<---previous article

Pile Rugs of The Baluch and Their Neighbors,
by Dr. Dietrich H. G. Wegner

Translated from German by Lola Froehlich, August, 1981. Reviewed by Dr. Wegner, May, 1985 This five part article first appeared in Oriental Rug Review, Vol. 5, No. 4, July 1985
Reproduced here with permission by Ron O'Callaghan


Baluch Nomads

FOREWORD
by Tom Cole
For anyone who plans to study this voluminous text, I will not bore you with excessive verbiage. I thought it somewhat important to make this presentation at the same time as the interview with Jerry Anderson published in HALI 76, providing a single reference for much of what we know and do not know about Baluch weavings. Dr. Wegner's contribution at a relatively early time in Baluch studies was commendable but fraught with numerous errors as well as misattributions. Some of the captions to the photos have additional commentary in parentheses written by me. I have a problem with Dr. Wegner's statement regarding the relationship of the Baluch people to the hordes of Ancient Inner Asia, from which he unequivocally concludes the Turkic design pool of Baluch weavings is a derivative process and not original to those people.

His dating is suspect, offered without explanation or qualification. Designating the provenance of many of the rugs to "Seistan" seems, at this point in time, with the experiences I have had in the region, fallacious and confused. Additionally he does not illustrate even one pile weaving that is typical of the Seistan aesthetic. Identifying Fig. 29 as a product of the "Doktor i Ghazi of Afghanistan" is probably mistaken as well, based merely upon a design element in the field without consideration of palette and structure. What can be said about this text is that it represents the culmination of Dr. Wegner's studies and observations in the field circa the 1960s - 70s. The value of his field work is inargueable if, at times, flawed. But for all of its shortcomings, the article is an useful resource for those interested in further understanding the weavings of the Baluch.

Part 1
Go to Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5
Pile rugs are an important part of the material culture of Central Asian peoples. The attraction that emanates from these textiles inspires us to learn more about the people that produce them.

Traditional patterns and colors, the way to combine them, as well as the material and the techniques of production are often determined by the ethnic origin of the weavers. This background also explains the way in which man and his product reflect foreign influences. This aspect for the Baluch and their rugs shall be studied in the following series.

History and Geographical Distribution of the Baluch

Exact dates concerning the history of the Baluch are rare. Conclusions about their origin are all based on linguistic studies. According to these, Baluch is a separate Indo-European language with relations to the Middle Persian, the Kurdish and the Parthian languages. This indicates an original home south of the Caspian Sea (Elfenbein 1960:1038). History mentions
the Baluch for the first time as nomads in the area of Kirman, whichwas conquered by the Arabs in 644. In response to the expansion of the Seljuks the Baluch began to evade and retreat to the southeast at the end of the 10th century. Continuous massive raids by the Baluch into Khorassan and Sistan triggered counter attacks during which they suffered heavy losses. Their defeat at Khabis by Mas'ud of Ghazna was very probably decisive; forcing the majority of the Baluch to move through Sistan into the area that is today known as Baluchistan (Frye 1960:1036). In the east, at the coast of the Indian Ocean called Mekran, they came upon the Djat and further north upon the Brahu'i nomads, who were partly absorbed by the Baluch1. Until the 17th century groups of these eastern Baluch spread into Sindh and further into Pandjab. There they are mentioned among the troops that helped the Mogul emperor Homayun to conquer Delhi (Frye 1960:1036). It is interesting to note that the Baluch never formed influential political organizations, as we know of them from Turks and Turkomans. But even subtribes and clans kept kept their total independence to the point of fierce battles developing among themselves.


The accompanying map explains the actual distribution of the Baluch, though incompletely, and does not tell us anything about the history of the Baluch north of Sistan, in a hundreds of kilometers wide strip, east and west of today's Iranian/Afghan border, and up to the Soviet Turkmen Republic. The history of those Baluch is, however, of utmost interest, since only they, who actually live outside the geographical region of Baluchistan, have a tradition of pile weaving. The patterns in their rugs lead us to the question why these "north" Baluch do not utilize typical Baluch motifs as they are used by their southern brothers, but rather apply ethnologically foreign Turkoman designs. Among those designs are, especially in older rugs, very attractive tribal guls. The answer to that may lie in the fact that these Baluch had close contacts to Turkoman tribes whose tribal device they had to learn to reproduce as soon as they fell under Turkoman rule (Moshkova 1948:32). A hint at the possibility of very early contacts can be found in Moinuddin Isifizari's "Rauzat ul Jannatfi-'l-ausaf-i-Madinat-'l-Herat" (Tate 1977:367 and Bijarani 1974:285). According to this, the Baluch nomads constituted already in the 14th century a great part of the population in the area north of Herat and up to the region of Badghiz. Oral history (Yate 1888 and Wegner 1978:287) underlines the above report. With all required discretion one can imagine how Baluch from Sistan came into this region that up until the 19th century always had been influenced by Turkomans. Without doubt, later on Baluch groups came also from Sistan to the north. That is during the reign of Nadir Shah (1736 to 1747), who was Safavi governor of Sistan at the beginning of his career. In 1740 he freed North Khorassan from Uzbeks and Turkomans during his successful expeditions against Bokhara and Khiva (Sykes II 1963:263). After his death, however, many of those regions came again under Uzbek and Turkoman domain (Vambery II 1969:150). Consequently, the population there became once again very dependent on the Turkomans. This development may have caused a gradual migration back towards Sistan by parts of the Baluch, during which smaller groups settled in the area of today's Khorassan, where they are still living In light of this background, it becomes clear that Turkoman influences made the pile rug weaving tradition among these Baluch not only possible but even caused it. All of this was a slow development over a long span of time because Baluch have tended to hold on to their traditions in spite of constant and sometimes aggressive foreign influences from their neighbors, who have outnumbered them by far, and who have been very conscious of their own traditions. Up to today many groups of Khorassan Baluch have preserved not only their own language and own family structure but also some other customs, for example, the form of their tents. This points to the fact that the introduction and the spread of originally unknown technique of pile rug weaving, the adoption and modification of foreign Turkoman symbolism, and the development of the Baluch's own patterns started a long time before and not at the time of Nadir Shah, as is often assumed (Edwards 1953:185; Eiland 1976:75)..



Baluch nomadic tribespeople camped in the Murghab River area entertain a recruiting officer from one side or the other during the Russian Civil War, c. 1921

Flat-weave Fabrics and Pile-weave Rugs

It needs to be pointed out that, contrary to widespread opinion, there is no old tradition of pile rug weaving in Baluchistan itself (Imp. Gaz. Ind. 1908). Besides that, another kind of geometrical design dominates there. Up to today embroidered patterns from Sar-had (southern Persian Baluchistan) resemble ornaments on Baluch tombs near Thatta ("Chaukandi-Tombs"), which date back to the middle of the 18th century (Zajadacz-Hastenrath 1978:3foll.). Likewise, forms and colors of embroideries from Mejran (Pakistan Baluchistan) do not reflect any distinct Turk ornaments as do similar pieces from Baluch areas from Sistan on to the north.

The Baluch of Baluchistan have, however, a long tradition in the making of pileless fabrics (IMP. Gaz. Ind. 1908; Konieczny 1979). Mainly saddle bags and storage sacks are flat-woven. For rare floor coverings, woven pieces, about 80cm wide, are sewn together lengthwise so that pieces of 160x300cm are obtained. Very often they have small white and/or red geometric patterns in horizontal rows on a mostly very dark background.

The borderline between the pile rug and the pileless rug weaving Khorassan Baluch and the only pileless rug weaving Baluchistan Baluch ran around the middle of this century through Iran, approximately from the area around Iranshar in the south of the Lut Desert, to the east through the northern part of the region of Kwash, and on across today's Iranian-
Pakistani border, through the area south of Quetta toward Kelat. It is obvious that this border, considering the mobility of the Baluch, cannot be very rigid. Due to the growing construction of roads and highways, especially in Iran in the last decades, this border might have been shifted further to the south in the same measure as modern commercial demand has created new cottage industries in areas that were inaccessible up to then.

It is more difficult to determine the borders of the east Persian/west Afghan territory of the pile rug weaving Baluch towards the other directions. To the east their number diminishes gradually towards a north-south zone, which goes roughly from Quetta in today's Pakistan, to the Amu Darya River in northeast Afghanistan. Single clans were, however, still to be found in northwest Pakistan, India, and even in the western part of Chinese Turkestan.

In the north they reach into the Soviet Turkmen Republic (Pikulin 1959) where, according to Russian information (1933), about 10,000 Baluch were settled in kholkhoes (Benningsen 1960:1036; Gafferberg 1969). There, pile rugs are probably no longer produced in great numbers.

Only very few Baluch are to be found west of the deserts Lut and Kavir, in northwest Iran. Some products of the Shahsavan point to the possibility that also Baluch did partake in the development of this recent and rather heterogeneous formation.


Fig. 1. Mushwani Baluch, Northest Afghanistan, c. 1920. (Probably a symmetrically knotted rug, from the group identified as Bahlul. Mushwani is an antiquated term referring to a design type rather than tribal weavers. - TC)


Identification of Baluch Tribes

In recent years growing government authority in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and especially in Persian Khorassan has limited the freedom and mobility of the Baluch. It is, nevertheless, difficult to identify specific clans over a longer period of time. Even the name of the Nahru'i, a tribe that was mentioned several times in history (Pottinger 1816:56; Bijarani 1974:287; Tate 1977:341-354) is hardly remembered among Khorassan Baluch nowadays even though they themselves probably belonged to that tribe originally. It seems that today some tribes still like to rename themselves after their Khans, who were of singlemost importance to them. One example are the Salar-Khani. The part that returned, however, adopted the name Said-Mohammed-Khani. In 1954 they consisted of 400 people and possessed about 20,000 sheep and more than 1,000 camels. The Khodadad-Khani, who settled about 100 kilometers northwest of the latter, are supposedly a splinter group of the Salar-Khani. Edwards (1953:185) calls the Salar-Khani, also Kurkheili, a name that was no longer in use ten years later.
former Afghan pastures after the death of Nadir Shah. These peoples are partly of Iranian, partly of Turk-Mongol origin and
belong to the loose confederation of the Tsharar Aimaq (Chahar Aimaq). "The Four Peoples." Sometimes the above mentioned Timuri are also said to be one of those.

