Posted by Jack Williams on 07-14-2006 04:12 PM:

Use of Turkmen symbols in Baluch rugs

Good morning, all.

I thought I would split out a topic from the "Baluch...Timuri," discussion and start a line dedicated to Turkmen symbols used in Baluch weavings, because of its historical and sociological implications.

We all have seen that the use of Turkmen tribal symbols in Baluch weavings is common through time. This is commented on with examples, by Edwards, "The Persian Carpet," and Dr. D. H. Wegner. I highly recommend reading Wegner (linked below), at least the introduction in Part 1 and the section on Turkoman tribal guls and secondary patterns in Part III,

The first rug shown below was probably woven in the Zabol area. Wegner part III p. 4, notes that Zabol weavers use the Tekke gul arranged in three vertical rows, 7 to 9 guls in a row which is a Tekke tradition. They use “...aubergine tints in the field, green and gold orange shades in the borders and in the secondary guls...which colors distinguish them.”

Wegner speculates the Baluch north of Seistan were usually under Turkmen (mis)rule and subjected to Tekke (especially) raiding from early 18th c until the end of the 19c. The depredations of the Tekke were so severe that in 1880s, a British expedition found this:

"'Hitherto Russia's advance in Central Asia has been the triumph of civilisation. Wherever she has planted her flag slavery has ceased to exist. This was keenly brought home to us in the course of our travels. For hundreds of miles before we reached Herat we found the country desolated and depopulated by Turcoman raids, while even in the Herat valley we continually came across the fathers and brothers of men who had been carried off from their peaceful fields by man-stealing Turcomans, and sold into slavery many hundred miles away. All this has ceased since the Russian occupation of Merv; the cruel slave trade has been stamped out....'" (see: ).

Well, the conquest by the Russians may have put an end to slavery, but the tendency to mount up and loot still led to raids on the Tehran to Meshad road into the 1930s according to Ewards.

Using a base map from Wegner, above I’ve tried to illustrate his Baluch-Turkmen information, The colored circles indicate areas where the Baluch primarily use either the Tekke, Salor, or the Chodor - tauk nostra guls. Wegner notes that the Ersari symbols were not incorporated (though interestingly, the “badam” border is, especially in the Salor area). He also noted that after the turn of the 20th c, use of Turkmen symbols in Baluch rugs declined.

Here are some variants of Turkmen guls from carpets I own. I would enjoy examples and notes from others. Re: the rugs posted all have been contrast and brighten sharpened, which makes the colors a little bad, good reds go to bad-looking orange, etc. Unfortunately the pictures i had were all rather dark...but the first three are good dyes. The last one...well...

Jack Williams

Posted by Gene Williams on 07-15-2006 03:21 AM:

muhled khani

Hi Jack,

I'll move this post from the other thread as well. The first rug is what Jerry Anderson so many years ago called a "Muhled khani" (phoenetic). (Why? dunno. I have some notes at home). I bought one in karachi, gave it to my sister. Here are several which I believe are the types Jerry was referring to.

The types as I recall usually have a dark blue field which almost seems purplish...maybe an optical illusion caused by the deep blue being next to red, with Tekke type guls tied together by a grid of blue or red lines. Here are three examples.

This first is the one I gave away. It is almost a prayer carpet with the half guls at the top. You can see vestiges of the minor guls at top and bottom which are identical to jacks.:

The second picture came from part III of Dr. Deitrich H.G. Wegner's article "Pile Rugs of the Baluch and their Neighbors" which appeared in ORR in the mid-80's. Complete 5 part article can be found on JBOC and TCole sites: Dr. Wegner said this gul is a Tekke gul and is always found only in two rows. Here is his quote:

Mahdad-Khani Balouch, Nehbandan, Tekke tribal gul and secondary gul (chemche), c. 1925.

“herring-bone” stripes on the web-ends. There are never more than two vertical rows of guls, and four or six guls per row are most common. The Tekke influence diminishes from Sistan toward the east. It was still evident in a rug made by Balouch in 1930, who lived as nomads south of the Afghan city of Shindand (Sabzewar) in 1955 (Fig. 12)."

Now this is interesting because I have a "Tekke Gul" baluch rug which appears in more traditional Turkman colors with reds in the borders, etc. rather than the 3 files of gul with a purplish pallette. I only have one photo with me which shows only a fragment of it in the background which I'll post. Its old but I was always a little suspicious of the reds...never did any testing, never even took it out of the trunk until recently. (on second look, the field appears purple, the orange looks suspect; corroded brown). it does indeed have only two files of Guls and appears quite similar to the Wegner rug above. I wonder if the Wegner rug was in reds? if so, perhaps "muhled khani" or mohdad khani evolved or split off from it. I'll post a better photo when I get home

This last rug was posted on turkotekk a couple of years ago in a query about some bleedding. I really liked this rug and find the guls in it the same as Jack's first rug above the format, much like what Jerry was showing me. there is another rug on jboc with the same kind of "cross" minor gul.

