Where Carpet Come From: The Glow Rising From the East

The history of the carpet, which is used in almost every home and has an important place among decoration elements, goes back a long way. The carpets, which were considered a luxury in the past and were knitted from valuable threads such as silk, in some civilizations were wrapped and buried together by the corpses of statesmen, have a history dating back to 5 centuries BC. So, do you know where exactly carpets come from?

The use of carpet first started in eastern civilizations. The oldest known carpet that is known today, “Pazyryk Carpet”, is thought to have been used in the 5th century BC. This carpet was named after the valley because it was found in archaeological studies in the Pazyryk region. Pazyryk, located around Siberia, proved that the first civilizations to use carpet in the world were in Central Asia. However, apart from this, it is known that carpets have an important place in Chinese culture before Christ and Persian culture.

The reason why carpets were first used in these regions is thought to be for protection from the cold in winter. Carpets, which were started to be produced in order to heat the palaces where the emperors lived more comfortably, later started to be preferred because of their ostentatious appearance. In the later periods of human history, carpet weaving began to be an important source of income and an art tool in the east. Rugs, woven using threads made of gold and silver and decorated with precious stones, started to be carried west by caravans after a while. This is how Europe met with the carpet culture.

History of the Carpet: Where Did It Come From?

Carpet making process is mentioned in such countries as Iran, India, Turkey, and China, probably evolved in North Asia and Central Asian plains in parallel with periods of Persia. Immigrants preferred and developed carpets and rugs made by weaving sheep and goat hair to cover the floors and walls of their tents from cold winters.

The patterns in these early rugs consisted of geometric designs. The use of animal shapes was also observed locally. Carpet is a woven fabric to cover a certain area of ​​the floor or to be used by hanging on the wall, knotted weaving yarns with different densities and colored with resin-containing additives. In order for a carpet to be considered antique, it must be at least 80 years old and must have been manufactured on a handloom using handcrafted and natural yarns and root dyes.

Carpet knitting is created by combining small fabric strips formed by tying a loop of wool, cotton, or silk on the carpet loom. The basic logic of the carpet making technique has not changed. The vertical threads of the carpet are called warps and the horizontal lines are called wefts. Although all antique rugs and carpets are handmade products, today the production and use of machine-made carpets are more common due to their economical nature.

Historians have found evidence of animals such as goats and sheep slaughtered for hair and wool that could be twisted and woven 9000 years ago. In their simplest form, carpets and rugs are thought to have developed in western Asia 4000 – 5000 years ago. The oldest carpet discovered is the Pazyryk carpet found in a burial mound in the Pazyryk region in the Altai mountains in Siberia in 1949. The Pazyryk rug, dated to the 5th century BC, has rich colors in heavily symmetrical double-knotted heaps, experts say.

There is a “Strip” design on the carpet, the next level is the deer and the next level is the warrior patterns on the horses. Due to its design and technical complexity, some researchers doubt that the Pazyryk rug was a product of ancient nomad rugs. Mounted frieze and floral designs were featured in ancient Persian art. The reliefs from the ancient city of Persepolis are very similar to the patterns on the Pazyryk carpet.

However, the wool and dyes in the carpet are decisive in the origin of the carpet. The wool is identical to the wool of sheepskin coats found in other tombs in Pazyryk, which is clearly local. The red dye on the carpet is made of lacquer or Kermesitic acid obtained from insects. The special lacquer type used in this rug is of Baltic or Polish origin.

This paint was more easily available for the Eurasian nomads who were moving in geography from Eastern Europe to the High Altai, compared to the ancient Persians in the south. Therefore, the design of the Pazyryk rug is more likely to be woven locally by the nomadic peoples who lived in its geography, although it reflects the cosmopolitan influences of distant regions, like the Persian influence.

