This S will be discussed in some of the other group descriptions.
Most probably circa 150 years separate fig53 and fig 58 the last of the illustrated continuum. Coincidently, it is also likely the historic weaving culture met its end during this period, yet it is remarkable it was still influencial enough to motivate faithful reproduction of the indented-shape icon and its associated set of secondary elements.
Plate Five Archaic period; published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; Plate 3
Rarity of and by itself carries no connotation other than face value. Because something is rare does not make it important, beautiful or early. However in the art world it does connote other nuance -- value, something rare is usually valuable. In the subject of Archaic period Anatolian kelim that quality is worth mentioning, it is especially so in connection with Plate Five. Over the past 35 years only one other similar example has surfaced, and it is considerably later and basically a copy
Fig59 Late Classic period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 15
Here is the description written by Yanni Petsopoulos, the author of that publication:
“The main feature of this kilim are the five main bands, each of which contains a series of stylized hand or bird wing motif. This is a very rare type of kilim, of which I know only one other example in the Jack Cassin collection. Its colour range and various elements in its decoration suggest it comes from the Canakkale-Belikesir region. The comparable piece features a rich yellow, absent from this piece and its shorter length. (J.Cassin, Image Idol Symbol, Ancient Anatolian Kelims, New York, 1989, pl.3.)”
Actually there are other major differences Petsopolis chose to ignore. First and most significant is the reversal or upside down depiction of alternate major icon. While this adds a certain eye-blink ‘movement’ to the overall design that movement is superficial, as it quickly dissipates the more it is viewed. In fact, it becomes a distraction rather than an addition. Placing some right-side up and others upside-down destroys the amazingly subtle and sophisticated interplay of color and form the archetype displays. It also suggests it was produced for another use, to be view from all sides and just one.
The major icon of both weavings is most probably a bird in flight, likely a vulture thanks to the extremely large wing-span typical of this species. Something the archetype shows. Also, the vulture was an important prehistoric icon with an interesting cult history.
It might be important at this point to note the iconography of the Archaic period kelim was not accidental, from all aspects these art-works appear to have been premeditated and perfectly calculated expression of an ancient iconography preserved for centuries by a historic Anatolian kelim weaving culture. This is the only logical explanation. But as this weaving culture began to disintegrate, so did its ability to transmit that iconography to later generations of weavers. This, and not so much a substantial time-gap, basically explains these two kelim’s differences.
Comparing fig59 with Plate Five, there is a distinct loss in the subtle but complex interplay of color, proportion and form; as well perfectly balanced proportions. While these nuanced differences might be somewhat hard to perceive from the pictures, there are other ways to show them. Fig59’s major icon are somewhat too large, they overpower the two minor bands, plus they are too large for the kelim’s overall size. Plate Five’s broader, less rectangular, format creates a more suitable canvas for this intriguing iconography. But regardless of its comparative shortcomings, fig59 is a still a very rare and early Anatolian kelim with iconography, like Plate Five, directly associated with the circa 6,500BC vulture wall-painting from Catal Huyuk.
Fig60 Wall-painting photograph; Catal Huyuk; shrine VII.8; courtesy and copyright Arlette Mellaart
The Neolithic site of Catal Huyuk is located in central Anatolia in what can rightly be called the center of kelim country. Within this general area lies the birthplace for the Archaic and Classic period Anatolian kelim and countless later examples.
The vulture wall-painting has been interpreted as depicting an excarnation scene of a dead body left in the wilderness to allow vulture and other animal of prey to strip the flesh leaving only a clean skeleton suitable for internment.
Fig61 Three excarnated human bodies that were interred under floor platforms in what is believed to have been a shrine room at Catal Huyuk, circa 6,500BC
Regardless of the meaning of the major icon, or these two kelim being the only ones to share it, there appears to be a substantial time difference between them, most likely about 200 years. This is a long time for an icon to have remaintained viable, particularly considering this was during the devolution of the historic weaving culture and its transition from the Archaic to the later part of the Classic period. The fact they exhibit such strong resemblence once again highlights the cohesive and proscribed influence of the historic culture on weavers during this period.
There are several related kelim subgroups, but all of them are considerably later and from the Traditional period. The best example of these is shown below.
Fig62 Early Traditional period; formerly offered for sale in the European market circa 2006
All of them, like this one, are only limited reflections of the archetype. Here the archetypal major icon has been reduced to a static abstract motif, and in that transition lost all its dynamic characteristics. Nothing shows this more than the simplification of the two companion stripes and the loss of the archetype’s colorful geometry. But enough was enough preserved to forge an unmistakable link to the original. Once again this is remarkable considering the large time-span between them and the accelerated disintegration of the weaving culture that was occurring.
The “Goddess Theory” and Anatolian Kelim
The main problem with the ‘goddess theory’ as it manifested in Anatolian kelim research and collector circles was the sudden mistaken appearance of goddess sightings everywhere. This wholesale proliferation of these sightings soon became its undoing; then the whole goddess thing collapsed on itself. But there were, as the indented-shape and other icons prove, genuine connections between elements of prehistoric Anatolian iconography and historic kelim. The indented-shape effigy and the vulture are two but they are not alone, there are others that have exhibited similar connection and longevity.
fig63 Above: Niche wall-painting from level VI.b.i circa 6,500BC; published “Catal Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia”, James Mellaart, 1967, Plate 8; Below: Early Classic Period saf; published ”Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; vol 2, Plate 6
This wall-painting has been interpreted to show Neolithic period mortuaries or charnel house structures made of bundled reeds. Whatever the original meaning the row of niche icon is very similar to the archetype saf kelim in the Berlin Museum, as well as the later Classic period one shown above. The sturdy sidewalls and feathering-type pattern of the peaked roof lend additional evidence to this relationship. There really are no other saf kelim like these two, and even the later somewhat similar ones are quite rare, which implies they, like other archetype Anatolian kelim, were proprietary visual formula preserved by the historic weaving culture and known only by a very small group of weavers.
The Leopard and the Vulture
Another important Neolithic period icon represented on Archaic period Anatolian kelim is the spotted-feline that is believed to be a leopard. The kelim below is the archetype of this group, which has many more copies than the others from this period.
Plate Six; Archaic Period panel fragment;published “ Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”; Plate 4
While no other eample has such well-crafted leopard, an unpublished one from the early Classic period comes the closest. It is also the best of the rest.
fig64 Classic period Anatolian spotted- animal kelim
This photograph was taken in 1980 when this author visited the famous Esrefoglu Mosque at Beyshehir during an extended car-trip out into eastern Turkey. To gain entrance inside the Mosque complex some diligent effort was required to locate the hojar, the keeper or custodian. After some palaver with our ‘guide’ translating, the hojar unlocked the door of the great Mosque, some locked private rooms, and an adjacent building, actually a turbe, that was full of rug and kelim fragments. This turbe is the resting place of Esrefoglu Süleyman Bey, the Seljuk ruler who built the Mosque complex.
fig65 Recent photo of the turbe next to the Esrefoglu Mosque. In 1980 it had not been cleaned up and looked completely different.
That’s how this and several other still unpublished pictures of Anatolian weavings that had presumably formerly graced the floors of this Mosque were photographed. It is interesting to note this Mosque is where the legendary group of‘Seljuk’ carpets and fragments were discovered by Riefstahl in 1931. They are believed to have been produced for the Mosque’s inauguration in 1298. Another group of thirteen related ‘Seljuk’ carpets and fragments had previously been discovered in Konya in the Alaeddin Mosque and published in 1907 by Fredrich Sarre.
Was this kelim part of the original Mosque decoration? Was it a donation to honor Esrefoglu Süleyman Bey’s death? Or used for his funeral?
One piece of circumstantial evidence pointing to these possibilities besides the discovery of the Seljuk rugs is a number of wooden pieces originally made for the mosque, like the mimbar, the pulpit and decorations in the Sultan’s loft gallery, are still in situ. If this kelim was made for the Mosque’s inauguration, or for Suleyman Bey who died in the early 14th century, it radically moves the dating scale back for its archetype, this group, and all the others from the Archaic period.
Comparing the kelim from Beysehir, and some others with this design format, to the archetype again illustrates how over a period of at least several centuries much of the proprietary iconography remained part of the weaving vernacular. The first and most significant aspect is the depiction of the distinctive leopard’s head and the rather unique way the ears are rendered.
Fig66 Left: spotted-animal head from the Beyshehir kelim; Right: spotted-animal head from the archetype
Although the rest of the animal’s body is missing, though quite abstractly rendered on the Beyshehir kelim, nonetheless the uniquely iconic treatment of the animal’s head and ears cements their connection. For this to have continued over at least the several centuries separating these two kelim can only, once again, be attributed to the cohesive prescription the weaving culture exerted over the iconography utilized by these weavers. Over this time-period abbreviation and symbolic representation of archetypal icon, like the distinctive animal head and ears, replaced the earlier, more complex, more life-like, versions. This is a typical hallmark of Classic period weaving and their less articulated reinterpretations.
A group of Anatolian kelim with another version of the vulture icon has already been mentioned but there one other with an even more stylized and abstract version, which has significant connection with the Beyshehir kelim and archetype.
Plate Ten Archaic period abstract Vulture kelim; published “Anatolian Kilims”; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, 1990; Plate 58;
This, and only one other later copy, depicts the vulture in a distinctly different style and format, two starkly simple red and one blue double-comb figures on a bright yellow field. The only other element in this composition are eight white and red complex butterfly icon embedded in the bird bodies. Their possible meaning will be mentioned later. This double-comb stylized vulture also appears in Plate Six’s far more complex iconography. There, three smaller but still quite large red ones are integrated into the blue hook-arm kotchak gable and placed on the lowest point of it trajectory.
The use of two major icon -- actually there is one more in Plate Six’s composition, the rhomb which will be discussed below -- occurs only in one other Archaic period kelim, Plate Seven. All the others have only one. The significance of this is unknown but this author refers to Plates Six&Seven as the narrative style. It is quite possible Archaic period Anatolian kelim functioned as symbolic tools used for youth enculturation. In many pre-literate societies such objects, ones loaded with iconic content, were used to communicate secret society cultural traits, religious ethos and mores, from generation to generation. The idea this was the or one of the possible uses for these archetypal tapestries is not inconceivable.
The vulture is an important icon in prehistory and Archaic period Anatolian kelim weaving culture. Comparing the archetypal vulture to the two smaller, cruder, far less animated ones on fig64 is an interesting exercise.
There is no doubt the Beysehir turbe kelim is an early and exemplary weaving superior in all respects to any other of this group. It only pales in comparison to the archetype. This is made apparent by examining some of their respective design features. Most obvious might be distinct loss of fluidity and elegance the red and yellow barber-pole border on either side of the blue arms conveys.
