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Carpet History

 

The certainty of the origin of the carpets would always continue to be shrouded in mystery. However, it is definitely out of the debate that woven forms of floor coverings were present during the Neolithic Age (7000 BC).
The very mysteries of how the carpet actually came into existence would always remain the same in the absence of the documentary evidence. However, according to Enza Milanesi’ The Little Brown Guide to Carpets’ there are two theories to ponder upon.


The first theory says that the carpets were invented to serve the practical purpose of the rough nomadic populations. They were thickly knotted to protect the people from adverse climatic conditions. This also served the purpose of them not to give up their valuable animals for their hides. Therefore, it also fulfilled their original intention of no direct contact with the ground.
It is believed that such carpets came as rudimentary forms of floor coverings what we see today. Evolved since the early times, the previous forms of the decorated tents of the nomadic lifestyle were specimens, uniquely colored and decorated with the particular sorts of motifs and established beautification styles. In addition, they wove on the vertical loom that could be dismantled and transported easily.


The advocates of the second theory pronounce that the knotted carpets did born early. However, they evolved as artistic pieces with the settled people that were artistic and utilitarian both, in function. Forming as the permanent parts of homes, they became important during festive and traditional ceremonies, leading their way towards becoming an essential part of peoples’ lives.


Interestingly, the knotted ones were woven on the horizontal looms, which developed from its vertical cousin.
The Pazyryk Carpet was excavated from the tomb of the Shiite chief in the Pazyryk Valley in the Altai Mountains, Siberia, encased and thus, preserved in ice. It dates back to 5th century B.C. It is the oldest specimen found of the ancient weavings done in the world. Such is the refined artisanship of the carpet that it definitely confirms the overview that the carpets were woven as articles to decorate the dwellings, representing them to be more inviting.
The above important archaeological excavation did lead to a fact that whatever be the actual reason behind the birth of the carpets and rugs, they serve all the intents of providing insulation from the climate along with offering beautification.


Places of Origin
The gradual spread of the art of the knotted carpet, over the centuries, around the globe has proved to be a hindrance in solving the mystery of its origin. However, many different carpet fragments have unearthed during excavations around the world. Strong evidences collected from the Middle East region say that carpet weaving was extensively carried out there during the 2nd-3rd BC. Therefore, it is termed as the cradle of carpet weaving. People migrating to areas from Turkestan to the west, the Caucasus, Persia, Anatolia, to the east to China, and then later to India, extended this art form to the natives of these places. Moreover, this complete range of locations is known as the Oriental Carpet Belt.
Marco Polo, the Venetian merchant and traveler, while travelling through Turkey said, “They weave the choicest and the most beautiful carpet in the world. They also weave silk fabrics of crimson and other colors, of great beauty and richness, and many other kinds of cloth.” He added greatly to the fact that it all flourished in the Islamic culture that he perceived, during his world expedition.


An antique carpet is like a “living thing”
Most of the antique forms of carpets and rugs that we see today reflect their rich weave and decorations of Persian styles. Sustaining through decades and centuries, such significant objects have lived through & are looked up with great respect and pride. Carpets woven before circa 1920 are categorized as antiques. In spite of this, there is a detailed segregation for ‘antique carpets’.
Other than the year wise tagging, the traditionally woven carpets made with natural dyes or before the introduction of the synthetic dyes (occurred during 1860-1870), are fondly termed as antique carpets.
‘Semi antique carpets’ are those that were woven from 1860-1870 to the early 20th century. Usually, Turkish and Persian weavings have fully or partially displayed traditional decorations and motifs.
The carpets woven from 1920-1930 till today are known as ‘modern carpets’. Modern carpets are normally seen inspired from the Western choices and demands. However, there was this deprivation of quality and tradition.
The above chronological classification of such ‘living objects’ as carpets is quite elementary. Fascinatingly, the ones that were woven before 17th century are so rare that they can only be seen in museums or large collections.
The early-knotted forms were also seen as domestic usage articles such as wall hangings, matting, etc. that were progressively developed into exquisite forms of hand-woven art forms. The western weavers were influenced with the Oriental motifs, primarily Sassanian origin. However, there was a progressive enrichment by difficult blend of Asiatic, early Byzantine, Christian and Islamic cultures.


