Posted by Wendel Swan on 04-26-2006 03:46 PM:

The Anatolian-Scandinavian connection

Dear all,

Bob Mann and Paul Ramsey both identified this rug (correctly) as coming from the Ushak area, with its large knots and distinctive color palette. The others all agreed.

The inscription (if it is really writing) was unknown. Everyone agreed it was highly unusual to see human and animal figures on a rug from that area.

The Ushak rug had a central medallion somewhat similar to the three found in the next showing:

The medallions in this predominantly green Swedish cushion cover are Lottoesque. Its Scandinavian origin didn’t fool any of the panelists, but I chose it because this type had fooled someone in the past. This one and the other shown below are both done in a type of petit point. At least I think that is what the structure is called.

Many years ago at The Textile Museum, a prominent author and dealer in South Persian rugs identified a complete flat-woven khorjin (with interlocking wefts) as coming from a specific Qashqai tribe, to the astonishment of the collector who brought it in. It was also Swedish. Few people know of the connection between the Silk Route and Sweden.

At ACOR 7, in his hands on session, Lawrence Kearny showed this Swedish cushion cover, with graphics that are bolder. I inquired about buying it (mainly because of my own Swedish heritage) but it wasn’t for sale.

The cushion cover in the Mystery Rug session was for sale and I took it home.


Posted by R. John Howe on 04-26-2006 05:55 PM:

Hi Wendel -

Coming home I bought two books on Scandinavian textiles. One of them, "The Woven Coverlets of Norway" by Katherine Larson, was issued to accompany an exhibit that traveled in the U.S. and Canada in 2001.

Her treatment indicates that such textiles were produced not just in southern Sweden, but also in southern Norway.

"Rutevev" is Norwegian for the Swedish "rolakan. And "billedev" is Norwegian for the Swedish "flamskvav" all of these terms, as you know referring to weaves.

Larson's book offers nice historical treatment of the Norwegian weavings of this sort and nice color images of the items in the exhibition. She doesn't refer to any formats other than the "coverlets," but it seems unlikely that a range similar to that produced in Sweden was not also produced in Norway.

I mention this book because the literature seems often to move from "rolakan" to a "Swedish" attribution and perhaps there are good bases for this move, but apparently a distinction from similar Norwegian weavings needs to be made.

Thanks for the superior images of all of these mystery pieces. Either my camera or its operator did not function particularly well. Are they Fred Mushkat's?


R. John Howe

Posted by Lars_Jurell on 04-27-2006 12:38 PM:

Hello all
Here is a link to another Swedish cushion cover

and you can also look at number 16 in our Gallery on the site.

If you want some more information from Sweden about our textiles, just let us know. But maybe it will take a week before we can reply.


Lars Jurell
Akrep Oriental Rug Society, Gothenburg, Sweden

Posted by R. John Howe on 04-29-2006 08:35 AM:

Mr. Jurell -

As I said somewhere else here, earlier this week I bought a book on Norwegian coverlets. It seemed to suggest that most of the weaves (possibly most of the formats) of these flatweaves were woven in southern Norway as well as southern Sweden.

What's you understanding of the situation in this regard? Do folks in you area distinguish such Swedish textiles from those made in Norway and if so what are the bases for doing so? I notice that some attributions are quite precise (e.g. Skane).

Thanks for anything further you can say here.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sonny_Berntsson on 05-19-2006 11:24 AM:

Lars Jurell asked me for comments about Swedish textiles and here is a Swedish "agedyna" ( cusion ) from Skane, Sweden.
Probably from the area between Ystad and Malmo.
Age: Around 1800.

You can clearly see the similarity to kilims from Central Anatolia and Cappadocia.

Here is also a Norwegian pillow for a chair, age 16th century.

It is very difficult to distinguish this types of textiles from Sweden and Norway. Like to distinguish textiles from West and Central Anatolia.
How many experts can distinguish the two textiles above from 18th century Central Anatolian textiles?
In my opinion Norwegian textiles show the oldest pattern and some of them are probably from 9th - 14th centuries.
In Skane ( Sweden ) they started later with the weavings we call
"Skane-weavings". They used many different technics and pattern and some of them are similar to them from the Byzantin period.
As usual one have to see a lot of them before having a theory.
We had an exhibition in Ystad some years ago to show similarity between Sweden and Anatolia.

Sonny Berntsson
Akrep Oriental Rug Society in Gothenburg, Sweden

Posted by Wendel Swan on 05-19-2006 12:40 PM:

Hello Sonny,

Thank you for posting the two images, both of which are quite interesting.