Fig66 gabled trellis comparison; Left:fig64; Right: Plate Ten
The flaming rhomb under the archetype’s blue arms is another feature demonstrating fig64’s noticeable lack of animation, presence and scale. Fact is there is no comparison.
Fig68 flaming rhomb comparison
The watering-down of an archetypal icon articulation and expression, like these comparison, can be demonstrated with other Archaic and Classic period examples. This is the result of the progressive decline the historic weaving culture exerted on later weaving groups.
The end border on fig64 is hard to discern but it can be seen well enough to make clear its differences with archetype. In fact, it is a simplified abstract copy of Plate Three’s doll effigy.
fig68 Left: Detail end border Beysehir kelim; Eight:Detail end border Plate Three
This photo of the other side makes it more clear.
Fig68a end panel Beyshehir kelim
Combining icon from two or more archetypes is typical for Classic period and later periods of kelim weaving. It never fails to show degeneration of the historic weaving culture yet its ability to decidedly influence weaving iconography. Early examples like these demonstrate that prescription, the reuse orrecombination of cultural icon.
Another even later example from this rare group with animals appears below. The animal is still recognizable but no longer as a leopard. However other examples of the group have no animal at all, or even their iconic heads.
fig69 Early Traditional period panel; published “The Goddess from Anatolia”; volume 1; Plate XII, no.7
There are a host of factors to place this kelim further down on the continuum and into the Traditional period – the lack of the flaming rhomb; the two-headed animal and its upside down – right side up depiction; the later degenerated motifs used in the side borders; the missing vulture icon now displaced and removed from the gabled hook-arm and transformed into the upper border; the far too dominant proportions of that top border. Same goes for the now unidentifiable animal that are carelessly scattered about and used as filler, no longer are they the major icon.
Just word about the use of small, minor secondary elements scattered about in the field, or borders of Anatolian kelim. This type of horror vacui designing never appears in any Archaic, or even Classic period kelim. It is a hallmark of later periods when the weaver’s loss of connection with the historic weaving culture allowed this design style. Often these secondary elements have a strong relationship to earlier icon, but their reduction from major to minor status, and the invariable modifications they have undergone, send strong signals they are part of the degenerative flow. As mentioned, there are a few other late examples of this group but none are much better than the one above, the others far more degenerate.
There are two related subgroups to add before closing out this explanation of the Plate Six group.
The best and earliest is what can be called a pastiche or recombination.
fig70 late Classic period; published “Radiocarbon Dating & Anatolian Kelim”; Plate 33
Frankly this type of kelim is a fooler many believe it, and the few other eamples of the group, to be very early. This is not the case, the following analysis proves the iconography is not genuine only an assemblage of elements lifted from earlier period examples. That said, there is one important icon, the birth symbol, but it is submerged in the reciprocal space between the five large hexagon medallions in the field. This is no place any culturally proscribed weaver would have placed it. Because it appears as the ground, and not the primary figure of the reciprocal as in the archetype example, this fits perfectly with its late Classic period position. The use of archetypal icon, as reciprocal, is a hallmark of ths and the Traditional period. This occurs often in later prescription, never in the earlier proscription. Fig70’s overall design impression is jumpy and erratic not calm and unified, which always is associated with degenerate iconography. Kelim like this possess none of the monumentalism of the Archaic period, nor that cool presence they and other early Classic period examples achieve. For example compare the hooked concentric hexagon in each medallion with the (half) hexagons and enclosed flaming rhomb of Plate Six. The upper and lower borders, while well-done compared to a multitude of Traditional period kelim, have nothing in common with those from the Archaic period. The same can be said for the repetition of the multi-hooked motifs that have been placed in organized rows above and below those hexagonal medallions. And the big ‘U’ or ‘tulip’ amulet attached to the center of each medallion is grossly over proportioned, and unsightly compared those on Plate Six it tried to copy.
fig71 is later more even more codified example of the type.
fig71 Traditional period; published “The Goddess from Anatolia”; Plate XI, no.7
Like fig70 the same errors are present. However, the scale is much smaller and less expansive, which along with the codification leads to the later dating.
A second related type is also a pastiche and recombination of several archetypal features and icon. It is not the earliest of this subgroup but it is the most genuine and best looking.
fig72 Traditional period; published “100 Kelim”; Plate 82
Unlike an archetype where every element works together like a fine piece of machinery, this kelim is funky and wonky. But better funky, wonky and genuine than a forced codified failed attempt to reproduce the proscribed momentalism and organization an archetype displays. The three extremely large, exaggerated rhombs capture some of the character of Plate Six’s. This is fig72’s greatest virtue. The blue arms, though lacking the red and yellow barber-pole secondary stripes, work well enough to connect and unify this ‘picture’ making it a unified whole, not just a number of parts thoughtlessly put together like fig 70 and countless others. The exaggerated but flaccidly depicted S icon in the inner end border is a quite genuine example of a later prescribed attempt to reproduce this icon with original intent. Better is the reciprocal red and white upper border that creates a charming later rendition of Plate Three’s hanging ‘stalagtites’.
Few post-Classic period kelim are as genuine an attempt to recreate an archetype. Compare it to this:
fig73 Traditional period; published “The Goddess from Anatolia”; Plate IX, no.7
Although it is technically superior in weave quality to fig72 and could appear to be earlier, this idea is negated when originality and historic cultural connection are taken into account. This kelim unlike fig72 is a stiff rote expression, one that reproduces a prescribed form with little to no feeling or sensitivity. It is therefore boring and dull; same for the following three examples illustrated in chronological order, the oldest first.
fig 74 late Classic period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 33
fig75 Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 34
fig76 late Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 35
Fig74 is not only the earliest but the best achievement. It’s coloration, design form and format far past all the others. It has some of the austere and monumental quality of an Archaic period kelim. These are the strongest reasons to date it earlier than others. The upper and lower border is very unusual and charming, but far from anything archetypal. Compared to an archetype, like Plate Four, that austerity and monumentalism fade because in the end it is only parable. Fig52 also has similar iconography but it too displays the complexity and didacticism of the Classic period, qualities absent in these later Traditional period kelim.
Illustrating one last kelim of this subgroup adds some perspective.
fig77 Early Traditional period; private collection
This kelim is also a recombination of Plate Four and fig57, amongst others. It is old but not very old. Some years ago it was published on the internet with the rather fanciful statement it was the “earliest, best and greatest kelim” ever discovered. After much bravado but failure to produce any supporting documentation or evidence, like the comments of Bennett and Muse, this declaration can only be seen as dubious opinion. However, when this kelim is analyzed using art historical comparison it can be demonstrated just exactly where it fits in the continuum of this subgroup. The most recognizable feature that places it in this group are the blue ground arms or gable surrounded by a red and white barber-pole minor stripe. It is easy to overlook the substitution of white and red for the red and yellow stripes in the gable of Plate Six, but not the far too large and out of proportion articulation. It dominates and destroys any integrity of design that always is a sign of degeneration.
Others include removing Plate Six’s magnificent flaming rhomb and replacing it with to a new but meaningless invention a double-hook kotchak, or maybe is it an elibende-type figure? Also the end border has a combination of what seems to be a winged-vulture with another elibende motif. This is one that only appears in post-Classic period examples, never in earlier ones.
The black ground color is dramatic and very unusual but again this is not anything archetypal or Classic period rather just another example of degenerate ‘invention’ often seen in early part of the Traditional period. Remember Archaic period kelim were proscribed and only display approved conventions. Classic period examples were prescribed based on those established design formula. Neither display iconography like this kelim has, one with elements of original, unknown invention. Beginning in the Traditional period this tendency to invent at the loss of historic iconic content ran rampant and produced many new motif. Weavers were released from the former strong confines of the cultural proscribed/prescribed traditions and the result were kelim, like this one, that reflect, not express, that culture.
There is no doubt this occurred, and like all historical change it did not happen in a linear fashion throughout all of Anatolia – in some areas it happened sooner and in others later. Remember the continuum and periods suggested in this analysis are not attached to calendar dating; rather they are units divorced from time useful only as relative measure not time-centered absolutes. Also remember adjectives like ‘wonderful’, ‘the best’, ‘the greatest’, the ‘most important’, the ‘earliest’, are just words and opinions. They are truly meaningless when not backed-up, supported and documented by facts, or at least logical argument referencing fact.
The Birth Symbol
Plate Seven;published “Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim”1989, vol.2; Plate 5
So far color, which is a significant facet of archetype Anatolian kelim and their identification, has not been mentioned. However, since this examination is a virtual one, and it is impossible to guarantee accurate color reproduction in any medium other than in-person viewing, it has avoided the obvious pitfalls of trying to explain the role of color nuance and subtlety. This said it needs mention the hue, tone and vibrancy of the colors in Archaic period Anatolian kelim are demonstrably different than those in later periods. Some from the Classic period can come close, but even they lack the unique color qualities of archetype kelim. The colors they display are easily differentiated when they are physically placed next to later examples. One of the reasons this author founded the Weaving Art Museum as a non-profit public charity organization was to guarantee tax-exemption for donations from any source, and to be able to direct those donations to specialist scientists, who would work to study the unique characteristics of the wool, the dyestuffs and the dyeing procedures that created those colors. So far, there have been no donations and until outside funding is received this effort will remain unresolved.
It is truly sad and regrettable a sizeable amount of money was spent, and wasted on. c14 ‘dating’ attempts for Anatolian kelim. Carbon14 dating is a very valid and worthwhile procedure but not for carpets and kelim that have been contaminated through use. This fact nullifies any results, like those in the “Anatolian Kilims & Radiocrabon Dating” publication where many of the ‘dates’ demonstrate how worthless this procedure is for these weavings. There is no doubt it is easy to shoot holes through the co-authors Georges Bonani and Jurg Rageth’s methodology and conclusions using art historical analysis.
Intensive dye and wool testing, not c14, will provide truly useful information. But building the necessary and essential data-base for these results will take a long time and that work, as compared to the easily secured ‘benediction’ questionable c14 dates give, is one of the many reasons financial support has not been forthcoming. Without this type of information it will remain impossible to scientifically prove Archaic period Anatolian kelim are identifiably different than ones from later periods. The art historical comparisons in this analysis demonstrate there was a historic weaving culture that controlled the iconography woven on Anatolian kelim, and as this weaving culture broke down and degenerated it produced greater and greater numbers of examples with progressively tainted and displaced iconographic content. This concept and another: There is small group of eleven kelim are the archetypes and source for all others, presents an entirely new paradigm of Anatolian kelim research.
