Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-03-2007 09:54 AM:

Questions about a "Turkoman"

Hi, I guess this is a show and ask more than a show and tell, but I have a few questions about a Turkoman (?) that I have.

I dropped a quarter in to give a sense of scale.

I showed it to a local dealer and he said "Ersari?" in a somewhat unsure tone. I'm kind of curious what it is.

The pile portion is 3'2" by 7'1"; the aprons at each end are 5" to 6" long. I suspect the aprons used to be longer.

The weave is quite coarse, about 6-7v by 6h, for about 40 kpsi. The warps aren't depressed. The wefts are a mix of brown and gray wool. The knots are asymmetric open to the right (?). When I run my hand across the front, there is more friction from the wool when I go from left to to right, which I think corresponds to open right.

The coarse weave, flat back, and guls correspond to Ersari weaving. But I'm wondering if this rug is even Turkoman at all?

Oddities about the rug:
1. The shape. I thought most Turkomen products were based on how rugs were placed within the tent, which constrained the set of sizes available. This rug seems like a typical runner. I realize there were workshop Turkoman rugs, but this doesn't seem like one (informal, crude weave, etc.)

2. The size of the guls. The guls vary in size, but are about 20" by 20".

3. The guls vary. The bottom gul is different than the top 2.5. Within the top guls, there are slight variations in how they are drawn.

4. Random filler. The main field has random filler elements, and there are even random items inserted into the guls.

Does anyone know if the rug is Turkoman or from some other group in the area?



Posted by Marvin Amstey on 08-03-2007 03:03 PM:

I agree with the dealer. It is probably first half 20th c. since the colors are impressive. Anything and everything was made for sale. If not for personal use (this would not be used in a yurt), it may have been used in a more substantial home in Afganistan or its environs or was made because someone wanted a runner of this design. Enjoy it!

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-03-2007 05:55 PM:

Better than first look


I might suggest a slightly older vintage, pre WWI at least. The size and porportions seem to be those assigned to early Ersari-Beshir carpets. I doubt that it was intended to be a "runner," just a rug that was woven longer on a standard size ground loom.

After looking at it for a while, I am really taken with the rug. It seems Ersari through and through, every device in the rug having an Ersari and/or "beshir" antecedent. The colors are outstanding as is the composition.

This rug uses the relatively archaic gul with the cocks combs, and also what is/was the standard main gul of the Ersari with the clovers in the same field...which I havn't noticed before. The internal elements of ersari guls always seem to vary a lot...but the ones in this rug are unusually detailed and beautiful.

The border is a little unique. That type of design is seen in the fields of Ersari-beshir chuvals and rugs, but not that often in the border. I've cut a chunk out of a beshir from Jourdan and turned it on it's side to illustrate the motif.

All in all, I think you have quite a rug. It is unique in that I've never seen these elements put together like this. I also think it older... probably pre WWI, and certainly pre-Soviet collectivization of the middle Amu Darya. The only question I have concerns the relative coarseness of the weave. 40 kpsi is pretty low on the Ersari scale...without the details of the design elements I might wonder about possible Uzbek.

Jack Williams

PS, I circled a delightful little anamoly...the kind of oddity that a weaver from might include. Notice the heads turned the same way.

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-03-2007 10:11 PM:

Mr. Beck -

Your rug (which is likely Afghan) displays two well-known major guls. The top three are of the sort often called the "Suliman" gul and was seen by O'Bannon in the 70s to have been less frequent than the "Taghan" major gul which has a different internal instrumentation (the bottom major gul on your piece is a third major gul, O'Bannon calls it "Dali," very frequent in Ersari pieces). Some see some of the elements of the Suliman major gul as "pine trees" on their sides. So beginning with its major gul usage, your piece is a bit of an amalgam.

O'Bannon treats the Suliman design as part of his Daulatabad group (a designation that has been questioned in some quarters). O'Bannon says that one feature of the Suliman design, as it was used then, is that there is no white in it. His examples bear this out. I see little white in his Dali or Taghan gul examples either.

Parsons also treats the "Sulyman" gul design. He says that it is used in Qarqueen in the far north west of Afghanistan, but also in the Andkhoy area. All of his examples seem also not to show any white excepting for one in which very small white devices are placed in about four places on it.

So the traditional coloring of rugs with the Suliman and Dali guls (Taghan too, I think) was quite dark, almost entirely red, orange, blue and brown. (Chob Bash Afghan pieces are almost alone noted for their use of white.) The coloring of your piece seems to be a more modern palette.

More recently, Peter Stone calls the "Suliman" gul, "Termerchin" or "Onurga," and groups it in his Ersari category. His Ersari example also has no white.

But he also says that the "Sariqs" used a similar gul and his Sariq example does use white in its quarters. (His Sarik reference is not without foundation. Mackie and Thompson include an 18th century "Saryk" carpet fragment that has this same major gul.) So the Suliman gul has real Turkmen roots.

Stone also makes analogies between the Suliman major gul and the medallions on Shirvan "Chajli" rugs.

Some older pieces did lack minor ornaments, as your does, but some did not. I do think you are right to think of the "filler" devices as an indicator of recency.

The major border is not one that is frequent in the examples O'Bannon and Parsons provide. My own guess is that it may be an adaptation of some borders that are ikat-influenced. The minor borders are more traditional for some rugs, but are not the version of latch hooks one sees in Yomut pieces, for example. They seem based on more Persian models, perhaps Balouch.

You mention the size of the major guls and they are large. It is this size ornament that seems to earn the frequent "elephant foot" designation given it.

My thinking is that both the conglomerate of designs and the color palette suggest a piece without a great deal of age.

It is not unattractive.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-03-2007 11:10 PM:



Without pictures or examples it is a than a little... hard to follow your thread. Also, I couldn't figure out what you were talking about when you were saying things about "little use of white." In the picture composite I posted are the same two main guls, 19th C, and white seems to be in both the Jourdan examples and his rug in roughly the same proportions. There are a LOT of examples on line in that Jourdan reference.

I just cannot connect the dots of your post to reach an Afghan orgin for this rug, rather than Ersari-Beshir Amu Daryu area, much less a more recent date rather than pre-soviet one. Heck, you didn't even clue us in on what do you consider "newish" or a "recent date". I have a hard time picturing this carpet with this design and this weave and ratio being made commercially in "recent" times.

Any clarifications, references or hard data would be appreciated.

Jack Williams

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 08-04-2007 12:24 AM:


The running dog minor border on this piece is very atypical for any traditional Turkoman piece; this is found on Taimani goods and Afghan products from Ghor, and in and around Sheberghan. Parsons has a couple examples in his book on Afghan rugs, and I have one for you as well:

I doubt that this is a traditional (meaning, 19th century) Turkoman rug; I agree with John that it is more likely early to mid 20th century. It looks like a mixed-breed. As has been discussed in other threads, "Ersari" is beginning to mean a lot less than it used to. Documentation such as that of Parsons (more fact and far less imagination than O'Bannon) goes into far more detail than a catch-all global clan name like Ersari, and has been verified by feet on the ground.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-04-2007 01:46 AM:

er sorry, older.


Things sometimes just seem to just get confused. Allow me to review...

1. Joseph's rug was posted and it was noted as having two main guls, the gulli gul and the temirjen gul (note: John calls the temirjen gul by the name "sullyman" gul, but I think "Sullyman" might be just a type of N. Afghan carpet that sometimes happens to use the temirjen gul).

2. Marvin estimated 1st half 20c.

3. I add comments, estimated pre WWI age but certainly pre 1925 collectivizing drive in Turkmenistan by Soviets. No one estimates 19th C....though I'll admit I was tempted.

4. John posted some historical information about Ersari research...says guls at 20 inches are "elephant foot" Afghan and suspect, says something about mismatch of elements, says it is "recent" or "newish." I interpret "recent" and/or "newish" as being "more recent than Marvin's or my estimates."

Discussion: I have two old main Ersari carpets, both pretty worn out. Both are pretty sure to be pre WWII, probably 1920s. Both have gulli guls that are 17 to 20 Inches. Matter of fact, a goodly proportion of guls in Ersari main carpets seem to be 15-20".

In my intial comments, I posted picture examples of 19th c. rugs from Jourdan's book of each part of Joseph's rug except the minor borders. Yet "running dog" minor borders are supposedly a characteristic of Sultaq (seljuk ) Ersari rugs, and are supposedly not particularly unusual (that is what I've read... here is an example - ).

