This question has been somewhat addressed in the Weaving Art Museum’s two other Turkmen rug exhibitions, where art-historical comparison has been used to provide ‘relative’ rather specific dating.

Assigning actual dates to any pre-commercial period Turkmen rug, let alone an historic archetype example, is impossible. Again the lack of any known signed or dated examples, or any other type of exact reference like those available for classical rugs, precludes any attempt to answer this question.

However, there are some strong clues Turkmen pile weaving is at least as ancient as any classical candy_7carpet. For instance in Marco Polo’s famous and well-known account of his travels in Central Asia, which by the way traversed parts of the silk route where most of the target group of textiles we will reference were discovered, he described the carpets of Turkmenistan as "…the finest in the world."

Unfortunately Polo’s late 13th century account, as well as those of other subsequent travelers and historians, provides no direct information about the makers, the designs, or the sources for the designs, found on the weavings he saw. Frankly, we cannot even be sure the “rugs” he referenced were Turkmen pile rugs.

However since his comments specifically concerned “rugs” from “Turkmenistan” and he traveled in the vicinity, we can believe with some assurance he was describing the Turkmen carpet.

Now we must remember Polo’s travels were circa 1271, a time period well before the earliest known Persian or Ottoman classical carpet can be dated. The date question is not a crucial one for this presentation because carefully determined art-historical parameters can assign relative dates, ie periods, to any of the Turkmen rugs illustrated.

Likewise, many of the target-group textiles have been dated by similar means, as well as some using state of the art C14 analysis as noted above.

In the previously published Weaving Art Museum Turkmen rug exhibition written by this author, Turkmen Trappings, we proposed dividing Turkmen weaving into four periods – archaic, classic, transitional and commercial. We will once again use this dating concept and will again only illustrate examples we consider to be archaic and classic period, as these are the weavings we call historic.

We should also mention it is possible to create an art-historic continuum for almost every type of Turkmen weaving, and based on this procedure it can determined where any particular example sits on that continuum. Again, regardless of the fact this only provides a relative or chronological date rather than an exact one, it is the only method presently available and the only one this author supports.

So notwithstanding this lack of positive dating or other secure provenance, let’s now begin to examine some historic Turkmen pile woven carpets, the iconographic relationships they maintain with certain earlier textiles and implications both share common, even earlier, design roots and traditions.

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