The History of the Oriental Carpet (Page 2)


oriental carpet


Due to fabric oxidization, decay, and ultimate vaporization, it is impossible to know when the first Oriental Carpet was woven and the craft began. Ancient writings contain many references to fabric and carpet weavings. The ancient historian Pliny spoke of the skill of the Assyrian weavers. Of the numerous references scattered throughout ancient writing, which speak of woven fabrics and carpets, some date back to the first and oldest civilization of Mesopotamia, the Sumerian Empire.


More recently, thanks to glacial ice in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, we possess the oldest Oriental Carpet in existence. Discovered in 1949 and known as the Pazyryk, the carpet dates to circa 500-750 BC. Glacial ice froze and preserved the carpet, leaving us an incredible example of Oriental Carpets from antiquity. The sophistication, design, knot structure, dye, and patterns lead world experts to conclude that its quality would require at least 1000 to 1500 years of weaving tradition to create such a carpet. Experts estimate the Pazyryk to be of Achaemenid origin. It now resides at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Following the thread of the Oriental Carpet’s timeline, one will have to travel nearly 3500 years to the 16th century to witness the zenith of its growth and development. This occurred in Persia (Iran) during the Safavid dynasty. This era became the foundation of the Oriental Carpet industry as it is known today. During this time, places such as Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, and others became the cornerstone of its dynamic evolution. The great influence of this Persian Era upon the development of the Oriental Carpet craft is incalculable. So far-reaching was the influence that today in the minds of many there is no difference between an Oriental and a Persian Carpet.


oriental carpet camel trainFrom the 16th century onward, the art Camel Caravan form spread with significant developments throughout Turkey, Pakistan, India, Western China, and all of Central Asia. Today from the western regions of the Orient (Turkey) to the eastern regions in China (Urumchi), the influence of the Oriental Carpet is as significant as ever.


The Victorian Era with all its lavish excesses was the perfect environment for the expansion of the Oriental Carpet in the West. This period became, as it were, the warp through which the Oriental Carpet intricately wove itself into the fabric of western furnishings. Historical homes from the Gilded Age such as Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA), Biltmore Estates (Asheville, NC), and many more are testaments to the significant role the Oriental Carpet played in Victorian Era furnishings. From this period forward, the Oriental Carpet established itself as an irreplaceable part of western decor.





Oriental Carpet values depend on several factors: pattern and design, fiber (wool, silk, cotton, or a combination of these), dyes, age, and knot type and count (how many knots per square centimeter--the amount and type of knot determines the intricacy, strength, and integrity). A carpet’s value is measured per square meter. I have had the privilege of holding a rare Turkish Hereke Silk Carpet with a top (or face) woven on both sides--it has no back (ie, no underside). This carpet contained over 500 knots per square centimeter (less than 1/2 square inch, per side, all hand tied). The carpet was approximately 2 feet x 3 feet with a sale price of $150,000. Strictly a piece of art, the carpet’s owner, an acquaintance of mine, kept it in a vault-like safe, showing it and other such carpets only to the serious Hereke Silk connoisseur.


In an article such as this it is impossible to adequately touch on every aspect of a subject so deep and rich. Yet it is exciting to recognize that the Oriental Carpet provides a timeless thread that weaves all the way back to ancient times. The Oriental Carpet alone provides us a connecting link between ancient empires, Persian Art, the Plymouth Mayflower, the Victorian Era, and perhaps even your own home.



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