Sorry...I still think this is a great rug, pre WWI, with a pretty unique combination of gulli gul and the temirjen gul, yet done in the same color tonality, which is pretty cool. In my opinon, the two guls in combo mark it Ersari from Amu Darya...which helps the age estimate... and could conceivable back the age up considerably if that was the objective (see note below).

The border seems to be an Ersari-Beshir, middle Amu Daryu motif found usually in the fields of those carpets, which also could be a quite an old design. I havn't found that motif much in borders, I'm no Turkmen specialist, but varients are out there. And just to put the size issue to rest, I don't think there is anything unusual about a 3.2 x 7.1 carpet.

John raised an issue about the use of white. I confess I don't understand what it is supposed to mark. In Joseph's rug it seems restrained, only a blossum or two in the field and some outlining in the border. Joseph's rug doesn't look at all like a flashy Tekke chuval from about 1890 covered with white accents and stuff.

The main border is restrained and narrow, the colors conservative but bold....yet the composition as a whole does not look contrived or cut and pasted. just doesn't seem to have that made for commerce aura, though it certainly could have been, even with the 40 kpsi.

I guess I could post the gullli guls from my carpets... But it is the temirjen guls in combo that I think mark this carpet pre WWI, from pre soviet Turkmenistan Amu Darya rather than Afghanistan. It seems the use of the temirjen gul by Ersari and by some Saryk elements along the mid Amu Darya is a known phenomena (see note below, also John's comments).

When Joseph gets bored with that rug, I have a rug or two that I would consider offering some kind of joint custody arrangement or something. .... I hope this helps explain my thoughts.

Regards, Jack Williams.

Note: The tirmerjin gul example I posted is taken from Jourdan, p. 260. Here is what the notes on that rug say.

"p. 260, Ersari main carpet 19th Century.

Robert Pinner, discussing a rare Saryk carpet in the museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, noted that there was a rare group of Saryk examples with either the gulli-gul or the temirjen gul used as the main motif. But that these were found more often on Ersari carpets. Considering both the ethnographic relationship of these two tribes and their common use of some motifs, Pinner conluded that such guls were used on carpets from the middle Amu Darya region and were used there both by the Ersari and the Saryk during the early 19th C…."

Posted by Windsor Chorlton on 08-04-2007 11:48 AM:

Is it Just Me?

Hi all

Jack, I'm surprised. From previous correspondence I'd formed the strong impression that you placed a high value on spaciousness and accuracy of design. Yet this piece that you admire has half a gul mising, while the others are crammed cheek to jowl and are, so far as I can make out, of different shapes and sizes.



Posted by Jack Williams on 08-04-2007 01:01 PM:


Windsor, you are right to ask for consistancy. I don't buy a lot of Turkmen rugs primarily because of the parable about the Turkmen collector, most elequently expressed by Tom Cole.."wonkiness has no place in Turkmen weavings." Turkmen collectors by and large are often characterized, perhaps unfairly, as being obsessive compulsive engineer types.

However, there is an exception...and that is in Ersari carpets ...which are my favorite Turkmen weavings because they often contain lots of funky stuff, odd-ball add-ins, etc., and individual personality is allowed to show through. This is even moreso than in their bags. Trouble is, no one is even sure that the "Ersari" even wove a lot of those rugs. I think Ersari rugs are the closest to a Baluch weaving philosophy of all the Turkmen groups.

I guess I will develop a post to show my perception of this phenomena.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-04-2007 01:07 PM:

My knowledge of Turkomans is sketchy at best, but I'll try to add what I can to the discussion. The easiest place to start would be a picture of the weave:

I don't know if it helps, but with all the talk of structure being important for attributing rugs I figured it couldn't hurt. For the dyes, none of the colors are obviously synthetic (except for some repairs). One of the yellows in the skirt is somewhat faded. I do not know if it's synthetic or one of the natural yellows that is light sensitive.

John, for the random filler, I wasn't thinking of it as a marker of age, but as a sign the rug wasn't done in a formal setting (asymmetry is less common in workshop rugs) and as possibly being inconsistent with being turkomen. I'd read that designs tended to get more ornate with extra borders, compressing the guls, etc. as designs degenerated with time, but not that random filler was added. Do later Turkomans tend to exhibit such?

Jack, I'd noticed the odd case where the head was facing the wrong way in one of the guls. I couldn't tell if you really meant there was another group that wove that way (who were they?) or if it was an in-joke that I missed. Also, do you have a page number for the images you posted from the Turkoman book? Clicking through a page at a time hurts.

I have a hard time imaging this rug as mid 20th century. Aside from the fact that it feels old (condition aside), it begs the question of where are its siblings? After 50 years a rug does not typically need to be discarded. Where are the other Afghan (or Turkoman) mid-century rugs that (appear to be) naturally dyed, and that have similar aesthetics as this one? I haven't been collecting very long (about 1 year), but have diligently followed ebay, as well as the associated live auctions, and have read some print auction catalogs.

Thank you everyone for the (hopefully continuing) discussion about the rug. I don't know if I know more about it, but I'm certainly more confused than when I started


Posted by R. John Howe on 08-04-2007 02:58 PM:

Mr. Beck -

Jack Williams is likely right that my previous post was a shade discursive. Let's try again.

First, there are three broad types of main carpet guls to be considered.

The first is the one at the bottom of your rug.

It is, as Jack notes, most generally referred to as a "Gulli-gul."

Here are some examples:

Mackie and Thompson also provide an of the Gulligul example on this rug that, in 1980, we were still labeling "Ersari."

And they show another example on an 18th century Saryk fragment.

I looked at the fragment above, today, in the wool, since it is used in the current tentband exhibition at the TM.

O'Bannon calls this same gul a "Dali" gul for reasons I don't have.

The other three guls in your piece are referred to in the literature with the terms "Termerchin" and "Suliman" (spellings vary). It is the variety with the "pine tree" devices turned sideways in each of its quarters. Stone also uses the term "Onurga" referring to this same device. Nobody explains much, although "Suliman" is a tribal group. Parsons' indication that it is used in two quite separate areas suggests that folks other than tribal "Suliman" are using it.

Here are some images of carpets with Suliman guls from O'Bannon and Parsons (I'm sure you can find other examples).

Mackie and Thompson use it to describe the major gul in the 18th century Sayk fragment immediately below:

The third type of major gul in this context is described as the "Taghan" gul. It has "comb-like" devices in its quarters.

Here are two rugs with the Taghan gul and then a black and white drawing of this type to let you see its detail clearly.

This gul is not at issue in your rug.

A second issue is size of the gul. I have not measured but the appearance of the major gul in you piece makes it seem to be larger than most guls on Turkmen main carpets. I merely meant to say here that if it is larger than usual, it is one of those that seems to earn the frequent "market" term "elephant foot" gul that, in truth, is applied widely.

A third indicator we talked about is color palette and if you go back up and look at the images I have provided, I think you will see that all of them (excepting those from Mackie and Thompson) are rather unremittingly dark. The palette is quite distinctive from that used on your piece. Even the Mackie and Thompson Guligul example has yellow rather than white.

Borders also seem to me a kind of mix. The main border is not familiar but may be ikat-based. The minor border, as I said, seems more Persian or Balouch to me but not Turkmen. The minor borders seem to me more likely to be used on the Afghan side of the river.

Jack wants to argue that your piece is older and likely Ersari. Well, we've just discovered that "Ersari" doesn't necessarily point very well and we'll all guessing when we estimate ages.

Hope that doesn't confuse further.


R. John Howe

Posted by Gene Williams on 08-04-2007 05:48 PM:


Hi John,

Nice explanation of the guls...I have a hard time following the designations sometimes..I am not a student..just an accolyte of sorts.

But, allow me an "Oh My Gosh." You mentioned the "B" word (which is undoubtedly the mysterious "other" raised by Jack).

Actually, I think (and I could be wrong) the "elephant foot" design was an Afghan government created motif just after the Brits were finally run out of the country for good.. about 1919..maybe a bit later. Its a commercial design for sure..and actually pleasant in its way as a floor covering. It's very robust and thick. I'll look for a picture. I have a 10x18 ft example in my den. But the impression I have from memory overall is of an orange field and very limited colors. So, I'm not sure the designation "elephant foot" applies to John's carpet.

