Articles on Turkmen Rugs, Design, History and the Tribes

An Unusual Saryk Carpet in the Islamisches Museum, Berlin
by Robert Pinner

Although Turkmen rugs have been studied for longer and rather more comprehensively than most post-classical carpets, many are difficult to attribute. Some, and this includes groups of smaller rugs as well as individual examples, possess too many features which set them apart from the established types, others possess too few, and hover on the border line between apparently well known groups. The archaic carpet fragment in the Islamisches Museum in Berlin ) falls into the latter category. read more........

Turkomans and Scholarship - A Retrospective View
by Murray Eiland, Jr.

We should not be surprised that the regularity and formal organization of the classic Turkoman carpet usually attracts enthusiasts of a tidy and methodical frame of mind. Turkoman collectors are in many ways a breed apart, driven perhaps more than any other species of rug fanatic to label, categorize, and construct taxonomies for their chosen objects of passion. The idea that rugs may be specifically attributed to tribe and place of origin on the basis of their designs -- which has subsequently proved more illusory than useful -- appeals to their natural sense of order. read more....
The Turcoman Tribes - 1882
by Edmond O'Donovan (special correspondent for the "Daily News")

The Turkoman Tekke tribes of Merv has two tribes the Toktamish, on the eastern bank of the river , and the Otamish ,on the western. The Toktamish is the most numerous and also the senior tribe, but its precedence is purely honorary. Kouchid Khan ,who commanded the whole nation during its migration to Merv,and in the subsequent war with Persia was hereditary chief of the Toktamish. On his death ,his son Baba Khan succeeded to the headship of the Toktamish tribe only. His personal character was not sufficiently distinguished for the Turkomans to continue his father's authority in him, and the Otamish Khan successful asserted a claim to equality. read more........

Posted January 1, 2005

In Search of the Turkmen Carpet
by Richard Wright

This article tries to illustrate the richness of firsthand descriptions of Turkmen weaving and the nature of the historic sources which contain them. One group of documents consists of indigenous biographies, histories, and travelogues. There is, for example, the history of Mir Abdoul Kerim Boukhary I and what it has to say about the location and condition of Turkmen tribes early in the 19th century. An account of a diplomatic mission by Riza Quoly Khan is similarly useful for a picture of the fractious and independent Turkmen of the 1830s.2 This literature, however, tends to be descriptively weak concerning ordinary artifacts. read more...

Posted January 19, 2005

Thirty Turkmen Rugs - Masterpieces from the Collection of S.M. Dudin (Part 1, Salor Weavings)
by Elena Tsareva

The most remarkable of all known Central Asian rug collections is the pioneer group of textiles collected by Samuil Martynovich Dudin. The majority of the pieces are in the State Museum of Ethnography of the People of the U. S. S. R. , Leningrad, and some are in the State Hermitage, Leningrad. The history of how the collection came into existence is also interesting. read more.......

Posted April 6, 2005

Thirty Turkmen Rugs - Masterpieces from the Collection of S.M. Dudin (Part II, Saryk Weavings)
by Elena Tsareva

Dudin combined Saryk and Salor weavings into one group calling them “Pendeh” while we know at the time of his travels in Central Asia, that the Pendeh Oasis was inhabited by the Saryk while the Salor lived mostly in Serakhs. Dudin's theory that the Saryk did not weave carpets is very strange, and one wonders on what information this misconception was based. read more..........

Posted April 8, 2005

Thirty Turkmen Rugs - Masterpieces from the Collection of S.M. Dudin (Part III, Tekke & Yomud Weavings)
by Elena Tsareva

"Merv and Akhal Tekkes are the most frequently encountered (pile products of the Turkomans) at the Central Asian markets. In quality they are slightly inferior to Salor ones; especially good in this respect are the old pieces, the newer ones are slightly more coarse, mostly because of the rough wool, while in technique they are nearly as fine as the old ones even on occasion being produced on order for small proprietors...." read more....

Posted April 9, 2005

Reflections on the Engsi
by Richard Wright

Turkmen carpets and carpet-like items have clear functions-- khali (carpet), torba (bag), iolan (band), and so forth. One, however, may not be so straight-forward, the engsi.
For any such question the proper starting point is a relevant dictionary (c. 1950), all of which define the word as a small rug without gols used as a yurt door closing. The Turkmen language has a nasal "n" which shows up here; its transliteration into English therefore is engsi. Ensi is a Russian conceit; the pre-revolutionary literature occasionally did try to get it right, Dudin with enki, Felkersham, with enksi.

It is useful to get at meaning via etymology, but in this case, perhaps not possible. Radlov's great Turkish dictionary does not include the term. In any event figuring out what if anything the word reveals is a matter for specialists; a clue might be that it may come from Persian. read more.......

Posted July 8, 2005

The Tamga
by Richard Wright

European Russia became aware of Turkmen carpet art not long after the empire's expansion across Siberia and then south into Central Asia. The first instance was a folio (1879) compiled by N. E. Simakov, the product of a typical Russian "scientific" expedition into new colonial territory -- comprised of engineers, an hydrographer, botanists, a geologist, a zoologist, an art historian, and two painters -- which among other things included the artists' rendition of Turkmen carpets as observed in Samarcand. read more..

Posted November 24, 2005

The Akhal Oasis
by Richard Wright

No outsider can get to bedrock with respect to Turkmen rugs. The Akhal oasis, however, may provide an opportunity for finding a few brass tacks. Although nowadays largely ignored in the lexicon, rugs of this small area were a discrete type in the pre-revolutionary Russian Turkmen carpet literature. read more.......

Posted November 24, 2005

Three From Turkestan
by George O'Bannon & Paul Mushak

A type of Salor or S-group torba which appears to have survived in greater numbers than the one Paul Mushak discusses below is shown in Illustration I. This piece is in an American collection and is one of the most stunningly beautiful Turkoman weavings we have seen. For similar examples in color, see Tsareva, Plate 12, HALI 32, p. 91 (also published by Bogolubov in black/white), or Sotheby's (New York), December 1, 1984, Lot 114 for the Black/Loveless piece, and Lefevre cover, Lot 2, November 30, 1979. read more..,,,

Posted September 3, 2007

The Saryq Main Carpet
by George O'Bannon

A review of the Turkoman literature shows a sparceness of information on Saryq weavings. In Moshkova's monumental Carpets of the Peoples of Central Asia, one of her weakest chapters is on the Saryq. Tsareva's Rugs and Carpets from Central Asia has no Saryq main carpets. read more .....

chodor thumb

Dividing the Chodor
by Kurt Munkacsi

The weavings as well as textiiles of the Chodor are very different in many respects from that of their neighbors in Central Asia. The textiles represent a completely different design tradtiion, seemingly closer to ancient Seljuk architectural work rather than the design pool observed in other Turkmen texiles, ie. those of the Tekke or Yomud. Apparently in the past, the Afghan marketplace considered Chodor embroidery to be non Turkmen Central Asian material from Ugench, rather than Turkmen. Read more.....


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