A further example are the Ghara'i Baluch. They settled down in the territory of the Ghara'i tribe about 150 years ago and called themselves after their protectors. Similarly, the name of the Djanbeghi, neighbors of the Said-Mohammed-Djanbeghi, neighbors of the Said-Mohammed-Khani, could allude to a former dependence of a subdivision of the Herzegi with the same name. The Herzegi are a sub-tribe of the Saryk Turkoman. Also, the name of the Tshu(b)dari in the area of Kashmar reminds us of the Tshaudor (Choudor) Turkoman.

These observations explains why it is with little success today to search for the Baluch tribal names that were gathered by, among others, Pottinger (1816), Bellow (1891), and Tate (1910). It also shows why among Baluch it is far more difficult to attribute certain rug patterns to a clearer definable group of pile rug weavers than it is among Turkomans. It seems more meaningful to classify the patterns according to the geographical regions in which thay are most often found.




Fig. 2. Fath'ollahi Baluch, Sistan, with Afshar medallion, c. 1890
(Probably not from Seistan, but rather a group of weavers located in Khorassan. The rug is probably woven with an asymmetric knot, open right, suggesting a Turkic ethnic origin for the weavers, possibly related ethnically to the Afshars of Kerman accounting for the use of such a central medallion. - TC)


The Ethnic Environment of the Baluch

A regional classification allows us to also include those pattern modifications that originated in the same area that are, however, obviously not made by Baluch, but were developed when their producers learned the technique of knotting carpets from the Baluch (Wegner 1964:147; ibid. 1978:288, 292). These circumstances could be studied closer in some "Djulghe", valleys, east of Turbett-i-Heidari between 1950 and 1960. Besides a multitude of Baluch clans, some semi-nomad village communities were found here which had immigrated from the farther east lying main territory of the Timuri around 1800 (Maitland 1975:416) and lived under a "tribal" name of their own. Among those "immigrants" the Moreidari and their subdivision, the Sarbuzi, the El-Khani, and the Boruti in the Djulghe Khaf have traditional independent pattern variants. In the further north situated Djulghe Barkharz appear the Porbuzi and the Seldjuqi as original Timuri, and in the even further north Djulghe Djam, the Sangtshuli. Only the Moghulzadeh in the Djulghe Khaf and the Mokhtari maintain that they are not Baluch. The classification of the Yaqub-Khani is also unsure because they consider themselves Baluch (Edwards 1953:187), as well as Timuri. Today the Timuri are mainly to be found in west Afghanistan. Ethnologically they do not belong to the Iranian people. Their original home in the region of Bokhara makes a Turk/Mongol derivation more probable than an Arab one claimed for reason of alleged greater distinction (Maitland 1975:416). The Afghan Timuri produce pile rugs, too. Many of their tribal devices can,
however, not be sufficiently identified. Apart from the Yaqub-Khani, who are also to be found in Afghanistan, the sub-tribes of the Kaudani (also Kuduani), the Shir-Khani, and the Zakani have acquired a good reputation as pile rug weavers (Janata 1975:10 and 1978:11). The Bah'luri also are one of the main foreign family units among the Baluch. They are to be found in northeast and east Khorassan, between Tayabad and Gha'in, as well as in Afghanistan. They were still camel-raising nomads around 1950. According to their tradition they are originally west Iranian Turks. Thet were resettled to Khorassan by Shah Abbas (1587-1628) because they were notorious trouble-makers. In their pile rugs they have modified elements of Baluch patterns so much that the inner relation to the typical Baluch symbolism of these motifs is missing.

Pile rugs with Baluch features, cruder though and not as plentiful, are also found among the Firuskuni and Taimani. They live today as farmers and semi nomads in rather confined areas in west Afghanistan: north and east of Herat, and south down to the region of Adreskand. The Djamshidi live here also. According to Janata (oral information, 1979), the question arises whether their sub-tribe, the Maududi, is identical with the Mush(a)wani, whose typical pile-weave rugs (Fig. 1) were mentioned in more recent publications (Eiland 1976:79). About 250 Djamshidi moved into the area of Meshhed in Persian north Khorassan only after 1885 (Janata 1978:11). Firuzkuhi are also still to be found in Iran, in the area south of Nishapur (Bellew 1973:59). Presumably they stayed behind when their tribe, which had been resettled their by Nadir Shah, returned to their former Afghan pastures after the death of Nadir Shah.


These peoples are partly of Iranian, partly of Turk-Mongol origin and belong to the loose confederation of the Tsharar Aimaq (Chahar Aimaq). "The Four Peoples." Sometimes the above mentioned Timuri are also said to be one of those.

We do not know of any pile rugs made by the three first mentioned peoples before 1900. And there are no pieces in which natural dyes are used exclusively. This leads us to the conclusion that they learned how to knot rugs in very recent times, probably from the neighboring Baluch.

The flat-weave products of those groups seem to be of more significance than their pile-weave products. Small and big saddle-bags, old and new ones, all have the same typical patterns, that Janata (1979) and Bolland (1971:169) reported from the Afghan Djamshidi and Firuzkuhi. Such bags were still sold in the bazaars of Meshhed between 1950 and 1960. Since their patterns remotely resemble the ornaments on web-ends of Baluch carpets, dealers sold them as Baluch rugs, locating the place of production however, within a wide area around Meshhed. It can, therefore, be assumed that these fabrics were made by the already mentioned splinter groups of the Tshahar Aimaq in Khorassan. Another proof for that is the fact that none of the pieces, whose provenance was determined, were brought from Afghanistan as personal property of pilgrims and other travellers, and later sold in Meshhed. Tent bands from the Afghan Firuzkuhi remind us of the ornaments of the Pathan Ghilza'i, or even of the Turkoman Beshiri, while the patterns of the Taimani resemble sometimes those of the Mishmast, another nomad Aimaq group in west Afghanistan (Janata 1978:11 and 1979: Fig. 13).

The pile rug weaving group of the so-called Arabs also needs to be mentioned, more because of geographical proximity than because of similarities of their carpets with those of the Baluch. These Arabs are almost without exception villagers, who became sedentary a long time ago, and who derive their name -- maybe out of reasons of prestige -- from those Arabs who Islamized their homeland in the 7th century. Their main settlements are in the area of Ferdows with Ayask, Arisk, Dohuk, Seghale, and Serayan as the most important pile rug weaving centers in 1951. Motifs, structures, and colors of those farmers' carpets seldom resemble products made by Baluch from the same area2. Apart from a few exceptions most of the pieces are coarsely knotted, had a long pile and were very colorful. They were a favorite among the rich Arabs from the emirates of the Persian Gulf, who preferred the summer in Iran to that of an even hotter home country. The demand caused an almost assembly-line type of cottage industry , a general degradation of the product, and to a very superficial reproduction of the patterns. We see very crude Afshar designs in the central field and even more so in the borders. These pile rugs must, however, not be confused with other carpets that also have a distinct Afshar influence, that were without doubt made by Baluch in Sistan, about 500 kilometers from Ferdows. In contrast to Arab products, these Sistan Baluch rugs have central fields rich with small, carefully designed motifs and a stepped and/or incised central medallion, similar to those on runners made by southeast Iranian Afshar (Fig. 2.). The main border has an alternating latch-hook pattern, which is favored by some Baluch groups, but is originally a Turkoman pattern (Fig. 3).



Fig. 4. Arabzadeh, Kheibar, Salor gul and "keshmiri" pattern c. 1930



As a rule the fabric structure of these rugs points to Baluch weavers. Some fabrics from very small groups, who were semi-nomadic at least until 1960, and who call themselves and are called by their neighboring Baluch, Arabzadeh, descendants of the Arabs, show how difficult it is to classify the rugs. In 1955 a group of 50 Arabzadeh could be in close neighborhood to the Moreidari and the Said-Mohammad-Khani in the eastern Djulghe Khaf. The few small pieces they had woven, however, were not distinguished from those made by the Moreidari (Fig. 4).

In order to complete the study of the ethnological environment that influenced the pile-weave products of the Baluch, the Brahu'i and the Shadlu need to be mentioned. As concerns the Brahu'i, it has been said above that the Baluch absorbed many units of them , although they belong to the Dravadian language group of south India. However, independent Brahu'i are still to be found in Sistan (Tate 1977:316, 363), Baluchistan (Imp. Gaz. Ind)1976:89, 90), in the area of Herat (Snoy 1974:181), and in
the Turkmen S.S.R. (Gafferberg 1969:17-18). Pile rug weaving Baluch lived close to them in many of these regions.

We do not know of any pieces that can definitely be assigned to the Brahu'i. Maybe their name was transmorgrified to "Barawi," a group of pile rug weavers that supposedly belong to the Sistan Baluch. Only isolated pieces of their pile rugs with typical, but rather meaningless designs were found.

The Shadlu belong to the Kurdish tribes, which were resettled by Shah Abbas to the northern Khorassan border, as protection against the Uzbeks (Sykes 1963:174). Up until today the Kurds have held on to their Caucasian influenced designs, which they had imported from north-west Persia. They weave easily identifiable long piled runners and rugs of much greater size than are produced by the neighboring Baluch. Between 1950 and 1960 the Shadlu around Budjnurd made saddlebags that cannot be distinguished, neither in the technique nor in the design, from very good Baluch products.