(As you pointed out..there are a lot of definitions of EF out there...the one I offered is the one I have been familiar with for 30 years).


PS. To all.. Brit encyclopediaists mention a Turkoman tribe up in the MAD..late 1800's which didn't weave up to the standards of Turkoman known quantities...Tekke especially. I'll assume these are our vanishing Ersari. I don't have books here..I will have come this Fall and will research the question a bit..though doubt I'll come up with much new. Still...there is a lot of British Indian war planning literature from the mid-late 1800's..and some as recent as 1st 1/3rd 1900's on the tribes and sub-tribes of Central Asia as they prepared for "Great Game" conflict with Russia. There might be something in there that Rugdom has missed.

If any are interested..since I've read at one time or another most of them...I'll post a list. You can still find them on the internet. or in India and Pakistan in reprints...(As James well knows). However this is for the serious ethnographer/great gamer/Raj-Sirkar enthusiasts only.

PPS: Joseph's rug looks anything but pedestrian. A comparison to the ones John posted makes this manifest.

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-04-2007 11:43 PM:

Hi Gene -

I'm not sure why you guys want to argue about trivia.

I've said twice now that I've encountered the "elephant foot" description applied to Turkmen guls "in the market." I have no idea of its origin, excepting a possible "common sense" resemblance in larger instances.

I have heard of Afghan government attempts to get weavers to use particular type guls, but the instances I've heard of have been a particular type of "Kizil Ayak" gul and one called "Waziri." O'Bannon discusses them both briefly, without at all confirming the "government-encouraged" rumor.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-05-2007 01:40 AM:

terms count.


Trivia counts in rugs, and terms certainly have meaning. But your written comments sometimes seem to make it difficult for the reader to discern your intent or meaning.

In this line, one example is the term "newish" or "recent weaving." Another is that off-hand use of the term "elephants foot." If it is a term with no meaning, why use it, especially with the seeming negative connotation...i.e. 1. 20 inch gul size is 2. an 'elephants foot size gul' 3. which makes the rug likely a newish afghan recent weaving? That whole set of derivative conclusions was questionable from the first statement. But, if one uses ambiguous terms, maybe they shouldn't blame the parvenu if we ask for definition or explanation.

You gave a nice summary of the guls with pictures, even if the tank noska gul was omitted. But...surely you have to be kidding about older Ersari weaves being more somber than Joseph's rug, right? ..... Isn’t "color" a characteristic of many antique ” Ersari group rugs?”

Here are some antique Ersari group rugs I gathered in a few minutes…and I didn’t even touch the Beshir group. I don't think they have an "unremittingly dark" or somber pallette, yet they are all 19th C., some early 19th C.

Finally, your comment that the minor borders are something other than Turkmen. I posted a link to an Ersari weaving, 19th C. with those minor borders. There are a lot more. Perhaps I should have posted the pictures. But you are right that varients of those borders are used by the Baluch...after all, their weaving traditions spring from the same source as the Trukmen.

Editorial...If Joseph's rug were an artifact, it might have the archeologists calling it a rosetta stone, or missing link. The rug combines an old structure, old colors, old wool, with crossover nomadic-like design incongruities that include two different Ersari group guls…AND with a border that recalls “Beshir” designs.

Dismissing it as a commercial construct is in my opinion missing the uniqueness of this rug. It seems to have gotten less respect and has generated fewer serious, careful comments than...oh... Halloween gorilla suits, brand new alphabet rugs, and odd sticks from some possible weaving device. Joseph's rug COULD link several groups suspected of being Ersari related, but without much direct proof. In my opinion it deserves a serious look and a careful use of language.

Joseph, the on-line copy of Jourdan’s book is linked here.
The “Ersari” section starts on page 256. The rug with the temirgen gul is on page 260. The “Beshir” rugs are toward the end of the Ersari section, from roughly p. 300 to 318 or so. A yellow faded on the front is more likely to be a natural dye. The bird symbol I circled has both heads turned in the same direction. I don't think that is standard in this gul. It is either a real mistake, a deliberate quirk, or a deliberate "mistake." It is very "Baluch."

Jack Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-05-2007 10:00 AM:

Hi all,

First, let me say that personally I like this rug, and I have my doubts about it being a later "Afghan" product.

My guess is Uzbek, which is one of the options put forth by Jack earlier in this thread. The Uzbek of the MAD and environs seem to have woven some interesting versions of "Ersari" and even "Beshiri" designs.

John, you showed what I think is the best analogy for Joseph's rug in your salon on the colour red ( Here is a picture of what you described as an "small Uzbek rug". Note the large guls that are too big for the field, and very much similar in design to those of Joseph's rug. Also note the same "running dog" minor border, the use of a "Beshir" type main border, and the striped kilim end. For me, these two rugs are in the same family.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-05-2007 10:33 AM:

Hey gang,

I agree with James on this rug. I like it, and the first response I had to it was something like Uzbek, or one of those "proto Turkoman" types from out there. Admittedly, I'm not very well informed on the intricacies of those rugs, but the very oversized gul seems to take it out of the traditional "Ersari" context, a/k/a "Middle Amu Darya," though it must of course have been strongly influenced by those rugs. I don't know how old it is, and I've always been baffled by discussions that cannot decide on the origin of a rug, but seem to have the age under control. It seems to have some age on it as far as I can tell, certainly comfortably before WW II. I think the great size and funkiness of the guls (that one head looking the other way is the keynote) are pluses for this piece.

As far as the "elephant's foot" label is concerned, I believe that is simply an obsolete marketplace term in the West, similar to "Princess Bokhara," and the like. There is an anecdote in somebody's book, possibly Arthur Gregorian, the late Massachusetts dealer, about it. He is in the field, inquiring about the origins of the traditional Turkoman gul design, and in particular, the "gulli gul." He is informed that there is a very old man who knows the story, but he lives in the remote mountains. He makes the trip. He meets the man, and after the obligatory many cups of tea, etc., he pops the main question. "What is the meaning of this pattern?" "Oh, yes, that is the foot of the elephant." Or words to that effect. Maybe not Mr. Gregorian, but somebody.

For the zoologists among us, are there any elephants with twenty inch footprints? A sobering thought.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-05-2007 03:31 PM:

James -

Thanks for reminding me of the minor border on a rug I had put up. I looked widely for an example, but didn't find it.

That rug appears in Elena Tzareva's "Rugs and Carpets from Central Asia," 1984. It is her "cover" piece in that volume. She described it, then, as "Ersari" something that as a leader in the move to the "M.A.D." usage I don't think she would do today.

You and Richard wonder whether Mr. Beck's piece might not be Uzbek and you say that the large size of its devices might be an Uzbek indicator. I have a large non-Turkmen Central Asian fragment with large Memling guls and an over-sized Caucasian-like border. The size of the devices in it have made me wonder about an Uzbek attribution for it too, but I can't take that further.

I did look at O'Bannon's translation of Moshkova and she does not include either the "Suliman" or the "Gulligol" as among the designs she shows for Uzbek Turkmen of the Nurata Basin," but she does show two versions of the "Suliman" main carpet guls for the M.A.D. Turkmen.

Talking about the Goligul notice that the "cherries" in Mr. Beck's rug are pointed. We have lots of example to compare. Something wrong there. Again to me a sign of unfamiliarity with the design.

Finally, about age. I am not and have not been dogmatic. We're all guessing. Me too. I just guessed later (probably first half of the 20th century, but maybe later) and tried to indicate some of the indicators I use for that. The color palette (I have not said that it is unattractive), the mixture of and seeming unfamiliarity with, the design devices used (although my suspicion of the minor border now seems incorrect). To that I'd add a seeming dullness of color shades, especially the red (that could be a false impression) that I associate with quite young pieces. But it's still an admitted guess.

Given what he has read here, Mr. Beck is likely licensed to make nearly any claim he wants about his rug. It might make him wonder whether it has been to his advantage to ask.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-05-2007 11:35 PM:

the scent of the hunt...

