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Turkish Carpet Museum Istanbul

TURKISH CARPETS (RUGS) & KILIMS

The Turkish arts of textile-making and carpet-weaving flourished particularly in Anatolia where some of the world’s finest carpets were woven in centers such as Konya, Usak, and Bergama during the Seljuk, Feudal, and Ottoman periods.

Choice examples of rugs, kilims, and other exquisite textiles are to be found in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and in the Vakiflar Museum of Carpets and Kilims (both in Istanbul) as well as in a number of other museums in Turkey.

The weaving tradition in Anatolia has been traced back over 5,000 years. The weaving heritage that has evolved is one of the finest in the world. Generation after generation of weavers has been influenced by the motifs and designs of the many cultures that existed in present-day Turkey. Once you visit a reputable carpet gallery you will learn about the vast variety of symbols that have been woven into the rugs and kilims offered. You will soon start seeing the continuity of the designs and appreciate the history of the weaving tradition in Anatolia.

Oldest Turkish Carpet in the World
Turkish Carpet History

The History of The Art

The oldest records of flat woven kilims come from Catalhoyuk Neolithic Pottery, circa 7000 BC. The excavations to date (only 3% of the town) not only found carbonized fabric but also fragments of kilims painted on the walls of some of the dwellings. The majority of them represent geometric and stylized forms that are similar or identical to other historical and contemporary designs.

The oldest known hand-knotted rug is the famous Pazyryk Carpet dating back to the 5th century BC. It was excavated by Russian Professor Sergei Rudenko and his archeology team, from the Pazyryk burials, a Scythian burial mound in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, near the tri-border area of modern-day Russia, Mongolia, and China, in the late 1940s as far as known. 5400 feet above sea level, the rug, along with other textiles and artifacts, was preserved in ice probably due to the common belief that bandits had robbed the grave site soon after the burial, thus allowing water to enter and eventually freeze over the next 2500 years. The origins of the Pazyryk Carpet are still a matter of scholastic debate. However, the general consensus of scholars and historians hold that the art and practice of rug weaving originate from Central Asia.

The populace of Anatolia through the ages has included many great ancient civilizations, such as the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Assyrians, the Ancient Persians, the Ancient Greeks, and the early Byzantine Empire (Roman Emperor Constantine the Great’s Eastern Christian Capital) and later the Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire.

There are documentary records of carpets being used by the ancient Greeks and Persians, but we have little idea of what such carpets were like.

The knotted rug is believed to have reached Asia Minor and the Middle East with the expansion of various nomadic tribes’ people during the latter period of the great Turkic migration of the 8th and 9th centuries.

Very little is then known about the history of rug until the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries from which Seljuk examples found in various Turkish mosques have survived, nearly all now in museums or private collections.

Rugs have been woven in Anatolia since before the 13th century. Rugs derive their names from the localities in which they are produced, tribal groups they are associated with, as well as from the techniques of their manufacture, the characteristic patterns of their ornamentation, the layout of the design and the intention of their use.

The motifs employed in Turkish Carpets are so varied and can be classified into so many subcategories that they constitute, as it were, a great fan stretching from Thrace to Kars. From the Sivas region emerge the Sarkisla, Zara, Kangal and Divrigi Carpets characterized by a remarkable wealth of symbolic expression forming one of the links in the rich chain of Turkish tradition. Motifs differing markedly in form and detail can be found in Anatolian Kilims from Yagcibekir to Dosemealti, from Kula to Canakkale.

Carpets by Region

The most important distinguishing feature of the motifs employed in Anatolian Carpets is the “symbolization” imposed by the traditional weaving techniques. The linear values of these woven fabrics constitute the symbolic representation of the ideas which the Turkish woman wishes to express. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that all the motifs employed in carpets and kilims bear a symbolic significance, but it is usually possible to find a hidden connection between the “visible motif” and the “underlying motif”. The symbolic values conferred upon the objects are stylized by the Turkish weaving technique itself. The language of the motifs is the language of anyone who can understand. Well-known weaving cities, towns, and districts include (but are not limited to); Usak, Bergama, Milas, Hereke, Konya, Nevsehir, Nigde, Antalya, Canakkale, Kars, Kayseri, Malatya, Siirt, Taspinar, Sivas, Yahyali, Izmir, Gaziantep, Manisa, Ladik and Van.

You can find these precious rugs in Istanbul, in Cappadocia, and on the Turkish coasts.

Materials

Only natural fibers are used in handmade rugs. The most common materials used for the pile are wool, silk, and cotton. Sometimes, goat and camel hair are also used by nomadic and village weavers. Wool is the most frequently used pile material in a handmade rug because it is soft, durable, easy to work with and not too expensive. This combination of characteristics is not found in other natural fibers. Wool comes from the coats of sheep. Natural wool comes in colors of white, brown, fawn, yellow and gray, which are sometimes used directly without going through a dying process. Cotton is used primarily in the foundation of rugs. However, some weaving groups such as Turcoman (Turkmens) also use cotton for weaving small white details into the rug in order to create contrast.

Wool on cotton (wool pile on the cotton warp and weft): This particular combination facilitates a more intricate design pattern than “wool on wool carpet”, as cotton can be finely spun which allows for a higher knot count. A “wool on cotton” rug is often indicative of a so-called, “city rug”. Wool on cotton rugs features floral designs and flourishes in addition to traditional geometric patterns.

Silk on silk (silk pile on silk warp and weft): This is perhaps the most intricate type of carpet; featuring very fine weaves. Knot counts on some superior quality “silk on silk” rugs can be as high as 28×28 knots/cm2. Knot counts for silk carpets intended for floor coverings should be no greater than 100 knots per square cm, or 10×10 knots/cm2. A rug woven with a knot count greater than 10×10 knots/cm2 should only be used as a wall or pillow tapestry. These very fine, intricately woven rugs and carpets are usually no larger than 3×3 m.

Please note that shopping is great fun when you are in a reputable gallery or a store.
Other than private cultural tours; Travel Atelier Team organizes shopping tours on request with assistants.