Historical Timeline of Old Carpets

Carpet is a knitted or woven mat with a short pile, with or without embroidery, mostly made of wool, sometimes silk, to be laid on the floor or on furniture, stretched to the wall. The first known carpet was found during excavations in Pazyryk Bunkers in Altay Region in Siberia. Made with a Turkish knot, this carpet belongs to the 5th-3rd centuries BC. This find proves that carpet art is a handicraft branch peculiar to Turks. Information on carpets before the 13th century is determined from written sources.

There is a close relationship between the art of carpet-rug and the domestication of the sheep. Laying the inside of the tents due to the conditions of nomadic life and obtaining the felt required for the tent. According to history, in the cultural area called “Afanasyevo culture” due to the name of a place in the Altai region, the nomads on horseback raising animals needed tents and tent items that could be transported easily and transported by freight animals. According to Uhlemann, the original homeland of carpet weaving is revealed by the dry steppe regions and their climatic characteristics.

The oldest known carpet in the world was found in Pazyryk Bunker in the Altay region. Russian archaeologist Rudenko insisted that the carpet he found in Pazyryk was a Persian carpet. Since the first carpet sample in the world is the Pazyryk carpet, it would be useful for those who write about carpet-rug to start with the Pazyryk carpet. As it is known, the Pazyryk plateau is near Balıklı Lake, on the shore of the Yan Ulagan river. The pars stamp on the carpet, which was unearthed in one of the bunkers and considered the first known carpet in the world, and the horse, saddle, and trouser cavalry pictures have survived until today.

While giving information about his travels in regions such as Hive, Tehran, and Bukhara in 1863, Vambery mentions that the carpet and felt production was made by the Turkmen and explains the embroidery as follows: “A woman draws the examples of the embroidery on the sand piece by piece, the workers weave the carpet by looking at this sample”.

Beginning from the second half of the 15th century, the animal figured carpets seen in European paintings began to be replaced by geometric and abstract floral motifs. Animal figures disappear, samples fill octagon and diamond shapes placed in a square or rectangular sections. Although these examples were first seen in the paintings of Italian painters, they were wrongly named in the carpet literature under the name of the German painter Holbein.

Although no Holbein carpets were seen after the 16th century, carpets called Lotto hit the market. Making these rugs took until the 18th century. With the emergence of factory carpet weaving at the end of the 19th century, carpets woven on handlooms gained more importance. Today, carpets that are woven on handlooms as an export good maintain their importance and value.

The most important places of the carpets made in the handlooms are mainly Caucasian and North African countries, including Iran and Turkey. As far as it is learned from the written sources, carpets were woven in Khuzestan, Bukhara, and Persia in the 10th century. The first examples of Persian carpets are found in miniatures made in the 14th century. Persian carpet art experienced its heyday in the 17th century. Medallion and Herat carpets are the most preferred Persian carpets. The most famous ones are those made in Shiraz, Ferhan, Khorasan, Sine, and Tabriz regions.

Geometric motifs are dominant in Caucasian carpets. Although Iranian influence is seen, animal and dragon motifs are emphasized. Dagestan, Mahcevan, Tbilisi, Batumi, Ganja, and Shirvan are the main production centers. It is known to weave carpets in various parts of the world. However, these carpets are not as famous and valuable as Turkish rugs. For example, carpets produced in centers such as Samarkand, Kashgar, and Bukhara in Central Asia and in Afghanistan and India have gained as much importance as Turkish carpets. It is known that carpets are also woven in Europe. However, these carpets are mostly tapestries.

Where Did the Oldest Carpet Come From?

The oldest rug that has survived was found in the frozen tomb of a Scythian prince. Since the carpet is completely frozen in an ice mass, it has survived until today. This oldest pile carpet known in the world is wool and it is dated 5th-4th BC century and it is named as “Pazyryk Carpet” because it is located in Pazyryk Valley. This rug was found by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko during an excavation in a Siberian mound in 1949. It is said that the origin of this rug is based on Turkic groups living in Siberia, Scythians, or Persian Achaemenids.

