This small catalog and the previously unknown weavings it showcased was published almost ten years ago. Since then it has contributed a valuable perspective to the academic riddle that lies at the center of all rug and textile studies : What were the sources for the designs found on Near Eastern flat-woven textiles as well as well as those found on many pile woven carpets? Since 1980 this question and its answer became something of a personal quest and after completing a considerable amount of research, this author’s efforts eventually became concentrated on the slit-tapestry, commonly known as kelim, weaving tradition of central and eastern Turkey. In this extremely isolated area, as well as in other adjacent backwaters to the north and east, certain groups were able to continue cultural and religious practices, like kelim weaving, relatively untouched by the influences of alien cultural, political or economic forces. Weaving was central to the lives of these people and this isolation permitted the preservation of some vital clues to and at times evidence of an archaic language embedded in these objects. 

Analysis of these weavings provided some initial answers to this question but it was not until a small group of rare historic examples, which demonstrated a far more archaic style than the others, was identified that this connection was solidified. These kelims, which are illustrated as Plates One through Five in the Weaving Art Museum’s inaugural Exhibition “Archaeology and Anatolian Slit-Tapestry Weaving” have been shown to exhibit the prototype iconographies a multitudes of later examples are based upon. However, even more importantly, they imply significant design connections to a wealth of geographically related archaeological remains dating from as early as 6500 BC.

With this breakthrough, the broad perimeters of the history of slit-tapestry weaving could be outlined but much research remains before many of the still missing links in this chain are uncovered.

After locating the kelims illustrated in the “Archaeology and Anatolian Slit-Tapestry Weaving” exhibition, it became obvious the earliest of these examples, as well as several other examples now in the collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, have an important connection to this puzzle. But like the chicken and the egg corundum, the question of where the antecedents of this tradition began still remained.

Fortunately the finding of even much earlier slit-tapestry weavings in the reserve collections of the museums in Cairo, Egypt and shown herein do allow us a glimpse at an antecedent weaving culture and the long historical continuum kelim weaving maintains.

Unlike the weavings in Exhibition One, these examples can not be as easily provenanced and while they were all found in Egypt, analysis of their technical characteristics indicates a division into two broadly dissimilar groups. Based on these factors one group would seem to have been made in Egypt and the other farther north, perhaps in Anatolia. The discovery of this second group and its hint of an Anatolian provenance provide an important step in answering not only this question but also the still unknown connections between the weaving cultures and traditions of these two ancient civilizations.

cult kelim plate 1


cult kelim plate 2


cult kelim plate 3


cult kelim plate 4


cult kelim plate 5


cult kelim plate 6


cult kelim plate 7


cult kelim plate 8


cult kelim plate 9



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