Literature on Carpets:


Egypt
Carpets from the Islamic world, like Egypt, are fabricated with greater quantity as well as quality. With unique elegance, they were traded off to distant places far east. The earliest forms of carpets displayed geometric designs. The carpet cradles, Persian and Anatolian designs spread their wings to Istanbul, and then to weaving places in Cairo. The weavings derived from Cairo greatly look like the ones in Eastern Turkistan.
Usually woven with wool, Egyptian carpets and rugs are tied with asymmetrical or Ghiordes knots. Motifs like a palmette on the red background of a carpet, etc. Unfortunately, there are almost no records showing about the manufacture or utilization of the carpet.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian awe-inspiring hand-woven carpets and rugs are famous all over the world.

China
Chinese carpets are quite a standout among the rest of the types of carpet styles of the world. Especially their singular aspects like the motifs, the conservative color choices that do not look so well outlined. Chinese carpets speak a blend of the languages, the floral as well as geometric. However, the style is very different from the Islamic countries.
Astonishingly, carpet weaving in China was not a greatly accepted artwork until around the later half of 1700. It was the period much after than any other Oriental carpet weaving location. Two of the reasons behind can be the scarcity of wool in China and the showcase of the Chinese aesthetic works that reflected the refinement and calligraphic perfection of which they were demur.
The beautiful Chinese carpets are a beautiful amalgamation of flowers as well as abstract geometrical figures, curvilinear in nature. The blend does not create any confusion but a distinct style that is evenhanded as well as graceful. For instance, with a central medallion accompanied with four corner medallions. Mythical flowers, animals, are also grouped together, generally in a circle with precision.
The inimitably tinted Chinese carpets generally exhibit symbols, which are inspired from the natural world, ancient local myths, Buddhism, and Taoism. Intriguingly, every symbol carries a peculiar meaning with it that is not simple to decipher.

Turkey
Anatolian or Turkish carpets are overall inspired from their local culture and tradition. The carpets all inspired from the Islamic culture display ancient layouts with a blend or repetition of simple or geometric figures or symbols. Enthrallingly, the Seljuk rulers introduced the art of carpet weaving to Anatolians during their invasion in 1100. They came from Turkestan and dominated Asia Minor until 1299.
The eccentrically attractive carpets from Turkish weavers sport a lively color palette numerous in nature and with strongest tonalities. The shades range from red, blue, yellow, and warm shades in common. The various specialized weaving locations spread all over the country produce carpets distinct in nature, popularly demanded worldwide.
The Turkish knot also belongs to the same geographical area imitated by all carpet weaving countries on the globe. Large numbers of Anatolian carpets were seen in Europe during 15th and 16th century. The carpets with their vivid color pattern and easily recognizable forms do have a great fan flowing. Exquisite prayer rugs obtained from nearly all production areas employ an artistic blend of vivacity with tradition.

The Mongolian Inspiration
The ancient Mongolian carpet weaving was certainly borrowed from the Persian land. The Altai nomads of Siberia are responsible for maintain the cultural as well as trading links with the south and east in China, East Turkestan, Tibet. It also spread westward into Iran and the Middle East in the earliest periods. During the conquest of China by the Mongols, it did not help as much as during the Mongol rule at its peak. The pleasingly gorgeous pile carpets woven by Mongol weavers bore equal status as the great carpets from Mughal India and Safavid Iran.
The carpets obtained from the central part of the Asian continent, say China, Mongolia, Armenia, etc., Mongolia is one such country that displays a unique combination of the various forms of foreign decoration forms and motifs. They somehow reached this part of the world by various important happenings that changed various boundaries.
Believably, one of the earliest forms of carpets were found in the present day Mongolia that were woven by the first people to weave carpets. The strong rule of the Mongolian invader Ghengiz Khan during the 12th century paved way for the development of Mongolian influenced carpets and rugs that are still seen today. Nevertheless, with a fantastic display of decorations, motifs and layout styles on the carpets, it could be said that if Persians were to realize the craft of weaving and knotting, Mongols were the first to weave the specimens related to the finest lot. After all, the art originated as a nomadic artisanship for the world to follow.
When traced back to the history, many carpet designs, fabrics, colours, patterns emerged. Types or classification of carpets that came into existence since the discovery of carpets are as under:

 

 Different Types of historical carpets :-

Indian Woollen Carpets - 3rd century B.C.
Persian Knotted carpets - Before 6th century B.C.
Turkoman (Turkmenistan) woven carpets- Before 6th century B.C.
Caucasian Woven Carpets - 8th century B.C.
Chinese Felt Carpets - 8th century B.C.
Turkish Knotted Carpets -12th century B.C.
Mughal Indian Carpets - 16th century B.C.

 
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