Posted by R. John Howe on 09-20-2007 07:47 AM:

Turkmen “Khalyk”

Dear folks -

Historically, the “khalyk” has been a source of controversy and mystery.

It is a format similar in shape to Turkmen “door surrounds”

and has sometimes been confused in function with the “asmalyk.”

But in 1980, Michael Franses and Robert Pinner co-authored an article on this format (“Turkoman Studies I, Chapter 18) in which they suggest that it had been established that the “khalyk” was either a “breast decoration” for the wedding camel that carried the bride or one hung on the front of the bride’s litter.

The Turkmen “khalyk” format is also frequently seen as one of those to be treated as “rare.” It seems not ever to have had the seeming rareness of Tekke torbas with three ful and six half guls. At the end of their 1980 article Franses and Pinner listed some 47 khalyks known at that time. I expect a few more have been discovered since.

Still, one does not run into Turkmen khalyks frequently and the format is highly prized by Turkmen collectors.

In this post I want to suggest something about the contours of Turkmen khalyk universe as described by Franses and Pinner in 1980 and invite, both corrections of my reporting of that and the supplementing of anything known or published since (there may well be a Hali article or some such).

Franses and Pinner reported that the universe of Turkmen khalyks they list divide by tribal grouping in the following way.

Tekke 37
Yomut 9
Salor 1

They further divide the Tekke group by field design.

Kotchak cross design 22
Cup motif 7
Other designs 8

So with that brief introduction here are some examples in these various groups and groupings.

The overwhelming majority of khalyks are Tekke and a majority of these in turn are of the “kotchak cross design” variety. This is the group of which Jerry’s piece is a member. Here, again, is the poor-ish image of it that I can manage.

And here are three more examples of khalyks in the “kotchak cross design” sort so that you can see both how they are similar and some of the variations they display,.

One of the characteristics of Tekke khalyks is that they display a center flap that is shorter, often much shorter, than the two on the outside.

Here is an example of the second Franses-Pinner Tekke grouping: the “cup” motif.

The third Franses-Pinner Tekke grouping is “other.” Here are a couple of examples of the khalyks that occur in it.

The khalyk above has a curled leaf design versions of which are more usual on door surrounds.

Here is a different “curled leaf” design example.

The palette seems closer to Yomut but Franses-Pinner label it Tekke.

There are a number designs in this Tekke "other" group and I may show you some black and white images of some of them later.

Franses-Pinner do provide some examples of khalyks woven by the Yomut. Here is one of these.

Notice that one distinguishing feature of Yomut khalyks is that the center flap is the same length as the two outside ones.

Last, Franses-Pinner cite, but seem not to show, one instance of a Salor khalyk. Here is one other possibility.

This piece has an asymmetric knot open to the left and was placed in the “S-group,” something that has come by many to be seen as synonymous with Salor. It was published on page 133 of the “Oriental Rugs in Pacific Collections” ICOC catalog for the 1990 conference.

There seem not be any khalyks woven by the Saryks (they did weave door surrounds), the Ersaris, the Chodors, the Arabatchis and the non-Turkmen Central Asian groups like the Uzbeks and the Kyrgyz. I would be interested to be corrected on that point.

This little survey should give you a better sense of what Jerry’s khalyk looks like and help to place it in the khalyk universe.

Comments, additions and corrections are invited.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-20-2007 08:42 AM:

Hi John,

Very interesting. Here's a little anecdote on the side that will either inspire the troops in the way of "dump picking," or kill them with envy. When I lived in Riyadh in the 60's, I met a newly arrived couple who had what in retrospect I would say was a Tekke khalyk. Their story was that as they were leaving the large apartment complex they were vacating (in Houston, Texas), waiting for a taxi to deliver them to the airport on their way to the Middle East, they noticed the khalyk sticking up out of a nearby trash barrel. Mrs. thought it looked attractive and put it in her pocketbook. They had no idea what it was until I told them. Truth was, I had no idea what it was back then, either, except that it was Turkoman, and that I'd never seen nor heard of the format.

I doubt that Pinner and Franses managed to log that one in, so I guess it makes number 48.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 09-20-2007 08:53 AM:

Hi People

Just one point. Turkmen pieces with rare formats appear in publications with much greater frequency relative to their actual numbers than pieces with more common formats do. The reason is simple. Most publications are exhibition catalogs, and the rarities are more likely to be exhibited because they are rare. Examples of common formats are published only (well, more or less) when they are extraordinary.


Steve Price

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-20-2007 11:29 AM:


G'day Steve and all,

I think I would like it to be that these marvellous weavings are an item utilised on camels during a wedding procession.

In which case, it also might be possible to presume that these 'khalyk' pieces as woven by the giggling women, might be considered male. The society from which they came was definitely patriarchal and the male dominant could have been thematically the origin of the shape. The bride carried by the protector male (camel) surrounded by male emblemic weavings, all suggestive of husbandly strength.

Perhaps the ger/er/yurt structure lived in by these people, was considered female, and the entrance to it was surrounded by the female form of the khalyk.

