Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 12-03-2004 02:37 PM:

Rug for Identification

Hello All,

Here's a piece that qualifies as a ruin in anyone's book:

But it's an interesting ruin, I think. It has elements reminiscent of Plate 14 in "Through the Collector's Eye" - a magnificent NON ruin! I think my example may have started life as a runner. Can anyone shed some light on its place of origin? People much more knowledgable than I have suggested Zakatala, Eastern Anatolia, Kurdish. For the record, the warps are slightly, but not clinically, depressed.

Lloyd Kannenberg

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-04-2004 07:37 AM:

Lloyd -

The best person, likely, to speak to your piece is Ralph Kaffel, who sometimes watches this site and is willing to comment.

I really know nothing in particular about Caucasian prayer rugs but notice some things about this fragment.

First, it would be useful to know its size as it stands. From the shape it appears that it could be quite long. In his book, Kaffel shows some prayer rugs that are longer than use in prayer would require. He shows three long Peripedils, the longest being 8'5". Two of them have niche designs at both ends. The designs of the Peripedils do not resemble the rather odd amalgam on your piece.

Second, your piece exhibits a cross panel. This happens in Turkmen engsis and in some Turkish rugs but Kaffel says it is unsual in Caucasan prayer rugs. He shows only one, Plate 35 with a cross panel, but that piece does not in other ways resemble yours either. And the cross panel on Plate 35 occurs at the end of the field while yours is midfield.

I am not sure that we can say anything on the basis of the niche form on your piece but I notice that it is curved and that it floats. This is a usage that looks as if it could have been added for marketing purposes (apparently Caucasian weavers discovered that niche designs were popular and began to add them sometimes for that reason alone) to a design that was complete without it.

The fact that the various designs in this piece appear not to have much integration (as if they were taken from different rugs) is odd and one wonders what the missing end looked like, e.g. was there another nich form?

I also looked through Peter Stone's new book on tribal and village designs to see what help he might offer.

The lower half of your piece has some usages that seem similar to what Stone calls Kazak medallions. There may even be traces in some areas (although they are not well drawn) of "pinwheel" usages.

The blue device under the niche seems similar to what Stone calls a Karagashli variant of a Kuba medallion although the downward pointing arrows are not part of what Stone provides. It is the internal tree-like instrumentation that is apparently the hallmark of this usage.

The rectangular device with the white ground interior resembles (although the devices in it seem very conventialized) some Daghestan and Shirvan field repeats. Color seems not to be used diagonally in these field devices.

The border seems also an amalgam of conventionalized devices of various sorts. I think I see the remains of bracketing devices one encounters in kufic borders.

One suspects several weavers working perhaps in sequence over time and largely ignoring what had been done before.

It is an interesting and unusual piece.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-04-2004 11:43 AM:

Yes, that’s another interesting one.

It could be a Zakatala. According to the article “On the road to Zakatala” (Hali 78), Zakatala rugs have “longish pile, relatively coarse weave, multiple naturally-colored dark woolen wefts, subdued mellow tonality… and a range of design drawn from the varied vernacular traditions that come together in Azerbaijan, some said they were Kurdish, others that they were made by Turks who had moved to Zakatala from the Konya region in the 19th century, but no one really knew.”
Foe sure, ethnically speaking, the Zakatala region is a melting pot inside the wider Caucasian melting pot and the designs they used reflect this fact…
Any multiple brown wefts in your rug?


Posted by R. John Howe on 12-04-2004 02:42 PM:

Dear folks -

I'm not sure but I think the Zakatala attribution might be one of those more readily pinned down.

Zakatala rugs were only distinguised quite recently and I think one of the important criteria seems to be that many "Zakatala" pieces have wool that is S-spun rather than Z-spun.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jerry Silverman on 12-04-2004 05:14 PM:

...a Kazak version of a "vagireh"?

It's got damn near all the signature Kazak motifs. Especially if the missing bottom portion that John wonders about has a nice "crab" border.



Posted by R. John Howe on 12-04-2004 05:59 PM:

Hi Jerry -

That would be interesting: a long Caucasian sampler.

Gordon Priest, a collector from Baltimore, did the TM rug morning today and started with four samplers all Persian.

Gordon also had two pieces with the diamond device that occurs in this narrow border. One he said was Kuba, the other Shahsavan. Of course, these borders have lots of things in them.

