An Introduction To Handmade Rugs

     In this article i will give general and brief information about history and development of handmade rugs(mainly Turkish rugs) i believe being an historian myself, it is very important and helpful to start learning about rugs from the beginning of it's history. This way we will have full knowledge of what we are buying to our home or office and the more we learn about rugs the more we will be fascinated with them. We will realize their historical background and learn about their slow evolution from the beginning of human civilization to today. After all we will be aware that we are not buying just a flooring to our places but we are buying a traditional art, a witness of civilization's history, product of cultures.. Now let's start reading the brief history of rugs;

     Although no one knows precisely when and where the technique of weaving first started, there is no doubt that the weaving art, in general, started in Central Asia by nomadic people. During their migrations, these nomads, who were exposed to severe weather conditions, learned to use goat hair in the making of their tents. Goat hair is longer and much stiffer than sheep's wool. The flatweave technique was used in the making of nomadic tents. Just as with a little girl's braided pony-tail where strands of the shorther and stiffer hair stick out, the goat hair sticks out of the woven fabric, gets wet, drops and partially cover the holes in the flatweave, thus making the tent almost waterproof. Later on, these nomadic people felt the need to isolate themselves from the humidity and cold present in the earthen floors of their tents. They then applied the very same technique of flatweave to the making of floor coverings what we call today as "kilim" They were also making felts by pressing the wool fibers together and they were using these in their tents but i won't be talking about it now since felt is not made by weaving, technically felt is not a "rug"

 

Nomad tent Yurt Turkic nomad tent known as "yurt" 

Over a period of time, the art of weaving improved and many items useful in everyday life were woven, for example; saddle bags for horses and camels that could be used in the transportation of many type of items. Flatwoven kilims were also used as blanket and even as room dividers in tents. Finally some day, somebody added piles to basic flatwoven rug and invented the pile rug also known as "carpet" by many people. Historians suggest that pile rug was invented by nomads in order to make softer, warmer and more comfortable beds and coverings for floors and tent walls. This suggestion seems true since very few remained nomad shepherds in Turkey still use pile rugs as a mobile bed during herding.

As we mentioned before, no one knows exactly when and where the first knotted-pile carpets were woven; however, the oldest "surviving" pile carpet was discovered in the grave of a Scythian prince in the Pazyryk valley of the Altai mountains in Siberia by a Russian archeologist in 1947.

The Pazyryk carpet was woven with the Turkish double knot technique and contains surprisingly 347.000 knots per square meter (225 per square inch); it is 6x6.5 feet sized and has been carbon dated to have been from the 5th century B.C. basically 2500 years old. It was preserved after the prince's tomb was loaded and subsequently flooded and froze to a wait discovery by Russian Archeologist Rudenko. Archelogists and historians divided to two section on Pazyryk carpet. While one section claims it to be a Turkish(Turkic) carpet, the other section insists it is a Persian carpet. Both sides have their own reasons. The carpet has many signs of being Turkic such as tied horse tails(check the photo) only practiced by old Turkish warriors. The rug was discovered in Altai mountains of Siberia which is the fatherland of Turks. It was never an area that had Persian rule, most importantly the rug is woven with "Turkish knot" technique. Many signs shows it is a Turkish rug but as i mentioned before there is another section of historians and archeologists suggests that it is a Persian carpet because they think the rug is too perfect for that age to be a nomadic(Turkic) product and it can only be produced by settled Persian people living in cities. Is it a scientific and logical reason for this rug to not to be Turkish since it has all Signs of Turkishness? i leave it up to readers.. 

Turkic people of Central Asia had spread to Western Asia(Middle east) Eastern Europe and Northern India because of several reasons such as population exploison, tribal conflicts, supression of uniting China and maybe most importantly the success legacy of relative tribes which migrated westwards earliler. Turks brought their Weaving culture with them to the geographies they migrated and "Anatolia" (modern day Turkey) was one of these favourite migration targets. Rugs made in Anatolia since the arrival of Turks(11th century) until modern days is recognized under "Turkish rug" term. Even thou other type of rugs such as "Turkoman rugs" "Uzbek rugs" "Khotan rugs" and so on has the same background in the history, since the vast migrations from Central Asia and seperation of centuries, these rugs had differed from eacother, that is the reason why when we use the term "Turkish rug" we refer to rugs made in Anatolia(modern day Turkey)

I think this article will be enough to figure out and understand what basically a rug is, what is it invented for, how did it develop. As i mentioned in the beginning of the article, this article is just an introduction, i will try my best to inform as much as possible. On the coming articles i will talk about the rug types, materials used in making of rugs, dyes, decoration tips and many more!

Thanks for reading,

Atalay Yılmaz