Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 09-28-2005 05:53 AM:

Zakatala Flat-weaves

Dear all,

When I first met this double bag

I thought it was odd: I never saw a typical “Shirvan” design with a “dragon” or “S” border. Well, for that matter I didn’t recall any “dragon” border – one of my favorites - on a flatweave.

The colors of the bag seemed good, no difference between the inside and the outside, a sign of probably natural dyes. I bought it.
I still thought it was a Shirvan bag, until I got Nooter’s “Flat Woven Rugs & Textiles from the Caucasus”.
The book shows at page 214 another bag with dragon borders:

said to be “Khorjin, Zakatala region”. This is how Nooter justifies the attribution:
“The Khorjin shown in Plate 197 was collected by a Turkish dealer in Zakatala, where he reported that he saw a number of other pieces of similar design…

Elena Tsareva found a close parallel in the Russian Ethnographic Museum that was purchased by Miller in 1908 in the village of Khaltan in the Kuba district and attributed to Tats. Zakatala has a large (fifty-four percent) Avar population, as well as twenty-eight percent Azeris (Wright/Wertime, 1995, 128). There is no reason to question the Zakatala origin of this piece, but whether it was woven by Avar, Tats, or Azeris is unknown.”

I would add to the equations more ethnic groups. According to HALI’s contributing editor Tony Hazledine who actually went there in 1994 Zakatala (also spelled Zakataly) is the name given to both the district and the main town. The district is in Northern Azerbaijan, is composed of around fifty villages and had a population of about 100,000 of whom 60% Daghestani (Avar, Lesghi, Zeikhuri [my note: Tsakhurs?] and Kumyk), 30% Azeri, 10% of Georgian Muslims and a former presence of Armenians which had left because of the turmoil between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are 28 different dialects spoken in the area.
The article was published in HALI 78. Zakatala was already discussed here:

(Salon 110 – Thread “Rug for identification” by Lloyd Kannenberg).

Could my bag be from Zakatala? In other words, can a “dragon” border similarity be enough for an attribution? No, not really. Are there other similarities? Perhaps the palette, but Nooter’s photo looks like it was taken with incandescent light (the supposed ivory color is too yellow, for example) and it’s very difficult to make a comparison.

Size and structure? Nooter’s is 22”x 54”, mine is 23”x53” (59x135 cm). Nooter’s has 12 warps and 40 wefts per inch, mine has 14-15 warps e 40 wefts per inch.
That’s close enough. Then there are the backs. As Nooter notes, “the design and colors of the backs of mafrashes and Khorjins can sometimes provide a significant clue as to origins.”
The back of mine:

and Nooter’s:

Well, if we forget the interesting bridge on Nooter’s one, they look quite similar, what do you think? My bag has ivory or mixed brown/ivory wool warps, they show clearly in the worn areas. Looking with a magnifying lens at the picture in Nooter’s book, it appears to be the same for his bag.

But I needed more examples. There is one in the New England Rug Society online exhibition "To Have and To Hold".

(#23) said to be from Zakatala, among other factors, also for the “prevalent use of natural dark brown”. For more convenience, I copy NERS images here. The front:

the back:

It’s also interesting to compare NERS’ detail of closure system:

with mine:

Pretty close, aren’t they? But the NERS bag has dark brown wefts, 48 wefts per inch, it’s smaller and has a rather different palette.
In search for more examples, I found this one, posted some time ago by Mr. Lloyd Kannenberg:

Again, a different palette. In any case, I wrote him asking if he could send me a photo of the back of his bag.
He sent me A LOT of images of other Zakatala bags, instead. I’ll post them later, leaving you the time to digest the ones above.

Now, a better view, with more accurate colors, of my bag:

Any comment – or any more examples of Zakatala flat weaves are welcome.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 09-28-2005 09:08 AM:

Well, Lloyd revealed to be a goldmine for Zakatala bags. He sent me photos of five more bags that were offered to him by a dealer operating in Istanbul. Lloyd wrote me:
Because all of these pieces have a single source, I am not convinced that Zakatala bags are commonly found. He may just have been on the right dock at the right time.

Here are the pictures – as I understand, Lloyd owns only the first two Khorjins.

He also sent me the picture of a similar bag sold on eBay:

I guess this thread must be a quite extensive and unique source of images for this kind of weaving.
Thanks, Lloyd.


Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 10-01-2005 07:10 AM:

Hello Filiberto -

Here is some structural information on the Zakatala bags in the pictures I sent. They are of moderate size, width about 2 feet (60 cm), length over all 4 to 5 feet (125-150 cm). All use the "cable and loops" closure system typical of many Caucasian bags, which is quite distinct from the "loop-flap" closure seen in many Persian bags, with its characteristic row of small rectangular closure panels. The warps are ivory wool, about 13-15 per horizontal inch. The faces are weft-faced slit tapestry weave, the backs weft-faced plainweave, about 48 per vertical inch. The colors seem all natural, and include a very dark blue, blue-green, maroon, red, red-orange, golden yellow, ivory or "white", and a dark brown. I'm inclined to regard the more muted colors as characteristic of earlier bags.

The stripes on the reverse of these bags are somewhat enigmatic. In some (the bag in the NERS exhibit, for example), the order of the colors and width of the stripes is irregular, in others the order (but not necessarily the widths) of the stripes is carefully controlled so that the color reads the same top-to-bottom as it does bottom-to-top. Finally, in some bags with stripes of uniform width, they appear in regular alternating groups. Do these variations have some tribal significance?

The design motifs seen on the bag faces, such as the "dragon", the kochak gul, stars, and medallions, are mostly familiar from other Caucasian weavings, but not necessarily in the context of a khorjin. For me, anyway, these bags still hold a number of unanswered questions!

Best to all, Lloyd

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-01-2005 09:59 AM:

Hi Lloyd,

We have here ten bags, of which eight backs are also visible.
Not a big database, but they do seem parts of the same puzzle, with many elements in common. For example, several of them have a Kochak border.
By the way, Peter F. Stone puts the “Kochak Stripe” among Zakatala Motifs:


The most common border, however, is the “Dragon” one. More precisely, three pieces have 1 (or 2) Dragon border, two pieces have a 1 (or 2) Kochak border and two bags have both..
Your last bag has none of above borders but the motif on its faces is the same of that on the “bridge” on Nooter’s bag.
The backs have mostly color-organized patterns of stripes, but in NERS one the stripes have no apparent order. The palettes are mostly the same, but some show no yellow, others don’t have blue…

The back of mine shows also an oddity: a single stripe with alternated ivory and red wefts:

In any case these bags show a common style, and I have little doubts about their provenance.
Thinking about it, it’s also strange that no other flat-weaves - say, like kilims or mafrashes - have so far emerged from Zakatala. As far as I know, that is.

Best regards,


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-05-2005 10:39 AM:

I was thinking that there is something unsatisfactory in the layout of my bag.
The weaver wanted to put two bands of “Shirvan medallions” and so she had to compress them vertically. Then, there is only room for one dragon border.

How would have it looked if the weaver had used only one central, uncompressed “Shirvan band” with two dragon borders?
A quick and dirty job with Paint Shop Pro, and I got the answer:

Notice how the original bag face seems wider than the virtual one, in spite of having the same dimensions.
Well, after all I prefer the original.



Posted by Don Ruyle on 10-24-2005 02:13 AM:

Hello Filiberto:

May be it was to make it easy to find the coffee in the morn.
I see a lot more bags in life that are not the same at both ends than what one would guess from those discussed here. (Most people want to show their best, I guess.)


Don Ruyle