plate 1

illustration 10

This chemche, from an archaic period chuval of an as yet unidentified Turkmen group, is different enough from the previous one, which we call a type 1, to be considered a type on its own, not merely a sub-type.

Unlike the many type 1 chemche found on weavings made in all periods, and by all the Turkmen groups, the chemche above is extremely rare in comparison. This rarity, in our opinion, resulted from it being from the archaic period, when the now accepted idea certain gol were proprietary icons representing individual Turkmen group identity was manifest. This is not as easily substantiated as concept proprietary gol usage broke down as the progressive stresses of foreign political, economic and social change simultaneously deteriorated and eventually destroyed traditional Turkmen weaving culture.

This process greatly accelerated in the mid-18th century and by the end of the 19th century irreparably disrupted historic connotations of proprietary gol use and identity. Again there is little doubt this occurred on a wide scale and it is for this reason certain archaic gol, like this and the following one, virtually disappeared. The fact there are hardly any later versions, even degenerated ones, further supports this contention.

It is also apparent non-type 1 chemche gol, like this one and a few others, eventually became amalgamated into the type 1 group. This trend might well explain the ubiquitous nature of chemche, in addition to the virtual disappearance of these others.

In common with archaic type 1 chemche, this and the next display jewel-like and complex rendering of their interior elements. This level of workmanship and detail, along with their extreme rarity, is a reliable indication of antiquity. And although early textiles, like the ones below, are far more complex this is to be expected considering the intervening time and geographic separation.

illustration 11

The origin of the silk textile illustrated to the left is controversial but before discussing this issue the design similarities it displays to the gol in question suggest an indelible relationship that belies that time and geographic distance. Notice the eight pendant globes attached to the pearl border, might those smaller ones at the ends of the eight 90 and 45 degree radial arms on the Turkmen gol be a vestige of a somewhat typical stylish feature? This presentation would suggest they very well might be.

Could we also suggest the reason each one encloses a square box that has been divided into four smaller ones with opposing color juxtaposition denote a now lost and unknown insignia of proprietary group identity?

These are interesting possibilities, however, they are not provable nor is our again suggesting the dynamic balance of opposites concept is the reason each of the four boxes display the same type of opposing color juxtaposition noted in the description to Plate One.

This early textile is in the collection of the Abegg-Stiftung, the world’s most esteemed institution exclusively devoted to historic textile art, located in Riggisberg, Switzerland. It is illustrated in a book published by the Museum Mittelalterliche Textilien I in a special section with a number of other ancient silk textiles thought to be reproduction.

This controversy has swirled in certain quarters of the textile world for a number of years, and while this author is not an expert of these so-called Buyid textiles, nor have we read everything written on the subject, our opinion is that certain ones in the Abegg book appear to be reproductions, while others like this one appear to be genuinely old.

But to avoid placing any of our thesis on weak ground we decided to also illustrate two other very similar ancient silk textiles, whose age and provenance is not questionable or controversial.

Both were discovered by Sir Auriel Stein in the sealed library at Dunhuang, Mogao and can be positively dated to the 12th century AD or before.

illustration 12

These textiles have a somewhat different but equally strong relationship to the archaic Turkmen gol as the questionable Abbegg example.

Like the gol illustration 12 has four large white ram’s horn, known to the Turkmen as kotchak, in exactly the same north/south/east/west position. This feature, the small green circles in its octagonal pointed central area, plus the overriding eight-spoke outer radial arm perimeter imply iconographic connection.

illustration 13
Illustration 13 is very similar with the same eight radial arm, four compass-point kotchak and multi-circle center. The fact these textiles, others we could cite, and this gol exactly repeat this complex iconographic assemblage supports our idea Turkmen weaving was developed within and along lines established by far earlier eastern Mediterranean and western Asian iconographies.

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