It could be that this piece had more design regularity than might seem to be the case at first. That's one of the reasons I asked how long this fragment is. It seems like we can see the beginning of a second cross panel colored and with devices much like the first.

Could it have finished like it starts?

If so, I'd guess it was a pretty long piece.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-05-2004 02:50 PM:


The "anchors" of the large white medallion near the bottom of your rug have a striking similarity to this eastern Anatolian Kurdish yastik. Both have brown latchook devices at either end of the medallion.
In your rug, the latchook diamonds are internal to the anchors, but in my yastik, they are outside the anchors. The latchooks look a lot alike, due to the less than perfect drawing (spontaneous? crude? rustic?) the same brown color and their location at the ends of the medallion.

These kinds of features may have been suggestive of an eastern Anatolian/Kurdish origin for your rug to some of those who have seen it, but the colors of your rug do not appear to be anything like eastern Anatolian.

The large-tailed confronting creatures in the "cross panel" are quite intriguing. It appears that there was another identical "cross panel" at the bottom of the rug, as John Howe indicated. I wonder if Vincent can mirror-image your rug so we could see what it might look like if, in fact, the white medallion was in the center of your rug and it is missing only the bottom end?

As the author/moderator of the Salon, I believe I get to select one of the pieces shown during the discussion. Your rug is at the top of my selection list....

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-05-2004 02:59 PM:

Hi Pat -

I'm not sure, but I think the devices in the cross panels are, in external outline, a version of the "hexagon with externally oriented rams horns" device that Peter Davies discussed at the TM recently.

The internal instrumentation is anything but Anatolian, though.

It likely is an instance showing again that various "Turkic" devices were used broadly.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 12-05-2004 07:56 PM:



The cross-device certainly conforms to a "hexagon with externally oriented rams horns". It is the pregnant sauropods inside the hexagon, to either side of the vertical hexagon in the middle of the larger cross-piece hexagon I am intrigued by.

Perhaps there was a Caspian Creature, similar to the Loch Ness Monster, that the weaver had seen. Did Mr. Davies discuss the motifs inside the hexagons?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Lloyd Kannenberg on 12-05-2004 08:44 PM:

Dear All,

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments!

In answer to questions, here is some technical data on the rug. Width 3 feet 2 inches, length (at present) 7 feet 6 inches. Wefts are mostly dark brown, with some light brown and at the very bottom some red. The are two or four weft shoots between knot rows, two shoots predominating. The warps are Z spun, 2S plied.

The blue and yellow horizontal band just below the square device in the field is repeated at the bottom (you may be able to see its beginning at the lower end of the picture). Since it is about 4 feet 3 inches from the upper band to the top of the rug, a symmetrical continuation below the lower band to the now missing bottom would mean that the original rug was about 11 feet 9 inches long - a pretty respectable size.

Since the "Zakatala" attribution has come up, maybe someone can help me locate the place. Nearly all the maps I have seen locate it in northwest Azerbaijan, nearly in the Caucasus main chain. On the other hand, in Mr. Burns's excellent book on Kurdish rugs his map locates "Zakataly" just east of Mount Ararat (Agri Dagh). Hovannissian's "History of Armenia 1918-1920" has several maps of this area, showing many villages, none identified as "Zakatala" or "Zakataly". Could it be that there was such a village in that area which no longer exists, or was renamed? Or is it possible that Zakatala and Zakataly are one and the same town in northeast Azerbaijan after all?

Lloyd Kannenberg

Posted by R. John Howe on 12-05-2004 11:14 PM:

Mr. Kannenberg -

In his Lexicon, Peter Stone offers both the spellings you cite above and says that they are a "group of villages of northern Azerbaijan in the Caucasus."

Their rugs he says are "all wool, symmetrically knotted" and "have designs of vertical stripes or variations of Kazak designs."


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 12-06-2004 04:38 AM:

Zakatala (also spelled Zakataly) is the name given to both the district and the main town. The district is in Northern Azerbaijan, is composed of around fifty villages and had a population of about 100,000 of whom 60% Daghestani (Avar, Lesghi, Zeikhuri and Kumyk), 30% Azeri, 10% of Georgian Muslims and a former presence of Armenians which had left because of the turmoil between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are 28 different dialects spoken in the area.
That’s according to HALI’s contributing editor Tony Hazledine who actually went there in 1994.
As I said, his article was published in HALI 78.
Here is a map from the article, showing Hazledine’s itinerary from Baku to Zakatala.