The main icon on the kelim above is known as a birth-symbol. Actually there is a tower of them when it is viewed vertically. This icon is a universal pattern found in non-urban cultures worldwide, a ubiquitous abstract design found in the small-scale societies of the Near East, the Far East, Oceania, and the Americas. The earliest representation of this icon were discovered by James Mellaart, during his excavations at the Neolithic site of Catal Huyuk.
fig78 “Plaster relief of pregnant goddess from the east wall of shrine VII.23, richly painted in red, orange and black on a white ground. The hands and feet were deliberately demolished when the building was filled in, probably to rob the figure of its magic potency, a practise common at Catal Huyuk. The goddess was richly dressed and the painting continues on the wall behind, as if she were holding an enveloping garment around her, the prototype of the later Near Eastern goddesses who show themselves to their worshippers.” Catal Huyuk – A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, James Mellaart, page 76
fig79 relief of a goddess, with defaced head, in shrine VII.31; Catal Huyuk – A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, James Mellaart, page 46
These two plaster wall-relief date circa 6,300BC and, while they are the earliest, there are countless other representations of this iconic symbol produced well into the 20th century.
fig80 detail Plate Seven
This is the template for numerous copies in this group. Some of these later examples will be illustrated but first it is necessary to demonstrate why this is the archetype.
fig81 detail Plate Seven
The detail shows the unmistakable hooked arms and legs of the birth-symbol, along with the exaggerated and extended pregnant abdomen and vaginal birth canal. This is a more colorful version of fig 80, the wall relief from Catal Huyuk. There are various ‘look-like’ similarities between archaeological objects and Anatolian kelim but those so far presented -- the indented-shape effigy, the spotted-animal and the vulture -- are far more than ‘look-likes’. There’s no doubt this kelim displays birth-symbol and the tower of them must have had important connotations. The yellow segment is the most iconic, and the other twelve its hypnotic, rhythmic repetition. Perhaps this harmonic visual was an aid for actual birthing? Whether this kelim had such a use its iconography creates a lyrical progression not found in any other example.
The birth-symbol is not the only icon this kelim displays. But before pointing others out, the fact all four white field Archaic period kelim only exist as halves -- not one other half or even a trace of it known -- deserves mention. The obvious question is were there ever another halves, and if so why does one not exist?
The indented-shape icon on the catafalque of Mehmed I’s remarkable similarity to Plate Three implies the two halves would have been put together not as all later copies with the indented-shape forming mirror-image. Rather with the effigy icon as they are displayed on the catafalque and attached by there upper borders. Also if Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch’s ethnological fieldwork is correct and certain ancient kelim were used to display the body before internment, the indented-shape effigy would have been on each side of the body, and not under it. This is logical considering the indented-shape effigy was a living-icon, as the catafalque clearly proves. The catafalque is positively datable, the kelim are not. However from all indications available, the kelim appears to be at least as old, if not earlier. The same logic would appear to describe how this kelim, or any of the other Archaic period panels, might have been attached to its mate. They would show the major icon on either side, not in the center of the ajoined panels.
Besides the birth-symbol Plate Seven has a number of other important icons. There are large, double-wide, red vulture icon embedded in the broad undulating red gable above the twelve birth-symbol. The white ground end borders have an archaic rendition of an intriguing and complex icon.
fig82 Animal-Shield icon with birth-symbol and four addorsed animals or birds in figure/ground relationship
Though they are facing inwards in each of these animal-shield icon they do appear in the correct posture in the reciprocal between them. Two small red vultures are embedded on their central axis, and two pairs of white animals, or birds, with rear facing heads on long necks are part of that reciprocal as well. This animal-shield icon appears in a very simplified form fig83 where it has been cut in half to produce a motif that is a combination of the vulture and the elibinde.
fig83 Left: detail end border of fig77; Right: close-up detail of orange ground halved animal-shield icon that displays the elibelinde and simplified vulture
This transformation is the most probable to explain how and where the elibelinde motif originated. It is surely not unique, just one of numerous other. All of these reinterpretations of older icon demonstrate the continued influence of the historic weaving culture, as well as the degeneration its iconography experienced. This process changed complex iconography into the commonplace amulets and symbols that proliferate in later weavings. It also produced the accreted over embellished recombinations that are just as plentiful.
Set Theory and Identifying Anatolian Kelim Groups
Plate Seven has a number of icon imbedded in its design. The birth-symbol in several different formats, the vulture, the gable, the rhomb and the animal-shield icon with four addorsed animals. These icon form a set, and this set is reproduced to a greater or lesser degree in every other Anatolian kelim of this group depending on the period of its production: The closer to the archetype the greater their fidelity, the further down on the continuum the greater degree of varience and degeneration. This set theory pertains to all archetypes, their group and later copies. This is not a phenomena, it is the prescriptive influence of the historic weaving culture.
To re-cap: This analysis of Anatolian kelim forwards three basic premis:
1.There is a very small group of extant Anatolian kelim, numbering only eleven examples, produced during the Archaic period.
2.These archetype express a specific major icon and their form and format are the template models for all the later examples in their group. In fact every genuine Anatolian kelim, old or new, can be shown to belong to one of these eleven archetype groups.
3.All examples of each archetype group can relatively dated when placed on a time-line continuum of based on art historical comparison to the archetype.
Below are several of the best later examples of Plate Seven’s group.
fig84 late Classic period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 95
While the two others below are visually closer to the archetype this kelim has spirit -- a spiritual connection-- and presents an animated, still living and alive version of the archetype they do not. Its birth-symbol have depth and character, qualities other examples like these lack, or fail to successfully articulate. The large, somewhat over-powering top and bottom borders would have been a detriment had the weaver placed more birth-symbol icon in the field; however she didn’t, and the synergy this creates makes this kelim into something exceptional. The fact it is woven in one piece has little to do with anything, or it’s dating. It is balance, perfect proportions, expert color combination and color blending that make this kelim noteworthy. Notice its faithful but simplistic reproduction of the archetype’s rich purple and turquise green complex birth-symbol outer end panel. This birth-symbol and reciprocal double kotchak bracket icon copy are perfectly rendered, almost as well as the archetype. Here is another connection to the historic weaving culture they share. The reciprocal figure/ground relationship doesn’t quite have the crisp clarity of the archetype, but it is there, and is no accident.
The plain striped fillers between the borders are likewise part of this group’s set and they also found their way into this kelim. The timespan from archetype to fig84 is at least 100 to 200 years or more. It is remarkable for the set to have remained together and viable over such a long space/time separation. One last piece of the set is the blank, iconless, center diamond in each fig84 ‘s birth-symbol. This can be seen as a memorial and codification of the archetype’s blank reciprocal space between the fourth and fifth birth-symbol.
The next example of this group is also from the late Classic period but even more to the end.
fig85 early Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilim” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 58
Ostensibly this example follows the archetype’s form and format far more diligently than fig85. But the plethora of unrelated, alien, ancillary motif; the loss the archetypal set of icon save the birth-symbol itself; the addition of an almost unrecognizable poorly articulated vulture icon in the inner end border; and the transformed, late version of the ‘dolls’ end border relegate this piece farther down in the group’s continuum, as well as Anatolian kelim art.
The icon known as the ‘dolls’ first appears in the Archaic period in the end border of Plate Three.
fig86 Five ‘dolls’ in a row in the end border of Plate Three
Presumably there originally was a sixthone now missing. But what is not missing is the subtle transformation of the two central opposed triangles in each doll. The bottom two ‘dolls’ have central triagles that are quite differently aspected than the top two, with the blue one in the middle being in a transitional state.
There is no explanation other than suspecting this difference denotes male and female gender. Nor is there any evidence these icon really are ‘dolls’. But it seems likely they could have functioned as this type of teaching tool, with the difference alignment and placement of the colorful dots and diamonds between them carrying some former connotation and meaning.
No doll icon appear in any other Archaic period example except in the one surviving end border of the closely related Plate Four. These are much simplier, stiffer, codified and far less animated with no surrounding dots, but each one is framed by four golden triangles. Again, this raises intriguing, unanswerable questions concerning the meaning such a difference carried, although the weaving themselves are so closely related in all respects, both physically and technically.
The next iteration of the ‘dolls’, and what is arguably the next oldest appears again in an end panel, fig52. The comparison below shows how much more complex but not potent this icon has become.
fig87 Left: Doll end border Plate Three; Right:Doll end border fig52
These ‘dolls’, and not the archetypal one on Plate Three, became the prototype for countless repetitions their complexity and not the archetypal purity became the model for later use. This can be interpreted as a perfect example of prescription replacing proscription. However fig52’s ‘dolls’ still have the animation, precise articulation, perfect proportions and magical coloration of the archetype. Compare them to those on fig85, if there is any question remaining about how to tell Archaic period weaving from Classic and Classic from Traditional. These changes document the prescriptive influence of the historic weaving culture -- the increased complexity, the tiny ‘dots’ above and below each of the ‘dolls’, as well as their form and format all directly reproduced from the archetype -- even in a prevailing climate of declining influence.
Next on the continuum would be these two quite similar kelim, both of which are in their own right impressive later examples. But as such neither can compare with fig84, let alone the archetype.
fig88 early Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilim” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 37
fig89 early Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating”; Plate 41
The upper is typical of the better pieces made in the Traditional period still reproducing one or more Archaic period main icon with fidelity. It is interesting to note its proportions are far closer to archtype’s than the two previous, earlier ones. However, that’s all this kelim has going, as in every other respect they are much further down on the continuum, mostly thanks to their nondescript and derivative borders. Both of them exhibit a high degree of prescription but the important archetypal element of well-defined reciprocal figure/ground relationship is not well articulated and basically lost.
Reading the text description for fig88 in the deYoung catalog gives an idea of the author’s pervasive goddess-fever.
It begins “The muted colors of this great kilim create subtle harmonies that soften the dramatic impact of the stacked hooked hexagons.” and goes straight down hill from there, as this weaving is anything but subtle.
It continues “Here, however, the use of the ground color for the interior of each motif throws the hooks into strong positive relief; this, in turn, allows us to view the design on the horizontal axis and thus we can see a classic Neolithic image – a goddess with arms raised.”
This is typical interpretation Garry Muse and other kelim dealers and collectors were infected with circa 1990. There is no doubt, however, some of the iconography of the Anatolian Neolithic period can be detected in certain kelim, but the fact this kelim’s birth-symbol is an ageless universal icon was lost on Muse and Bennett, whose limited understanding of the idiom prevented their recognizing what is Neolithic and what is nonsense.
