The History of Rugs: What We Know
When a person is luxuriating his or her feet by walking barefoot across a well-made rug, seldom does he or she stop to consider how the idea of having carpets in a home came to be. We suppose that some individuals have imagined that the hide of a prehistoric animal, in essence, a ready-made matting, was laid on the floor of a cave near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and tributaries, and rugs became de rigor for humans across our known history.
The First Fabricated Weavings
This idea is probably accurate, but before long, early men and women discovered a way to have carpets and wall hangings whenever they needed comfortable sleeping pallets and protection from the wind, weather, and dust that often seeped into their portable living environments. This significant discovery was weaving, and scientists have discovered that vertical looms were being used as far back as 7000 B.C. (the Neolithic Age). Slowly, but surely, the weavings began to include unique motifs that related to the families and tribes in which they were woven. The addition of colored threads and other specific decoration were meant to make the “rugs” more beautiful. The weavings, over time, became items of necessity along with adding ornamentation to special ceremonies and the home itself.
The Oldest Carpet
Over time, carpets, rugs, and weavings became a staple in homes. In the 1920s, a rug was found in the land surrounding the Ukok Plateau in Siberia. Below, in the Pazyryk Valley, anthropologists discovered ancient Scythian burial mounds used over 2000 years before being located. The findings at this site were numerous, scientifically exciting, and included what is now known as the Pazyryk Carpet. The items buried there included mummies, a full-sized chariot, and other rare and priceless artifacts. Experts expect that the carpet is the oldest in existence and have housed it in Russia’s St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum. The rug was remarkably well-preserved since it, and all the other mummies and items in the mound had been preserved in ice since the 5th century B.C.
The carpet itself is exquisite. One border is constituted of pictures of men and workhorses (see above image); the next border contains illustrations of fallow deer, and the last edge is composed of griffins. In the center are woven twenty-four cross-shaped figures and four stylized lotus blossoms. This floor- or wall-covering illustrates clearly the evolution of carpets from solely weather protectors and comfortable accessories to singular works of art.
The archeological findings of teams around the world have revealed that knotted carpets have been manufactured in many different locations over the centuries making it difficult to hone in on the one particular “birthplace” of carpet-making. Carpet fragments, retrieved in areas such as the Middle East, dated to the second or third century B.C. Some scientists argue that this is the cradle of rug-making. From this location, weaving and knotting of carpets radiated out to Turkestan, Persia, Caucasus, China, Anatolia, and India. Some call these combined locations the Oriental Carpet Belt. The Venetian trader and traveler, Marco Polo, in the 13th century, traveled the “Great Silk Road” and wrote of his great admiration of the carpets he viewed in these regions of the world.
Each of the following countries, known for their extraordinary carpets, approaches the manufacturing and design of its products a bit differently:
- China: The mattings made in China vary from geometric designs to florals. Interestingly, carpet knotting did not take hold in this country until the 18th century due to the lack of wool as a material and the perfectionism of Chinese artists.
- Egypt: Laymen may not know that Egypt is renowned among carpet-sellers and -makers as a country revered for the quality of its carpets. Their floor coverings are tied with asymmetrical or Ghiordes knots.
- Turkey: Anatolian, or Turkish, carpets contain motifs lifted from the Islamic culture. Turkish floor-coverings are tied with the Turkish knot which is the symmetrical, double knot.
We hope that by expanding our customers’ knowledge in the area of quality rugs and carpeting, we can ensure the choices and investments they make in fine handmade rugs become a little smoother.