Part 2
Go to Part 1 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5




Pile and pileless rugs are made by female weavers as it is true also for the Turkomans, if a horizontal, collapsible wooden loom is used. Irregular formats do not disclose an unskillful weaver, but her nomadic way of life: A not yet finished piece was rolled around the warp beams of the disassembled frame when the group moved on to another pasture. The frame was then not readjusted accurately at the new location. Sheep's wool, and more rarely camel wool is used for the pile. This wool looks dull in a new piece and gets its attractive sheen only after longer use. Since in recent time Balouch carpets have been in great demand for export, local dealers thought they could abbreviate this process and had rugs made with synthetic silk, whenever such a material was available. These products were offered in Europe as especially valuable.

The use of silk is indeed very rare. Until recently it was only used to accentuate certain colors, that were not easily obtained in wool with natural dyes, e.g. green and purple. For about 40 years metal threads have been incorporated every now and then.

Undyed or brown sheep's wool, or sheep's wool mixed with black goat's hair is much used for warp and weft. The small sides of the rugs have dark web-ends with very delicately woven or embroidered ornaments in white and/or red.
Some older pieces have web-ends that are woven in Kilim fashion: Stepped or undulating stripes are formed through color changes, e.g. from medium blue to red to black to medium blue. There are also rugs without web-ends from the second half of the last century. More recent pieces have 3 to 6 cm wide web-ends, which are usually devoid of ornaments.

Balouch in the Afghan province of Herat preserved the tradition of web-end ornaments longer than those in the area of Turbett-i-Heidari. In Herat, pieces with elaborate ornaments in web-ends were still rather recently produced.

. The fringes are either twined or braided. Some times there are knots close to the web-ends that may have special colorful weft threads to prevent unraveling of the pile. Very often the fringes of the lower terminating end are more carefully finished than the ones at the beginning upper end.

The finish of the selvage is very characteristic: It is twined two to four times with black goat's hair and shows sometimes a "herring-bone" pattern. rhe pile is knotted onto the warp threads applying the asymmetrical Persian or Senneh knot. The Tekke and Salor Turkomans use the same knots in their carpets (Azadi 1975:36).



Baluch village in Seistan region of Iran. This photo depicts apparently sedentary village life with round mud walls with a thatch roof composed of reeds. Photo courtesy Baloch Circle


This and the fact rhat the Khorassan Balouch used Tekke and Salor tribal devices leads us to assume once again that the Khorassan Balouch learned the skill of knotting rugs particularly from those Turkomans.

(Black 1976:21) and (Eiland 1976:81) examined a great number of Balouch carpets and found out that 10% of the knots were of the symmetrical Ghiordes kind. This might be partly explained by the fact that the authors did not analyze the rugs on-site. Maybe they are not original Balouch products, but were made by Timuri. It is also possible that the rugs are indeed of Balouch provenance, but that the weaver had a different ethnic origin and applied her techniques when she married into a Balouch tribe. Fine pieces have 2500-3000 knots to a square dcm, and each weft thread bears pile. Those products are as valuable as the Tekke and Salor rugs. But due to the different kind of wool they are still softer than comparable Turkoman rugs. The Salar-Khani, the Said Mohammad-Khani, the Ghara'i Beluchi, the `Ali Akbar-Khani in the Iranian region of Turbett-i-Heidari, and the Afghan Dokhtar-e-Ghazi made rugs of this quality. They very rarely reached the bazaars of Meshed and Herat, or even Europe. Products of minor quality were known there, and mistakenly taken as characteristic of Baluch work. Those rugs are loosely knotted with coarse yarn and are very soft or even flabby. They were made e.g. by Baluch groups from central
Afghanistan, and by the Baizidi, in the region of Mahwalat, south of Turbett-i-Heidari.

In the last decades these weavers have also used cotton warp threads. This change is due to the opening of, so far, remote areas to modern transportation. Clever dealers have now the possibility of buying raw wool directly, and cheaper, from sheep breeding nomads, who have succumbed very easily to the temptation of "fast money". The nomads' economic situation has not improved though. On the contrary, some Balouch clans have given up knotting rugs altogether or have at least started to incorporate the cheap "foreign material" cotton. Since the use of it does not affect the life of the rugs, they have even used it in rugs for their own use.

Up to the middle of this century pile-weave and flat weave fabrics were mainly made for home use. The demand was never big, but at least continuous. New pile rugs were part of the customary dowry and served to prove the weaving skills of the bride. In addition rugs wore out soon in a Balouch tent, that does not offer as much protection as a Turkoman yurt, and thus they had to be replaced more often. This also explains why older or even semi-antique pieces are rarely found among the Balouch themselves.




During good years a Balouch family would weave one or two additional rugs. They were sold in the nearest city bazaars or exchanged for utensils, that they could not make themselves, for tea and sugar, as well as for red calico for dresses, and once in a while for silver coins for jewelery. Many Balouch from central and north Khorassan made those for the Persian New Year, on March 21st according to our calendar. Some of them came from far away to the bazaars of Meshed. Therefore the rugs had to be finished by the middle of March. Corresponding dates were sometimes inscribed into the rugs, e.g. 20. 12. 1319 (see Fig. 13). Also the neighboring Iranian villagers then replaced their worn out Balouch rugs with newer ones. Particularly, richer people in the villages of Djulghe Khaf used to cover the floors of their "mehman-khane", the room where guests were welcomed, with nomad rugs. A new rug was also needed whenever one was damaged by glowing coals falling from the stove. Such rugs from the "mehman-Khane" then substituted for worn out rugs in the "endetun", the living and women quarters, which were inaccessible to outsiders, the doctor excepted.

Thus only a very limited number of carpets reached the markets in Iran and Afghanistan that were accessible to European merchants. They were not much sought after in the cities because the urban middle class, that was able to afford rugs, preferred larger sizes. But those could not be woven on Balouch looms. The people in the cities also favored more colorful rugs, and if possible floral designs, "to bring the garden into the house".



Baluch family, near Quetta, circa 1910 Photo Courtesy Baloch Circle



Up until recently there was no big foreign demand for knotted fabrics made by those nomads. Pile, pattern and colors of their rugs did not appeal to the prevailing taste of the first decades of this century. Even the much more attractive Turkoman rugs became popular rather late. This explains why in many older but also in some newer books on rugs, floral museum carpets are described in detail while Baluch rugs are ony mentioned for the sake of completeness.

Popularity for Baluch rugs was lacking for more than a hundred years. this fact contradicts the idea that the reproduction of Turkoman guls and other motifs was caused by foreign demand and respective orders by importers. foreign demand and taste have, however, strongly influenced patterns and color combination of Persian manufactured rugs since the middle of the last century. At the time when Turkoman patterns were knotted in Baluch rugs, such marketing strategies could not possibly be discussed with nomads, who have known how to preserve their independence in every respect until this century.

All this is surely a reason for the fact that the Baluch used natural dyes much longer than many Turkoman weavers. There were still new Baluch rugs without any synthetic dyes until around 1950. At that time chemical wool dyes were already offered in the village bazaars, but the were still more expensive than the home-made natural dyes. In some pile rugs from those years natural and synthetic dyes were simultaneously used. Red shades and brown yellows -- to imitate camel's wool -- were soon used on bigger surfaces while yellow and green tints were used only sporadically in some motifs. Some red and almost all green tones of that period were neither fadeless nor waterproof. In the last decade the quality of synthetic dyes, however, has improved and there have been a greater variety of colors, but at the same time the rugs have lost much of their charm. Unusual colors like crimson red, bright orange, malachite green and purple seem to have animated the weavers' imagination to excessive experiments that were in contrast to tradition. The result was disharmony in the rugs.



This shows that so-called progress can lead to the destruction of good nomad traditionsThe more important traditional colors of the field are found -- with exceptions -- in the following geographical centers:

Dark blue to black blue (made with very concentrated indigo): Areas of Turbett-i-Heidari and Kashmir, Djulghe Khaf and the northern part of the Herat region.

Medium blue (weaker concentration of indigo): North Khorrassan. There are only very few pieces with this color. Most of them were made in the second half of the last century.

Brick red, fire red to dark red (made from madder of different ages): Regions of Nishapur and north of Meshed, Djulghe Turbett-i-Sheikh-i-Djam, Djulghe Bakharz, Mahwalat and Gha'inat.
.
Aubergine shades (old madder with additional dyes): Sistan and central Afghanistan (southern province of Herat), a small area southeast of Gounabad in prayer rugs without mihrabs.
Camel brown (undyed camel wool): Gha'inat, Bidjestan, Mahwalat, Djulghe Khaf and eastern Kjulghe Turbett-i-Sheik-i-Djam. Very often in prayer rugs, always in the "akhundi" type.

White to cream-colored (undyed, sometimes bleached sheep's wool): Area around Turbett-i-Heidari, but only in the last decades as substitute for camel wool, which has become rare. Camel wool has always been used mainly for men's clothes.

Black brown (natural wool with additional dyes, e.g. walnut shells): Southern Afghanistan, e.g. province of Farah.

In many Balouch rugs the ground color in the (main) border(s) is the same as the one in the field. If the center field is, however, camel brown, red tints are usually used in the borders. Red borders can also enframe a dark blue field. A reverse color combination was not seen in older rugs.



Baluch Nomads in Seistan, SE Persia. Photo Courtesy Baloch Circle


Different shades of ground colors are frequently used for field motifs. When red tints are used the design is still discernable. But this is not the case when dark blue is used on dark brown, like in many very finely knotted saddle bags made by south Afghan Balouch. Details in motifs, like small petals, as well as outlining strips are very often white and/or yellow or yellow orange. Green was used in older carpets only sparingly. Darker tints are seen in older rugs from Sistan and Afghanistan. Up until the beginning of this century lighter blue colors were often found in rugs from central and north Khorassan. Very often motifs were set off with black bordering lines. If Ihere was not enough black brown sheep's wool available, brown wool was dyed several times by boiling it together with steel filings. This was done over and over again, according to an exactly scheduled process of eight days. Such a treatment damages the wool. It becomes brittle and mouldy, but this fact is not considered to lessen the value of the rug. Those rugs have a relief effect (corrosion), that makes them very often especially appealing.