Considering other belief's of these Turkmen people, as described by O'Donovan in the 1800's, makes me think it possible the women could attach something humourously earthy to their ceremonial weavings.

Just an idea,

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-20-2007 11:47 AM:

Perhaps I should have addressed my reply to John as the initiator of this thread, in which case I apologise John, enjoying the beautiful idea the pictures you show conjure.

Regarding the one mentioned by Richard, as related to him in Riyadh, has me thinking it must have been wonderfully supple or the womans purse an unusually large bag. I have read of pieces small and fine enough to place in ones pocket readily as a hankerchief.

Would they be of a size such, that one could fit into a persons pocketbook?


Posted by Steve Price on 09-20-2007 11:58 AM:

Hi Marty

These things are way too big for a pocket that would carry a handkerchief. They generally have a width in the ballpark of 2.5 feet and are about as high as they are wide. Being pile weavings, they have a significant thickness, too. The woman who stuck one into her purse must have been carrying a substantial tote bag.


Steve Price

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-20-2007 12:11 PM:

Thanks Steve, it had me wondering. My idea of attributing male/female suggestive iconography to weavings comes about due to a belief that, home, hearth and husband are so inextricably linked, and the women of the world from which these things come so outwardly repressed by their overwhelmingly male society, that they might only have their craftwork to demonstrate the understanding of the position and value they have, to the wider community.


Posted by R. John Howe on 09-20-2007 12:32 PM:

Marty -

Not talking about khalyks or any other particular Turkmen format, but referring to your musing about sexual associations that weavings might be or contain, note that nomadic Turkmen women seem in some respects rather unrepressed. Although, they seem to have done most of the work in nomadic society, they did not much resort to veils and visitors to Turkmen yurts sometimes report that they are pretty formidable in appearance and manner as they greet approaching strangers.

And tribal folks close to nature are often rather open and unabashed about such things as sex. And they are so without any of the purience we often experience (they are "disadvantaged" in not having read Calvin and in the lack of a "Victorian" era). It is a top priority of any generation to create the next one. So fertility is openly sought and celebrated by both sexes. Failure to have children is, I think, grounds for divorce or an additional wife.

And this urge likely shapes some devices in the weavings (although we are often, now, not able to discern accurately which ones indicate what). But sometimes it is very clear.

I remember George O'Bannon once coming to speak at a TM rug morning and bringing a Turkmen weaving with a wedding procession woven into its designs. Two of the horses in this procession had clear erections.

I expect that drawing was very matter of fact and need not have produced any giggling among the lady weavers.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-20-2007 12:53 PM:

G'day John and all,

Yes John, you are probably correct in surmising that it was not really necessary to 'hide' the association between marriage and sex in weavings.

Sure, we will likely in our age, be unable sometimes to read the intentions expressed in these very interesting articles. And thanks also for not striking immediately out of hand an idea that there may be phsycosexual connotations in such weavings as these which may be related to marriage and all that portends.

What likelihood? Who knows


Posted by James Blanchard on 09-20-2007 05:25 PM:

Hi John,

This is a piece that I saw a while back that according to its size should be labelled a "khalyk", I suppose.

It looks quite recent compared to the examples you have displayed. My initial impression was that it was perhaps Saryk or Tekke from the first half of the 20th century.

So perhaps it would be more correct to indicate that khalyks are relatively rare in older weavings, and perhaps became more common later on. But that is just a guess.


Posted by R. John Howe on 09-20-2007 06:48 PM:

James -

The line between a "khalyk" and a "door surround" ("kapunuk") can likely sometimes be debated. They have a very similar shape.

Most cases can be resolved by size. The "door surrounds" should be noticeably wider. I just checked one of each at random in the same volume. In Hoffmeister's "Turkoman Carpets in Franconia," 1980, plate 53 is a Tekke khalyk that is w 64 X h 52 cm. Plate 54 is a "door surround w 110 x h 87 cm.

Peter Andrews told me once that for structural integrity, he doubted that the width of the door on a Turkmen yurt (the weakest point) would exceed 120 cm.

That would work nicely in this case with the door surround a little more than covering a 120 cm opening.

A second point is that most "khalyks" have a third (middle flap). In Tekke pieces it's often very short. In Yomut pieces, as I noted above, the middle flap tends to be the same length as the side flaps. That latter feature is, given as an additional reason why such Yomut pieces are camel or litter decorations, since the middle flap would interfere with someone entering the yurt.

Your piece lacks that center flap and in that sense is closer to a door surround. What is its width?

Nowadays we see lots of Turkmen "door surrounds" being made (mostly Tekke designs) and some of them are pretty well done. I know of two local dealers who are using one on one of their doors. What could happen might be that you'd get a modern piece as wide as a "door surround" but with one or more short center flaps. Or, let's say that your piece is "khalyk" size. The answer in both cases would, I think, be that the weavers who made them are now largely disconnected with this format's tradition.

Peter Andrews' best Yomut informant, during his field work among the Yomuts in the 70s, told him that engsis were no longer used as door coverings after about 1920. That might be a basis for conjecturing that there might have been a similar disinterest after that date in the "door surround," despite the latter being an interior decoration.