James, I'm on the road, so short reply. Terriffic catch...that is a group of rugs I would like to discuss further...quite a few Ersaris are tentatively cross-attributed to Uzbeks including at least one in the group I showed. I think you have identified the group...and I think it might be possible to further define it and I'm looking for a group of known analogs. Nice post. What is REALLY intersting, the use of the Beshir motifs in the boarder along with the Ersari main guls. There are lots of questions about the Beshir patterns and the Ersari. aooooooooohooo...that is the sound of Lab dogs on the hunt....

John... You continue to imply this is post 1950 production. Well, I challange you....either put up a rug or two that is post 1950 and from a family of rugs identified with this rug, or please, just quit. Your claims are just divergent. You say you are not being dogmatic. I beg to differ.

Why do you introduce as fact offhand comments that are not researched? One example in your latest post is something about "pointed cherries" indicating an "unfamiliarity with the genre." So...are you sure those are "cherries" not clovers? And are you sure that such floral elements (as they are usually referred to) are not frequently pointed? How do you know the shape indicates "unfamiliarity" and isn't a clue to a group that weaves that symbol in that way?

You just bypass the interesting phenomena of the use of the two main guls in one rug. The fact that the gulli gul was usually reserved for main carpets doesn't rate a comment. But about age...first it was the pallatte was too colorful for the rug to be old. Now it is that the pallatte is too dull and the reds are wrong. Wrong for being...what? It looks like you are just being contradictory.

I know you have some knowledge and it would be nice if it was used as part of the identification effort, not just kibitzing.

Jack Williams

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 08-05-2007 11:52 PM:


I think James has a point when he suggests Uzbek lineage, but we all need to keep in mind that there are a lot of ethnic Uzbeks (whatever those are) living in northern Afghanistan, especially in and around Andkhoy, which includes the Sheberghan area. As one moves away from the Amu Daryu valley and into more thoroughly Uzbek territory the designs and especially, the color palette, changes rather a lot. The mixed Afghan and Beshiri motifs, and the more muted Ersari-like palette still make me look toward northern Afghanistan as the more likely source.

There is nothing about this piece that screams 19th century to me, but it is also a more traditional palette than the majority of post WWII production, so I am also still comfortable with early 20th century.

Take a look at the colors in these representative Uzbek pieces from an old ORR Article:

Carpet Collections of Central Asia

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-06-2007 12:21 AM:

Hi all,

I agree with Chuck that this rug could be from N. Afghanistan, even if woven by Uzbeks. Personally, I don't know enough to make any definitive statements about where the rug was woven.

I think that "running dog" border is an interesting feature. In Turkoman Studies I Ponomaryov identifies this as a variant of the "barmak" design, and indicates that it is mostly used by the Ersaris. However, he makes the other point that this is used mainly on smaller weavings (torbas and chuvals) and "hardly ever on carpets". I have seen this border on Ersari chuvals and "germetch" weavings, but not on a carpet. Moreover, I don't think I have seen the Ersari use this on a white background as seen in these two Uzbek examples. Another interesting example of this type of border on a white background is a Karakalpak rug shown in Eiland's book (which I don't have at hand). So I wonder if this is a design that might have come to the Ersari from the East.


Posted by R. John Howe on 08-06-2007 09:19 AM:

Dear folks -

I won't respond to most of Jack Williams' most recent post above. Too often he is ranting rather than reading. A little embarrassing for a claimed trained scientist to be so intent on pointless argument, but what can one do?

It is possible, though, to provide a recent Afghan "Ersari" rug with a Gulligul for comparison.

This piece is what you walk on as you enter our apartment.

I'm not sure that it comports with every aspect of Jack's demand, but it is an "Ersari" (Afghan) rug with traditional coloring woven after 1950 and it displays a Guligul.

I think this one was woven some time in the 1980s or 1990s. It's inscribed and dated (badly written and upside down in the upper left corner of this rug, I think) so someone who wanted to sort it out closely could tell. It has hand carded, handspun wool, natural dyes and was woven using traditional Ersari designs. Excepting for the inscription, only the very center rectangular device in the guls suggests any departure from the traditional to me.

It is "Ersari" in the sense that it was woven by Afghan Ersari Turkmen refugees in Pakistan refugee camps.

I quite like this production and other instances of it are what are mostly on the floor here.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-06-2007 09:38 AM:

Hi John,

In Pakistan I have seen some like the one you display. I am sure you know this, but yours is in an entirely different category from Joseph's rug, which I think is woven in a different time (long before the 1980's), different place (probably N. Afghanistan or Turkmenistan) and by different people (I think Uzbek).

This thread does remind me that there is a range of quite acceptable "Afghan" rugs that were woven in the first half of the 20th century. Most would fit into the "decorative" category perhaps, but I do find many of them as nice as many of the Persian rugs of that era that seem to be more often discussed. Perhaps I'll start a discussion on one.


Posted by Jack Williams on 08-07-2007 01:47 AM:

rugs vs personalities


Personal attacks don’t become you. My comments have been completely limited to your opinions about rugs, opinions that I think were erroneous. I can't see how they could be interpreted as being about you personally (well…perhaps I did mention that you were being dogmatic, for that I apologize). When I disagree with your posts about rugs, it is not personal and it isn't a "rant," so there is no need for you to respond with invective.

If you've been using the “newish” (but attractively colored) Ersari-Uzbek from your entrance hall as your guide to judging Joseph’s rug, I don’t know what to say except that to my eye it isn’t an analog. But perhaps it's existence does explain your initial somewhat dismissive reaction.

To return to Joseph’s most interesting rug, I’ve prepared some pictures that should hopefully help answer some questions. Pictured below are rugs that have the same minor border as Joseph’s rug. All are attributed to the 19th C.

The first picture juxtaposes Joseph’s rug, and the rug James posted. It seems that one of the minor borders on the James posted rug is apparently the same as the ones on Joseph rug.

The next batch of pictures has more examples of that minor border. Let’s see…we have Ersari, Kizil Ayak, Uzbeks, Kirghitz, Baluch, Kurds, and Chub Bash rugs that use variants of the minor borders of Joseph’s rug.

The next batch of pictures are scan’s from Murry Eiland, Oriental Carpets: A Complete Guide, Expanded Edition, first published 1973. The first two pictures are scans of pages 169-170. These pages show drawings of the main guls used by the Ersari. Notice the drawings of the major guls, and take a look at the Temirgen gul f.” Notice it is different from the “Sulliman”gul, shown as gul “a.”

Eiland’s 1973 text noted gul “f” was “seldom seen now and are associated with the Ghazan and Temirdshin sub-tribes.Gul “f” seems to be the model for the 2.5 guls in Joseph’s carpet. The little two headed bird seems to be one device differentiating the termigen gul from gul “a,” (sulliman) that Eiland wrote is a gul that has “…become popular in many weaving areas…

Of especial interest is the Chub Bash carpet on p. 167 with the same minor border used on Joseph’s rug.

Next is group of pictures that show a “Uzbek” that may fall into the class identified and proposed by James, the carpet far right. The others are attributed to Uzbek and are included to show color, tonality and guls. Do any of these rugs look to have the tonality of Joseph’s rug? Notice they are all attributed to 19th Century.

The next group of pictures includes two “Uzbeks” with a little color and with a variant of the gulli gul. Notice the seeming pointed quality of the “floral elements”, “clover,” or “cherries.” As these rugs are…you guessed it…attributed to the 19th C., is it reasonable to accept that maybe the weavers were familiar with the genre? Also, in Josephs rug, notice the crossed floral ornaments also have pointed ends.

The last group of pictures shows two attributed “Uzbeks” with a remarkable Ersari-Beshir look. Also included is a portion of an Ersari main carpet, probably 1920s, to show the variations that can be found in the gulli gul.


1. A certain group of carpets that are attributed to Uzbek have border woven with a distinct Ersari-Beshir type motif.

2. The “running dog” guard borders of Joseph’s rug are used by widely different central Asian tribal groups, though infrequently. The use of that minor border is found on antique carpets of the Uzbeks, Ersari groups, and Kirgitz groups.

3. The internal guls used on Joseph’s rug are known main guls in Ersari carpets, the gulli gul and the termigen gul.

4. The termirgen gul in Joseph’s rug is the archaic form similar to the gul used in certain very old Saryk (I have an exact example of this if you all want to see it) and Ersari carpets.

5. The Ersari gulli gol used in Joseph’s rug slightly varies from the more usual forms…in a way that may be associated with attribution to Uzbek copies of Ersari rugs.