The first carpet found is 183x200cm in size and has approximately 360,000 loops per square meter (Loop: tying knots while weaving carpet). The loop density of the carpet, which has a magnificent structure, is higher than that of the carpets sold in many carpet stores today. Its pattern is very rich and interesting; there are 24 cross-shaped figures in the middle; each has 4 lotus flowers stylized.

This composition is framed by griffins, followed by a border of 24 fallow deer. There are burden horse and human figures on its widest border and a ribbon motif in the middle. Although the once bright reds, navy blue, and greens of the carpet are now faded, they appear to be quite lively at the time. The oldest carpet in the world is on display at the “State Hermitage Museum” in St Petersburg, Russia.

The carpet was used for protection, floor covering, wall covering, and decoration when it was first used in homes. It was also seen as a luxury item often used by the upper classes. Later, in the 7th century, Christian saints’ valuables were wrapped in carpets to be shipped from the Middle East.

This was the period of the Merovingians when European monastic heads on pilgrimage from Rome never neglected to bring fabrics and sacred relics worth the weight of gold. For this reason, western artists were familiar with Eastern motifs from the middle ages; These motifs are generally of Sassanid origin and have been enriched over time by the magnificent mix of Asian, early Christian, Byzantine, and Islamic cultures.

Rugs made before 1920 are included in the antique category. However, when precise classification is required, Antique rugs are generally defined as traditional rugs without chemical dyes. These were made in the period between 1860-1870 before chemical dyes were discovered. The carpets produced from this period to the beginning of the 20th century can be called semi-antique or old carpets. Modern carpets have been produced in accordance with the market demands from the West since the 1920s and 1930s.

Woven Carpets From Past to Present

Carpet is an important item that makes us feel a warm and peaceful home. The reason for this is that people started to weave carpets from the skins of our animals to warm themselves in tents, which were adopted as homes in the past in nomadic life. Although these carpets are woven to protect our body temperature, over time it has settled in our subconscious as an understanding of home warmth. Since we attach importance to appearance in our homes, we have attached importance to the appearance of our carpets from the very beginning.

The root of the woven carpet in history comes from the Anatolian Seljuk State. It has been proven that the first carpets were made by the Turks in Central Asia, thanks to the Pazyryk carpet, which has survived until today. This carpet, which was found in the grave of a Scythian Prince in the Altay mountains in 1948, was made in 6-5 centuries BC and was embroidered with a Gördes (Turkish) knot. It takes its name from the Pazyryk bunker (tomb) where it is located.

2 types of hand made carpet knot technique are used. The first is the Turkish knot (Gördes knot, symmetrical knot). It got its name from Gördes county of Manisa, where it was used. The Turkish knot is divided into two as the knot used in Central Anatolia and the knot used in Western Anatolia. This change does not affect the quality of the carpet. Gördes knot is symmetrical, made with a double knot, and this way of making the carpet is used longer.

The second technique is the Iranian Knot (Cine Knot, Asymmetric Knot). Since it is made with a single knot (that is, it is grasped only from one side and the other side remains independent), it does not last long compared to a double knot. Persian rugs made with this technique are also known as Persian carpets.

History of Carpet Motifs

The reason why animal motifs were widely used in the first times when carpets were embroidered was that people of that time were engaged in animal husbandry in the nomadic steppe life. The processing of animals such as horses, sheep, goats, and rams on carpets is due to the fact that humans take nature as an example in art. However, the changes in our work and lifestyle over time caused the motifs we embroidered on carpets to change. For example, carpets woven with the beginning of settled life gained color and motif richness; Color harmonies, geometric patterns, plant motifs obtained with the tones of the same color have settled in carpet fashion.

The colors frequently used in carpets are red, blue, brown, and green. geometric motifs and shapes similar to writing began to appear on the edges. In the middle parts, namely, the parts called the ground, triangle, and octagonal patterns in geometry were formed and widespread. With the development of carpet fashion over time, many motifs have been found that have a meaning. In the 14th century, geometric patterns and animal motifs entered carpet fashion again.

