Rugs Throughout History
The origin of the Persian knotted rug is shrouded in mystery. However, we do know that the earliest pile–woven rug dates back to the 5th century B.C. It was discovered frozen in a Scythian burial site in the Altay Mountains of Siberia near the northeastern border of Mongolia. Modern carbon dating has placed it at 2,500 years old. The discovery of the Pazyryk rug proved that pile weaving is an ancient craft.
The size of the Pazyryk carpet was 6’ by 6’, and was woven with symmetric knots of about 200–225 knots per square inch. The design has a dominant tile–work central motif surrounded by borders featuring rows of elk and horsemen.Even though it has Persian motifs, the source of the Pazyryk carpet is uncertain. Some scholars believe that it was made in Persia and was imported. Others disagree and believe it was made near the area where it was found. Currently, the Pazyryk carpet is displayed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Qum (Qom, Kum, Koum, Kumm, Qhom, Ghom)
These carpets are named after the holy town of Qum, located 150km south of Tehran. Here one finds the tomb of Shah Abbas (1586-1628), the great patron of carpet weaving. These carpets are very tightly knotted and the pile is mostly of silk. One can even find extremely fine carpets where both pile warp and weft are of silk. If the pile is of wool there is often silk decor in the details. Qum has a great variation of patterns, flowers, medallions, cypresses, gardens, hunting scenes, vases and birds. The colours are often reddish brown, dark blue, orange or pink, but somewhere in the Qum carpet you almost always find turquoise.
These carpets are made in the small town of Nain which has always had a reputation of producing high quality wool. The carpets from Nain are also known for their fine patterns, similar to those of Isfahan. Many carpets have patterns of plants and animals, but most of them have intertwined branches with small flowers. The colors are typical of the region, light ivory or white with branches in blue or green. The knots of wool and threads of silk are often seen to emphasize the pattern.
These carpets come from the old Persian capital Isfahan and were probably the first to be recognized in the west. During the reign of Shah Abbas, many carpets were sent as gifts to the rulers of western countries. The Isfahan carpets – as well as those from Nain – have patterns of flowers and intertwined branches, often with a medallion, but one can also find hunting scenes and the tree of life. In Najafabad, close to Isfahan, they produce similar carpets, but then the warp is of cotton.
Tabriz is the second largest city in Iran, situated in the north. The carpets from Tabriz are of high quality and come in a great variety of sizes. The pattern could be floral, vases, trees, hunting scenes or teardrop medallions. The most famous design is called “Mahi”. The pile is of wool or wool/silk, while the warp cotton or silk. Antique carpets from Tabriz are extremely valuable and can be found only in museums or in exclusive private collections.
Kashan is a well known industrial town of Iran and the carpets produced in this region bear its name. There are two kinds of Kashan carpets. The first is made of unbleached cotton warps and double wefts of cotton using the Persian knot technique and the second kind of Kashan uses pure silk wefts and double silk warps, employing the same Turkish known method. The Mehrab and medallion are common patterns of Kashan carpets.
There are two kinds of Hereke carpets, one has a wool pile and cotton warp and the other silk pile with silk warp, which makes it a very elegant carpet.
This is a Turkoman carpet produced by the Tekke tribe and is known in the west as “Bokhara”. The town of Bokhara being the main trading centre of the area. The typical Tekke has a broad border and the center field is decorated with octagon-shaped “guls”. The pattern is always geometric and the colours are often dark red with the pattern in blue and white.
Qashaqai is a tribal city of Iran. Qashaqai weave is finer with a tight ridged back construction and shorter pile. Genuine old Qashaqai, are miracles of weaving and colouring skills. But it is a great pity since the Qashqai, the most important of the Turkish tribe in Iran, use only the Turkish knot.
The Bakhtyari nomads live in the south west of Iran between Isfahan and Malyar. The three main carpet-weaving areas being Chahar Kurd, Chahar Shutur and Shalem Zar. Many have now abandoned their nomadic life, which explains why some Bakhtyari carpets can be quite large. The wool is thick on sturdy warp of cotton. This makes the carpets heavy but very hardwearing. Many Bakhtyaris, particularly those from Shalem Zar, have the “garden motif” with a pattern is squares with animals, trees, and flowers.
Warm natural shades and strong designs are the common features of these rugs. If used with modern or antique furniture, they will give a new dimension of luxury to homes. The majority of Caucasian pile rugs have woolen warps and wefts. There are many kinds of Caucasian pile rugs relating to the places like Koba, Baku, Shirvan, Kazak, Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
These carpets are made by the Baluchi nomads in the Khorsan area (from the town of Meshed, Afghanistan). They use horizontal primitive looms and mostly weave small carpets. The pile is often sheep wool dyed into a dark rd or blue color but they also use camel hair in brown and beige and goat hair for the edges. The warp is often a wool, except in the Meshed-Baluh where they use cotton. The pattern is geometric.
Kilim (Soumak, Somac)
There are many kinds of kilim rugs. Kilim differ from one another depending upon their region of origin. Some are made by unbleached woolen warps and single unbleached woolen wefts. In making kilims like Soumak, but it differs from other kilims with it’s softer outer surface and colourful shades.