Recipes for the production of plant and stone dyes have repeatedly been published. But they are only valid for those interviewed: In the geographical area of my field studies recipes were jealously kept secret among the families and not revealed even within the clan.



Fig. 5. Baluch, Sistan, Turkoman ensi borders as a field pattern, c. 1920 (The primary border is one that I have often seen used in rugs from Sistan but never with this field pattern. A colour image wouled be helpful with a definite attribution. - TC)

Fig. 6, Balouch, Sistan, Turkoman alternating latchhook pattern as pseudo guls in the field, c. 1900 (Doubtful that this truly a Sistan region weaving. The primary border indicates Afghanistan, possibly from Chakhansur, a region of Afghanistan bordering SE Persia. - TC)


Kind and size of pile- and flat-woven rugs (Table 1) are determined by the nomadic way of life and dimensions of the Balouch tent. Its floor is not covered with pile rugs during the day. Likewise the Turkomans do not use pile rugs in their Yurts. The Balouch cover the floors of their tents with dark, coarse, and mostly unadorned felt mats, or "tent squares", which can no longer be used for the roof. They are made of dark goat's hair. When there were visitors rugs were spread on top of the mats. Some Balouch in the Khaf area used their rugs regularly to sleep on. When they travelled to market, to the doctor etc,. they took them along as "sleeping rugs". The sizes, that were needed for those purposes, were woven most often. Due to their different functions those rugs cannot be compared to the Turkoman "odjaq bashi", the hearth rug. Among the Tekke Turkomans almost square shaped hearth rugs are customary. The Balouch also made a smaller size rug, which is similar to the "germetsh" or "dahanghi," the Turkoman "threshold rug" at the entrance to the tent. The Balouch use this rug for various purposes.
Larger pile rugs are rare and known only from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are found around Herat, but mainly in the south,
near the Afghan Pakistani border. In Iranian Sistan only flatweave rugs of that size are known. With the exception of
these large formats the Iranian and Afghan Balouch use about the same size rugs for the same purposes. This is also true for the prayer rugs, that due to their different size constitute a category of their own. Some Balouch and other above mentioned nomads, that have become sedentary, also weave runners, "daliz". (Head) pillows, "balisht", with pile-woven fronts are a specific Balouch product. They are unkown among Turkomans. Their format is similar to small Turkoman tent bags, "torba". But they are open at one small side only. Both small sides can have carefully ornamented web-ends. They are stuffed with raw cotton and then sewn up.

If the flat-woven back part is lost the original use of these pillows can no longer be identified. Consequently this very common format has often been incorrectly classified. Square back pillows, "poshti", with pile-woven fronts are also of the Balouch. Their formats are similar to the big saddle bags. They are, however, more finely knotted and do not have a clasping ledge (closure system). They are stuffed and then sewn up.



Baluch tribal dress, 1910. Photo Courtesy 'Baloch Circle'


Small and big saddle bags, "khordjin," with pilewoven fronts are very common. Afghan weavers prefer bigger sizes. The southern Balouch decorate their bags with colorful tassels and shells. They find these shells in the deserts of south Afghanistan as relics of a former sea. Most "poshti" and "khordjin" are made in pairs with a single warp thread. The work is started at the upper end of the knotted front side of the first bag. The clasping ledge is added later with loops made of black goat's hair. Then follows a flat-woven part, consisting of the back part of the first bag, the 30-40 cm wide bridge, and the back part of the second bag. The work is then continued with another pile-woven part for the front of the second bag. The weaving is finished at the upper end of the second bag. The knotted front sides are then turned over towards the bridge on to their flat-woven back sides and selvaged together. This kind of weaving technique causes the pile of the two bags to be oriented in opposite directions. In some bags from Afghanistan both front pieces are connected over the bridge at their long sides with small knotted strips, which continue the pattern of the borders. Thus the center part of the bridge looks like a window in a pile-woven frame. There are also pairs of bags whose back parts are flat-woven with stripe patterns and colorful zig-zag designs. Their bridges are, however, pile-woven.

The Balouch do not have any big oblong shaped tent bags as are common among Turkomans, who call them "djowall"(juval) or "doshak". They neither have knotted spoon, comb, or mirror
cases, nor the Turkomans "ok bashi", a protective cap that is pulled over the ends of the bundled up tent poles. They make hardly any salt containers, which are more frequent among the Tshahar (Chahar) Aimaq. They do make, however, small pile-woven bags (chanteh) for multiple use. The bags have loops on the back side to pull a belt or a shoulder strap through. Islamic wandering monks in central and north Khorassan used them as purses. Finally, there are the pilewoven gun cases, that the Balouch made until the beginning of this century. They protect the barrel and lock against sandstorms. They were sewn together from two equally long strips.

Pile rug fabrics as decoration for use on riding animals are almost limited to saddle blankets. Festive head-gears were rarely made. Non-nomad Balouch used, however, coarsely knotted strips as harness for donkeys. Caparisons, as seem among Yomud Turkomans, have not been found. Likewise, there are no decorative trappings for wedding camels, like "djollar", "asmalyk", and "diah disluk": The Balouch bride usually rides a horse. Only the south Afghan Beluchi have a headdress for camels. It is made of pile-woven strips and upright tassles.

Since a Balouch tent does not need tent bands ("tang", "nawar", "yolami"), nor frames for the entrance ("kapunuk"), nor entrance rugs ("ensi,"khatshlu", "tshahar fazl") the Balouch do not make any of these products. Only the Firuzkuhi who live in Yurt like tents make flat-woven tent bands.



Fig. 7
. Balucj, Gha'inat, "peacock motif" (I usually associate the primary border of this piece as belonging to the design pool of the western Afghan "Baluch" weavers - TC)

As pointed out already several observations lead us to assume that the Turkomans forced their pileweaving techniques and their patterns on the Khorassan Balouch. Further observations in this respect show interesting differences between the Turkomans' and the Balouchs' attitude towards the designs in their pile rugs: No doubt the Turkoman main rug, "odjaq bash", i.e. the "hearth rug", still reflects many aspects of religious tradition. There are very early animistic shamanistic symbols and later Islamic influences. The guls sublime the tribal history and represent the transcendental, as well as the real world of the Turkomans. This explains why some Turkoman tribes forced the people they had subjugated to give up their own tribal devices in favor of the conqueror's, that means his gul3. Many tent-living Turkomans have held their hearth rug very much in respect until today, and it is only used for special occasions. The original meaning of these rugs can probably be compared with that of the totems of the North American Indians, in some respect also to Chinese ancestral shrines and to heraldlc emblems in the early history of the Occident.

With the gradual breaking of tribal ties a lot of the original meaning has been lost and the symbols have degenerated to mere ornaments. We find the following characteristics of such a degeneration in Turkoman rugs:


1. Main devices move out of the tribal region, so that the reproducer of a gul is no longer identical with its "original owner". This is also true of tribe specific borders. Moshkova (1970) shows this development for Russian Turkestan since 1920.

2. Main designs lose their sharpness, important details are omitted, e.g. the four "flying eagles" in the center field of the Tekke gul.

3. Traditional names for the main devices are replaced by "work names" i.e. names of objects which resemble the forms that the weavers have to incorporate in their rugs, because "it must be done that". E.g. the name "ongurghe gul" means "Spine gul" for the main device of the Ersari Dali , in which a close relation to the old Ersari "timirdjin-gul" is still evident.

It is obvious that forms and colors have lost some of their richness, and it becomes more and more difficult to attribute single motifs to a specific Turkoman tribe. It has also been forgotten that many motifs originally served as "demon charming symbols". But in spite of all that, today's designs and patterns are still part of a centuries-old tradition.



"Chiefs of Baluchistan", circa 1900 (from The Living Races of Mankind, New York, 1902


The Balouch's ethnic origin and their pre-Islamic religious background is not connected in any way with the "cradle of the Turkic people", the Altai mountains. As a consequence they might have been forced to reproduce Turkoman devices in their rugs, but that does not necessarily mean that they also understood the symbolic meaning of those motifs. Therefore we find many Turkoman designs modified according to Balouch specific taste, one that had grown out of a different ethnic background. The colors also changed: The Balouch preferred darker colors, so that the Europeans called the Balouch rugs "blue Turkomans." Finally, Turkoman field motifs were used in the borders of Balouch rugs and vice versa. For example the Turkoman "Double-T" border motif became a field design in Balouch rugs made in Bidjestan (Fig. 5). Or the "Turkoman border", the famous alternating latch-hook pattern, became a "pseudo gul" in the field of Balouch rugs from north Sistan (Fig. 6). Such inversions of motifs were possible because the Turkoman designs were only of decorative meaning to the Balouch. Only the Turkoman guls themselves were more or less preserved. Since the beginning of this century (20th) they have, however appeared less. The next generations have felt no need to still incorporate them in their rugs. If old guls are used they are amazingly exact. Does that mean that the Balouch still respect those Turkomans who until the end of the 19th century undertook "alamans", fast violent raids starting from the area of Serakhs going deep in the south of Khorassan?
On their first contacts with the Turkomans the Balouch surely became aware of the fact that the Turkomans applied their weaving technique to represent patterns with deep symbolic meaning. This may have motivated the Balouch to use the new technique from their own heritage. Thus for generations they have reproduced naturalistic profiles of birds, like cock and peacock (Fig. 7), horned quadrupeds (capricorn?), trees of life, and two designs that are called in Persian "botteh" and "do-guli". These motifs are not found on Turkoman hearth rugs, on other pile rug fabrics only among the Yomut and Beshir, and then only in recent times. Both motifs are, however, common among all Iranian peoples, on rugs, embroideries, potteries and metal crafts. Some of these peoples still believe in fertility symbols, like "taus" and "khorus", peacock and cock, and a pear-shaped motif, which- strangely enough has been interpreted as "palm tree top", "ball of the thumb-print of Turkish conquerors" or "meanders of a holy Indian river" (Fig. 8). In new Persian "botteh" means "bush", which does not seem to be very meaningful in this context. Pile rug weavers in east Khorassan call this symbol also "badam" which equals almond. Since almond trees are very productive this interpretation points again towards fertility, even though this name seems to be only a "work name"



