Sultan Palace Merv

Turkoman carpets as a part of ethnography and way of life

Around the world, the oriental carpets divided in certain groups:

  • The largest and important group is Iranian or Persian carpets
  • Turkmen and Turkoman carpets of Central Asia, including Turkoman in Afghanistan, Iran, Baluchistan. The vivid, multicolored popular carpets
  • Caucasian and Transcaucasia highly geometric patterned carpets
  • Turkish Anatolian the simpler designed carpets

  • Indian, Pakistani, Chinese carpets

Turkoman pastoralists always had the livestock of sheep, goats and camels. Nomadic carpet makers used wool for the warp and weft of a rug foundation fabric, and for the pile.

The knotted tufts make the pile surface of the knotted rugs. The knots can be different, Ghiordes knots have both tuft ends to the surface together between two warp yarns, and Sehna knots bring each end of the tuft to the surface separately. The last ones predominates in Central Asia and Far East. The use of knots depend on the origin of tribe or town producing a rug.

The seating position of a weaver is convenient to the row of knots worked at a time, what raised or winded downward to start new row of knots.

The weaver's loom employed upright, consisting of two strong beams connected by two vertical posts to make a steady frame. It is adjustable to make the different sized carpets. Sometimes, it positioned horizontally on the floor/ ground, if the size of a carpet is huge. The warp (lengthwise) threads stretched between the two beams evenly spaced and regularly spun, making the even pile forming beneath the surface.

The weaver ties the rows of knots accordingly to the pattern. When the entire row of pile knotted, the weaver came to another row of knots. After two, three or four weft, or crosswise, threads are forced down by weaver’s knife, causing the pile to stand out.

Density of pile is around 300,000 – 500,000 knots to square meter. Highest records are more than 1,000,000 knots per square meter (in the carpet museum in Ashgabat). The experienced weaver makes around 8,000 knots per day, then for a good carpet, it may take months to finish work. The desired carpet pattern provided first on a colored chart of squared paper.

In old times, only natural dyestuffs used to color the wool. For example: red coming for the roots of the madder plant, carmine red from cochineal (female Coccus cacti), reddish browns from ox blood, yellow from the reseda plant or from saffron crocus, vine leaves and pomegranate skins, blue is dyed with indigo. Natural wool shades produced greys and brown, although nutshells and bark used. Modern synthetic dyestuffs allow greater flexibility than the traditional dyes. Turkoman rugs woven in geometric designs, employing vivid reds, browns and greens.

Turkmen proverb about carpet: <stronger than a stone, but softer a rose>. Carpets accompany a Turkmen all his life. Babies come in on the carpets, carpets make warm on the floor, used as a furniture and wall decoration in a yurta, as decorations for the horses, camels, make prayer rugs, covered old men for the last journey.

Interlaced within daily life of the nomads. The vivid geometrical patterns distinct the Turkmen carpets, the most famous are from Yomut, Ersari, Saryk, Salor, Tekke, Chodor, Arabatchi. Turkmen peoples who lived in these tribes, inspired by nature, traditions, history to create the geometrical shapes (Goel), animal like symbols, flower and earth like forms on their carpets.

Like books, Turkoman nomad carpets telling the stories about their lives, conception of the world, struggles and beliefs. In old times, Turkmens had been good navigators in the desert, using the stars on the night sky to find a path or guess the upcoming weather. Having this vast steppe of sands, as their home. They paid great attention the life around and this knowledge stamped on the carpets, like the Turkmen maps of the past, the intangible world heritage.

Yomut carpets early distinctions come to the following tribes Igdyr, Abdal, Karadashli. Goklan rugs could be related to specific weavings.

The known descriptive term Bukhara carpets in fact was the marketing center for Turkmen and other Central Asia carpets, with dealer marketing Turkmen carpets as Royal Bukhara or Princess of Bukhara labels.

Turkmen carpets trusted classification method leads to the tribe origin and object type. However taking a carpet as individual piece accordingly to its provenance open distinctive peculiarity of the groups of weavings (history of the tribe, favored ornaments, methods of weaving, contacts with other cultures).

Giving the broader picture on the aspects of the beautiful and complex phenomenon of Central Asia contribution to textile culture of the world. The narrative character of Turkmen carpet ornaments well understood and often spoken about by specialists based on the 100 years studies of Turkmen weavings. However, only the historical approach makes it possible to systemize chronologically the enormous variety of Turkmen carpet motifs and structure, use them as a source for the attribution of the rugs.