This rug is interesting especially because the termirgen gul and gulli gol are both used, a beshir-like major border is used, and the minor borders are a known archaic pattern used by several groups in Central Asia, including the Uzbeks.

Now I would hope we can find some additional rugs that belong in this group. I think Joseph’s rug is looking better…don’t you? Thanks to James’ good eye and memory, perhaps a new crossover group of rugs may be identified.

Jack Williams

Posted by Yitzak Ben-Yizri on 08-07-2007 02:38 AM:

Originally posted by R. John Howe
Dear folks -

I won't respond to most of Jack Williams' most recent post above. Too often he is ranting rather than reading. A little embarrassing for a claimed trained scientist to be so intent on pointless argument, but what can one do?

It is possible, though, to provide a recent Afghan "Ersari" rug with a Gulligul for comparison.

This piece is what you walk on as you enter our apartment.

I'm not sure that it comports with every aspect of Jack's demand, but it is an "Ersari" (Afghan) rug with traditional coloring woven after 1950 and it displays a Guligul.

I think this one was woven some time in the 1980s or 1990s. It's inscribed and dated (badly written and upside down in the upper left corner of this rug, I think) so someone who wanted to sort it out closely could tell. It has hand carded, handspun wool, natural dyes and was woven using traditional Ersari designs. Excepting for the inscription, only the very center rectangular device in the guls suggests any departure from the traditional to me.

It is "Ersari" in the sense that it was woven by Afghan Ersari Turkmen refugees in Pakistan refugee camps.

I quite like this production and other instances of it are what are mostly on the floor here.


R. John Howe

I would certainly beg to differ with the notion that your entryway rug is 'traditionally coloured'. The colours may be the result of modern attempts at natural dyes, or synthetics passed off as 'vegetal' but under no circumstances would one confuse those colours with traditional 'ersari group.

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-07-2007 09:09 AM:

Mr. Yitzak Ben-Yizri -

If you will contact me on the side, I will give you the name and contact information for the person directing this production.

He will be very interested in information you might have to suggest that these dyes are neither traditional Ersari colors nor naturally produced.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 08-07-2007 12:23 PM:

Hi Joseph,

I don't look often at structural photos of decorative rugs so I don't know anything for sure. I would be very surprised, however, if many "tribal" noncommercial rugs were woven with commercially produced plied wefts, like your rug has, unless there was no choice in the matter. It's a big "no-no". Sue

Posted by Steve Price on 08-07-2007 12:45 PM:

Hi Sue

Is there some proscription against using commercially produced plied yarn among central and western Asian tribespeople? I know that they didn't use it much, but have always assumed that it was because they had their own homespun yarn and didn't want the expense of commercial materials when their women could spin the wool and their men could dye it, all at "no cost".

Certainly, tribal people in the region seemed to have no reluctance to adopt synthetic dyes once they became available.

Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-07-2007 01:09 PM:


Stepping back several paces, I would observe that the very old rugs generally (traditionally) attributed to "the Ersari" are often exquisite and difficult to duplicate. A great many of the middle old and more recent ones are dreary and uninspiring. John's recent example standing on its own does more for me than most of the latter group, notwithstanding that it does not, as Yitzak has pointed out, reproduce the classic version.

Sue, how do you know the wefts are plied on John's? Did I miss something?

I hope the little eruption between John and Jack is finished.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Yitzak Ben-Yizri on 08-07-2007 01:12 PM:

Originally posted by R. John Howe
Mr. Yitzak Ben-Yizri -

If you will contact me on the side, I will give you the name and contact information for the person directing this production.

He will be very interested in information you might have to suggest that these dyes are neither traditional Ersari colors nor naturally produced.


R. John Howe

Dear Mr. Howe,

Why on earth would I have any interest in contacting your mysterious person?

If there is one thing that I have learned during my of involvement with the weavers of Central Asia, it is that they are oftentimes playing a 'great game' of their own. Furthermore, I never claimed that the dyes in your litte rug were patently synthetic, just that they could be. I have more than once been shown examples (modern 'vagireh' style color samplers, actually) and i could not easily tell between the vegetal versus the synthetic.

At any rate, the wool in your rug looks dry, possibly from New Zealand and the colours appear on my monitor to be rather dull. They may represent close aproximations of Ersari, but I believe that it is incorrect to place your rug in any meaningful continuum of Ersari or central asian weaving traditions.


Yitzak Ben-Yizri

Posted by Steve Price on 08-07-2007 01:21 PM:

Originally posted by Richard Larkin
Sue, how do you know the wefts are plied on John's? Did I miss something?

Hi Rich

Sue was referring to Joe's rug, and probably based her statement about the commercially plied yarns being used for weft on this photo, which Joe posted on the first page.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-07-2007 01:28 PM:

Ahah! Thanks, Steve.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 08-07-2007 02:15 PM:


Yes, for wefts, and the dye sellers of that time were very close in to the flow of money-- the best that money could buy. Like the time share salesmen of today.
I'm not going to talk about commercial rugs anymore though. Too boring. Sorry. Sue

Posted by Gene Williams on 08-07-2007 03:20 PM:

Loss of History


I went down to Lashwah Juwayn, In the Seistan Basin recently and talked with the inhabitants. They are heavily into smuggling opium now, the only cash crop they know. I asked them why they didn't weave carpets. They commented that to import dyed yarn from Iran cost them more than they could get for a finished carpet.

That's pretty much what a war, and what easy profits from drug smuggling, will do to a culture. It can die out overnight it seems. There were sheep grazing nearby. The Pustuns and Tadjik inhabitants of the village didn't even seem to know how to shear and card the wool they had at their fingertips or how to dye it naturally. All they could think of was how much it costs to import machine made yarn from Iran!! its sad. They need you out there.


Posted by Jack Williams on 08-07-2007 04:15 PM:



I have blown that picture of the back of Joe's rug up until the molecules are distinguishable. I cannot determine the machine nature of the wefts. Can you instruct me what it is you are seeing that confirms your suspicion?

Jack Williams

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-07-2007 05:51 PM:

Hi Sue,

Being able to distinguish between "commercial" and "home-made" materials strikes me as an important issue, and as such it ought to be consistently applied as a means of providing at least one more means of describing the structure of a rug. As you and others know, there are numerous eras and places where there was a mix of both commercial and non-commercial weaving, if commercial is defined as weaving products that are made according to market principles and norms (like efficiency of production, adoption of popular designs, etc.). As I mentioned in another thread, Hans Konig came up with what I think is an interesting concept; the "quasi-tribal" rug. By this he meant rugs woven in somewhat traditional ways and circumstances, but with the emergence of new designs based on more interaction with other weavings and the impetus to start to apply more individualistic interpretations of tribal designs. I am not sure if one could consider these strictly "commercial", but it depends on one's way of defining "commercial". I, for one, would be interested to know how you define "commercial", and whether you agree that a more systematic analysis of rug structure looking for the means of production would be a useful avenue for investigation. If so, I think it would be a very interesting exercise to begin. I would be happy to send detailed pictures of a few rugs that I think probably verge between "commercial" and "traditional" to see if any pattern emerges in terms of their construction. Of course, that would first require a more clear explanation of the additional methods for structural analysis, and I would be interested in hearing more from you on that as well.



Posted by Jack Williams on 08-07-2007 06:20 PM:

A passing thought

About the "plied wefts" and commercial production...One place Sue's assumtion of plied wefts could have come from is Joe's original post. Joe stated that, "The wefts are a mix of brown and gray wool..." which could be interpreted as indicating plying.

Given his that brave attempt at structural analsis may contain some elementary possible errors, (the same ones we all have made in time)..., I wonder if the statment "the wefts are a mix of brown and gray wool" is not actually a reference to the warps.

When I blow up the back of the rug, it looks like normal, brown Ersari wefts, probably including two shots despite the postulation of a flat back. From the blow-ups, I cannot determine "plying" much less "machine plying," nor the mix of brown and gray wool.

But the warps definitely seem to be a mix of brown and gray wool and seem to be plied...but probably not machine plied (from my quick look). Perhaps the assumptions Sue made were based on a description that was wrong.

