Introducing names and functions of various Turkmen
weaving and knotting products.
In a society and economy that relied on limited
supplies and means of survival the Turkmen wasted not one scrap. Everything
they produced must have been practical and of good use – extravagance, given
our understanding of the word, was nonexistent. Therefore, all their weavings
were functional because everything not needed in daily life was considered to
be a luxury.
Turkmen society was certainly aware of the processing
of wool into rugs and rug products. Such objects were kept as a sort of capital
investment to be sold in difficult times (the Turkmen experienced rather
frequently) and often they facilitated a restart after a bankrupt existence.
This economic exchange depended on the quick selling of
the rugs, and so every member of the tribe knotted and wove as soon as
materials were available.
At times these tribes would also trade for and buy and
sell such objects.
The various Turkmen weavings were named after their
In 1970 there was an important exhibition of Turkman
Carpets and the ethnographical
significance of their ornaments in the Ethnographic Museum of Hamburg.
I was one of the organizers and we followed several
First of all we tried to show Turkmen products from the
view of their creators, the weavers rather than from the perspective of
collectors, scholars and esthetics from the west whose opinions were already
very well known.
Second, we tried to show the function and names of
different products for the first time and correct some incorrect names like
osmolduk that was used for over one hundred years, instead of the correct term,
Our third aim was to identify the work of different
tribes through structural analyses of their technical features.
Here is a list of the different Turkmen objects
This is the main rug of the Turkmen and the largest they produced. The main rug
The average size of these rugs is four to six square meters (250cm-300cm by
150cm-200cm). The different sizes of the dome tents (Oy), which could have
diameters of anywhere between 3.5 and 5.5 meters, was the major reason for the
variances we find in these pieces.
On special occasions, the main rug was laid out to cover half the floor,
specifically the area opposite to the entrance where the head of the household
would sit. Hence, the maximum length of the carpet was always less than the
diameter of the whole tent and it would also be less than half as wide as the
Both structural and decorative tentbands are known as
yolami, bou and yup. The pattern is applied in knots (one knot on three or four
warps) on a white ground (ak yup). These bands were used as decoration on the
inside of the yurt or Oy, where they encircled the tent and covered the places
where the vertical lower section crossed or joined the roof poles.
Kapunuk or Kaplyk
This is a decoration for the tent opening. Pirkulyeva mentioned some Ersari
attached their Kaplyk from the outside. These weavings were mostly made by
Ersari, however, their real use was to decorate the entrance from the inside.
We have identified ones made by the Tekke, the Saryk, the Salor, the Choudor,
and the pseudo-Choudor. Presently we still do any Goeklan, no Eagle Gol II, no
Yomut or no Igdir tentbands. We know of only one Arabachi example. Before 1970
all Kaplyks were generally attributed to the Yomut because of their white
ground panels and curved leaves.
Tainakcha, Konakcha or At-Joli
These are horse blankets carried as decoration at festivals and at tournaments.
To posses a good horse was extremely important in the life of a Turkmen. The
love of a Turkmen for his horse was immensely high and sometimes the ranking of
an excellent horse was higher than the family. Those made by the Yomut are the
Cherlyk or Eyerlyk
These are saddle covers. They were widely used and were fastened to the saddle
This is an ornamental article used in the wedding procession. Moshkova
describes it as the breast-decoration of the wedding camel. They are extremely
rare as far as they have presently been examined (two examples from the
Rickmers´s collection are in the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin), they seem to
have been made by one single tribe, most probably the Tekke. This author’s own
investigations among the Turkmen in Iran indicates the Yomut knew little about
An old member of the Tekke in Mashhad stated they were used by the Tekke a long
time ago. This old man said that the Khalyk was hung on the outside entrance or
front end of the bridal litter (kejebe or Persian kajaweh), which held the
Mafrash or Kap
This is a bag narrower than the torba(see number15 below) and appear to be used
only by Turkmen women. One type is Ania kap, a bag used specifically to hold a
Dis Torba or duz torba
This is a small bag used to store salt, which is very important in the life of
nomads. In a number of shapes such bags were also made for other specific
purposes, for example holding sugar, tea, flour, rye and so on.
This is a bag most probably used only by the Turkmen women. It has a
characteristic construction: four triangles are knotted to the sides of a
rectangular flat woven kelim; when these are folded they form the front of the
bokhche. It has been suggested bokhches were made to keep the Koran or holy
bread but still we don’t know exactly why they were made or what their function
actually was. They were mostly woven by the Yomut.
Tutash, Tudaj or Ghazan Tutash
This is the term used for a pan holder, an example how ubiquitous the knotted
product was in the life of the Turkmen. These are always made in pairs.
Cherlyk or Eyerlyk exist also in other forms(see 4 above); various types and
shapes of saddle covers were made.