In the first one, the section with the 8-pointed star seems to have been done in interlocking tapestry, but the ends look like zili (over 3, under 1) brocading that we see primarily in Anatolian weavings and some from NWP. I have not noticed it in Scandinavian textiles.

The second image looks just like an Anatolian kilim. I am very curious about the 16th Century date. Do you know how such an early attribution was determined? It's not that I'm questioning that it could be that old, but I have to ask the basis for such a date.

If you are aware of other structures comparable to those in Anatolia, please post more images. I think the topic is fascinating.

Best regards,


Posted by R. John Howe on 05-20-2006 07:47 AM:

Wendel -

You may want to borrow these two books I recently picked up. The one, on Norwegian textiles, I have described above. The second one is "Flatweaves from Fjord and Forest" with a text by Peter Willborg and edited by Black and Loveless.

From these sources it seems that "rolakan" is a term used to refer to a variety of "tapestry" weaves that include the "slit weave" variety. Oddly, Willborg, Black and Loveless give drawings of these different varieties of tapestry and seem to say that although the Swedish weavers of rolakan use "slit weave" tapestry, they use it only in diagonal applications in which the slits are only one weft high. The Swedes seem not to see this as "slit weave" tapestry (the "slits" are in fact hard to find) and call it "diagonal" tapestry.

These two books also suggest reasons for the "corded" appearance you have noticed that can be seen as likely "zili."
Tapestry weaving can be done by varying the number of warps (or wefts) interlaced in any one shoot of weaving. And, of course, the size of the warps and wefts can be varied. One result of this is there are both warp-faced and weft-faced tapestry weaves some of which have a corded looking surface that can be corded either horizontally or vertically. But I see no indication that they actually weave zili per se (one could argue that one possible variation in the number of warps interlaced would produce a fabric identical to zili and that may occur). But "corded" effects seem visible to me in a number of these pieces.

A third thing to which these books allude but do not really explain fully, is that there are apparently some weaves that are the result of the insertion of extra wefts. And some that exhibit cross-stitch on a tapestry surface.

The colors of some pieces in these two books is spectacular and some of the palettes encourage me about the rolakan I own (which regardless may still have been woven in Minnesota )

Anyway, you are welcome to borrow these two books and to pursue them at your leisure.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-20-2006 04:17 PM:

Dear folks –

I thought it might be useful to give everyone a few samples of the rollakans presented in the two books I have mentioned above.

First, are the Swedish pieces from the Willborg, Black and Loveless volume.

The piece above is Plate 2 in this volume. The warp is linen and the weft is wool It is considered a rare design. It is estimated to have been woven in 1800 or earlier.

The weaving above is in the fashion of the Skytts and Oxie districts in south-western Skane. Its larger size (107 X 56 cm) is an indicator used in this attribution. Estimated to have been woven in the 18th century.

The attribution on the piece above is very precise. It was purchased in the village of Veherod, the district of Tama, part of Skane. The design is found throughout Skane. Around 1800.

One commentator says that extreme stylization of the human figures in the rollakan above occurs only in pieces from Jarrestads district in south-eastern Skane. It's owner claims it came from the Oxie district. Early 19th century.

(By the way, that last two pieces have interesting backs which I have not shown here.)

The author/editors say that this is one the most important pieces they have found. Only one other instance of this design has been published. Both dated 1771. A vivid green on the front has faded to an indigo blue. Skytts district, south-west Skane.

The three pieces below come from Katherine Larson's book on woven Norwegian coverlets. They are all larger pieces, although Larson does not give measurements.

The coverlet below is done in a tapestry (Swedish: rollakan) weave that is called "rutevev" or square-weave in Norway. The piece is attributed to Vest-Agder, the southernmost district in Norway, on the basis of its design of rings composed of concentric diamonds. Its darker colors are characteristic of coverlets of southern Norway more generally.

The coverlet below is attributed to the Sogn and Fjordane district on the west coast of southern Norway. No date is given but the pieces in the Larson book seem more recent and some have 19th century dates. This is a piece that can be read differently depending on whether one's eyes go more quickly to the knot, diamond or eight-petaled star motifs that it contains.

The piece below, described as in the "nine-cross" pattern is attributed to Gudbrandsdal, a norther sub-part of the Oppland district in interior southern Norway.

Willborg and company agree with Sonny Berntsson's indication above that it is difficult to distinguish Swedish varieties of rollakan from those woven in Norway but say that they do have somewhat distinctive features.

I wonder if it could be (at least for coverlets) that at least some of such differences might not be the result of the fact that rollakan in Norway was originally woven on upright warp-weighted looms that could accommodate the greater widths of items like coverlets.