Fig. 8. Baluch, region of Turbett-i-Heidari, "botteh", all-over, c. 1900
(Possibly one of the nicest rugs he pictures, would be nice to see a colour image of it. - TC)

3. The word for "gul" for the Turkoman tribal device is still very often confounded with the Persian word "gul", which means flower. Those words, however, do not have anything in common

More meaningful seems the relation to "gol", modern Turkish "lake", old Turkish "kol" (kol, kul, kyl). This word appears in connection with many lakes and rivers between the south Altai and west Turkestan. Turks in that area held these waters holy. According to Anochin (Schmidt 1949:185) each Altaic clan worshipped one of the lakes or rivers as their patron. Radloff describes the original meaning (Schmidt 1949:87). To the southern Altaic Turks Talaikan (also Yayuk, Yaik) was the master of the fourth world and the patron of the dead, but mainly the Lord of the seas and all other waters, and thus also the master of the "sut-ad-kol", mythic
"Milk White Sea." This sea was the source of all life forces. The Yayutsi drew from it the soul for each individual beginning of life and accompanied the individual through his whole life as his tutelary powers (Schmidt 1949:148). Harva (1938:171) reports about the "syt-kul-amine," the "Milk Sea Goddess," a goddess of Buryat. later (op cit. 547) he mentions the two mythologic birds "oksoko-kyl" and kai-kyl" as companions of the Shamanist soul on its way to the transcendent world. According to this Turkoman guls represented symbols reminding of the original life force of the respective paternal tribal soul. They had a protective meaning to all descendants. The abstract designs of totem birds and sacrificial animals make that interpretation very probable. The lacking identity of Persian "gul" with Turkoman "gul" is finally proven by the Ersari guli-gol".


Part 3
Go to Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 4 - Part 5


Illus. 1 Key to the "mah" (moon) motif

Illus. 2. Typical "vase" motif of the Sistan Balouch.


Time and place of origin of a series of other designs cannot be identified. These designs are popular everywhere between China and Mesopotamia, and they reflect early religious ideas, which different ethnic groups had in common. For example, symbols were used to invoke the cosmological order. Rain at the wrong time, floods and droughts disrupted this order and were the work of bad demons to these early hunters, plant-gatherers, and cattle-raising nomads. In their view of life the moon was an important principle of order. It’s regular reappearance allowed the division of time; its disappearance meant rain in some areas. But its significance in connection with the female fertility cycle was even more important. This is not the place to dwell on the early moon symbolism. It is, however, still important, and moon symbols have always been used and are still being used on rugs, like on the Balouch rug from the area of Ferdows.

The two phased moon is shown three times (Ill. 1). Twenty-five years ago only some very old Balouch weavers and the Djulghe Khaf were able to associate these patterns with the moon.

Female fertility has long been invoked through lozenge and/or triangle patterns, male fertility through fish designs. These mythical symbols or their combination into one motif reach far east into the China of the Shang and Han periods (Hentze 1961; Buckens 1921) and west to Sumer (Parrot 1960 and 1970). They appear as cryptograms on findings from Mohendjo
Daro (Kinnier Wilson 1974), and are finally found among Scythians in south Russia and in the Altai (Talbot Rice 1957 and
others). In order for the clan to survive there have to be many descendants. This explains whythe fertility motifs are still in use in central Asia. Fish and lozenge motifs are not only found on copper and ceramic receptacles of the sedentary population, but are also reproduced by steppe nomads, in whose environment there are hardly any fish. Tekke and Yomud Turkomans use these motifs in women’s jewelry and--more abstract--in rugs, too. Also Balouch rugs show lozenge and fish, sometimes even as a motif combination. The fish is stylized into the saw-teeth pattern which is the most important part of the “keshmiri” design that has been used by around Turbett-i-Heidari and in Afghanistan. Today’s weavers cannot associate anything with the name “keshmiri.” It seems to have originated in the east. Old Balouch women among the Said-Mohammad-Khani Baluch related this motif to the “taifa,” the clan, and thought it important. The complete keshmiri consists of four fish, that are arranged around a lozenge. A possible interpretation is: “male fertility” (fish) plus “female fertility” (lozenge) lead to: descendants which means: “immortality of the clan.” For more than 100 years the keshmiri pattern of the Khorassan Balouch has been used also under the name of “herati” on rugs manufactured in Feraghan, west Persia. The name “herati” points also to an eastern origin. It is not clear whether both names have a common provenance, or whether the weavers adopted the name from each other. This is, by the way, the only design to which the Balouch attach “holy spheres” and sacrificial animals. I will come back to that later. The keshmiri pattern could not be found on really old rugs, neither among Khorassan Balouch nor in Feraghan.



Fig. 9. Balouch, region of Ferdows, "mah" and "nim-mah" motif, c. 1900. (An example of Arab Baluch tribal weaving. The field pattern as well as the primary border motif are distinctive features of weavings from this tribal group.-TC)


The Balouch have also applied motifs that stem from Islamic symbolism. A hand is very often represented in the upper corner of the “akhundi” prayer rug. This motif is widely used in the Arab-Islamic world. It is the “hand of Fatimah,” a protection against the evil eye. Most of the Balouch weavers belong to the Sunni and they call this motif “pandjeh,” i.e. “five,” meaning five fundamental principles. It is implausible that the design serves as an indication for the positioning of the hands (and often heard explanation in the non-Islamic world), since the prayer knows this from childhood on, anyway.

Other Islamic motifs are very rare. In spite of an early Islamization animistic elements have survived. They originate in old Iranian beliefs, which are also at the root of the Khorassan Baluch’s concept of the omnipresence of evil gods and demons, like Djin, Pari, and Div. Gafferberg’s studies (1973) on the Sistan Baluch, who immigrated into the Turkmen SSR during this century, show many parallels to Donaldson’s description (1938) of folk belief in Khorassan and Bray’s study (1913) on the Brhu’i. Turkoman or early Turkish beliefs seem to have influenced those Baluch to a lesser degree.

Very soon purely decorative elements from other traditions were added to the already existing multitude of symbols. Little flowers were scattered all over, as were simple crosses and other small figures. All these different style elements may be incorporated in a single rug which seems to have appealed to the European aesthetic feeling.

The composition and the assimilation of the different motifs were completed by the middle of the 19th century. Even though Balouch weavers have usually kept to their traditional patterns, they have sometimes developed new combinations. The Ghara’i Balouch in Petro provide many examples for that. New variations and creations, however, seldom survive one generation because they are the individual weaver’s literary property only. It is, therefore, very difficult to classify such rugs. The Balouch’s ability to weave completely new designs shows their creativity and proves that their pile rugs to not have cultic meaning.

In order to attribute certain patterns to certain areas of production, it is necessary--according to the above explanations--that the patterns meet the following characteristics:

* They must be more than simple ubiquitous ornaments.
* They must have survived several generations within the same Balouch group.
* They must have been reproduced in rugs for personal use. Not only on “main” rugs, but also on other pile-woven fabrics.

Patterns that meet the above criteria may change their outer form with time, or may be arranged differently within the composition of design. Such modifications remain insignificant as long as the characteristics of the motif are definitely identifiable. This, for example, applies to the “Keshiri” pattern (Fig. 17-22).



Fig. 10. Balouch, N.W. Afghanistan, Tekke (Turkoman) "ghorbaghe" gul on prayer rug, c. 1870 (Whether this is actually a prayer rug is debateable. Possibly Wegner is looking at the colour change in the border which seem to designate an "arch". Theories concerning "latent" prayer rugs (see Baluch Prayer Rugs, Adraskand) are something less than commonly accepted and apparently undocumented. In the original text of the article there is reference to the diamond shaped form in the field adjacent to the lower border as designating the spot where someone would touch their forehead in prayer. Either way, I beleive he is sadly mistaken, as there is no way that this is a prayer rug.- TC)


A summary of the most important patterns and their occurrence in specific regions follows. First I will discuss Turkoman patterns that have only slightly changed, or not at all.

Turkoman Tribal Guls and Secondary Patterns
It is surprising that octagons with the “Mar” gul of the Salor dominate in the north Khorassan down to the region of Gha’in, on either side of the Iranian-Afghan border. These octagons have clan-specific center parts, which are, too, most often of Turkoman origin. Tekke guls are very rare in this part of Khorassan. They are, however, almost exclusively used south of Gha’in. There they are reproduced amazingly precisely. Only the proportions of the octagon are changed into a square-like figure. This change is seen in most Mar guls, too.

A rather numerous group of weavers around Zabol uses--besides the tribal or main Tekke gul--a secondary gul, which is most often seen among the Merv-Tekke. It is the “ghorbaghe,” or “frog” gul. The other traditional secondary gul, used by Akhal-Tekke and the Yomud, is the “tshemtshe,” or “spoon” gul. It does not appear together with the Tekke gul in Balouch rugs from Zabol, nor anywhere else in north Khorassan.
The Ghorbaghe gul can become the primary motif in the field (Fig. 10). on rugs showing the primary Tekke gul, the secondary “frog” gul can be substituted by a small vase, from which a trefoil rises between two petioles on either side (Ill. 2). This non-Turkoman motif is found on Zabol Balouch rugs together with other designs and is characteristic of that region (see Fig. 21). Some pieces show both secondary designs, “frog” and “vase,” side by side.

