plate 1

illustration 33
An important technical characteristic, S ply warp, infers this knotted-pile textile, illustration 33, was made in Egypt or somewhere farther east. However the knots exhibit Z ply, which might complicate such a provenance. Where this early knotted pile weaving was made is not important to this discussion whereas the fact it was found at Loulan, along with the textile above it and some others we reference, is.

It might be circumstantial to imply the Loulan pile fragment adds another layer of relationship between illustration 32 and the Turkmen synak icon but it is interesting. And even without it in the equation there is no doubt illustration 32 shows rows of synak, albeit in a somewhat convoluted and negative figure ground – i.e. beige synak on red ground.

What is not circumstantial is the historical framework the following two examples, made in traditional knotted-pile add to the history of the synak.

The importance of the Loulan fragment is its great age and the fact it was made with knotted-pile, the conventional technique Turkmen and other oriental carpets use. This is very significant as most Egyptian pile weavings were done in loop-pile, a similar but actually very different technique. This implies the Loulan fragment could have been made by non-Egyptian weavers. Answering these questions, who made it and where was it made, are very interesting ones that successfully answered will shed new light on the history of knotted-pile.

The iconography of the following very early knotted-pile rugs adds considerable weight to the history of the synak, as they pre-date any known Turkmen and in our opinion any classical Persian or Ottoman carpet by several century if not more.

The first, one we have physically examined several times, is one we believe to be older than any other extant and complete knotted-pile rug, except the Pazaryk.

illustration 34

This is a unique Turkish Village rug that in our opinion pre-dates any court weaving by enough of a margin to demonstrate the fallacy designs went from court weavers to villagers. Once more there is a subtly convoluted negative figure/ground relationship with the synak. Having the synak, or any other icon, hidden, as the ground design, in a figure/ground where another figure is at the forefront doesn’t imply a lack of importance. Rather, it could be said doing so implies its importance, as the need to keep certain sacred symbols hidden is one that has occurred at certain times in many junctures throughout history. This seems to be the case here with this weaving.

The fact synak and only synak, albeit hidden ones, are the only iconic element on this carpet is another significant point not to be overlooked. There is no other early carpet like this one, or any other with just one design element, and this, too, is another point emphasizing the prestige of the synak and the carpet’s exceptional age.


illustration 35

The second rug is also remarkable, but in this writer’s opinion not nearly as ancient. We have also had several opportunities to carefully examine it in person and base our opinion on its physical as well as its iconographic components.

This weaving, now referred to in oriental rug circles as the faces rug, has a very large and iconic synak in the center and smaller less prominent ones deliberately placed on the six blue vertical columns, on one of which a face is anchored.

illustration 36

Unlike the other rug’s solemn use of synak, this one has a huge proliferation of other icons and design elements. The fact the synak is now only one in this amalgamation does not demean its importance, as it occupies the central position and is the sole ornamentation on the prominent columns which support the faces. It is probable the two fragments were originally positioned as they are here and interpretation of the place the synak maintains in this unique design environment can be assured.

It also is apparent the synak was the most important element in this panorama.


illustration 37

Who made the faces rug, or the other pictured above, is an interesting question we can not answer presently but we can be pretty sure both were made in ancient Anatolia although in different weaving and cultural environments. The faces was probably made in the environs of the Caspian Sea (Armenia) and displays iconography from the Islamic period, the other made in western Turkey with pre-Islamic iconography and format.

Assigning locations to these rugs is conjecture, so too is the idea the synak, like many other Turkmen icon and amulet, is pre-Islamic. But the relationship these two early pile woven rugs share isn’t, neither is the fact they establish concrete historical context for the synak and further document the common roots Turkmen knotted-pile woven rugs share with earlier pan-near eastern weaving traditions.

We cannot stress this point enough, nor can we be more emphatic in suggesting it is high time the old, worn-out and fallacious idea Turkmen and other so-called village and clan rugs are the blind successor to court and palace design traditions be put to rest.

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