One more quote from their text “Highly schematic figures, twinned chromatically, appear in the minor end panels. This double image occurs in two gold twin idols from the Bronze Age, one of which is in the Museum of Civilisations in Ankara. The side border is unusual and has an archaic feel to it; colors reverse sequentially between pairs of rectangles and their interior motifs, adding dynamism to a very simple design.”
Those minor end borders do have the what is known as theimportant icon and its reciprocal, which will be discussed soon, but this iconography has absolutely nothing to do with the referenced gold “twin idol”.
fig90 The Anatolian Civilizations Museum’s description: “Twin idols; height : 4 cm; found in the royal tombs in Alacahöyük; 2300-2000 BC; product of Hattian art; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey” ,
By the way the deYoung Kilim catalog does not illustrate these idol. Perhaps had it they might have realized how erroneous this reference looks. It is another example of goddess-itis and the silly exaggerated, misplaced references it offered up. This kelim regardless of the poor description does have a genuine quality but because it is so late and distanced from the archetype that genuine flavor is its strongest, but only, virtue.
These kelim figs88&89 exhibit many of the same deficiencies but they also retain enough of the icon set. Again, all this can be seen in the end borders where the reciprocal birth-symbol is depicted but missing the bracket and the birth-symbol have been twisted 90 degrees changing the reciprocal between them into something different that appears to be a type of hexagonal ‘star’. The archetype’s plain stripe borders are included, but a post-archaic period style S icon with an interlocking format has now been introduced from nowhere into the mix. The use of several unrelated icon is typical for Traditional period weaving.
Both kelim have the same number of prescribed birth-symbol, eight, just like the archetype. This again shows prescription and its influence to retain and repeat the archetype icon set. Fig89’s red and white upper and lower simple reciprocal borders are another aspect of Plate Three’s icon set.
fig91 Border detail; published Image Idol Symbol: Ancient Anatolian Kelim; Plate 10
The interlocking S border on fig88 is another foreign element that has been added. It has been taken from this previously illustrated Classic period striped kelim.
fig92 Closeup end border detail fig39
Another co-opted feature are the small, almost unrecognizable, vulture icon that have become reduced and stylized to a simple H. They can be seen in fig88 to the left of the first blue birth-symbol, and to the right of the last blue one; as well as to the right of the last blue on the upper half, and nine others scattered about, four on the top half and five on the bottom. Mixing unrelated Archaic and early Classic period icon and elements from their icon sets is an identifying hallmark of kelim made during the Traditional period.
The next two kelim in this group’s continuum are from the deYoung Museum collection. Both are Traditional period.
fig93 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kelim” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 38
fig94 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kelim” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 35
Compared with earlier examples kelim like these lack good reproduction of archetypal features or any new interesting ones. Their time/space separation from the Archaic period has destroyed any rreally viable connections to the historic weaving culture and their watered-down iconographies stand testament. It could be said they are distant cousins too far removed from the family tree. Again for the confines of this discussion noting the catalog text for fig94 demonstrates its shortcomings.
“This is another incredible kilim that makes words seem inadequate.
Well, if someone has nothing to say then someone might be speechless when confronted with a kelim like this.
“It demonstrates a profound understanding of color and form, its grandeur deriving in part from its size and the scale and proportions of its motif.”
Actually there is nothing profound about this kelim and surely nothing in Mr Muse’s comments suggest there is. Far from it, as the “understanding” he mentions appears to only represent any ability to not to understand it. The juxtaposition of the five primary colors-- blue, red, yellow, green and white – on the area where the birth-symbol sit is nothing profound, though it is highly attractive. If this shifting field color is studied, even cursorily, a pattern the weaver followed emerges. Had she replaced the two red ‘column’ between the three rows of birth-symbol, and other the two at both sides, with similar shifting color changes for the red diamonds that form those column, her kelim might really have been profound. However, leaving them red creates a certain static drag preventing this color shifting from accelerating and visually taking off.
“There appears to be a deep awareness of ancient imagery, which is expressed with uncompromising power on many levels, extending to its coarse weave and thick warps and wefts.”
Mentioning a “deep awareness of ancient imagery” without documenting it is poor scholarship, so is claiming this rendition is very ‘ancient’ with no proof offered. The coarse weave, thick warp and weft, are also signs this kelim is not historic but rather a later work by a weaver working with coarse materials to hasten the process and not to, and this is equally incorrect, “express uncompromising power.”
“The disposition of color is deliberate and assists in the creation of the images.”
On the surface this statement is patently obvious, and doesn’t really need mention as color is a main ingredient of even the latest Traditional period kelim. And considering the “disposition of color is deliberate” in every kelim, one might wonder where the author is going here. Make no mistake Muse is going nowhere, as the “disposition of color” in this kelim doesn’t create the historic images. Far from it as it somewhat obfuscates identifying them. Not to mention those images are well known from the countless other kelim. They surely were not originated here. This is an example of big word-it is and losing sight of what really needs to be said, as well as demonstrating Muse and Bennett actually don’t know what they are talking about.
“Each of the four-hooked hexagons arranged in three vertical columns, holds the so-called birth-symbol in its center on a separate ground color”.
the authors are lost again because the birth-symbols are formed in-between those colored centers, with the red diamond columns located between the two parts of the birth-symbol not inside them. Though they do get it right in the next sentence, doing so negates what he just wrote and only adds confusion on top of error.
“This symbolic motif links the major elements on the vertical axis. The thin line connecting the negative motifs across the red field creates another level of images interdependent on the first. This multi-dimensional aspect of the design is a feature of early kilims.”
Clearly this is not true because a well- conceived and articulated iconography is a “feature of early kilims”, not a “multi-dimensional aspect” created by the clever, or less than clever, color juxtaposition that appears there.
“Kilims with rows of four-hooked hexagon constitute a distinct design type of which this and the following six are examples.”
This is true but according to our analysis those six are, like this kelim, all later copies where the icon set has been lost, and their frequent combination of alien icon has done nothing to support this opinion. As an aside, Muse once told me this kelim was the most expensive one he ever bought, so perhaps that’s why he is gushing about it.
One last comment: Notice the border on the right side. This is a very late version, a combination of the interlocking S border and a highly degenerated vulture or “hand/bird” as author Yanni Petsopolous wrote in his “100 Kelim” publication. Move evidence this kwlim is not as described in the catalog.
This next kelim, also from the deYoung Museum collection, is far more worth comment, as it is not nearly as contrived as the previous.
fig95 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kelim” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Plate 41
This is a Traditional period Anatolian kelim with far superior understanding of, and connection to, the archetype and at the same time one capable of creating an exciting interplay of color and form. It’s an honest weaving without pretending to be what it cannot. The balance and proportions are typical for the Traditional period. The birth-symbol are unremarkable and slightly too large for the field space, although each one contains an important icon in its center. Same for the brown ground main border and its rather ungainly invented motifs.
fig96 The two positions of the important icon
But these faults are somewhat minor in the final analysis, as this kelim on other counts is more interesting than the over-hyped previous example. For instance, the tooth-comb brown and white inner border successfully balances those errors of proportion; and along with excellent color, color choice and use make this is an highly admirable Traditional period weaving. The only remnants of the archetype icon set, besides the birth-symbol, are the plain stripe side borders and the sole inclusion of the important icon in the centers of the birth-symbol. But these are enough to tie it into this group and document the final stage prescription played in connecting a weaver to what remained of the historic weaving culture.
The next like fig94 has even less in common with the archetype. Both are far design wise removed from the birth-symbol group but not so much to be alien.
fig97 late Traditional period;published “Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating”; Plate 23
This kelim is one of the very few examples of the birth-symbol group where the iconic peaked-gable, or mirhab/niche, format is present. Unusual, too, is the birth-symbols are not in the field but removed to the side borders. This migration is the main reason to place it in the late Traditional period and farther down the continuum. Also putting the important icon into the center of some of those somewhat misunderstood birth-symbol and framing them with the gable demonstrate prescription regardless of the fact this kelim is quite distant in space and time. Other archetype set elements are also present for instance the thin plain stripe borders and the very uncommon lavish use of purple though one quite different in tone and hue. These factors are prescription, though the kind limited by the ancient weaving culture’s waning influence during this period.
The final examples of the birth-symbol group are, like fig98, the veritable end of the line.
fig98 late Transitional period; published “100 Kilims”; plate 94
Once more the icon set is reproduced: the major icon, the border's reciprocal and simplified interpretation of the vulture gable, and colorful thin plain border stripes.
There are two other birth-symbol kelim subgroup. Both are pseudo-birth-symbol spin-offs, as these illustrations demonstrate.
fig99 Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating”; Plate 32
The almost entirely disguised and hidden, birth-symbol in the detail can be seen as the reciprocal white figures between each of the three medallions. And while this alone would not be enough for inclusion the larger of the two borders on the right side also has them. What appears in the side border is a reciprocal birth-symbol with a double-hook kotchak without the vulture and animal-shield of the archetype.
Proscription and prescription like other cultural aspects did not progress in a linear fashion. The field’s hidden birth-symbol, along with the more obvious one in the side border, are perfect examples of this far from uniform progressive process. It’s unfortunate the other side borders are missing. They might have provided further evidence of closer design connection to the archetype, regardless of their actual time and geographic separation. The inclusion of a single icon,fig96, in the center of each of the border’s large birth-symbol is another clue to this connection; same with the lack of other added ancillary motif.
The second related group has already been illustrated (fig71).
fig100 Traditional period
This three part kelim, the upper and lower borders are missing, is the probable prototype for fig98’s reciprocal birth-symbol style. In common with many other kelim of this period there is too much going on; too much earlier iconography misplaced and carelessly added to fill space that would be better left empty.
The next and final example of the birth-symbol subgroup is a quite heralded weaving many have dated far earlier than it deserves. It also has already been illustrated fig70.
fig101 Late Classic period
This subgroup has birth-symbol secreted between joined hexagons but there are no other elements of the archetype icon set, and only one archaic element, fig96, in a very minor a position. There is interestingly enough another almost exact copy.
fig102 Detail kelim fragment formerly California private collection, whereabouts presently unknown
It is easy to suppose they were woven within the same small clan quite possibly by the same weaver, or perhaps a mother-daughter generational combination. While other authors have voiced these are exceptionally earlier art historical analysis proves different. The absence of archetypal iconography and a reliance on later imagery cannot be equated with any type of early dating.
Which is the Archetype?
Plate Eight; published “Anatolian Kilims”; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco Plate 57; 1990
Which is the archetype?