Most main and minor borders have patterns of the Turkoman origin. For example, the Volute cross is a heraldic square (“kotshanak aine”), which the Tekke and the Salor use as a field design. In some of the rugs the guls are arranged in three vertical rows, with seven or nine guls in each row. This is clearly a Tekke tradition. The Tekke tradition is less obvious in the colors: Aubergine tints in the field, green and gold orange shades in the borders and in the secondary guls are characteristic of the “Zabol-Tekke.” This color combination discriminates their products from those made by the Mahdad-Khani Balouch, who lived around Nehbandan at the eastern edge of the southern Lut desert in 1950.



Illus. 3 "Gulli-e-Kaf" of the Boruti


These Balouch reproduce the Tekke gul and the ghobaghe secondary gul very accurately, but without “vase” motif and with Turkoman colors; i.e., red ground color and no “Zabol” green (Fig. 11). Tekke influence can also be seen in the borders and in pile-woven “herring-bone” stripes on the web-ends. There are never more than two vertical rows of guls, and four or six guls per row are most common.

The Tekke influence diminishes from Sistan toward the east. It was still evident in a rug made by Balouch in 1930, who lived as nomads south of the Afghan city of Shindand (Sabzewar) in 1955 (Fig. 12).


Once in a while the Tekke gul can be seen on pieces from central and north Khorassan. But only one small group of half-sedentary weavers in the area of Tsheshme-Gul, a mountain village at the northern edge of the Djulghe Djam, not far from Turbetti-i-Sheikh-i-Djam, reproduced the Tekke gul exactly.
These weavers, who live in Balouch type tents, were not sure of their Balouch origin, denying, however, any relation to Turkomans or the neighboring Timuri. They have made gul rugs with Balouch structures for generations, but have applied Tekke designs for all other details at the same time, e.g., on borders. Tekke guls are also used in prayer rugs with a horizontal top line of the mihrab. It is interesting that not even old damaged pieces were for sale, not even at exaggerated prices. Another Turkoman pattern used by these weavers will be discussed later.

More or less distinct Tekke guls are also found among the Rahim-Khani near Serakhs, among the Ghara’i Balouch in Petro, and among some Bah’luri clans in the Djulghe Khaf. At the same time these groups use variants of the Mar gul (Fig. 13). The Mar gul seems to be of more importance in this part of Khorassan, because even the Tekke gul is enframed by an octagon figure, which is unmistakably derived from the Mar gul. Keshmiri patterns are also used in this region occasionally between tribal guls, or as secondary guls (see Fig. 4).


Fig. 11. Mahdad-Khani Balouch, Nehbandan, Tekke tribal gul and secondary gul (chemche), c. 1925.

Fig. 12. Balouch, West Afghanistan, deformed Tekke gul, c. 1930


Variants of the Mar guls have frequently been applied--without claims to completeness--by the following pile rug weavers:

Rahim-Khani Balouch region of Serakhs
Said-Mohammed-Khani (Salar-Khani) Balouch Djulghe Khaf
Ghara’i Balouch Djulghe Khaf
Moreidari Timuri Djulghe Khaf
Arabzadeh Arabs (?) Djulghe Khaf
Bah’luri Djulghe Bakharz
Hassanza’i Balouch Djulghe Bakharz
Porbuzi Timuri Djulghe Rokh
Name Unknown Balouch (?) western central Afghanistan
Name Unknown Balouch Djulghe Rokh
Name Unknown region of Gha'in (Bidokht)

The central shields in the main guls are probably peculiar to each group or clan. Where there are two rows of guls across the field, the designs in the two rows between them are probably also specific to a group of weavers, e.g., the rugs of the Ghara’i Balouch. They reproduce the typical stepped cross not only in their “gul rugs,” but also in the rugs of the keshmiri pattern. Details within the cross possibly distinguish individual weavers.
Main and minor borders also help identify the groupof weavers; the border designs also help identify the group of weavers; the border designs seem to occur always in combination with a particular field variant.

Tribal guls from the Ersari were either never reproduced by the Beluchi or have disappeared from their collection of patterns, for example, as among the Afghan Balouch. However, North of Herat “tauk” guls were found in Balouch rugs. This points to contacts with the Tshub-bash Turkomans, who are of Chaudori origin (Fig. 14).

Between Nishapur and Meshed and in the Djulghe Djam the Tekke-Salor volute cross (“kotshanak aine”) is very often part of field patterns. The volute form was originally only fill-in motif inside the lattice-work of the field. It was used on small Turkoman rugs and bags. It also fills the lattice-work of the second--and more popular--field pattern of the Tsheshme-Gul weavers. This motif is also common in “multiple field” rugs. Three or four fields are arranged one beneath the other (Fig. 15), or the center area is divided into two to four field pairs (Fig. 16).



Fig. 13. Balouch, Djulghe Rokh, Salor turreted gul, 1905. (On what information is the date based? No clues are given. Possibly he relies upon local hearsay? - TC)

Fig. 15. Balouch, region of Nishapur c. 1902. (Again, one wonders on what information such a precise dating is based. Is there a woven date in the rug? If so, most of those seen in Baluch weavings are spurious. - TC)


Fig. 14. Balouch, N.W. Afghanistan, "tauk noshka" gul of the Tshub-bash Turkomans, c.1910.


Balouch Special Motifs
The above mentioned “keshmiri” motif composition deserved special attention (Fig. 17-20). It is found in the region of Kashmar but mainly in an area east of a line from Meshed to Turbett-i-Heidari to Gounabad and across to central Afghanistan. It is reproduced in a multitude of varieties, not only by Balouch, but also by groups of Timuri, Moreidari and Bah’luri. The motif has undergone many changes, to the point where it became a mere ornament (Wegner 1978; 292).

In older pieces the Balouch repeated the keshmiri in only one vertical row. Later, namely since the first decades of this century, has the motif been arranged in two or more rows and incorporated in a lozenge lattice-work made up by fish. The Mar gul has gradually been replaced, and the originally more natural representation of the fish become more linear, i.e., more rigid form (see Fig. 19 and Fig. 20).

In the studied area, the following group of Balouch use the keshmiri as traditional pattern:

1. Asgharza’i Ghal’e now, Bakharz Valley keshmiri lattice-work
2. Ghara’i Balouch Petro Khaf Valley sometimes stepped polygon instead of center lozenge
3. Gurg-‘Ali Regan, Shawar, Khaf Valley keshmiri lattice-work
4. Hassanza’i Mohammedpur, Bakharz Valley keshmiri between Mar gul
5. Hussenza’i Ghal’e, Bakharz Valley lateral fish heads integrated into one head
6. Khodadad-Khani Husseinabad, Khaf Valley similar to number 5
7. Said-Moh’d’Khani Bagh-e-Bakhshi, Kuh-e-Khebar, Khaf Valley classical design

8. Salar-Khani Aljak, Bakharz Valley classical designed “winged fish”
9. Abdul-Sorkhi Anabad, Kuh-e-Khab (Kashmar) similar to 5, parts in-between similar to number 2
Eight more variations were found on older, but no closer identifiable, Balouch rugs.

Among the sedentary or semi-nomadic weavers, who stressed that they were not Balouch, the keshmiri was found as follows:

1. Name Unknown Around Ghurian, west Afghanistan (Bah’luri Clan)
2. El-Khani Farhabad, Hadjiaead (Timuri?)
3. Khoshabi Darwiz, Kuh-e-Bakaharz (Bah’luri Clan)
4. Moghulzadeh Aliabad, Sangan bala, Sar-e-Tsehehel, Khaf Valley (?)
5. Moreidari Abbasabad pain, Khaf Valley (Timuri)
6. Nurza’i South of Shindand, west Afghanistan (Bah’luri Clan)
7. Porbuzi Murababad, Bakharz Valley (Timuri)
8. Sarbuzi Ghazemabad, Khaf Valley (Moreidari Clan)
9. Seldjuqi Khoshkhak, Khaf Valley (?)
10. Name Unknown Around Shar-e-now, Bakharz Valley (Timuri)

And two not identifiable subgroups of the Timuri.

The designs of the Khoshabi and the Sarbuzi shall be discussed as an especially typical deformation of the keshmiri pattern due to the lacking apprehension of its meaning. On the Khoshabi rugs the four fish merge into a lozenge figure (Fig. 21). In the Sarbuzi design, the field is divided into up to five pairs of strong transversal bars. The fish in between them, at times deformed into triangular shapes, are quasi-repelled by their lozenge, so that the motif is practically dissolved (Fig. 22).



Fig. 16. Timuri, Djulghe Djam, c. 1930.



Fig. 17. Said-Mohammad-Khani Balouch, Djulghe Khaf, "keshmiri" pattern, c. 1920.

Fig. 18. Bah'luri, region of Ghurian, "keshmiri" pattern, around 1900.


Part 4
Go to Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 5

The keshmiri motif has been used for several generations by sixteen different Balouch groups in a rather large area. This shows that it has been passed on to at least twelve neighboring groups of weavers, who are of different ethnic origin. These weavers’ attempts to make the keshmiri pattern their own led sometimes to formal alienations. They did not, however, try to adopt other typical Balouch designs, like “do-guli”, “botteh”, or “hashie-je-narges” (narcissus border). This illustrates that it was hardly imitative instinct only that caused the spreading of the keshmiri motif. The fate of a subordinate motif shows how intensively some “secondary” weavers studied the keshmiri pattern. This subordinate motif is--with little modification--on all keshmiri rugs made by Balouch, but also often on those made by the “secondary” weavers. Its contours resemble a step pyramid with a platform on top. An elevated--sometimes multiple--symbol of horns on a pedestal is shown on a white ground, occasionally also horned quadrupeds (see Fig. 19). According to information by Balouch this design represents “sacred places” (an abstraction of places of sacrifice?). It is reproduced either in each corner of the center field, or two times, mostly three times, sometimes five times along the innermost border of the small sides, or more seldom of the small sides and the long sides (see Fig. 17-21). The Bah’luri in the border area of Khaf-Ghurian up to Tayabad developed this motif into another field design, which is typical of them: They combine four motifs to form a central cross and repeat this figure several times (see Wegner 1964, Fig. 13, or Wegner 1976, Fig. 21).