The second of Jack's rugs is known type...there are some on JBOC. It may be a varient of a Salar Khani. I'll look it up.


Posted by James Blanchard on 07-15-2006 12:40 PM:

Hi Gene,

The "Baluch" groups certainly found some interesting ways to use the Turkmen guls and motifs. Not too long ago I say a fairly nice Baluch type rug in Pakistan that had the "full size" Tekke guls used to make the main border, with the field containing typical Baluch design figures. The colours were very nice and the wool excellent. I guessed it was in the 50-70 year age range. It certainly wasn't like most of the new stuff but still didn't have a really authentic tribal feel to it. I'm not sure what I mean by that, but it just seemed a bit contrived. I nearly got it but had already set my sights on a few other weavings...

I was interested in the rug you showed above (pictured below) that you mentioned was "almost a prayer carpet". It looks to me like an "ooops!" carpet. Perhaps you know which way it was woven, but by looking at it I would have guessed that the weaver started on the end with the incomplete guls and then decided to change to a different format. Maybe she could see that the field was going to be too crowded to render the typical Tekke and Gurbaghe gul format, especially if she was aiming for three guls across. From the weave, can you tell us which end was started first? Just a thought....



Posted by Jack Williams on 07-15-2006 01:00 PM:

Gul as attribution source for Baluch

yo, Gene:

If Wegner's paper can be relied upon, as you noted the use of specific Turkmen symbols can indicate provenance with some degree of accuracy. For instance, the rug from Wegner that you posted, and your rug, third rug with the two rows of tekke guls and even though it has a blue field are what Wegner called Mahad-Khani. Here is a more complete quoted of what Wegner has to say comparing that motive to the Zabol rug I posted. This is from part III (a link to Wegner is posted in my first post).

"A rather numerous group of weavers around Zabol uses--besides the tribal or main Tekke gul--a secondary gul, which is most often seen among the Merv-Tekke...Most main and minor borders have patterns of the Turkoman origin. For example, the Volute cross is a heraldic square (“kotshanak aine”), which the Tekke and the Salor use as a field design. In some of the rugs the guls are arranged in three vertical rows, with seven or nine guls in each row. This is clearly a Tekke tradition. The Tekke tradition is less obvious in the colors: Aubergine tints in the field, green and gold orange shades in the borders and in the secondary guls are characteristic of the “Zabol-Tekke.”... next, emphasis mine... This color combination discriminates their products from those made by the Mahdad-Khani Balouch, who lived around Nehbandan at the eastern edge of the southern Lut desert in 1950. These Balouch reproduce the Tekke gul and the ghobaghe secondary gul very accurately, but without “vase” motif and with Turkoman colors; i.e., red ground color and no “Zabol” green (Fig. 11). Tekke influence can also be seen in the borders and in pile-woven “herring-bone” stripes on the web-ends. There are never more than two vertical rows of guls, and four or six guls per row are most common."

But I am getting interested in what he has to say about the area where Salor "mar" gul use dominates, versus the area that the Tekke gul and motive use is primate. Edwards p.195, has a carpet pictured that has three rows of salor guls, 5 guls per row. He attributes it to the Sarakhs area, which fits the geography proposed by Wegner, which is why I tried to convert Wegners descriptive areas into a map....which is hard because the wording of his paper is sometimes not clear.

I really wonder why the old Tekke homeland area (pre-1854, Sarakhs south) would use the Salor gul almost exclusively....and i wonder if this does not form a historical marker of where the remnants of the Salors retreated after 1830s...that area seems to fit other rather mythical explanations that "they went to N. Iran and ceased making carpets" and another that notes the final blow to the Salor was delivered by the Persian counterattack in the early 1850s, driving the Tekke from northern Persia and dispersing the Salor (source attribution will be posted by edit later.)