Just a thought. Regards,

Jack Williams

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-07-2007 06:25 PM:


Not to speak for Sue, but I presume she is referring to the fact that wefts appear to have been plied in Joe's rug. I believe rugs produced by nomads or cottage industry villagers often have unplied yarn used for wefts, in contrast to pile and warp. Whether the wefts are always unplied in home operations, however, I cannot say.

James, Konig's observation is well taken, but I would go further. Don't you think that the usual discussion models in use in the west about oriental rug weaving among the likes of us are grossly insufficient to account for all of the production circumstances that must have been extant? There seems to be a persistent fallback to the notion that "tribal" and "commercial" are largely separate categories that nevertheless cover most of the production between them. A while back, Gene Williams posted some fascinating excerpts from Fraser's book about being among the Tekke in the early 19th century. Their rug production was very much a commercial enterprise as he saw it. The truth must be that an exceedingly complex array of circumstances permeated the whole history of rug weaving, most of the details of which we will probably never recover. A close rereading of "The Six Blind Men and the Elephant" is always in order in this field.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-07-2007 09:57 PM:

Re: A passing thought

Originally posted by Jack Williams
About the "plied wefts" and commercial production...One place Sue's assumtion of plied wefts could have come from is Joe's original post. Joe stated that, "[b]The wefts are a mix of brown and gray wool..." which could be interpreted as indicating plying.

Given his that brave attempt at structural analsis may contain some elementary possible errors, (the same ones we all have made in time)..., I wonder if the statment "the wefts are a mix of brown and gray wool" is not actually a reference to the warps.

Actually, I did mean wefts. However, my description was a bit vague. By "mix" I meant some of the wefts were one color while others were of a different color, not that a single weft strand was a mix of different colors. Also, the "gray" might be better described as light brown. The differences stand out in the pure red outer border in the picture of the back.

Some portions of the rug just use light brown, some are exclusively darker brown, and some have wefting of both colors. The wefting also varies in thickness. I'd originally posted 6-7v, but I've found regions with 8 knots vertically as well--perhaps more places than 6v, so call it 6-8v. I won't try to determine if the number of weft shoots varies or if the individual wefts are thicker--not from laziness; I'm just not confident in the information I could provide. If it's important I'll give it a try.

Jack, how does having two shots of wefting interact with the back being flat? I may have been off in my terminology, by flat I simply meant that there was no warp depression.

I don't know how to determine whether the wefting was commercially plied. But again, if anyone has tips I'll give it a shot. I have access to a trusted dealer for a couple of weeks (before I move to Massachusetts), so if there are any technical questions I can try to get him to answer them. Or I can post a more zoomed photo if that would help.

For the commercial vs. non-commercial, from what I've read it seems that most rugs were at least partly commercial. Rather than carrying around mass quantities of wool, instead transform it into something that is portable, useful, and valuable as a trade good. The West introduced many technologies to rug producing regions, but trade and barter weren't among them. I have difficulty imagining someone spending the time (and other familial resources) to create a beautiful weaving and not give any thought to "what if disaster strikes and we need to trade for food?" or "what if that family we often run into has some neat bracelets like they often do?"


Posted by Steve Price on 08-07-2007 10:22 PM:

Hi Joe

Warp depression involves using two shots of weft per row of knots. One of each pair of wefts is taut, the other is slack (I think the term people use is "sinuous"). This puts alternate warps on different planes, one above the other. If there are two shots of weft with similar tensions on each, there is no warp depression. I haven't looked, but I'll bet Marla Mallett's site has diagrams showing this.


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-08-2007 12:26 AM:



Sue's comments have diverted me (again) from the search to enlarge this "group" perhaps eventually helping to define it. But it is possible Sue has done a drive-by here...tossed a comment and hit the accelerator. I recommend putting a hold on accepting her judgement about those wefts pending some explanation or proof. How she can see commercially machine plied weft structure is pretty mysterious to me.

I've been gathering photo closeups of the back of various Ersari, Uzbeck, Kizil Ayak, etc., in case Sue doesn't explain her comment. Even with that hitandrun comment, now the question must be dealt with. I really dislike offhand topedoes. You can see how much energy is consumed just stamping out embers and killing rats. I've asked Sue for details...but that doesn't mean we'll get a response.

Thus far, to my eye the wefts of your rug look pretty much like the wefts on several old "Ersaris, et. al." The wefts don't look machine made to me either. In the "rug gallery" on Tom Cole's site (I completely trust Tom's attributions and data) are some detailed pictures of an Ersari Chuval and a "Beshir" chuval. The close-up photos of the backs of those weaves appear to show wefts similar to yours to my eye.

Keep in ming I'm not a weaving or spinning expert. When I have enough to form an opinion, I'll do a post...

I don't think your rug is single wefted. It would be obvious from the back if it were. Most double wefts create various degrees of depression, which as I understand it is the main reason for two shots in the first place. However, I have seen double weft Baluch and Afshar rugs, quite old, that now seem to have lost most warp depression as the pile wore and the whole structure weakened.

That may be the case with your rug. It looks a little as if there may have once been some warp depression, and it looks like in places it is still residually apparent, at least in the photos.

If you are moving to Mass., anywhere near the Boston area, Rich Larkin lives in Bolton and I've come to trust his judgement, especially on Baluch...and this rug seems to have enough of a Baluch-like structure to benefit from his opinion in the wool. His rates for consultation are said to be reasonable for the value gained, no more than a couple of grand an hour.

If you have access to an experienced dealer or someone else with structural expertise, I would ask him guide me through structural analysis. I suggest making a list of questions and taking precise mightl be surprised how much you forget, or the questions you forget to ask.

If you are getting that strutural look, see what Murrey Eiland wrote beneath the rugs I scanned for an example of what complete analysis could include. You probably won't ever get that level of detail...but get whatever you can.

I am not ready to concede this rug to the "Uzbeks." There was a time that everything was Ersari, now nothing is Ersari and more and more is being attibuted to Uzbeks, even "Beshir" rug designs. But Ersari is a useful term and one that has some historical accuracy, and rug weaving history.

It is not evident just how old pile weaving is with the Uzbeks. Their physical history and cultural details are also not as completely researched as the Ersari. In your spare time, reading the Turkmen articles on Tom Coles site will give you a lot of pleasure and help you understand the background. For me, historical knowledge, archeology, and ethnographic studies, enhances both appreciaton and understanding rugs.

Joe, have you washed the rug? For some reason I get the idea it is a little grungy. You might see a real color gain with a proper wash job.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-08-2007 02:19 AM:

Jack, the rug is definitely not single wefted. I'm unsure if in some places there are 3 wefts (the wefting is almost exactly 50% thicker) or if the weft threads are simply thicker.

I agree with your comments about the rug possibly having had depressed warps once. From the photo, every other warp definitely jumps out at you. But I don't see that when I actually look at the back

I put a corner of the rug in some cold water as a test, and a good amount of dirt came out. Usually I just dunk whatever I'm cleaning in the sink/tub with some baby shampoo and force water through the rug. That works fine up to about 2' x 4', but this rug is too big so I'll probably go to the pros.


Posted by Jack Williams on 08-08-2007 03:00 AM:

Whip it, whip it good

Beat it thoroughly first to get out the loose stuff. You might just make mud which then sets like cement. I just thought the colors might improve considerably. I've been disappointed in faming out washing...but you might have a good contact.

In the photos I noticed what appeared to be three wefts in a couple of places. But I'm not sure what the purpose would be. Some Afshar carpets have a periodic set of extra wefts added for no apparent reason. A weaving pro is need here.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 08-08-2007 05:24 AM:

At any rate, the wool in your rug looks dry, possibly from New Zealand

I’m not an expert, but I think I can do better.

If I look carefully at at the picture of John’s rug, I can see traces of dandruff embedded in the wool: that points out undoubtedly to New Zealand southern district of Invercargill were the hardness of the water causes dandruff to the sheep.

Perhaps one of the sheep suffered also from squinted-eyes…
(I’m not 100% sure about that because, as I have said, I’m not an expert. )


Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-08-2007 01:16 PM:

Hi Joe,

I don't know what your proclivities might be in this area, but you can wash this rug successfully yourself if you have access to a copious water supply and a decent flat surface, like an asphalt or concrete driveway. Thorough rinsing is a key. There are other tips that would help, several probably archived on TurkoTek. I used to do it all the time. (I remember the time we were having dinner at the home of our friends, the Johnsons. The subject of the rug hobby came up. "Oooh," said Bob, "That's a different rug every Saturday. I was telling Carol, 'Rich must have the cleanest rug in Stow. He's washing it every weekend.'")

