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Development of Armenian carpet and rug weaving
November 23 , 2017 , 00:17
Development of Armenian carpet and rug weaving

Armenian carpet weaving that at the initial period coincided with cloth weaving by execution technique have passed the long path of development, starting from simple fabrics, which had been woven at the braiding frames of various form to pile knotted carpets that became the luxurious and dainty pieces of arts.

Carpet-weaving is historically a major traditional profession for the majority of Armenian women, including many Armenian families. Prominent Karabakh carpet weavers there were men too. The oldest extant Armenian carpet from the region, referred to as Artsakhduring the medieval era, is from the village of Banants (near Gandzak) and dates to the early 13th century. The first time that the Armenian word for carpet, gorg, was used in historical sources was in a 1242-1243 Armenian inscription on the wall of the Kaptavan Church in Artsakh.

Art historian Hravard Hakobyan notes that "Artsakh carpets occupy a special place in the history of Armenian carpet-making."Common themes and patterns found on Armenian carpets were the depiction of dragons and eagles. They were diverse in style, rich in color and ornamental motifs, and were even separated in categories depending on what sort of animals were depicted on them, such as artsvagorgs (carpets), vishapagorgs (dragon-carpets) and otsagorgs (serpent-carpets). The rug mentioned in the Kaptavan inscriptions is composed of three arches, "covered with vegatative ornaments", and bears aneagle-artistic resemblance to the illuminated manuscripts produced in Artsakh. 

The art of carpet weaving was in addition intimately connected to the making of curtains as evidenced in a passage by Kirakos Gandzaketsi, a 13th-century Armenian historian from Artsakh, who praised Arzu-Khatun, the wife of regional prince Vakhtang Khachenatsi, and her daughters for their expertise and skill in weaving.

Armenian carpets were also renowned by foreigners who traveled to Artsakh; the Arab geographer and historian Al-Masudi noted that, among other works of art, he had never seen such carpets elsewhere in his life.

On the opinion of various authors that the origin of the oriental carpets and rugs did not have any association with nomadic tribes, and Central Asia. They consider that the "oriental carpet is neither of nomadic origin, nor do its origins lie in Central Asia; it is a product of ancient oriental civilizations in the Armenian Uplands at the crossroads of the oldest trade routes between west, north and south".

The development of carpet and rug weaving in Armenia had been the barest necessity that had been dictated by the climatic conditions of the complete Armenian Highland. The type, size and thickness of carpets and rugs had also depended upon the climate of every specific region within the territory of Armenian Highland. The dwelling houses and other buildings in Armenia were constructed exclusively of stone or were cut in rocks with no wood flooring inside traditionally. This fact was proved by the results of excavations carried out in medieval Armenian cities, such as Dvin, Artashat, Ani and others. There has been the necessary source of raw materials in Armenia, including wool yarn and other fibres, as well as natural dyes. The most widespread raw materials to produce yarn for carpets and rugs was sheep wool, as well as goat wool, silk, flax, cotton and other.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, when the carpet weaving started to develop at Near East, Armenia "was one of the most productive regions" in this regards. It was conditioned by the existence of "good quality wool, pure water and dyes, especially beautiful purple dye".

One of the most important conditions for the development of carpet and rug weaving was the availability of towns and cities, where the arts and crafts might develop. These cities and towns also served as large commercial centers located on main ancient trade routes that passed by the Armenian Highland, including one of the branches of Silk Road that passed across Armenia Silk Road#Persian Royal Road.

Abd ar-Rashid al-Bakuvi wrote that "the carpets and as-zalali that are named "kali" are exported from Kalikala (Karin) that was located on the strategic road between Persia and Europe. According to the 13th-century Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamavi, the origin of the word kali/khali/hali, a knotted carpet, is from one of the early and important Armenian carpet centers, Theodosiopolis, Karin in Armenian, Qaliqala in Arabic, modern Erzerum. He says, "А Qaliqala on fabrique des tapis qu'on nomme qali du nom abrege de la ville". Academician Joseph Orbeli directly writes that word "karpet" is of Armenian origin.

Between the tangible reality of the Pazyryk carpet and the Mongol domination of the Near East in the 13th century virtually nothing survives, not even fragments. Our knowledge of oriental rugs is entirely from literary sources. Of these there are three categories: the Arab geographers and historians, who represent the most important witnesses of rug making, the Italian merchants and travelers, and the Armenian historians. The most common term for these Near Eastern floor and wall covering in these sources are Armenian carpets or carpets from Armenia. It is only later, as the Ottomans conquered these areas, including all of Armenian in the 16th century, that the term Turkish carpet began to be used, but that too was replaced in the 19th century by the term Persian rug or carpet because the great commercial agents of England, the U.S., and Germany began setting up looms for quantity weaving in Iran to supply the ever increasing demand for the oriental rug in their countries.

The Medieval Arab sources – al-Baladhuri (a 9th-century Persian historian), Ibn Hawqal (a 10th-century Arab writer, geographer, and chronicler), Yaqut (13th-century Arab geographer), and Ibn Khaldun (a 14th-century Arab polymath) among the most famous - speak regularly about the wonderful Armenian carpets of Qali-qala and the medieval Armenian capital of Dvin ("Dabil" in Arab sources) as well as their use of the Armenian red cochineal dye known in Armenian as vordan karmir ("worm's red"), the fundamental color of many Armenian rugs. Marco Polo reports the following his travel account as he passed through Cilician Armenia: "The following can be said of Turkmenia: the Turkmenian population is divided into three groups. The Turkomans are Muslims characterized by a very simple way of life and extremely crude speech. They live in the mountainous regions and raise cattle. Their horses and their outstanding mules are held in especially high regard. The other two groups, Armenians and Greeks, live in cities and forts. They make their living primarily from trade and as craftsmen. In addition to the carpets, unsurpassed and more splendrous in color than anywhere else in the world, silks in all colors are also produced there. This country, about which one might easily tell much more is subject to the Khan of the eastern Tatar Empire."

According to the 13th-century Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi, the origin of the word kali/khali/hali, a knotted carpet, is from one of the early and important Armenian carpet centers, Theodosiopolis, Karin in Armenian, Qaliqala in Arabic, modern Erzerum. He says, "А Qaliqala on fabrique des tapis qu'on nomme qali du nom abrege de la ville". Academician Joseph Orbeli directly writes that word "karpet" is of Armenian origin.