It might look like a toss-up between the kelim above and this one.
fig104 Classic period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 42
When Petsopolous’s second kelim book “100 Kelims” was published and fig104 appeared it opened this question. Until then no close candidate was known. But careful examination proved though both were very early, Plate Eight was the archetype and the other an early Classic period copy. Their major icon could very well symbolically represent an early, wild species of wheat known as einkorn or emmer. It was indigeneous to the Anatolian plateau during the Neolithic period thousands of years ago and was an important foodstuff.
“fig105 Evidence from DNA finger-printing suggests einkorn was domesticated near Karacadag in southeast Turkey, an area in which a number of PPNB(pre-pottery Neolithic B) farming villages have been studied.”
This comparison might seem tenuous but careful comparison shows how both the tips of the individual kernals of wheat and tips of the kelim ‘finger’ extensions are rounded to a point, just like all human fingers.
fig106 the similarity between the einkorn what kernals and the ends of the kelim’s extensions shown by small black arrows
This group of kelim are often called ‘parmarkli’, the Turkish word for finger, although the suggestion their visual affinity to einkorn might be their design source could be ever more likely. However, the majority do not have this feature. Most, like figs113&114 end with a vertical line following the slit-tapestry technique when there is a color change.
Both Plate Eight and fig104 have Archaic period unitary style of icon depiction. But Plate Eight’s simple, less convoluted imagery is the earlier style that emphasizes the icon and not an overly complex and distracting arrangement of larger and smaller icon like fig104. This presents another hallmark of Archaic period weaving – simple but elegant iconography with no frills or unnecessary additions. The narrow white horizontal bars extending toward the selvedge from fig104’s two largest central medallion are such an addition that adds nothing. In fact it is a distraction. There are other unnecessarily added nuances particularly the way the major icon is represented inside itself, as well as arranging the icon in the two-one-two drop-repeat formula in each of the large bands. Also compared to Archaic period kelim fig104 lacks the variety of color, something it tries to compensate with ineffective design complexity.
It’s an early and outstanding weaving, arguably the best in the book; its colors, their balance and combination admirable but it just doesn’t reach the level of sublimity achieves, and does so with out yelling about it, or forcing the issue. This is another hidden but perceptible hallmark of archetype kelim – subtlety -- one unfortunately most easily seen in person and often lost in photographs. At first glance Archaic period Anatolian kelim appear to be understatements but with further study and analysis they become woven tour de force of color and design. This author has handled Plate Eight a number of times, both before Caroline and McCoy Jones acquired it and after they donated it to the Museum; most recently in March of 2009 on a prearranged visit to once more examine their kelim archetypes. It is probably the most under-rated, example in the Museum’s kelim collection. The catalog description is worth quoting to demonstrate how misunderstood this masterpiece archetype was by its authors:
“These elemental forms, as well as those effortlessly created in the negative space, reflect the quality of the original imagery most clearly. I find this kilim’s simplicity and great purity of color exalting. This is one of the few great examples of its design type to have survived.”.
Had such superlatives not been hackneyed in almost every text description one might get the idea it is something quite special. However, this is not the case and to so backhandedly state it is “one of the few great examples of its design type to have survived” it absurd on the surface because it remains the best and earliest published example of this extremely rare group.
Another respectably old and superior example of this group is fig107.
fig107 Early Traditional period; published “Radiocarbon Dating & Anatolian Kilims”; Plate 39
It is not, however, any respects their equal. Perhaps the most obvious clue is the codification of the icon; the former free floating image has been turned into a dead, static, motif-- each one neatly placed in a box. This type of design transition is an integral part of the theories this paper forwards: First a living alive icon, then a less animated and vibrant copy, and finally a static motif. This is an immutable design progression all Anatolian kelim groups experienced. This codification process might be difficult for readers to accept but it exists and is easily proven by the multitude of art historical Anatolian kelim analyses shown in this paper. One last point: fig107’s inclusion of a late stiff rendition of the interlocking S icon border is a sure sign it is not a Classic period weaving but rather an excellent one dating from the early Traditional period.
The following two kelin introduce the next iteration of the archetype.
fig108 Late Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilims” Fine Art Museums San Francisco; Plate56
fig 109 Early Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe”, The Vakiflar Museum; Plate 75
These two kelim have another step of icon codification to the point it has almost completely lost the archetypal cohesiveness, dimensional quality and correct proportions. The icon has become only a vague memory, its dynamics submerged within a decorative scheme. The upper example shows this more than the lower, which has managed to retain a stronger level of connection to the archetype. A tell-tale aspect is the shape of each medallion. Fig109’s have the bulbous expansive look of the archetype while the other’s cannot compare, their shape shifting stylization signify the major loss of prescriptive weaving culture influence Traditional period weavings always exhibit.
The remaining five are the veritable last of the Mohicans, the end of the line for this group, some with the rounded pointed finger extensions others not.
fig110 late Traditional period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 49
fig111 Early Commercial period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 48
fig112 Early Commercial period;published “100 Kilims”; Plate 14
fig113 Early Commercial period;published “100 Kilims”; Plate 13
fig114 Early Commercial period;published “100 Kilims”; Plate 5
The similarity a few of these later copies have with the vulture icon is definitely one that could bear discussion in some other context.
There are two related subgroups, the first clearly closer icongraphically because of the parmarkli fingers.
fig115 Early Traditional period;published “100 Kilims”; Plate 55
It is easy to see the influence of prescription in fig115. However as is often the case in later examples, it is a combination of icon from several different earlier kelim group. The result is a pastiche recombination of iconography. Fig115’s main icon is a watered-down spin-off from the birth-symbol with brackets that are part of the birth-symbol archetype set. This figure/ground reciprocal birth-symbol with bracket is far more accurately articulated in the upper and lower end borders. These are clearly simplified copies of Plate Seven’s animal-shield end border without the four animals and vulture reference. Regardless of these and other deficiences, like the standardization of icon to medallion placed in wide stripes, the less alluring and sophisticated coloration and combination, this kelim has real and palpable spirit and design dynamism.
Compared to it the following similar but far lesser examples figs116&117 cannot compete on any level. No discussion necessary.
fig 116 late Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, The Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 21
fig 117 late Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe, The Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 78
This last subgroup, which might be stretching inclusion, is one well represented in the literature and collections. Fig118 is not the earliest, the most beautiful or the most interesting. Rather its choice was motivated by it encompassing many of the features the others above far more successfully demonstrate.
fig118 early Traditional period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 21
It is debatable when codifiation of the archetypal parmarkli figure turned it into a medallion and then transformed the large medallion into smaller and smaller ones. This process is most probably how this subgroup of small, paired parmarkli medallions encased in stripes developed. These pointed parmarkli extensions ostensibly the most significant reason to include them as a subgroup and not place them with the thin mirhab pseudo-saf group. Surely at some later point in time these styles merged and this classification becomes moot. But for examples of reasonably early vintage, like fig118, this question is pertinent though unanswerable.
Some of these split the central parmarkli medallion in half, both halves with finger extensions while other do not. The later version is the better, as it adds some depth to this highly degenerate version of the archetype. It’s a long way down from it to the multitude of later examples like this. The published literature abounds with them, often referring them to saf but this is far from accurate, and until this analysis no one connected their iconography and the other subgroup to the archetype Plate Eight.
The Unitary Archetype Kelim
Plate Eleven; published “Anatolian Kilims”; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco Plate 27; 1990
Basically there are two types of Archaic period Anatolian kelim – ones with several main icon, the narrative design type, and others with only one main icon, the unitary design type. Plate Seven, the gable vulture archetype, is an example of the narrative and Plate Eleven, the S archetype, the unitary.
Unlike the other archetypes Plate Eleven has no later copies or analogous example. Perhaps someday one will show up but so far none has. Its unitary icon, the S, is frequently seen as a minor ancillary device in many later kelim, and once identified it is surprising how many instances can be found. It is also even more interesting to note there is no other archetype kelim with the S icon, except for several small loom-embroidered ones secreted into Plate Five.
fig118 detail loom-embroidered S icon Plate Five
This small but significant fact is one more piece of evidence verifying the proprietary nature of each archetype’s iconography and historic weaving culture. There is no evidence indicating who these weaving groups were, or where they were located during the Archaic period. But there is substantial evidence the iconography on their weavings was highly specialized, private and protected. Each archetype’s main icon is not found on the others, a fact that further supports the theory this paper advances concerning the proprietary iconoraphic exclusivity each weaving group maintained. Although again there is an exception, the vulture major icon from Plate Five appearing in a different more abstract form as the major icon of Plate Ten, and also part of the narrative style vulture gable of Plate Seven. There is no explanation for the vulture icon’s relative ubiquity or the other archetype icon rarity during the Archaic period. One can only imagine there were once other Archaic period Anatolian kelim and what remains doesn’t tell the full story of how and why these slit-tapestry woven iconographic registers were produced.
Below are several later kelim with the S icon presented on a time-line continuum chronological order beginning with the earliest post-archetype example. This listing, like those for the other already examined archetype groups, is based on an analysis and comparison of their art historical criteria. A multitude of other examples exist in the published literature but these few have been chosen to demonstrate the importance weavers of all periods paid to this icon. Because the group archetype is unitary it has no set of related design elements to use for identification of related weaving. The plain colored stripes too general and the colors completely different than any other kelim group. Therefore, only the use of the S icon qualifies them for listing. Some, like the one below, have already been illustrated in earlier parts of this examination and their appearing twice or more has no other meaning.
fig120 Classic period; published “Kilim” deYoung Museum Collection; Plate 6
A key piece of evidence to catalog the many appearaces this icon makes is the inclusion, or exclusion, of the vertical extension at the top and bottom of the S icon copying how it appears in the archetypal version. Its retention is a good example of weaving culture proscription.
fig121 detail Plate Eleven showing the S icon with top and bottom vertical extensions
This feature is difficult to interpret as an accident or only a chance occurance. Rather it is another demonstration of the retentive nature of the historic cultural weaving environment that produced pre-Traditional period Anatolian kelim. Below is a much later kelim with it, but this is unusual as most others from this period lack this connection.
fig122 early Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 34
There appear to be a number of weaving generations between this kelim and fig123 and even more between it and the archetype. How many? As a guesstimate at least three between it and fig123 and perhaps twice or three times as many between it and the archetype. This age game is unknowable. But the significance of the repetition of such a small detail like the vertical extension on the S icon is not. Its continued use over so many weaving generations documents how proprietary and protected Anatolian kelim iconography was, how their ancient weaving culture preserved that iconography, .how important that iconography appears to have been to the small-scale societies who produced these kelim, and how important it was for them to exactly reproduce the iconography.