Not wanting to offend the "no commercial promotion" rule of TurkoTek, I note you might want to put a little "Head and Shoulders" or "Selsun Blue" into the wash, to deal with that dry New Zealand wool.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Steve Price on 08-08-2007 01:26 PM:

Hi Rich

We have no restrictions about recommending things that are more or less commodities (books, washing supplies, pads, materials for hanging rugs, etc.). It's the "one of a kind" rugs and textiles that we try not to promote.

A washing product that many collectors use is something called Orvus, made by Proctor and Gamble and marketed as a horse shampoo. I live in Virginia's horse country, so it's easy to find the stuff locally. It isn't as alkaline as most detergents and shampoos, and colors become amazing while the rug is in the washing stage. Some kind of optical effect that I don't understand, but enjoy seeing.

A Google search of Turkotek with "Orvus" as the search term will bring up some discussions about rug washing, with some pretty good information along with some superstitions.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-08-2007 03:02 PM:

Hi Steve,

Yes, Orvus is the preparation of choice in my book. I've used other things too, like Woolite. Who's to say how much damage I've done. Good thing it wasn't the Ardebil carpet. Just some humble Baluch.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-08-2007 05:46 PM:' comment on my advice to Joe about consultants available in Mass?

All: I'm becoming more concerned that Sue conducted a drive-by off the cuff shot in the dark hit and run bolt from the blue blurt out whatever comes to mind random act of terror. Therefore, I recommend we put her comment about machine made wefts on hold pending some credible proof.

I think Sue is a very knowledgeable person about weaves and dyes...just distractable.

Regards, Jack

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 08-08-2007 08:35 PM:

Another example sort of

Here is a piece that may fit into the category under review. It was recently sold on e-bay:

It was described as circa 1900 Turkoman, 245x210cm. The back is flat, with no warp depression. It has the "pointed cherries" and similar edge treatment.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-09-2007 01:16 AM:

Hi Patrick,

For what it's worth, I would place this latest example that you posted in a different category from Joseph's rug (the "pointed cherries" notwithstanding). This one looks like a fairly typical "Ersari" type in terms of proportions and the layout of the guls, etc. I still think Joseph's is a different category, and I am going to stick with Uzbek for my opinion. I think that the scale, placement and instrumentation of the large guls leads me to that sort of attribution, and the white ground minor border is another clue for me. Finally, I wonder about the use of yellow in the quarters of the guls in Joseph's rug (at least that is the what the colour looks like on my screen). Ersari rugs almost always seem to use orange or "salmon", whereas I have seen a few of this "type" that seem to sometimes use yellow instead.

Anyway, that's my two rupee's worth.


Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-09-2007 01:27 AM:

James, you are correct that the guls on my rug are yellow.

Is another point of similarity between this rug and mine in the borders? The main border on my rug looks similar to the innermost border on the rug just posted. You have to squint a bit, but the basic form seems the same.

Sorry for not keeping up on the research for this thread. I'm trying to get things wrapped up here and get packed for the move. The most useful thing I can contribute is a better structural analysis, so I've contacted the local rug guru to look over the rug together.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-09-2007 08:14 AM:


I still think James is onto this. Joe's rug isn't quite in the camp of such as Patrick has posted, a much more conventional example. The oversized guls, the use of two different types (out of three and a half total!) in a non-Turkoman array, the variant coloring. I believe it's from Northern Afghanistan, but not the usual suspect weavers.

Joe, care to say where in Massachusetts you're moving? I'd be happy to take up Jack's kind invitation and analyze all your rugs. My standard arrangement is ten percent of the collection, my choice.

Anyway, welcome to the Bay State! The good rugs are mostly gone out of the old yankee houses, but good luck all the same.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 08-09-2007 01:10 PM:

James -

Yellow in guls does occur in "Ersari" main carpets, as in this image from a post above:

This is a Mackie-Thompson catalog image from 1980 which they called "Ersari."


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-09-2007 05:58 PM:

Hi John,

I didn't mean to say that Ersari rugs never have yellow in the guls, but I certainly haven't seen very many examples. I would see the example you showed as being an exception, rather than the rule (if in fact the gul quarters are in yellow and don't just appear that way due to photographic artifact). In contrast, it strikes me that this other "stylistic group", which I have suggested could be Uzbek, seems to favour yellow over orange in the guls. Perhaps others could comment on how often they have seen "Ersari" group gulli-guls with yellow quarters.


Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-09-2007 07:37 PM:


I would say certain old "Ersari" types featured a particularly good, bright yellow. The red in them was often just as good. John's posted example (out of Mackie and Thompson) looks like an example. Joe's rug seems to have very different shades of each color, such that comparison of them based on similarity of color use seems pointless. Perhaps the point is not the similarity of color, but rather the concept of using yellow of any shade in the gul quarters. In any case, it is the variance from main line Turkoman usage in several respects, including color use and choice, that leads me to see the rug as tangentially Turkoman.

Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 08-09-2007 09:24 PM:

Hi Rich,

"Tangentially Turkoman...." I like it!


Posted by Gene Williams on 08-10-2007 03:17 PM:

A Tagent to (where?)


Ok, ok...mysteries...especially if an axe is used..and there is bulls' red blood all over the place..always get my attention. But, tangents branch off from something . They're usually supposed to lead somewhere or at least are suppoed to be headed towards something. Care to take a leap of faith and postulate or maybe provoke? We'll back you me.


Posted by Steve Price on 08-10-2007 03:32 PM:

Hi Gene

Tangent = Sine/Cosine

What's the mystery?


Steve Price

Posted by Gene Williams on 08-10-2007 03:42 PM:

Pythagoras groaned

Oh ..what to say...I think I need another "grape research project" (the type John couldn't find in Turkey).. I think there's a small one left in the fridge. Gene ''

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-11-2007 03:40 PM:

Structural and other information

I took the rug to a local dealer who I trust and who shows up on google searches as someone who knows what he's talking about (I don't know if posting rules forbid mentioning dealer names).

For structure:
Knotting. The knotting is asymmetric open left. I feel a bit embarrassed that I posted open right initially, but on the plus side I'd figured but that glitch before talking with the dealer (he confirmed ASL). The books have these nice line drawings of what knots are supposed to look like, but it seems the weavers never got the message and create things that look much messier.

Warps. The warps are 2 ply, with each single being undyed wool of a different color. He agrees that the back is mostly flat, with some regions having some warp depression possibly due to the uneven wefting.

Wefts. We're not sure of the ply of the wefts, as neither of us are experts on spinning. However, one observation is that we could not find a region with either one or three wefts, and the weft thickness varies greatly (some regions are four times as thick as others). Would such variation be odd for commercial wool?

Selvedge. Most of what is visible is rewrapping. The original is wool double braided over 4 warps. While at the shop, we didn't think there was any hair on the rug, but looking at the photo it appears there might be hair mixed in.


He tossed out a few comments as well:
1. He feels the rug is Ersari rather than Uzbek.

2. Due to its size (3'2" by 7'1" of pile) a possible use may have been as a bedding rug. If it was used as such, the pile was possibly considerably longer originally.

3. The kilim skirts were probably longer. He doesn't think the fringe would be in as good shape as it is if it had been exposed for the entire life of the rug. Given the state of the adjacent kilim, I'm inclined to agree.

4. The colors are very well saturated, and the greens look complex with considerable variation.

5. If anyone knows a source of mid 20th century rugs with similar wools, color, and designs, he is very much interested ;-)

I put some high resolution photos at:

The little magnifying glass near the upper left corner of the photo is how you zoom in. Obvious once you see it, but I didn't see it for awhile.

I've seen USB microscopes advertised. Has anyone played around with those? It could be a nice way of getting very zoomed in images to post.


Posted by Steve Price on 08-11-2007 04:00 PM:

Hi Joe

The only problem with mentioning the name of someone who examined it for you is that it opens a door to criticizing him if someone disagrees (or just feels like criticizing him, or is a competitor with an axe to grind).

I don't know anything about a USB microscope, but my home computer has a mouse with a little button on one side that turns it into a moving magnifier. It's a "Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 3000". Not much different than any other decent mouse in price. Much less expensive than a single issue of HALI, just to put it into a context with which most of our readers are familiar.


