plate 1

This textile's three S icons, two are in the small horizontal borders at the bottom -- one in the middle and the other in the two flanking it -- and the third in the dark background 45 degree angled stripes above them, are all very similar to the most common Turkmen S icon, illustration 45.

Another iconic Turkmen minor border element is the so-called running dog.
illustration_50a illustration_50b
illustration 50a
illustration 50b

Along with the silk textiles recovered at Loulan, Stein also discovered another knotted pile fragment.

illustration 51

This running dog border is remarkably similar to the ones above and the fact both utilize knotted-pile furthers their iconographic relationship. The fragment, and several unpublished others from Loulan, has been C14 dated to 800-200 B.C. However, their actual age is being questioned, and presently scholars disagree but regardless of their exact age they are extremely old examples of knotted-pile and this iconographic connection to Turkmen weaving adds evidence to this presentation.

Another icon found on many types of archaic, and later period, Turkmen weaving is the so-called curled leaf.

illustration 52

This icon is actually an animal with a head-crest and a large tail and it is similar, but more abstract, than the tauk nauska animals in illustration 21. Frankly, we doubt it is a curled-leaf but rather an archaic ancestor of the tauk nauska. A detail from an early animal rug adds support and perspective to this identification.

illustration 53

This rug, in our opinion, was made by Kurdish people in north-eastern Turkey and dates from the late 15th century. We do not agree with other carpet experts who date it at least a century earlier and believe it was made in central Turkey by unidentified Turkish village weavers. For our purposes its actual age is not very important, as all will agree it is undoubtedly pre-17th century by a wide margin. The inclusion of two large curled leaf, one as the animals tail and another above each of the animal, is the salient aspect.

Along with the faces rug we illustrated earlier, this animal rug and two others, one now in a private Italian collection and the other in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, have a very interesting acquisition history that implies all four were found under the same circumstance.

The so-called animal rug now in the Metropolitan Museum is, in our estimation, not a Turkish village rug that dates from the 14th century, or the 13th as their former curator has written.

illustration 54

Rather we believe it is an Afshar rug made in north-east Iran at least a century later than the Kurdish animal rug. We handled and studied both rugs prior to their sale and since then have seen them again several times and are convinced of our opinion.

Iconographically these two animal rugs are closely related. Both have very similar animals with curled-leaf tails, although the second curled leaf, placed above the animal in the Kurdish rug, is omitted in the Met’s example. This, and a number of other iconographic features -- like the raised fourth leg in the outer or ‘shadow’ animal surrounding each of the smaller ones; the S icons on each of the animal’s legs; the double kotchak icon on the backs of the larger ‘shadow’ animal; and the rather rote repetition of the sterile multi-hooked, gol-like medallion in the main border -- signify a later rendition of a more archaic form. By the way, the animal rug in the private Italian collection is the earliest of the bunch and the best of the three but unfortunately it is unpublished and therefore we cannot publish it a picture in respect of the owner’s right to have it remain outside the public arena.

The Met’s rug is included for one important reason – the two larger S minor borders and their close relationship to a rarely seen archaic Turkmen version.

illustration 55

The mythical animal in these so-called animal rugs, the curled leaf and the S icons appear to be part of a repeated iconographic trilogy. It also appears the tauk nauska gol is closely related to them, an idea further by the frequent appearance of the S and curled-leaf icons on many archaic period tauk nauska main carpets. The reality these three element remained together as components in the Turkmen iconographic pantheon again demonstrates the longevity and strong historic connection certain iconic elements have maintained.


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