Weaving complex patterned kelim prior to the mid-late Classic period must have been a large undertaking where the necessary knowledge, particulary concerning the iconography, did not exist in many areas of Anatolian or within many of the various weaving groups. This appears to be self-evident from the extremely small number of extant examples. But it was the existence and continued influence of a historic weaving culture that was central to the Anatolian kelim story and the production of Archaic period examples. This remained unknown and undocumented until this research paper was first published in December, 2009.
Not only was knowledge to weave a complex iconography required but also certain technological aspects needed to be present for the production of archetype Anatolian kelim. First was the collection of the highest quality wool from animals pastured in special micro-climates, high mountains in the warmer months and low lying valleys in the colder ones to produce such exceptional woolen fibers. The simple but highly effective methods used to clean, card, spin and ply those fibers was also of primary importance. The dyeing methods and level of expertise required -- from the collection of the dyestuff to the preparation of the wool for dyeing, the dyeing process itself and then the mordanting or fixing of the dye onto the wool -- even more specialized and demanding a high level of training, experience and expertise. But the knowledge of historic cultural iconography was, undeniably, the greatest and most secretive and protected part of the weaving process. These skills and knowledge that produced the earliest kelim did not exist during the later, post-Classic period when the historic non-secular iconography became secularized into common mundane decorative motif. These motif still had some meaning, presumably both to the weaver and to the group, but it is believed that meaning was not nearly as significant as these historic icon had been to prior generations.
In the conclusions this will be discussed, but now a return to demonstrating the tremendous longevity and influence of archetypal kelim archaic icon like the S maintained.
fig123 late Traditional period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 50
This kelim is clearly a later example, everything about it demonstrates it is far down on the continuum; however, the retention of vertical extensions the S icon doesn’t really fit this picture. It shows the proscriptive influence of the historic weaving culture was still viable even at the later time period it was woven. Again this is no accident or chance occurrence. The weaver knew to include it because the culture she lived and worked within taught her, otherwise it would not be present. It is interesting to note the white ground S icon stripes, though half as wide as those they flank, are the most visually prominent design element. Why? Arguably because the S icon they display was the most important and potent element the weaver knew and this feature needed to be accentuated.
It is easy to believe the separation in time and space between this kelim and fig122 is as great as between fig120 and the archetype. And between this kelim and the archetype it is reasonable to assume there were several hundred years and many hundreds of miles. The time-space separation is almost unbelievable but not as much as this subtle design convention was preserved over and through it. This is not unique, as the high level of isolation in certain area of the Anatolia plateau enabled retention of cultural tradition and practisess over incredibly long periods of time. There is no doubt even today somewhere in Anatolia a weaver is faithfully reproducing the S icon in its archaic format with the extensions.
But the retention and expression of iconographic details, or the connections to the historic weaving culture did not exist in a linear fashion, as the next kelim proves.
fig124 Classic period; published “Flatweaves/Flachgewebe: The Vakiflar Museum”; Plate 18
Notice the S icon lacks the vertical extensions. This is a seriously old kelim, much older and historically important than the previous one. In 1980 this author had the opportunity to handle it on a visit to the Sultan Ahmet Museum in Istanbul and, in fact, this photograph is one taken that day in the courtyard of the Museum as the photos were being made for the Vakiflar kelim book. So a logical question is what happened to this feature of the S icon?
The answer could be contained in the difference between proscription and prescription. In the Classic and subsequent periods there is no proscription, a level of exact reproduction that only existed during the Archaic period. Therefore all post-Archaic period kelim have, and express, degrees of modification to the archetypes. This kelim is a perfect example, the slight but significant change the S icon has undergone as proof. Fig124 is a key weaving in the double-ended pseudo-mirhab group. As already discussed it is a pastiche recombining elements from several archetype icon sets and also a prototype/model for many later generations of copies. The gabled niche in each of the three large panel has been lifted from the birth-symbol archetype along with the narrow solid color stripes flanking each panel, the paired rhomb in each of those panel from Plate Three, the barely visible design of the upper and lower border also from Plate Three and the flip-flopped ‘winged-arrow’ motif in each of the wide stripes flanking the three gabled niche panels as well spun-off the archetype. These are more examples of historic weaving culture prescription. Another example is the appearance of a second reciprocal S icon hidden between every two of the ‘winged arrow’ motif. Those S icon are white, and can be seen in reciprocal when they, and not the ‘winged-arrow’ motif, are viewed as the figure and not the ground.
Prescription, and the processes of design transmission, sometimes used figure/ground patterning that focused on the ground and discarded the figure, as appears to be the case here. Or visa-versa as can be seen in other instances. Why? This is a tough question to answer but to speculate it seems to protect the sanctity of an icon it was hidden under a more dominant layer of design yet still remained visible. Remember prescription is not linear, different icon were in or out of favor at different times in different places depending on the level of connection to the weaving culture. And while this kelim is no less of a pastiche than fig120 it is significantly later. This separation of time and space perhaps the reason archaic format of the S icon was lost.
There is another type of Anatolian kelim related to the “S” icon group.
fig125 Early Classic period; published “Image Idol Symbol”; Plate 9
As previously discussed there are two subgroup of these double-ended niche/mirhab kelim. Those with narrow panel and those with the wider, gabled niche panels. The former appear to be the earlier style and this example the earliest and best of the group. Notice it retains the vertical S icon extensions. This kelim has real presence, it vibrates with energy created by the colors, their combination and the proportions of the design elements. Compare it to fig124. While it is a champion in its own right comparison shows it too accreted with additional motif. This relegates it to the late part of the Classic period, a time when over-design and an increasing lack of design clarity and elegance are the norm. Also fig125’s fluidity and color synchronicity can’t be matched. But it is the brilliant geometry and large interlocking reciprocal S border that really sets it apart. This rendition of the interlocking S border has never been equaled in any yet discovered kelim.
But the presence of a well-delineated icon is not any guaranteed sign of a superior, early kelim – not at all, as some later examples prove. But when an icon appears in the archetypal format, along with other elements of the icon set, an early date can be assured. Below is a kelim with the later version of the interlocking reciprocal S border. The addition of the triangular abstract bud or flower at the end of each S and its somewhat diminished emphasis make any comparison moot. These two kelim at first glance appear very similar but deeper inspection proves dfferent. They surely are related, which is the result of weaving culture prescription. But the weaver of fig126 did not have the cultural access necessary to reproduce the visual dynamics of form and color fig125’s weaver was able to produce.
fig126 Traditional period; published “100 Kilims”; Plate 63
Comparing them makes it obvious the interlocking reciprocal S border has become slightly too large and the complex design elements in the other panels too small. This has disrupted the overall proportions and as a result this kelim, though pretty and colorful, does not have the intrinsic internal cohesiveness and design flow to capture attention after the initial flash of a first look.
Abstract and Stylized Archaic period Icon
The last two of the eleven Archaic period kelim are quite different from the others. Like Plate Five they are woven in one piece and survived as complete specimens. But it is their iconography, not their format that differs so much and sets them apart. Plates One and Nine have no recognizable image used as a major icon, only abstract geometric forms. The latter does have a stylized version of the vulture icon secreted in two of its dozen stripes and will be discussed below. This lack of pictoral imagery cannot be explained but it might possibly be part of their not having any analogous later copies.
Plate One; Collection Vakiflar Museum
Plate Nine; published “Anatolian Kilims”; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco; 1990, plate 28
This uniqueness prevents art historical comparison or developing a time-line continuum. As for comparing them to the other archetypes and trying to determine if they might be older, or younger, it seems there is nothing concrete available to make any such judgment. In all respects they were most likely were woven contemporaneously with the ten others.
The intriguing question why there are no later examples might be explained by their having remained sequestered in a turbe or isolated mosque where they were unseen by later generations. But this still does not explain their disappearance from the historic weaving culture. Or could they have been of foreign origin and not indigenous to Anatolia and its weaving culture? Colorwise this might be the case for Plate One, which has dyes that are not at all similar to any other Archaic period kelim. Nor is the use of so few colors known among them.
Iconographically Plates One and Nine are likewise completely different from the others and each other. Plate One’s format of three exceedingly simple arrow-point cruciform medallions and corner triangular spandrels includes no secondary or ancillary elements. This is an amazingly stark picture compared to Plate Nine’s multi-colored panorama of several repeating but different stripes. But there is one aspect they do share a simple, irregular-scalloped border on all four sides. This same border appears on Plate Ten but no other pre-Traditional period kelim.
Plate Ten; published “Anatolian Kilims”; Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, Plate 58; 1990
Unlike the other two that are unique, Plate Ten has one copy. It is much later and could not be called anything but a poor reproduction. But more important copies of its major vulture icon appear on four other archetypes, Plates Five, Six, Seven and Nine. This is the only icon from the Archaic period lexicon to appear on other kelims from the period. Those appearances as part of the icon set of four other Archaic period weavings have already been mentioned. They highlight the importance this icon must have held for the makers of these weavings and their communities. They also suggest this icon, and the kelim that display it, were associated with certain traditions and cultural rituals surrounding death, and rebirth. The analogy drawn between these slit-tapestry woven vultures and several wall-painting from Catal Huyuk are valid references to the ancient iconographic roots the vulture maintained on the Anatolian Plateau since the Neolithic period.
fig127 Wall-painting; Catal Huyuk; shrine VII.8; copyright Arlette Mellaart
This wall painting depicts the prehistoric burial practise of excarnation that allowed vultures and other animals of prey to strip the flesh from the bodies of the dead leaving behind skeletons cleaned of all flesh and blood. Still today this tradition is practiced in some outlying isolated areas, as has been done since the Neolithic period.
fig128 photo showing three excarnated human body from Catal Huyuk burials circa 6,500BC copyright Arlette Mellaart
The idea certain kelim, like these Archaic period examples with vulture icons, were part of funeral ceremonies and rituals is supported by some tantalizing fieldwork done by Belkis Balpinar in the late 1980’s, and published in 1990 which has been already cited. More recently her co-author, Udo Hirsch, suggests the following from his more recent fieldwork.
“Large-motif kilims are from 3.5 meters to 5 meters long. They are rather seldom used and only for special purposes. Women from different rural groups and village communities weave them mostly for funerals. The funeral kilim covers the coffin of the deceased, in earlier times the body of the deceased, wehn he is carried through the village to the cemetery. After the funeral, the kilim is donated to the mosque. Large-motif kilims are also used for festive occassions in the home, e,g, births, weddings and seasonal religious celebrations.”