Steve Price

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-11-2007 04:21 PM:

Zoomed pictures


What you're describing is electronically zooming in on the image. That works up to a point, but it cannot create detail that isn't in the original image. As you zoom in the pixels basically get bigger and the image gets blurrier. If you can take the original photo zoomed in, then all of the pixels could be used to capture fine detail (basically the same argument as optical vs. digital zoom for digital cameras).

Imagine if the original image was 400 pixels wide but only covered 6 lines of knots (or even less). Such an image would look like what you would see through a linen tester and would be intricately detailed. I could post something like that and let the weaving experts have at it for how the thread was spun, what hair problems the sheep or weavers had, etc.

Thanks for the advice on mentioning dealer names. He'll stay anonymous both for the reasons you state and I forgot to ask him if he was ok being publicly named.


Posted by Steve Price on 08-11-2007 05:12 PM:

Hi Joe

If it's magnifying the display on the screen, the resolution is limited by the monitor. I'm using a 19" (diagonal) monitor; the width of which is about 15". It displays 1280 pixels in that 15" width, about 85 pixels per inch. You can magnify that optically with an external lens, but I don't think that accomplishes anything more than magnifying it digitally would. For a USB microscope to do more than that, it would have to magnify a crop of the image before the image gets sent to the display by the graphics card. Is there a device that can do this? New things always reach Virginia last.


Steve Price

PS - I just did a Google search for "USB microscope". It's basically a microscope with a digital output, letting you take extreme closeups and send them to the computer. I'm guessing that you could do as much (or close to it) by direct scanning of a piece.

Posted by Steve Price on 08-11-2007 07:42 PM:

Hi Again, Joe

I just scanned a small Uzbek bag at 300 DPI. I cropped off a small piece of it at that resolution, then reduced the image of the whole bag to a manageable size and compressed that JPG.

Here they are:

Does it take more than this to see what you'd like to see in terms of fiber detail?


Steve Price

Posted by Jack Williams on 08-11-2007 11:39 PM:

wh'Uz-beck? ERSARI's beck, dats whuz!


I apologize, I suspected your rug to be open left…but I didn’t want to ask for fear the nay sayers would divert the conversation. I think that absent credible pictorial evidence, only the dogmatic would doubt this rugs antiquity, given the age of the design analogs and the lack of younger examples.

Also, I think we can now dismiss the “machine made plaited weft” drive-by terrorist comment. The variability of the weft structure reported by you actually seems more uneven than the usual hand spun wefts. I wouldn't be surprised if this rug once had moderately depressed warps. If you can post the photo proof, it would be nice. But it isn't required. You have testimony from a known expert about the structure. For now, that should trump the nay-sayers personnal opinions. The evidence is for your rug.

The other reasons for thinking this rug anything but antique also seem to be falling away. The dyes, composition, structure all look old, and this does not look like anything that would be made specifically for commercial reasons. These people were not foolish about weaving commercial rugs, particularly post-Russian takeover. This rug does not fit a made-for-commerce post Russian rug. Even the size 3.2 x 7.1 seems to be an archaic Ersari-Beshir shape.

I think it mid-Amu Darya for complex tribal reasons and have als been reluctant to Uzbek-ify this rug. I personally think it archaic Ersari..of a group with the Tsareva rug posted by James (when you wash it, the colors could brighten close to those of the Tsareva rug). But I don’t think it was a sleeping rug…which are usually much less detailed in design. Despite the 40 KPSI, look at the beautiful detail of the internal floral elements…the crossed flowers are remarkable. This just does not look like a sleeping mat.

Given the Ersari-Saryk temirgen guls and gulli gul, the unique internal designs, the “ersari-beshir” border.. I believe we will eventually be able to isolate this group. The resulting data might actually shed some light on the Ersari in general. I confess I’ve looked at thousands of rugs and isolated 15 or 20 that I’ll winnow down to see if they deserve group opinion…but found no additional obvious members of this group.

Joe…I think this conversation might eventually bring other analogs to light. It takes a while for the people who read this forum, but don’t post much, to decide that a conversation is significant. I’m off to Europe…back in two weeks. I’ll try to check things out on the road.

Regards, Jack Williams

Posted by Richard Larkin on 08-12-2007 01:07 AM:

Hi Joe,

A couple of thoughts. I doubt the pile was ever considerably longer, e. g., as in a bedding rug. If it had worn down that much over time, the flatwoven kilims would certainly not be so well preserved. As to the wefts, just squinting at them in the photos, I doubt they are an industrial product. They look like a lot of other wefts of rural or rustic products, and there's nothing else about the rug that suggests a highly commercial production.

I don't doubt that it is "Ersari," but that begs the question here, as we are learning that the term covers a multitude of sins, mostly from the Middle Amu Darya. I ratified James's suggestion of Uzbek, but I'm not really qualified to make those distinct tribal attributions. I just think it is a slightly offbeat product from Northern Afghanistan, or thereabouts. Certainly, that range of production is hardly susceptible of strict tribal regimentation, nevermind that we insist on pinning tribal labels on it.

What did your dealer think about washing it?

Rich Larkin

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-12-2007 11:28 AM:

Too much is never enough


I think we were talking past each other. I was simply making the point that digital zoom cannot recover information that wasn't in the original image (while optical zoom in fact increases the detail in the original image). I believe you're countering that there is a lot more information in the original image than I'm crediting.

I'd put the truth somewhere in between. For the image that you sent, I cannot be certain, but I suspect that the level of detail on the zoomed photo is comparable to what you would see with the naked eye if you had the bag in front of you. However, when doing a technical examination people use visual aids, which suggests that detail comparable to the unaided eye isn't always good enough.

However, you're right that I was underestimating the detail available in the original photos. With enough light and a steady hand, I could get about 25X zoom (quarter shows as 5" across), and could see details that I missed when looking at the rug directly. 25X zoom should be sufficient. Even the online versions of the photos with only 9X zoom should work nicely.


Posted by Steve Price on 08-12-2007 11:52 AM:

Hi Joe

I was confused, too, about where we were going.

The content of the detail photo of that bag is visible if you have it in your hand, but not very easily without a hand lens. The braided hanging ropes are one-eighth inch thick in real life, on my monitor they're three times that width. Also, I scanned at 300 dpi, and my scanner is capable of 9600 dpi (more than 30 times finer acuity(!). Unfortunately, that makes an image file too large for my graphics card to handle. But with a higher end computer it's probably achievable.

I guess my point is that a scanner can act as a magnifier that works on an image before it gets to the monitor. It has the additional nice properties of extremely good depth of field and immunity to a shaky hand, both of which are serious problems in macrophotography or microscopy. That detail photo of the bag shows it nicely. The plane closest to the sensor is about one-quarter inch closer than the plane of the stuff furthest from the sensor, but focus is perfect for all of it. In this respect it's more like a scanning electron microscope than like a light microscope.

Sooner or later, the limit is likely to be the resolution of the monitor. Mine gets to about 85 pixels per inch, and I don't think there are many people using monitors that will go beyond 125 to 150 pixels per inch.


Steve Price

Posted by Joseph Beck on 08-12-2007 12:34 PM:

Too bad that neither you nor Richard think a sleeping rug is likely. I'll confess that I liked the thought of some primitive use for the rug.

James, for the variability in weft width, my math is good, but I'm not 100% certain of the best way to measure. Each row of wefting also has variation in how narrow/thick it is. I don't know how much variation is due to packing vs. actual differences in weft thickness (do wefts vary in thickness across a single row?). So comparing across rows seems tricky.

Richard, I agree the Ersari tag isn't terribly meaningful, I was simply mentioning it since it was his reaction and I was trying to give a complete report. Another rug dealer was in the shop, and was amused at the exercise of trying to distinguish between Ersari, Uzbek, and North Afghanistan.

I forgot to ask about washing the rug, although he usually brings it up if he thinks it's dirty. But he has looser standards than me about when a rug needs cleaning. There will be probably be some color gain, but given the scattered foundation and low pile in many places, I think the brown wefts will result in a more muted look. I'll take a shot at cleaning it later this month, when I visit some relatives who have a driveway, and who do not have alleys or streets on three sides of their house (I'm not sure what the urban planners were thinking).