Darak bash or Dokme darak are covers of the wool comb which stands point up.
The cover protected the comb against damage and at the same time provided yet
another colourful object in the tent.
The Diah dizlyk is another woven decorative item for the wedding camel; these are pentagonal
with small tassels and were made in pairs to decorate the front of the camel´s
Ok bash or Ukuchi
This is another wedding decoration for the camel; in 1970 we thought only Yomut
made them but since then Tekke ones are now known. It is interesting to note
the Yomut, above others, used many different woven decorative objects in the wedding
procession. The fifty to seventy roof rods called uk, of the tribal dome tent
were bound together into two bundles and loaded on each side of a camel. The ok
bash were then fitted on to the ends of the bundles and always made in pairs.
We must correct C.D. Reed(who wrote in "Turkoman Rugs"; Fogg Art Museum,
Harvard University Cambridge, Mass., 1966, page 37, fig 23) and introduced them
as water bottle covers which is incorrect. They have nothing to do with water
This is a large storage bag that was hung on the framework at the side of the
tent. They are the largest of the storage bags and were made by most of the
Turkmen groups. Normally they were made in pairs, and were used as portable
containers for clothes and other personal items.
These were also storage bags which, as a rule have, the same width as chuval
but are less deep. They were used in the same way as chuval and were made by
almost all Turkmen tribes.
This is another decoration for the wedding camel. But it was pentagonal in
shape(rarely heptagonal) and woven similar to chuval and torba. The asmalyk
were used to decorate the right and left flanks of the brides’s camel. They
were always made in pairs, sometimes in quite small sizes. Maybe these small
ones were for decorating young camels, which nearly always followed and
completed the wedding caravan as a symbol of fertility for the newlyweds. I
have never seen an asmalyk with a kelim woven back and don’t know if after the
wedding they were ever used like chuval.
For nearly a century they were called Osmoduk and in 1970 our exhibition in
Hamburg corrected the name to asmalyk because we noted the meaning of asma,
which means hanging, and the suffix lyk, which means belonging to the hanging.
This suffix is also used for Khalyk, Kaplyk, Dislyk etc.
The Chemche-Torba and the At-Torba are small and narrow bags, used repectively
for keeping articles such as wooden spoons (chemche) and for the feeding bags
of the horse(at).
The Khorjin, or saddlebag, is a pair of identical bags woven for transportation
of personal items on a horse. mule, donkey or a camel. They were made in all
sizes but always in the same shape. The discussion if Khorjins are a late
appearance, or were made in earlier times, is extremely difficult to answer
partially because we know only a few examples of some age made by the Tekke and
the Yomut. However, very few of the Tekke khorjin could be so described.
Salatchak is a cradle or child’s rug. The opinion these small pieces were used
as prayer rugs is erroneous. Rather it seems they were made by the Yomut, the
Göklans (after 1740), the Tekke, the Ersari, and perhaps some others, not as
The Namazlyk and Ayatlyk were designated as prayer and funeral rugs by Moshkova
and other authors. It is probable one form could have fulfilled both these
functions. The funeral rug was not buried with the dead but only was used in
bearing the corpse to the grave.
Ensi or Engsi
These are rugs hung at entrance of the tent. They were fitted from the outside
and took the place of a door. The cross shaped design of these rugs has been
responsible for the name Kachli, which is a trade name and not Turkmen. It is
uncertain to what extent they were used as prayer rugs. I was told in Persia
among the Turkmen tents were built and situated in such a way the entrance
pointed in the direction to Mekka and everybody in the tent, who wanted to
pray, had just look to the entrance.
To my knowledge the prayer niche (Mihrab) found in several versions of ensi had
nothing to do with a prayer niche because, for the Turkmen, it was an amulet or
protective device and not a part of prayer.
Dip Khali is, according to Moshkova, a small rug placed at the threshold of the
doorway of the tent. This description would fit the small Tekke rugs which bear
the Tekke gol. One can say it is a miniature Khali.
An Odjak baschi is a U-shaped rug. It was laid out in the centre of the tent,
where the recessed area fit around the charcoal stove, odjak, that was found in
every Turkmen tent. As far as I am aware there exist nearly only Yomut
examples. In the last 44 years I cannot remember having seen any from other
At-Cheki is a knotted girth to fix the horse saddle. These items are the rarest
of all other objects. I know few pieces, which were made by the Yomut and the
This is a small, torba-sized weaving made for the bottom of the tent entrance
and hung from the inside. Their designs are mostly chosen or constructed like
the end panels, or elem, found on all Ensi.
There are of course more shapes and products, which are
made by the Turkmen. Especially mentionable are the square pieces, which
measure nearly 100 x 100 cm., that were made for the wedding ceremony. For a
long time they were thought to be audience rugs but now this idea has been