Like the indented-shape prehistoric effigy figurines and their relationship to the major icon displayed on Plate Three, the tantalizing reality the vulture icon also maintained this design longevity is not unrealistic. However, unlike the living history of the iconic indented shape, the vulture icon has no early 15th century royal turbe where it is displayed or any other modern references to prove its viability. There is one explanation to counter this lack of documentary history. The practise of vulture excarnation still is used by some remote villagers on the Anatolian Plateau, and although no one has reported seeing the vulture icon on their particular kelim weavings there are others which continue to use this icon in a very recognizeable form as has been previously discussed.
One pertinent question remains: Why there are no known copies of three archetype kelim, Plates One, Nine and Eleven; only one copy of Plate Five; and only a small handful or less of Plates Three, Four and Five? Perhaps, as suggested earlier, the icon they dsplay were so important to the kelim weaving groups they dared not reproduce them, except perhaps under certain very limited special circumstances. This idea is not unreasonable considering the powerful influences of proscription and prescription the historic weaving culture exerted on weaving communities to reproduce approved iconography, and perhaps not to.
The idea the weaving culture limited and prohibited the production of certain archetype kelim icon seems to be the case when this rarity of later kelim from these groups is considered. There is no other logical explanation.
Among all the Archaic period icon the vulture is unique because it appears in several different kelim formats in several different forms. The most realistic, and presumably the earliest is Plate Five’s version, which is the closest visually to the Neolithic wall-painting.
The stylized and more codified form the vulture assumes on Plate Ten shows how Archaic period iconography was transformed even during that period. The form of Plate Nine’s vulture icon, in the third and seventh stripes from the left, is the same as Plate Ten’s version. Believing these two kelim are closely related is not without reason, as besides sharing the vulture totem icon they also have two other features of the same set -- similar pastel coloration and the irregular scalloped border.
Plate Nine detail vulture totem stripe
A single stylized and codified vulture icon from like the totem’s also appears prominently on Plates Six and Seven. But these weavings have nothing in common with Plates Nine and Ten, as they are both one remaining panel from an original pair and not one-piece construction. Also, their dyes, their format of field and borders, and far more complex iconography support this conclusion. The sole explanation for the shared iconography can only be, once again, ascribed to the influence of a shared historic weaving culture.
As mentioned Plate Ten does have one much later copy, which faithfully but not very artistically copies its three large vultures on a yellow field. There is also a somewhat earlier distant cousin, fig129, which has changed hands several times in the past two decades. Most recently it was published in the book a done by a collector from Munich, Germany.
fig129 late Classic period; first published in 100 Kilims; Plate 42
Some similarities are obvious, particularly the stylized vulture icon neatly placed between the extremeties of the seven terraced-outlined peaked niches. This is another other exmple of prescription and the retention, preservation and transmission of potent living icon by the historic Anatolian kelim weaving tradition. It is no coincidence, chance or accident the weaver placed these vulture icon on this kelim. They are there as a rememberance of the Archaic period kelims and an affirmation of these icon’s continued significance and meaning.
Icon Dissemination and Proliferation
fig130 early Traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilims” deYoung Fine Arts Museum; Plate 30
This kelim is a virtual smorgasbord of post-Classic period iconography and an apt starting point for the conclusion of this analysis. Before discussing it in detail the following needs to be clarified: What is the difference between an icon, an amulet, an emblem and a motif, as all these terms have been used in this paper? Icon are the major and most important symbols woven on the kelim of certain Anatolian groups during the Archaic period. At that time each of these icon, except the vulture, seems to have had proprietary meaning and was not shared or seen outside each group’s weavings. These icon, through the passage of time and various design transference processes, were stylized and codified. It appears as this was happening they became more widely used and their esoteric and non-secular importance, connotation and meaning were secularized and domesticated. They then became amulets.
These amulets still carried significance but no longer continued to have any specific group association, identity, or it seems deeper esoteric meaning. They became profane, common domestic ornament. As time went on more and more groups, both indigenous and foreign who migrated onto the Anatolian plateau, began to weave kelims. These weavings now displayed a plethora of emblem, some based on close copies of the formerly sacrosanct icon, other on amulets, others on combinations of the two which created highly stylized and barely recognizable new ones. Finally, the historic weaving culture disappeared and kelim began to be produced for commerce and trade. Huge quantities of kelim were produced during this Commercial period with motifs that entirely lost any relation to the iconography of the earlier periods.
There is no doubt this is what happened. The surviving corpus of Anatolian kelim proves this beyond doubt.
Icon are potent, mystical, powerful. They are special, highly regarded patterns of significance whose use appears to have been reserved, guarded and protected. Icon are spiritual and non-secular, they were never made to decorate domestic objects, to be domestically used or consumed – they were of the Gods and from the Gods. They belonged to the Gods. Knowing who those Gods were remains another elusive question. However, it is not as important to know who they were as to recognize which kelim have icons and which have later versions of those icon. Who these Gods were cannot be answered, as these kelim weaving groups, communities and societies were pre-literate and left no written history. But rest assured the makers of archetype Anatolian kelim had Gods -- it would be against everything known about human history, and pre-history, to pre-suppose they were God-less.
Simply put, icon were the first design phase, amulets the second, emblem the third and motif the final. These line up perfectly with the four corresponding period of kelim production: Archaic period with icon; Classic period with amulet; Traditional period with emblem; and Commercial period with motif. When each archetype, and its icon set, is compared to its later copies the changes in format, character and portrayal become obvious. This transference of format, form and iconic value show their use in the non-secular spiritual world moved into an everyday, mundane domestic world of existence. The proscribed icon turned into a generalized amulet that became part of a much larger common universe. The emblem and motif were the result of their even greater distribution and use.
The emblem and motif were common, approachable and friendly unlike the exaulted, protected icon and prescribed amulet. They could be used everyday by everybody, whereas it is believed from the available evidence the icon and amulet had very specific rules that governed and limited them to certain use in only specific circumstances. The emblem could be a protective device, like an amulet; or it could be a teaching tool of enculturation likepresumably icon were. The concept here is the emblem and motif were symbols for something else. Icon and amulets were that something else which was spiritual, unapproachable, and reserved for special occasion and use.
There is no absolute proof of this theory but the progression of the iconography on Anatolian kelim from Archaic to Classic to Traditional periods demonstrates these changes and implies its validity. The deliberate, exact and explicit placement and use of the icon in the Archaic period and the progression to far less conscious adherence to those principles in each succeeding period also makes this abundantly clear. The preservation of these important icons was diminished as weavers became further and further separated from and disassociated with the historic weaving culture.
Fig130, the Traditional period kelim illustrated above, might be considered a type of sampler demonstrating how later emblems replaced icon and the icon sets of the earlier periods. One of these that retained its Archaic period form, format and use appears prominently in this kelim and its packed to the brim design.
fig131 detail fig130
The reciprocal of the important icon fig96 appears in the wide yellow ground stripe actually is one part of dualistic reciprocal pair – one believed to represent male and female. More often than not two or more of them are placed side to side in a row as they are in this kelim, which produces the reciprocal between them
fig132 Left: The important icon often shown in pairs like here to create a reciprocal figure/ground design format; Middle: the male icon; Right: the female icon.
This icon pair might be called the Anatolian ying-yang. This interpretation of their meaning is speculation, however, it seems quite likely correct. Both icon are composed of two triangle -- the male has a projection between the triangle when they are placed point to point, and the female an indentation when they are placed the opposite way. This conforms to the anatomic difference of men and women and, of course, the sexual – the man enters and the woman is entered. The first detail above of the yellow ground stripe shows the pair, the colored figure part being the female the yellow color ground the male.
fig133 detail of the reciprocal male/female icon
The detail below shows the same reciprocal pair icon in the same format on an Archaic period kelim.
fig134 Detail Plate Three showing a reciprocal of the important icon, female, between a pair of yellow and brown male icon;published “ Image Idol Symbol”; Plate 2
The longevity this icon pair maintained in the kelim weaving traditon, stretching from the Archaic to the traditional periods and even to today, is no accident or coincidence. It is further proof the viability and influence the historic Anatolian weaving culture iconography manifested over many centuries. .
The next kelim for discussion is one known to this author since the mid-1980’s when it was first made public by Udo Hirsch. It was in his collection until it was sold to the present owners Marshall and Marilyn Wolf of New York sometime in the early 1990’s.
fig135 Early Traditional period, Wolf Collection, NY.NY. USA
Fig135 and the following two photographs were taken by this author at the kelim exhibition held in conjunction with the Anatolian Kelim Symposium outside Basel, Switzerland in 1990. At the request of the symposium’s organizer this author helped organize the event, arranged for James Mellaart to speak and offered considerable advice on how to make it a success. This weekend symposium marked the ‘official’ publication of the “Goddess from Anatolia”, along with recognizing the previously published “Image Idol Symbol” two volume work. Both were showcased to considerable acclaim at the event.
fig137 exhibition showcase with the “Goddess from Anatolia” and “Image Idol Symbo” on display
Although others date fig135 considerably earlier, as this recent comment published on the internet suggests: “This was from the kilim collection of Mr. Wolf and… he had it C-14 dated to the 15th century.” This statement appears on all counts to be incorrect as such C14 ‘evidence’ is not really scientific, nor is it convincing since it does not at all agree with available art historical data.
This kelim is a post-Classic period recombination the large central hooked-medallion an invention combining several Archaic and Classic period icons, particularly the large arm gable of Plate Six and even more so the large pairs of arms from fig52. While the four hexagonal medallions and the border display icons lifted as well from earlier examples, like fig137 demonstrates.
fig137 These details from three Archaic period kelim, left to right Plates Four, Seven and Six, show the earlier icon that were the probable source of the central hooked figure and the hexagonal medallion, the two white arrows pointing to the hexagonal medallion archetype
The presence of four large complex birth-symbol icon within each of the hexagonal medallions, and the shape of the medallions themselves, were taken from Plate Seven, as fig138 shows. Thanks to Plate Seven’s far superior articulation they have real presence something the trite, highly formulaic repetition those in and around fig135’s four medallions couldn’t copy. The over-use and careless scattering of this icon turned amulet are evidence enough to date fig135 well after the Archaic and early Classic period. Fig135’s over-packed and crowded appearance is primarily due their unnecessary repetition both within and outside the four hexagonal medallions.
fig138 detail Plate Seven white arrows pointing to archetypal version of the complex birth-symbol icon
Plus its ghoulish main border is a dead giveaway the Wolf collection kelim is not what the pundits or any c14 test claims. That early C14 dating is just one more example the unreliability this procedure has for Anatolian kelim. Seeing fig52’s huge hooked arms above each half hexagonal niche base adds depth to this explanation how iconography of fig135 developed.
previously illustrated fig52; early Classic period;published “ Image Idol Symbol”; Plate 7
A three element icon set connects them all: The large hooked arms; the (half) hexgon below the lower set of arms; and the complex birth-symbol placed between the upper pairs of red and mustard yellow arms. There’s no doubt this kelim fragment is significantly earlier than fig135, the evocative large ‘dolls’, the other end panel, and the reciprocal plethora of hook-drawing in the field that produces animals in its figure/ground the major evidence.
