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Turkoman Rugs Are Tough, Fine, And Red
Centuries ago when the great tent of Genghis Khan, drawn by thirty odd oxen, rolled through the desert of Kara Kum, land of the Turkoman, it carried on its floors and walls some of the finest "rugs" ever made. Yarns so thin were knotted onto warp threads so fine, and held so tight by firm weft threads, these rugs would turn water. A gold pin or nail would not push through unless driven by the mighty arm of that blacksmith, Genghis Khan, or unless dagger's point made way.
For untold centuries Turkoman forbears raided the caravans that crossed their desert lands between East and West with goods from India and China, Mesopotamia and Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. The trails touched rivers and oases for water. In such places the Turkomen pastured their flocks. So these desert nomads laid in wait or appeared out of the black blizzards of blowing sand to gather the goods of Sennacherib, Solomon, or Caesar.
Perhaps thus the Turkomen learned to knot their rugs tight with the Persian knot, and trim their nap close as the Persians did. Thus the "crossed hour glasses" of Solomon's seal, the rosette of Babylon, the eight pointed star and sacred flame of Zoroaster, Ishtar's tree of life, China's sun whorl, India's carp, and Hittite (later Roman) eagle added their detail to the three main Turkoman rug patterns-the octagon, the diamond, and the tree of life. So too the lustrous dark blue of Persia, the turquoise of Eastern Europe, the brilliant reds of Turkey and Ispahan, and the rich yellow of Mongol and Chinese came into Turkoman rugs.
Rugs Were Furniture in Turkoman Tents
The tent walls of wicker, reeds and wool felt were bound outside just below the tent top with a "tent band" about half a yard wide and some fourteen yards long, worked with bright tribal designs, occasionally with dogs or camels. A rug hung by ropes of camel hair closed the tent doorway, or maybe just a door band about a foot deep by five long, trimmed the doorway top. We sometimes see these door bands over benches or at threshholds in America.
ln the tent, away from the draft of door or center smoke hole, the sleeping, eating and sitting rugs were laid, often over felted wool. On the walls, camel and donkey packs were stretched. A pair of camel bags could carry quantities of household goods or store them in the tent. So could the smaller donkey packs.
These beautiful pack rugs were the cupboards, bureaus and chests of Turkoman homes. Their underside is usually ripped off and only the bright patterned top sold for use in Western world homes. Shaped much like half an octagon, they make throws for settee backs or rugs before davenport, threshold or fireplace.
Materials and Colors of Turkoman Rugs
The Turkomen depended on animals, grass, gardens and trees for their living. Goats, camels and sheep furnished the wool for the cloth. Wool was plucked or combed from the undercoats of goats and camels, or sheared from sheep. It could be rolled into yarns that could be tied 400 to 450 knots to the square inch as in the fines'. Salor, Saryk and Tekke rugs. The Tekke, sometimes called Royal Bokhara or Merv rugs, are much loved for their unsurpassed reds and their fine use of white and dark in their octagon covered fields.
Warp, weft and pile were made of this fine wool. The oases and rivers furnished water for proper washing and dyeing. Coloring was accomplished by root, fruit, leaf and bark, milk, blood and dung. Bright, rich and lustrous are their dyed yarns which grow glossier with the years. The natural wool and hair furnish most of the tan, brown, gray, ivory and black.
But Turkoman rugs are red-flame, crimson, scarlet, maroon, plum, and brown red, with two or more reds often richly combined. Persian blue, European turquoise, Chinese gold, the natural colors of wool, and some orange, rose-pink, and green help make patterns in these red rugs of the Turlioman.
Turkoman Rugs Use Tribal Patterns
The octagon, diamond, and tree of life are the main Turkoman rug patterns. The tree of life varies from tiny arrow shaped plants or trefoil flowers to squared off Persian flowers and even elaborate trees. Latch hook, tarantula, double headed eagle (famous symbol of neighboring Hittite warriors 18 centuries B.C. ) , head and neck of the bustard, the H-shaped dog, and the camel, combine with the octagons or diamonds. Irregularities in design, broker. borders, strange bits of color even such as a bit of cloth or some beads, and other "errors" avert the evil eye.
The octagons, arranged in rows, are usually quartered into opposite sections of light and dark-probably related to the old symbolism of day and night, good and evil. The Saryk's purplish red ground carries black H-dogs in the octagons. The Salor's plum colored fields have flattened, blue outlined octagons, surrounded with triangles or "tents." The Tekke's rich red has black outlined, irregular quartered octagons marked with bustard head, and trefoil flowersprobably trees of life.
Some Turkoman red fields are latticed with diagonal stripes of bright red, crossed with blue and green, dotted with arrow shaped "trees." Their quartered octagons carry triangles, latch hooks, flowers, or H-dogs, also called shepherds' "two headed dogs."
The Afghan's fat octagons, known as Filpa or elephant's foot pattern, are quartered with green or blue and orange or rose-pink sections carrying trefoil flowers or "trees." The octagons also sometimes have center filled flower groups suggestive of star forms.
Baluchistan rugs too use the diamond. Their tile-like patterns, enclosed rosette or tree form, are of somber blues, reds and browns, but are brightened with touches of flame, turquoise and white.
Prayer rugs have wide or "tent top shape" niches, squared niches-as in the Baluchistan, pointed, and "head and shoulder" niches. Often their fields are quartered.
Yomuds use the diamond, trimmed inside and out with latch hook. Turquoise diamonds enclose dark blue rectangles having red and white flowers and surrounded with out-reaching latch hook. Or stiff lines in diamond form sprout stiff stemmed flowers.
Turkoman Rugs Can Take It
Turkoman rugs spend their lives on backs of animals or floors and walls of tents. They are packing boxes for moving as well as furniture. The sun glares on them. Sand storms whip them. When dirty they are beaten in a river until clean.
Strong selvages at the sides and wide webbings at the ends shield them. Few antiques have the original selvages without renewed overcasting. Many long webbed ends are worn away.
Aniline dyes, less well understood by 'the Turkoman, tend to fade and run. They lack the subtlety of coloring and luster of the old dyes. Chemical washes mellow modern colors. Glycerine plus ironing develops a temporary sheen.
Through the centuries Turkoman tent rugs have brought us the Afghan elephant foot, Saryk's two headed shepherd dog, Salor's tent ground at the water hole, Tekke's irregular octagon, and Yomud's latch hooked diamond. The seal of ancient merchant and tree of ancient religion mix with desert stars and oasis flowers of this vast sandy land where long ago the vanquished Darius, bound in his golden chains, was found dying by the conquering Alexander.