8 feet 2 inche x 6 feet
249 cm. x 182 cm.
This kelim and the two which follow successfully demonstrate the high level
of artistry present in the Caucasian slit-tapestry weaving tradition. The use
of large bold designs and strong primary coloration are indicative of weavings
made in the Kazak area and for those reasons it is most likely that this example
should be provenanced to that general area.
The five rows of large hooked designs enclosed in hexagonal medallions or compartments
also appear in the following two kelims as well as in the soumak bag illustrated
as plate ten where the medallions are octagonal in shape. In 1990, this author
speculated that this specific and common design was derived from the palmette-style
medallions which appear on a group of pile woven carpets, known as dragon rugs.(1)
However, I would like to now propose a new theory to explain this designs possible
Beginning at the end of the second millennium BC, important centers of Bronze
Age culture appeared in the Caucasus and the neighboring areas of north-western
Iran, located directly south. The metal objects produced in these areas became,
along with cattle, the important items of trade and barter. Archaeological research
has identified a number of individual cultures which flourished in this area
during this time period, circa 2000BC-700BC. The mountainous areas they controlled
and used for pasture also provided them with rich deposits of metal ore-bearing
Some of these people became traders while others
began to develop metal-working skills and production. The design iconographies
they developed were primarily representations of animals, like cattle and goats
(fig.1) . These groups were in contact with other metal working groups,
like the Sythians to the north and the peoples of Luristan to the south. The
far more complex iconography found on these later bronze objects may well provide
the source for some of the icons and symbols which became imbedded within the
weaving cultures responsible for soumak bags and kelims weavings.
One such possibility may link the hook design medallions mentioned above with
a theme that is very prevalent in the bronzes of Luristan - The goddess as the
mistress of animals. However, this symbol did not originate here. The idea of
a omnipotent female deity was already well developed by the seventh millennium
BC, according to the archaeological remains found in central Turkey, also known
as ancient Anatolia.
Two extremely important archaeological sites, Catal Huyuk and Hacilar, have
yielded numerous representations of female statues and one in particular provides
the earliest known reference to this fig.2. Here
the icon of a seated female flanked by two subservant
felines provides the model for the female figures with attendant animals which
frequently appear in the bronzes of Luristan.
A specific group of these bronzes, depicting now standing female figures (fig.3)
and animals (fig.4), enclosed in semi or full circular frames, were made
as finials or large pinheads. When these
are compared to the the weaving's hook-design medallions their relationship
should become apparent. Granted the lack of detailed articulation has rendered
these woven representations mute of iconographic content - the millennia separating
the bronzes from the kelim and soumaks surely were responsible for this lack
of detail. The technical restrictions of the casting process demanded the connecting
of each design element and the hooks in the weaving medallions are the vestigial
remains of those connections.
The one last point that may shed additional light on this comparison is the
presence of the staff-like symbol which has been placed within the center
of each of the hexagonal medallions in plate 10. This symbol seems very similar
to another specific group of bronze finials (fig.5)
that have far less complex designs. In any case, the association of the goddess
with a staff or sceptre is a well known metaphor and it is likely that the weaver
of the soumak bag was privy to this fact.
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