Here is the next iteration of the fig52 subgroup.
fig139 Late Classic period; published “Anatolian Kilim” deYoung Museum; Plate 52
Comparing the end border ‘dolls’ to those onfig52 should explain dating this kelim into the Traditional period. The presence of the reciprocal important icon to the left of the blue hooked-demi-medallion in the detail below. This is another part of the icon set taken from Archaic period kelim.
fig140 the important icon reciprocal pair male and female icon; Left: Anatolian Kilim deYoung Museum; Plate 52, Right: Image Idol Symbol; Plate 2
This icon, the ‘dolls’ end panel, the other end panel that is an abstract version of fig52’s, plus a stylized interpretation of the upper border of Plate Three further demonstrates the large arm-hooked-medallion is a recombination developed from the icon sets of fig52, Plates Three and Four.
A step-down on the continuum would be a kelim like this.
fig141 Early Traditional period; published “The Undiscovered Kilim”; Plate 16
This kelim illustrates how fig52’s wild, untamed yet sophisticated iconography that includes hidden reciprocal imagery was codified over time and reduced to a collection of static motif. However to complete tracing the sources and proper dating for fig135’s large arm hook-medallions, illustrating the following kelim provides additional insight.
fig142 Classic period; published “Anatolian Kilims & RadioCarbon Dating”; Plate 27
Like fig130, fig142 is another virtual smorgasbord of Archaic period iconography mixed in with later imagery. Only it was woven sometime earlier in the Classic period. The half hexagonal niche under the large arm hooks with their flaming centers once again reproduces imagery from Plates Three and Four. The (now paired) skeletal hook-stalks between them lifted from Plate Four; the large kotchak or double hook atop each half medallion from Plate Six; and the inner and outer side-borders from Plate Seven. Two others are the pair of anthropomorphic figures with notch-tops placed between the kotchak and spead hook-arms above the niche (in the same position on fig143), and the complex birth-symbols between the pair of hook-stalks from Plate Four. Fig142., and its icon set, is the prototype for all the large arm kelim of this type, including fig135.
A somewhat different, but closely related type with much of the same iconography is fig143, which is the earliest example of the rarely seen three part kelim with wide central flied and two separately woven borders (the lower one is missing).
fig143 early Classic period; published “Image Idol Symbol”; Plate 8
This kelim is another recombination of Plates Three and Four’s iconography. It adds the gabled-style of Plate Seven connecting the nine hexagonal medallions (one is missing). This kelim’s icon set also has hexagonal medallions with flaming rhomb center, large kotchak finials, notched anthropomorphic figures between those kotchak, and complex birth-symbols in the left end border.
The next, fig144, adds further perspective to understand fig135, this group, its icon set, and how its somewhat sensational iconography was developed from pre-existing kelim that were far more subtle and sophisticated.
fig144 early traditional period; published “Anatolian Kilims & RadioCrabon Dating”; Plate 26
Fig144’s most outstanding feature is the wonderful flame-center rhomb in the one remaining large hexagon. Regrettably, the rest leaves much to be desired compared with this group’s earlier examples. Again an icon set with a large kotchak above and below the large hexagon and the anthropomorphic notched-top figures between the two large hook-arms, and the skeletal hook-stalks that now appear in trilogy rather than the Archaic period single or pair in the late Classic. This shared icon sets establish valid iconographic connection and relationship, plus demonstrate the longevity and viability of the historic weaving culture. These comparisons provide the only available evidence to group and relatively date these weavinga. The iconography of all pre-Traditional period kelim was initially proscribed and then prescribed, this observance binding countless generation of weavers to conventions of cultural debt and duty. Each weaver and each weaving generation was, until the Traditional period, a cog in the wheel ordained with the responsibility to faithfully reproduce what had been taught. These weavers were not producing domestic goods, whether for wealth or any other worldly purpose. These weavers were doing God’s work in creating spiritual weaving of historic importance, with meaning and significance to their society. The complex, icon laden slit-tapestries, kelim, they produced were community and communal creations, not individual ones. This is a central concept that must be understood, missing or denying it can only lead to misinterpretation, confusion and false conclusions.
fig145 fragment of a slit-tapestry kelim alleged to have been found in El Azam, Egypt; dated to the Islamic period but likely much earlier; Collection Victoria and Albert Museum, London
In 1988 this author telephoned the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and spoke with Linda Wooley, one of the ‘keepers of textiles’ as they call the curators in England. Prior to calling and the reason for the call was the discovery of the slit-tapestry fig145 published in a small old catalog of the museum’s textile collections. Inquiring if she could show it after providing the inventory number, Wooley said she had never seen or heard of it but would be glad to try and locate it.
Several months later she called and said she had found it and set up a time for viewing. I couldn’t wait because the picture in that old guidebook to the textile Museum’s collection, authored by Kendrick circa 1930, struck me as nothing short of fantastic. When I arrived it was sitting on a table in the textile study room. The textile was pressed between two panes of filthy glass, which were, even worse, broken in a few places and held together with scotch tape that must have been at least several decades old, as it was flaking and brittle.
Looking at it carefully I asked Wooley if we could remove it from the broken glass so it could be inspected more closely. She said that was not possible, but she would take care of removing it and I could come back in a few days to see it again. Several days later I returned to find it, once again, pressed between two panes of glass but this time the glass was clean, not broken and the edges were sealed with fresh tape. I was a bit surprised because I thought I would get to inspect it as agreed. But when I asked Wooley again she said inspecting it out of the glass would not be possible.
OK, I said, do you think I could get a sample of the material to see if it was silk, wool or cotton and perhaps do a simple spectrographic dye test? Once more Wooley said no but she would see if that would be possible, so I thanked her again and left. About a month later I called Wooley and asked if she had a sample for me. She was very polite but again said no. I then said I were interested in publishing it in my forthcoming Anatolian kelim book and would really want to inspect it again before doing so.
She then got a bit huffy and said she was going to publish it with an analysis and I could wait until then to find out what I needed to know. Frankly, I was immensely upset because before I called her she didn’t even know the piece was in the museum, nor did she have any interest in it whatsoever. This was not the first time this author got checkmated by some museum curator who was not honest enough to act in a professional and correct manner.
Regardless, I have never seen anything Wooley, or anyone else, has written about the piece and though I tried several more times to see it again I have not been successful. Anyway, God works in strange ways and several years later I was fortunate to find in London and purchase a far smaller, but I believe not nearly as early, similar fragment.
fig146 detail slit-tapestry fragment, origin unknown; Author’s collection
There is no color picture of the V&A’s piece but it is a similar but deeper ‘copper’ color to this one. They have no other known analogues and appear to be exceptionally old, much earlier than fig147. This view is not shared by many, including the author of the museum’s catalog who believes they date from the late Islamic period, circa 700-900AD.
fig147 silk texile Victoria and Albert Museum Collection, circa 700AD
This type of iconography, especially fig145’s, is very curious, complex and mystical with certain similarities to that displayed on early Anatolian kelim. The fact it is is slit-tapestry (kelim technique) makes it all the more comparable.
The acknowledged earliest example of slit-tapestry is this example from Egypt, which is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
fig148 This slit-tapestry can be accurately dated into the period between 1453-1405 BC. It bears the cartouche of the Egyptian king Amenhopt II (1450-1415 BC) and was recovered from the tomb of Thoutmosis IV (1415-1405BC), his successor. Two other much smaller fragments are also known and one, which has the Ka-name of Thoutmosis III (1504-1450 BC), predates it by a generation.
Here is a color detail of the cartouche.
fig149 A large hieroglyphic inscription provides the ka-name of Amenhotp II. His prenomen is contained within the cartouche and on either side are crowned uraei. On the left the uraeus wears the red crown of lower Egypt and on the right the white crown (outlined in red) of upper Egypt. Above the cartouche are given the titles of king. The presence of both uraeus signifies he was the king of a united lower and upper Egypt.
When this author was in Egypt in 1990 I hoped to examine this and the other fragments but found it was not possible. However, I did get to make the picture above. This picture is in color but for clarity is shown in black and white, the detail in color is from the Carter/Newberry book mentioned below.
These fragments were discovered by the famous team of English Egyptologists Carter and Newberry, and finding a copy of their book detailing the excavation of the tomb of Thoutmosis where slip-tapestry pieces were discovered was very difficult. In 2007 a copy was finally found and acquired.
fig150 cover of the Carter Newberry excavation report and catalog of objects
It is interesting in this catalog the weaving is described as a “portion of a robe”, but this is most probably not the case. There is border and selvedge on both sides. When the pictures were made even though it was under glass and mounted on the wall in the Cairo museum, it was possible to see the remaining parts of the selvedge finish. This leads to the belief it is not part of something; it was a complete piece missing some of the top and bottom but nonetheless complete.
The theory this weaving was an apron and the staining visible in the black and white photo, which is actually red, is blood was published in this author’s Cult Kelim catalog publication, and again in the abridged version on the Weaving Art Museum website.
Was this textile used in ritual sacrifice?
Figs145&146 prove the great antiquity of kelim weaving (slit-tapestry technique) and place the Archaic period Anatolian kelim into this ancient perspective and time continuum. This author has has no doubt a few of the Archaic period kelim are Middle Ages, 600 years old or maybe earlier. The iconography displayed on these archetype Anatolian kelim has important historic precedent and ancient connection.
fig147 This silk texile has iconography related to Anatolian kelim. Another silk, from a church in Huy, France has an inscription on the back in Sogdian, the language of a people who lived in the region of Bokhara (Western Asia). Influence from Sasanian, pre-Islamic, art is present – and the spotted animals, the gabled medallion perimeter, the kotchak (double-hooked) skeletal figure(effigy) evidence a relationship with archetype Anatolian kelim; Victoria and Albert Museum Collection, circa 700AD
Seen alone the art of Archaic period Anatolian kelim is impressive and evocative. It is also mysterious. However when placed within the far larger confines of eastern Mediterranean and western Asian history and pre-history some of that mystery can be explained. It is sincerely hoped this exanintion will stimulate others to appreciate what certain unknown and unheralded kelim weavers long ago created. But more significantly to instigate further research into discovering answers to the many questions concerning the historic Anatolian weaving culture and the eleven archetypes identified and examined in this analysis.