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A Brief History of the Paxryk Carpet
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When and where carpets were first knotted is unknown, but it is generally
believed that nomadic tribes in central Asia were some of the first rug
weavers in areas know today as Turkey and Iran (Persia). The climate was very
cold and the mountain ranges in these areas are perfect for raising sheep, the
source of carpet wool. We know very little of early weavings as the materials
used were all perishable, and only a few rug fragments woven before the 15th
century have survived.
Fortunately, while archeological excavations were ongoing in a valley of the
Altai mountain range in lower Siberia during 1947-49, a Russian archeologist,
S. J. Rudenko, made an exciting discovery. He found an extremely
well-preserved rug in a burial tomb that belonged to the prince of Altai who
lived in the 5th century B.C.
This rug, today called the Pazryk carpet, survived in good condition on a
lucky combination of circumstances. It appears that shortly after the prince's
grave-mound was completed, it was plundered by robbers who tunneled into the
mound and removed all the precious objects. They had no interest in the Pazryk
carpet and left it behind. Later, a torrent of water rushed into the opening
the robbers made into the grave-mound and filled the chamber. The huge volume
of water turned to ice, freezing the Pazryk carpet until it was discovered
2,500 years later.
Incredibly, the rug was well preserved. The design, dyes, and construction
were all of the highest quality, indicating that the weaver was knowledgeable
and experienced, and that rug weaving was at quite an accomplished level in
the 5th century B.C.
The Pazryk carpet measures 6 x 66 and is exhibited in the Hermitage
Museum in St. Petersburg. The design has a large geometric center field area
composed of squares and is framed by two main borders. In one border are deer,
in the other, warriors are featured on horseback.
There are several other famous carpets woven between the 16th and 18th
centuries that have survived. Most of these are now in museums throughout
Europe. Many of the oversized pieces were commissioned for the palaces of
royalty. These carpets are truly breathtaking when one considers their
exquisite detail and the thousands of hours devoted to their weaving.
Article supplied by PIR International.
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