A brief history of the Turkmen luxury carpet

Design Dec 23.2020

Turkmen luxury carpet

When talking about Oriental carpets, one cannot fail to learn more about the Turkmen tradition. Carpets made in the Turkmen region have much in common with Persian carpets, but they have also managed to differentiate themselves by adapting patterns and colours to their own culture. 

Carried out for centuries by the nomadic populations of the region, current Turkmen carpet-making techniques are recognised and protected. UNESCO has declared them an intangible heritage of humanity.

From an element of everyday life to a design object

What we know as Turkmen carpets are in fact manufactured in a large region of Asia. This region includes the territories of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, parts of Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The custom of weaving carpets spread throughout the area due to the presence of numerous nomadic tribes, who regularly moved from one village to another. 

In their design and colours, ancient Turkmen carpets tell a lot about the people who lived in the region and their way of life. 

The carpet was not just a decorative element. Rather, it was probably the most important element in the domestic life of the nomadic people of the area. Every corner of the tents that families lived in was covered and decorated with a dedicated carpet. There were of course carpets on the ground, to insulate the floor from the ground, but there were also carpets on the walls and window frames. Fabrics were also used to divide the various rooms in the tent, and there were special ones used to welcome guests. 

Special carpets were also used on the backs of camels and horses. Other pieces were used as sacks to hold and protect household linen. 

Ancient Turkmen luxury carpets have warm and intense colours. The predominant hues are in the range of reds and browns, obtained by dyeing the wool mainly with madder. Further enhancing the intensity of the red colour is the use of blue and beige accents, colours obtained from dyeing herbs or using raw wool. 

The characteristic decorative motifs are perhaps the element that most distinguishes luxury Turkmen carpets from those made in other regions of Asia. In carpets woven and hand-woven by Turkmen and Uzbek women, gul or mirhab motifs were predominantly used. 

The gul pattern is the most common. It consists of a repetition of a series of octagonal medallions with decorations inside divided into four parts. The repetition of the medallions gives the carpet an interesting geometric pattern, which differs from the elaborate designs of Persian carpets and the richly symbolic patterns of Chinese carpets. 

The details that can be seen when looking closely at the motifs on the ancient Turkmen carpets tell us which tribe the people who wove the carpet belonged to. The shape, size and arrangement of the various elements within the medallions differ in the nomadic Ersari, Salor, Beshir or Tekke peoples. These are just a few examples of the many that could be cited. 

While the gul motifs tell us about the social organisation of the nomadic peoples of the region, the carpets made with mirhab motifs show us the more spiritual aspect of the lives of the Turkmen peoples. The term mirhab refers to the niche in mosques that indicates the direction of Mecca. In a broader sense, it represents the gateway from the earthly world to paradise. The shape of the niche was carried over by craftsmen to carpets and was often embellished with floral details and abstract designs.

Another element that makes it possible to recognise a Turkmen carpet is the presence of a large decorated border on the short side of the carpet. The central pattern is not surrounded by a decorated border on all sides, but occupies the entire surface of the carpet in its width, while it is flanked by a border only on the shorter sides. It is a very distinctive and distinctive construction.

The carpets known as Bukhara are certainly the most precious of those made in the Turkmen and Uzbek regions. They are named after the Uzbek city of the same name and are the result of the tradition of nomadic peoples, to which Turkish, Mongolian and Russian influences have been added. 

The finest Turkmen carpets are made entirely by hand, with dense knots creating refined geometric patterns. The material used is wool or a mixture of wool and silk. With their characteristic design and warm colours, luxury Turkmen carpets are the perfect choice for a large living room decorated in a classic style. Their uniqueness is sure to add a touch of class to the space and give the home a distinct personality.

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