In light of the above, your rug first pictured, with three rows of Tekke guls and border, deep indigo blue field, 7 guls per row might be hard to place because it does not have the color combination described as "zabol." It might be from the Sarakhs area as described by Wegner as follows..."Once in a while the Tekke gul can be seen on pieces from central and north Khorassan. But only one small group of half-sedentary weavers in the area of Tsheshme-Gul, a mountain village at the northern edge of the Djulghe Djam, not far from Turbetti-i-Sheikh-i-Djam, reproduced the Tekke gul exactly. These weavers, who live in Balouch type tents, were not sure of their Balouch origin, denying, however, any relation to Turkomans or the neighboring Timuri. They have made gul rugs with Balouch structures for generations, but have applied Tekke designs for all other details at the same time, e.g., on borders. Tekke guls are also used in prayer rugs with a horizontal top line of the mihrab. It is interesting that not even old damaged pieces were for sale, not even at exaggerated prices."

I would just take a guess and probably bet it is zabol connected though. One queston would be the extra half guls. As an odd number of guls in a row seems to have been a Tekke characteristic, the extra half-guls might not have been a mistake but a deliberate variation. Your third rug with the two rows of guls is more likely to be as these seem to have been referred to long ago as "blue turkoman carpets."

I thought his sentance connecting the "Djan Begi" with the Saryk Turkmen was interesting but again his wording was confusing.

I'll try to scan Edward's example, and search out some others. But Wegner and Edwards are especially good because they try to place the motives in an historical context.

Something else I'm looking into...Moshkova and Tzareva both mention baluch weavings in Turkistan. Apparently until the late 1930s a baluch community estimated at "900 tents" or so (or my estimate of about 10,000 total) lived in Turkistan. They have apparently utterly disappeared. I found a note on the internet (will post connection later by edit) that indicates after a confrontation with Soviet authorities, they packed up and disappeared entirely. Where they went, Afgainstan, Iran, or gulag, has never been determined. EDIT Ad: I found the reference I had dimly remembered. However, though quite a number of baluch did disappear into the mists led by Kerim Khan, Turkistan still has a current population of about 10-18,000. See:

Take care, bro

Posted by Gene Williams on 07-17-2006 02:58 PM:


Hi James,

I also assumed there were weaving problems in the small carpet I the end I'm not sure for two reasos.

1) its in the warp. why not just terminate the rug after the 7th gul. there is no imperative to go on.

2) and I'm not sure the weavers ever thought there was a "problem." This is just an idea.. this business of a "problem" in carpet weaving seems more a prussian or maybe a turkoman concept or a western/Greek idea of the ideal space and of "order."

Well, I assumed the weaver ran out of space like you did. I remember Jerry telling me stories of little Baluch carpet weavers who would put into a carpet whatever they felt like as soon as the mother's back was turned. So I'm not sure the weaver thought there was any problem at all. (I'm, working on a computer translation program which can interpret "carpeterois"...hope to have results soon ...or as soon as I finish my thesis on the distribution of opium poppy motifs in Baluch carpets...i mean, like, you know...there's a lot of field testing which has to, you know,

Then there is the Wegner article which says the type is woven in 2 files , 4-6 gul rows. And, there's Jack's carpet with 7 gul rows and 3 files. This one I gave away also has 7 gul rows and 3 files with a half gul row on top. Yes its probably a mistake...but...

And that was the second carpet I ever bought in September 1975 costing me $75 in Karachi at the time. I always assumed it was new/near new when I bought it. But when I visit my sister the dyes still strike me as being very deeply saturated and it is interesting to look at although I'm told Jack's is really more ancient.

I still wonder about the half guls. I haven't ever seen that in any carpet before.


Posted by Marty Grove on 07-17-2006 04:02 PM:

G'day Gene,

Luckily, I can comment on your last comment, that you havent seen another with the half gulls.

I have a Khorrasan black field, with red, white, aubugine turreted salor guls with the half guls woven at the beginning of the rug.

It is modern production, the reds are very red, the black is deep deep black, the aubugine is not intense and the whites are prominent as outline on the large minor guls.

There are two vertical rows with five per row plus the half.

The wool is the excellent long staple Khorrasan silky wool, the dyes Im sure are all synthetic, it is a fairly coarse primitively woven rug with a 'sophisticated' appearance in total, far beyond its quality.

It has about 88 knots per inch in thin two ply wools.

the ends of the rug are wider than the middle so there is a marked, but not unpleasant hour glass to the rug which is about 6 foot 4 by about 3 foot ten.\

The rug is nothing to write home about except I love the simplicity of the design with no infills other than the guls minor and major.

Will try and get a photo, but again must stress this is a very inexpensive modern rug (of the late 80's early 90's).


PS. Am convinced the half guls were deliberate, and intended to have a similarity to prayer rugs, which I think is a marketing ploy for trade rugs woven intentionally for the west.