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illustration 45
Another icon frequently encountered on Turkmen pile weavings is an S that appears straight up or turned 90 degrees sideways. This icon appears on main carpet and smaller pieces, but invariably only as a minor border stripe. Used by almost every group, on both archaic as well as later period weaving, the earlier examples are almost always much better articulated and far more carefully defined.

There are several distinct styles but they all are similar enough to be considered as a group rather than as separate types. The two main ones are illustrated below. They come from archaic and classic period weaving with no later versions included.

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illustration 46a
illustration 46b

Shown below is a linen and silk textile from Egypt with an inscription dating it to the reign of Caliph al-Zahir, circa 1031. Early textiles bearing inscriptions in bands or stripes, like this one, are called tiraz, after the Persian word for weaving بافندگی. Tiraz usually repeat the name of the ruler and his title along with good wishes or other short quotations. They were woven in narrow bands meant for incorporation into garments worn by the ruler or given by him as presents to those he wished to honor. The word tiraz also refers to the ateliers or workshops mostly sponsored by royal patronage where such textiles and garments were produced.

The inscriptions included in these woven bands are quite important for early textile studies because they provide the one of the few sources of positively datable material.

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illustration 47

This tiraz example has an S icon that is unmistakable, the fact it is used alone within a square as an integral part of the tiraz implies it was more than just a decorative touch and carried, like the inscription itself, meaning. This is why it is referred to as an icon, whether it is in tiraz or in a Turkmen weaving.

There is little doubt the designs on early Turkmen weaving carried emblematic, amuletic, iconographic and talismanic properties and connotation. For this reason even a seemingly insignificant element like the S minor border stripe cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Another facet is the longevity an icon like the S maintained, as its usage was not initiated in tiraz but much earlier.

In the book Tent Band Tent Bag, Classic Turkmen Weaving the S icon’s appearance in prehistoric Namazga ceramics was detailed. During the Bronze Age(circa 2,500BC) a number of early female burial statuettes with elaborate hairstyle coiffures incorporating this icon have been discovered at several well-known sites in Turkmenistan.

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illustration 48a
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illustration 48b

The Bronze Age Namazga horizon is a collection of sites divided into periods VI-I that run from circa 4,800B.C. to 1,500B.C. The horizon gets its name from the archaeological site of Namazga Tepe, discovered in 1950 and located in the vicinity where presently the city of Ashkabad, Turkmenistan lies.

However there were many other sites scattered throughout a larger surrounding region, known as the Kopet Dagh piedmont, that lies very close to the northern border with Persia(Iran). During the Namazga period this area was an important center of advancing proto-urban/village settlement and numerous archaeological excavations in this area have established the chronology for the development of the Bronze Age in Turkmenistan.

The Namazga horizon details other important iconographic relationships besides the S icon, for Turkmen knotted-pile weaving and some will be discussed later. In common with the S icon, these also demonstrate historic connection to textiles in our target group and present more concrete examples of the historical design roots Turkmen weavings and early textiles share.

Another Egyptian textile that dates somewhat later, circa 1300AD, has three different versions of the S icon.
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illustration 49a
illustration 49b

 

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