However, unlike the animals we raised in nomadic life, these animals evolved into wild animals such as scorpions, deer, birds, and epic creatures such as dragons, trees of life, and double-headed eagles. The animal motifs used are usually placed in geometric patterns on the floor as single or double. In the 15th century, plant motifs were added alongside animal and geometric figures. In short, our inspiration from nature in carpet art has never been finished and has continued to develop.

Today, machine carpets have emerged as well as hand-woven carpets. These carpets are also divided among themselves according to their quality. Its quality also depends on the type of material used in the carpet. There are three types of material; silk, wool, and cotton. Among these three, the most valuable product is silk carpets, because silk is quality and expensive fabric as well as the material that requires the most manual workmanship in processing. The main component of the carpet is fiber. There are four basic fibers used in carpets today; wool, polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Quality carpets can be produced with each. The models we come across when choosing ecological carpets that are easy to use in our modern life are:

  • Modern Carpets: It provides convenience to its users with its practical care as well as its colors and textures. Geometric forms and shapes are more prominent. It often comes across in striking colors as well as metallic tones.
  • Ecological Carpets: They are ecological carpets produced with natural fibers and non-toxic materials, inspired by nature. It is produced from wool, bamboo, or recycled materials. Colors such as green, brown, blue, and pastoral motifs that we often see in nature are in the foreground.
  • Classic Rugs: These are; rugs with shawl patterns and floral motifs and are usually woven with the flush, jacquard, pure wool, and pure silk. Classical carpets with silvery yarns are also accepted as a symbol of vanity and nobility.
  • Ethnic Rugs: They are embroidered with ethnic patterned motifs dominated by oriental patterns and Far Eastern forms, and these rugs add an exotic ambiance to their surroundings.

Historical Development of Carpet Art

Carpet is one of the most important items used in home decoration today. However, the only function of carpets is not to be used for decoration purposes in homes. It also contributes to the closure of the floor and the warming of spaces. The history of these items, which have an important place in our lives both in terms of use and aesthetics, goes back to quite old times. The art of carpet usually of Iran, Turkey, India, and China with the aforementioned. However, researches show that carpet art has developed in the plains of North Asia and Central Asia.

The carpet was used by nomadic communities in the early periods. The immigrants covered the floors of their tents with carpets or decorated the walls of their tents. Rugs and carpets made by weaving the hair of animals such as sheep and goats were preferred more than sheepskin coverings. The reason for this is that carpets and rugs can be processed more easily. Well, what is carpet, how has the art of carpet developed?

Carpet is a woven fabric that is processed on looms to cover certain areas on the floors or hang on the wall. During the weaving of carpets, weaving threads are knotted at different densities and different patterns are obtained. Carpet looms consist of two planks of wood fixed to the ground and with warp between them. Horizontal benches, which are still used by nomads today, provide practical use due to their easy folding feature. People who are interested in carpet art wonder how to weave a carpet.

Carpet weaving is a laborious job that requires patience. However, to summarize briefly, carpet is created by combining small fabric strips formed by tying loops of wool, silk, or cotton on looms. The carpet weaving technique is briefly like this and the basic logic of this technique has not changed for centuries. Vertical threads on the carpet loom are called “warp”, and horizontal lines are called “weft”. Antique carpet types, which are popular today, are handmade products. However, these rugs are quite expensive in price. For this reason, more economical machine-made carpets are preferred.

As a result of the researches made by historians, it has been understood that carpet developed in Asia 4,000-5,000 years ago. As a result of the studies carried out, the Pazyryk carpet was discovered in the Pazyryk region of the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Pazyryk carpet found in a burial mound in Siberia, and it is dated to the 5th century. There are geometric patterns and animal motifs on this carpet, which is found to be woven with double knots.

This 2500-year-old carpet attracts attention with its sophisticated design and advanced weaving techniques. For this reason, it raises the idea that the history of carpet art dates back to much earlier than the V century BC. Today, the carpet is exhibited in the Hermitage Museum in Russia. The Pazyryk carpet, the oldest known carpet, is also known as the Gorny-Altay carpet. It was found that only 10 centimeters of the carpet had 36,000 knots. When compared to today’s carpets, the knots on this carpet are much more than modern carpets.