It is interesting to note that the keshmiri motif does not occur anywhere outside a wide zone that starts in the west region of Kashmar, goes east via Turbett-i-Heidari to the mountain valleys of Turbett-i-Sheik-i-Djam (Djulghe Djam), Bakharz and Khaf, and further into central west Afghanistan. Therefore the keshmiri is characteristic of this zone.

The “do-guli” meaning “two flowers” motif is another typical Balouch design: Two different floral motifs alternate over the central field checkerboard-like. It is often used as a traditional motif mainly among the following Balouch:

1. Sultan Khani north of Kashmar (Kuh-e-Khab)
2. Abdul-Sorkhi Anabad (region of Kashmar)
3. Taheri Kelat-e-Foulat (region of Kashmar)
4. Tshubdari south of Kashmar down to Bidjestan
5. Djanbeghi between Khaf and the Afghan border



Fig. 19. Salar-Khani Balouch, Djulghe Khaf, "keshmiri" pattern, c. 1900.

Fig, 20. Said-Mohammad-Khani Balouch, Djulghe Khaf, "keshmiri" pattern, c. 1930


All the patterns of the Kashmar region show an additional, small and always white star shaped floral ornament between the brown and dark to medium red flowers on the black blue field (Fig. 23). Among the Sultan-Khani this additional ornament has mostly five elongated leaves. The Tshubdari use two, four or six more rectangular leaves. Both have at least one minor border with unusually high latch-hooks. The main borders differ again. In the Tshubkari rugs the ground color of the border is often the same as that of the field, in any case dark. The favored alternating latch-hook pattern (“Turkoman line”) is only recognizable at a closer look.

These rugs look somber and dull in comparison to those made by the Sultan-Khani, in which the red of one of the floral motifs
corresponds with the ground color of the main border. The Djanbeghi, who live 300 km. further east use differently formed flowers, which are typical of them (Fig. 24). In older rugs made by the Boruti one single floral motif alternates its color checkerboard-like. The Boruti live in small and very scattered clans between Salame, in the eastern Khaf valley, and central Afghanistan. They do not consider themselves Balouch, and probably belong to the Timuri. The Boruti use the floral motif “gul-e-khaf” (Ill. 3) in their rather rare pile rugs. It appears more often in the main borders of medium sized saddle bags, which are made in western Afghanistan, south of Herat (Wegner 1978, Fig. 18).



Fig. 21. Khoshabi-Bah'luri, Djulghe Khaf, "keshmiri" variant.

Fig. 22. Sarbuzi-Timuri, Djulghe-Khaf, "keshmiri" variant, c. 19


Since the middle of this century this motif has been seen on Boruti rugs also in diagonal arrangement: The same pattern is repeated in the same color along diagonal rows. Diagonal rows are another very popular pattern in the center field of Balouch rugs. Geometrical figures fill the lozenge, hexagon or octagon lattice. This arrangement and these figures are unknown in Turkoman rugs. Fig. 25, 26 and 27 show three of the most common patterns, Ill. 4a and 4b two others; the “gul-e-khat” motif of the Boruti has already been mentioned. The patterns vary a little according to time and place of production. Pattern variants cannot be attributed to particular weavers. In the first half of this century the ‘Ali Akbar-Khani Balouch from the area of Fazelman used two different patterns simultaneously. Nothing could be found out about the original symbolic meaning of these motifs. If none of the older women of a clan?the ones that preserve the tradition?could remember the meaning of the patterns, the usual, unfortunately frequent answer was “adat hast”, i.e. “this is customary, this is the proper way.” Diagonal rows are found in the area of Turbett-i-Heidari, then west to the region of Kashmar, and south across Mahwalat, where they were especially popular, into Gha’inat, where they were still used frequently at the turn of this century (Ill. 4c), and further?now getting rarer?to Sistan. East of Turbett diagonal rows were seen on rugs from the Djulghe Khaf and Djulghe Bakjarz, and with decreasing frequency up to Afghan Badghiz. They were neither found north of Meshed and Nishapur, nor in the regions of Ferdows and Bidjestan. They were used by Balouch, as well as by groups of Timuri. It seems as if the Timuri wove more complicated motifs (see Fig. 26 and 27). The following groups of weavers could be identified:

1. 'Ali-Akbar-Khani Balouch Fazelman Djulghe Khaf
2. Abdul-Sorkhi Balouch Kuh-e-Khab Kashmar
3. ? (several clans) Balouch Mahwalat Turbett-i-Heida
4. ? (several clans) Balouch around Gha’in Gha’inat
5. ? (several clans) Balouch ? Sistan
6. Boruti Timuri Salame Djulghe Khaf
7. Moreidari Timuri Abbasabad pain Djulghe Khaf
8. ? (several clans) Timuri ? Djulghe Bakharz
Figure 26. Balouch,Mahwalat, diagonal rows, lozenge lattice, c. 1910

4. In east and southeast Iran and Afghanistan there are still today sacred places from pre-Islamic time. They are marked with a pole, on top of which there is a horned skull of a ram. This “elevated skull” can presumably be viewed as pars pro toto of the animal that was to be sacrificed. Maybe the stepped form in these rugs represent a holy (?) mountain.

During Islamization these holy places became Muhammedan “holy tombs.” E.g. the mountain in Sistan, which contained many sacred artifacts from a pre-historic period, became the Kuh-i-khwadja, “mountain of the (venerable, Islamic) priest.”



Fig. 23. Abdul-Sorkhi Balouch, region of Kashmar, "do-güli" pattern, c. 1930.

Fig. 24. Djanbeghi Balouch, Djughe Khaf,, "do-güli pattern, c. 1900.


The “all-over” pattern or “infinite rapport” needs to be presented next. It is a field pattern closely related to the diagonal rows. It shows among others the same geometrical motifs, but does not emphasize the diagonals through colors. It may occur within a lattice-work, which consists mainly of squares. Those may be filled with Turkoman “kotshanak aine”, as in the rugs made in Tsheshme-Gul. Besides the volute cross there is a wide variety of partly rather complicated motifs, some of which were reproduced for generations. Fig. 28 shows such an old motif on a Badghiz (?) Balouch rug from the last third of the 19th century.

Another one is the “botteh” motif (Fig. 8), furthermore there is the lozenge with attached latch-hooks (European work name: “Tarantula”), and a motif that resembles the Turkoman “ashik”, but its outlines seem changed and elongated vertically (Ill. 5). The three last mentioned motifs can also be independent figures without lattice. In the “botteh” or “badam” motif a division of the field is obtained by orienting its points to the left of one horizontal row and to the right in the next one. Also the vegetal-looking motifs of the Dokhtar-e-Ghazi need to be mentioned. Presumably they are very abstract animal symbols (Fig. 29 and 30).
Soon after the beginning of this century mere ornaments--as fillings in the lattice-work or by themselves--appeared in addition to the elaborate motifs. In the early stages of this development there were still figures as shown in Fig. 31, 32, 33: The outlines of stars, stepped polygons, flowers or cruciforms represent motifs that are divided each into eight parts. Remembering the significance of the number eight and its representation through octagons in Turkoman tribal guls we can assume that we are dealing here with a deformation of an important symbol into a pure decorative ornament. We do not know anything about a meaning of the number eight in pre-Islamic time. If there was one it might have merged into the Islamic interpretation. According to this, “8” symbolizes the omnipresence of God, that is in all four directions and the areas between them, and represents the prayer for divine protection everywhere. A very dense arrangement of small hardly differentiated ornaments--among them “botteh” each 2 cm high--create the impression as if flowers were strewn all over the center field. This reflects the weaver’s horror vacuii, who no longer have a true relation to the designs they reproduce.



Fig 25. Ali-Akbar-Khani Balouch, Djulghe Khaf, diagonal rows, octagon lattice, c. 1930.

Fig 26. Balouch,Mahwalat, diagonal rows, lozenge lattice, c. 1910

At the time of my field studies it was almost impossible to attribute the multitude of “all-over” variants to certain regions. The following classification lists these groups of weavers that used all-over pattenrs besides other patterns:

1. ‘Aliza’i Balouch (?) region of Ghurian 5 x 15 star filled small octagon, no lattice
2. Asgharza’i Balouch Dehanshur
Djulghe Khaf a. narrow lattice with stars
b. “botteh”, direction of their points changes, no lattice
3. Barawi Balouch region of Sistan a. very simple little crosses, no lattice
b. “Tarantula” outlines, no lattice
4. Dokhtar-e-Ghazi Balouch region of Badghiz a. flowerlike motifs, no lattice (Fig. 29)
b. fishlike motifs, no lattice (Fig. 30)
5. El-Khani Timuri Hadjiabad and Djulghe Khaf “gul-e-khaf”, no lattice
6. Ghara’i Balouch Petro a. stepped polygons in narrow lattice (Fig. 32)
b. “botteh”, direction of points changes, lattice
7. Jaghub-Khani & other Timuri region of Zurabad cruciforms made up of four leaves of Balouch type tree of life (Fig. 33)
8. Khoshabi Baluri Zaraghari & Djulghe Khaf eight-leafed flowers, no lattice
9. Moghulzadeh (?) ‘Aliabad & Sangan-bala’ 3 x 13 elaborate cruciforms, no lattice
10. Mokhtari (?) Tshaghmagh a. very elaborate “botteh”, same direction of points, no lattice
b. lozenge lattice with “Tarantula”
11. Rahim-Khani Balouch region of Serakhs “kotshanak aine” in coarse lattice
12. Name unknown Balouch region of Turbett-i-Heidara “botteh” same direction of points (Fig. 8)
13. Name unknown Balouch Gha’inat stalked flowers, no lattice
14. Name unknown Balouch Gha’inat arrowhead type figures, no lattice
15. Name unknown Balouch Gha’inat vertical “ashik” variant, no lattice
16. Name unknown Balouch region of Badghiz stars in reticulate lattice
17. Name unknown Balouch Gha’inat figures similar to “spools of thread”
18. Tabissi Balouch Azizabad, Kashmar “botteh strewn flowers”



Fig. 27. Timuri, Djulghe Khaf, "gü-e-moreidari" in diagonal rows, hexagon lattice, c. 1920
.