Interestingly, I was reading Azadi's 1975 volume on Turkmen rugs this week and in it he has an "khalyk" (Plate 47) and said that he was at that time aware of "no more than fifteen pieces." He added that he felt that all of the khalyks he had seen at that point were "probably" made before 1800 and that the Tekke had likely stopped making this format "at some time in the 18th century."

You see how much had changed when Franses-Pinner wrote five years later.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 09-20-2007 09:25 PM:

Hi John,

I don't recall the exact size of the piece, but it was definitely small and didn't seem anywhere close to adequate size to be a door surround.


Posted by Robert Emry on 09-20-2007 11:50 PM:

Another khalyk

Earlier this year I was in Europe, not really shopping for rugs, but but couldn't resist walking into a shop that said TAPIS ET KILIMS DE TRIBUS. The first thing I spotted, on top of a pile of rugs was a khalyk. As I began to look at it, the shop keeper told me that it wasn't for sale---that it had been brought in for cleaning and repair by a lady who had recently inherited it along with some other rugs when her father died. The shop keeper said that he had tried to buy it from her, but to no avail. I asked he would permit me to take some pictures. He said sure, picked up a little tack hammer and some tacks and nailed it to the wall. My camera flash failed when I took the image of the entire khalyk and useless (looks like a khalyk silhouette), but a couple of detailed pictures will show its color and design. Clearly it is one of the kochak cross variety. Interesting to consider whether this might be one of those counted previously, or one not seen before by the counters.

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-21-2007 05:52 AM:

Hi Bob -

Your example has particularly good range of color.

Dear folks -

I promised more images of the Franses-Pinner "other" group of Tekke khalyks. Here are two more B&W scans.

The one above has a version of the "ashik" diamond design that we see in other formats.

The one below fascinates me.

It not only has small guls in its field, but Franses-Pinner report that it has a rather un-Tekke like feature, the seeming random use of both asymmetric and symmetric knots. The design usually used on the center flap of Tekke khalyks is also used here in both side flaps. And the border top and bottom is rare.

I wish we had color images of these two pieces.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 09-21-2007 08:18 AM:

G'day John and all,

The last you show, I entirely agree with you John - what a pattern! For Turkotekkers it must be one of the very best of a particularly rare breed of carpetry.

It appears entirely in balance to me; those field guls and specular looking secondary elements in the lower legs just lift off to me. This is the sort of piece which makes me feel as though the whole production of this format was from the very beginning and throughout its use, considered in an especial fashion.

Know absolutely nothing of them more than has been spoken of and shown on these pages, nonetheless they leave me with the feeling that they are inextricably connected to something similar to what I have suggested earlier on this thread.

Im not trying to be mysterious, just that I feel they are part of a great mystery - perhaps the reason so few have passed down to modern times is that maybe they were not utilised as other woven products such as for seating/floor covering/bed coverings/bags/wind deflectors/rubbing strips etc ad finitum - maybe after the initial use, like on the wedding camel, then they were brought into the 'honeymoon' quarters where their purpose was culminated, after which they may have been offered/disposed of in some fashion, for some fruitful or magical purpose.

Whew, that was a bit of a mind rattle I know, but I am quite convinced of a special special purpose, if only because they are so few.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-22-2007 11:42 AM:

Hey folks,

I'd like to throw a general question out here, for Turkophiles and others. How do people see these khalyks in aesthetic terms, as compared, say, with torbas or juvals? For my part, some of them aren't particularly attractive in the comparison, relatively speaking. They are more interesting for their rarity and ethno-cultural significance than for their beauty. For example, I don't see them up there with the best torbas, including the three gul examples John is showing on the other thread. (As a species of full disclosure, I don't usually see the tassels and fringes as adding to the beauty. Some exceptions there.)

Even so, some of the khalyks are quite compelling. The V & A item with the guls is very intriguing. I wonder whether anyone knows of another gul based khalyk. I agree as well that the one Bob came across has a terrific coloration.

BTW, Steve, regarding the khalyk I saw in Riyadh, that the lady had plucked from the sidewalk trash barrel. I recall that it was quite diminutive compared with the ones in Pinner and Franses for which dimensions are supplied. Certainly less than two feet in width, probably more in the order of eighteen inches. It was also extremely fine, in the order of the finest Tekke bags, and thin. That was a long time ago. I'd like to see it again.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 09-22-2007 12:18 PM:

Hi Rich

Vis-a-vis aesthetics: most fo the khalyks I've seen live or in photos have fairly dreary color and design. There are several in this thread that are very far above average (bearing in mind that "average" includes the published ones, which we can presume to be generally above the average of the total population). Kapunuks (door surrounds) are often extremely beautiful, though.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 09-22-2007 12:27 PM:


Your assessment of the collective beauty across the range of known khalyks pretty much matches mine. A lot of less than spectacular, with the best ones having worked their way to publication. In defense of the designer-weavers, and considering the apparent functional purpose of these pieces (i. e., as part of the camel decoration in the wedding procession), it may be that the khalyks were intentionally made to be secondary notes in a larger scheme. Torbas and juvals, on the other hand, were stand alone items.

Rich Larkin