Again, the patterns of the carpet are also interesting. There is a strip motif in the middle. Again, there are deer in the next level and warriors on horses in the next. In addition, the frieze with horse and flower patterns on the carpet is also featured in ancient Persian art. Again, the patterns on the reliefs from the ancient city of Persepolis show similarities with the Pazyryk Carpet patterns.

Especially wool and dyes are decisive in the origin of the Pazyryk carpet. The wool used in the carpet and the sheepskin skins in the tombs in the Pazyryk area are the same. In addition, the red dye used for dyeing the ropes of the carpet was obtained from the lacquer type obtained from insects. This particular type of lacquer is thought to be of Baltic or Polish origin. Again, this paint is an easy-to-obtain material for immigrants who are constantly mobile from Eastern Europe to High Altai. Therefore, the carpet is thought to have Persian influence. However, it is much more likely to be locally woven by nomadic peoples living in the area where it is located.

  • Turkish Carpets

The oldest of the Turkish carpets, which has an important place in the history of carpet art, is dated to the XIII century. It can be said that carpet weaving in Anatolia has developed especially around Konya, Ankara, and Kayseri regions. Again in the XVII century, a serious Persian influence can be seen in Turkish carpets. In this sense, one can talk about a weaving culture in the same standards as Persian carpets in terms of quality, style, and technique.

Wool, cotton, and silk were used to weave Turkish carpets. These ropes used were tied with the Turkish knot. In addition to these, more double knots are used in Turkish carpets compared to Persian carpets. For this reason, it is seen that geometric patterns are mostly used in Turkish carpets.

  • Persian Rugs

It is estimated that the history of Persian carpets goes back to 5 thousand years ago. The reason for this is that the motifs on the Pazyryk carpet and the motifs of the Persian palace reliefs in the ancient city of Persepolis are similar to each other. However, we cannot say that the Pazyryk rug is exactly Persian production. It would be more correct to say that there is an interaction in the motifs used instead.

Traditional carpet production in Persian culture started in the XV century. The patterns on these rugs are mostly miniatures. However, geometric patterns are also used extensively. It is seen that Persian carpets woven especially in the Safavid period are very elaborate, curved, floral-patterned and the work of serious craftsmanship. These carpets have also affected the Islamic world. In this sense, it is observed that geographies such as Anatolia, Mongolia, and India are influenced by Persian carpets in carpet weaving.

Today, Persian carpets woven in the XVI and XVII centuries find buyers at very high prices. In addition, these valuable carpets are exhibited in museums visited by millions of people every year. Carpets produced in Iran are exhibited in collectors’ exhibitions, especially in European museums. Again, the most expensive carpet sold so far is the Kirman Iranian Carpet of the XVII century, which has found a buyer for 33.7 million USD.

  • Antique Carpets

In order to understand whether a carpet is antique or not, certain properties should be evaluated. Among these features are the age, region, pattern, color, rarity, condition, and size of the carpet. However, these features are valid today. Because it should be taken into consideration that some changes may occur in these features 50-100 years from now. To be considered antique, a carpet must be over 100 years old at least. Again, it must be made of wool, mohair, cotton, or silk and used root dye. In addition, there is a close relationship between the colors used in the carpet and the vegetation and traditions of that region. In this sense, it can be understood from the colors to which region the carpet belongs.

Although the same methods are used in weaving carpets, there are differences between regions in terms of technique. This is usually because the weft insertion technique has changed. Again, the size of the carpet varies according to the intended use in the regions. We see that small carpets have been woven for centuries, especially with the influence of nomadic life. However, since the XVI century, large-sized carpets are found. Considering all these features, it can be understood by competent people whether a carpet is antique or not.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like history and reading about carpets. I like to play soccer too :)

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