When horizontal looms appeared in Norway, the items woven on them had to be narrower because of their structure. One feature of most (not all) warp-weighted weaving was that the weaving started at the top and the wefts were beaten upward. Might it be possible that retention of warp-weighted looms in Norway (there seems evidence of such retention) may have produced somewhat distinctive weaves over those (especially small items like cushion covers) that were made on horizontal looms?

Just a speculation. I think Sonny's suspicion is that the sources are much deeper and in truth there are suggestions in these descriptions of complex weave variations not really explained in these two volumes.


R. John Howe

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 05-21-2006 12:57 PM:

Turko Scandinavian Connection

Hi Folks

Jahannes Khalter, in his Arts and Crafts of Turkestan, notes that

As documented by tens of thousands of Samanid coins found in Scandanavia, but also a few scattered ones in Central Europe, Samanid trade, passing via the Volga basin, reached nearly the whole of europe. The list of export goods made up by the Arab geographer Mukadasi in the 10th century (Brentjes 1976), is long and impressive. His (incomplete) list comprises: rugs and prayer rugs from Bukhara and Samarkand, fine cloths and weavings made from wool, cotton, and silk, soap, makeup, consecration oil, bows that could only be bent by the strongest men, swords, armour, stirrups,fittings, saddles,quivers, tents, rasins, sesame, nuts, honey, sheep, cattle, horses and hawks, iron, sulfer, copper.

Sorry, haven't access to the book at present, so no page #.


Posted by Sonny_Berntsson on 05-28-2006 09:53 AM:

Hello Mr Hunt
The connections between Scandinavia and The Orient, incl. east Mediterraenan Sea, were very active between 800 – 1050 . There were both robery and trading and the Northmen ( the Vikings ) took their ships through the rivers Volga and Dnjepr for to reach Caspian Sea and Black Sea.
The road through Volga was in control by the Khazars who were leading the trading between the Islamic countries and East Rome. The area south from the Khazars “custom-border” was called Serkland by the Vikings. Serkland means “Silk-land” and the Vikings valued silk the same way as gold.
Clothes of silk had a very high value and to wear them were important. Even chiefs were burialed with clothes of silk.

By natural there were also ordinary folklore textiles brought back to the North, and from them the women captured new weaving technics and pattern.

Several tousand Nordic people were in service at the East Rome emperor in Konstantinopel
( Byzans ) during 900 – 1050 . Many soldiers returned to the North after 10 years in duty and they were very rich. We can only guess what they brought back for their whifes. And we must have in mind that textiles were very high valued at that time.

In a grave for queen Asa 734 A.D. were found a number of textile fragments, today the greatest textile treasure in Norway. For example a fragment showing horses, wagons and humans in a process. All in different weaving technics.
Also other weavings with birds, swasticas and geomitric borders.
Unfortunatuly many textiles were lost as sacrifices in graves until circa 1000 A.D.

Sonny Berntsson
Akrep Oriental Rug Society, Sweden

Posted by Sonny_Berntsson on 05-28-2006 03:56 PM:

Hello Mr Swan

The technic called “düz zili” (straight zili) in Anatolia has also been common in Skane
(Sweden) during 18-19th centuries and there it is called “dukagang”.
Another common technic in Anatolia is “cicim”, in Skane called “krabbasnar”.

To tell the age of textiles are allways difficult. The pillow from Norway, showed in my other reply, is photographed in Historical Museum in Trondheim, Norway. And the stool (chair) has been in the Jorsala Chathedral, a place for pilgrims since 1200 A.D.
The stool is dated from 16th century and it is written that the pillow belong to the stool. And I have no reason not to believe it.
There are several textiles in churches in Scandinavia with the same age but, as far as I know, not one more example with the typical hooks around the eight-pointed star.
The colours and pattern gives a more old look than any of the textiles from 18-19th centuries.
But this is more a feeling than an proof.

An image from the Museum in Trondheim......

...showing “rutevav”, a typical pattern from Trondheim-area with eight-pointed stars, cross, squares and triangles built with steps.
Age: 1800 – 1830.
Where the pattern origins from is impossible to tell but they were common in Norway during 18-19th centuries.

An image from Skane....

...a “jynne” or “agedyna” in rolakan technic.
Age: 1800 – 1850.
Agedyna looks like yastiks in kilim technic from Anatolia. The main pattern is common in old textiles from Anatolia, weaved in the same technic. Rhombs with eight-pointed stars linked together with an axle.

Sonny Berntsson
Akrep Oriental Rug Society, Sweden