Fig. 28. Balouch Badghiz, "all-over" pattern, c. 1870.

A cautious determination of origin is somewhat easier for rugs that have medallions in the center field. Stepped/indented polygons have already been mentioned. They were adopted from southeast Persian Afshar Turkomans. Some rugs made by Fath’ollahi Balouch have also an unmistakably Afshar main border. Even the knotting structure can be similar to one of Afshar products. Only the mentioned “vases” (Ill. 2) and other small field motifs, that are exclusively used by Sistan Balouch, .point to the real producers (see Fig. 2 and 3). One should think that this mixture of designs occurred mainly in south Khorassan, and in western Sistan, where a close contact and even intermarriage encouraged the adoption of Afshar designs. Obviously this did not, however, happen very often. The northern edge of this contact zone is assumed to be in the area of Gounabad. Bidokht lies south, already in the northern Gha’inat, where Balouch made finely knotted prayer rugs that show two stepped polygons with white outlines one above the other in an aubergine-colored field




Illus. 4a Motif of the 'Ali-akbar-Khani in diagonal hexagon lattice.

Illus. 5. Baluch motif, Gha'nat "ashik" deformation(?)


Part 5
Go to Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

Rugs of rather coarse structure are found in Darbaz, southern Gha’inat. These rugs have three or four large lozenges in the field. Three or more boldly designed parallels emerge from each lozenge in both directions. The whole design reminds of Shirwan rugs, like Eiland (1976) illustrates them on plate 159. These pieces are, however, made by Arabzadeh clans of whose history no details could be found out. The reproduction of three or four “mah” polygons in the field has to be viewed as an original pattern of a Balouch clan from the region of Ferdows. There is no Afshar influence (see Fig. 9).

The above regional classification of the groups of weavers and their characteristic patterns is rather reliable. As an example of how much caution is required in determining the origin of rugs, a rug will be presented in Fig. 34, that has an unmistakably Afshar medallion and an Afshar format. The knotting structure points, however, to Balouch weavers. The rug was indeed made by a small group of sheep-raising Balouch, who had lived at the oasis of Torogh near Meshed (!) for two generations until 1930. Nothing has been found out about their present whereabouts.



Fig. 29 Dokhtar-e-Ghazi Baluch, NW Afghanistan, "all over pattern", around 1910 (The pattern, while associated with a group of weavings known by this name, can hardly be used as means to identify these weavers. Doktor-i-Qazi weavings, thought to be Timuri, are much finer than this more rustic example from Afghanistan. -TC)

Fig. 32 Ghara'i Baluch Djudghe Khaf, eight leafed flower in polygon lattice, around 1930. (The "Karai" of Torbat Heydari, ex-Craycraft? - TC)


At the time of this research work there were not to be found—neither on-site, nor in the bazaars of Meshed, Turbett-i-Heidari, and Kashmar—any rugs with field designs of the medallion kind from the regions of Bidjestan, Kashmar, Mahwalat, Turbett-i-Heidari, Djulghe Khaf and Djulghe Rokh. In the greater region of Nishapure were produced, however, rugs with single rows of three or four squares (see Fig. 15). Besides those they show three or four large, sometimes bizarre figures with attached latch-hooks. They are arranged above each other in the field (see Black, 1976, table 10). The earlier mentioned “multiple field” rugs (see Fig. 16) originate, however, mostly in the areas north of Meshed and in the Djulghe Djam. The Moreidari from the Djulghe Bakharz weave center fields with one single row of lozenges, which stretch and have attached latch-hooks.Very similar arranged lozenges, but with a greater number of more elaborate details, seem to be typical of the Kuduani in Djaffergegh, northeast Afghanistan. Janata (1978: II and oral information) lists the Kuduani among the Timuri sub-tribes. A very impressive design in rather finely knotted rugs is attributed to the neighboring Mushawani (see Fig. 1). The colorfulness of their rugs is striking, because it is unusual in this area. Among other colors, medium blue, brick red, and Russian green are used without them clashing. The rounding of the hooks almost into spirals is also typical. These weavers’ ethnic origin is controversial. Today they consider themselves Balouch rather than Afghan Pathans like they used to.



Illus. 4b Baluch motif, region of Nishapur, in lozenge lattice (A classic element reminiscent of an older Turkic aesthetic een only in the Khorassan Baluch weavings. Note the 4 animal forms opposed to one another with in the medallion. -TC)

Illus. 4c Baluch motif, Gha'nat, in lozen lattice. (This motif occurs in weavings throughout the 'Baluch' weaving world and beyond. A classic Turkic motif not associated with any particular group or region. - TC)


In the same region an apparently rather similar pattern is used by Maududi, one of the important sub-tribes of the Djamshidi (Janata 1966: 144 and oral information).

The ethnic origin of still another group of weavers is very much in question. Their pattern, which is found in quite a big area, consists of a sometimes irregular composition of different figures with diameters up to 30 cm. When repeated, the figures are not always of the same size. Some of them remind us of big flowers on old manufactured rugs from Herat and Khorassan, others of cartouches on a trapezoid base, or of the “all-over” pattern as in Fig. 28. But sometimes the teeth and hooks seem to be mere imaginary forms. The prevailing colors are dark blue, dark brown, and dark red. Thus these rugs, that are also made in bigger sizes, give an overall dark impression (see Thatcher 1940, Table 49; McCoy 1974, Table20; Eiland 1976, Color Plate XI, and Black 1976, Table 27). The two first mentioned authors assign these rugs to Balouch in Adreskand, southeast of Herat. Eiland attributes them to the Mushawani north of Herat, and Black mentions a sub-tribe of the Durani (Wegner 1964: 147). Therefore, we cannot exclude that the “Adreskand” rugs were made by several neighboring groups of different ethnogenesis. Another example for the deformation of floral designs originally seen in Persian carpets but changed into geometrical and
sometimes bizarre alienated ornaments can be found with the Kot’lu nomads. These are a sub-tribe of the Afshar Turkomans and live south of Kirmau.As mentioned before, a pattern has to be applied on pile-weave products of different formats and for various uses before it can be regarded as traditional and important. Thus, almost all the patterns, that were presented in this article, could be identified as prayer rugs, too. Prayer rugs are recognized by the “mihrab”, the prayer-niche on one small side of the rug, that makes the center field asymmetrical. There are also traditional patterns, that are used on prayer rugs only. The ensuing diversity of patterns would still have to be described in detail. This is not possible within the scope of this paper. Therefore, only one prayer rug with typical field design was presented (Fig. 33). It needs to be mentioned, however, that there are also prayer rugs without “mihrab” among Balouch and their non-Turkoman neighbors. Rugs with a tree of life or a variant of it—not necessarily on a camel-colored or white ground—belong under this rubric. Also, other features can make a rug a definite “dja namez,” i.e., “place for praying.” The rug shown in Fig. 10 belongs in this category: It has the little octagon at one small side just inside the field, marking the place where the praying person’s forehead touches the ground. It has sharply defined color changes in the border at the other small end of the rug, giving the impression of a “baseboard.”



Fig. 30
Dokhtar-e-Ghazi Baluch, NW Afghanistan, overall patten, circa 1930 (A real stretch attributing this weaving to the same group in Fig. 29. based upon a slight resemblance in field elements. TC)

Fig. 31
Baluch, NW Afghanistan, eight pointed star as field pattern, around 1940


It also needs to be pointed out that the multitude of border designs could not be discussed here. Patterns that were found in a bigger geographical area could often only be assigned to certain weavers and/or a certain province on the grounds of their combination with certain border patterns.

At the end of these discussions it is essential to recall to mind once more that results from on-site research obtained already between 1950 and 1960 were used. Since then, nomads have become sedentary, or at least semi-sedentary. Hardly accessible places and regions have been opened up by roads. Demand and supply of foreign markets have reached formerly self-sufficient areas and subsequently changed their political,
social and economic structure. Thus it may be difficult today to find all the above mentioned groups of weavers in the same regions and under the same names, that they were formerly proud of. Therefore, this article is meant to incite new field studies. Future studies need to confirm, correct and mainly complement previous findings, so that we can deepen our knowledge about the Balouch. The pile rugs of these fascinating people are a remarkable example of how the Balouch have developed a truly independent textile representation of their material culture, in spite of repeated absorption of foreign ethnic elements and under constant and considerable pressure from hostile neighbors. May the Balouch be able to keep their tradition and culture in the future.



Fig. 33 Timuri, region of Zurhabad, eight 'leafed' cross on prayer rug. (I have never heard anyone else attribute these prayer rugs to the Timuri. Presumably it is a camel ground field.-TC)

Fig. 34 Baluch, Torogh near Meshhed, Afshar Medallion and eight leafed flowers, circa 1890 (Would be nice to know the structure of this piece, whether it has an asymmetric knot, open left or right, which would assist with proper attribution. -TC)


Access to publications by Russian ethnographers is often difficult because of language reasons. The translations of part of Gafferberg’s work from 1969 and of his complete publication from 1973 are therefore very valuable. I thank Dr. med. Irmgard Wegner for them. I am also very much obliged to her for lending me the picture for Fig. 3, 4, 5, 8, 17, 25, 32. The picture for Fig. 1 was provided by Dr. med. F. G. L. Gremliza, an old friend of mind since our days together in Iran. All the other figures and illustrations are the property of the author.

Copyright 1985 by Dr. Dietrich H. G. Wegner Original text and photographs appeared in Oriental Rug Review, July, 1985 - December, 1985 With thanks to Oriental Rug Review and Ron O'Callaghan for permission to reproduce this article here.