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An overview of antique oriental carpets

The term “carpet” derives from the Latin carpere, “to pluck,” probably because carpets were made from unraveled “plucked” fabric. “Carpet” has the same Latin root as carpe diem, literally “pluck/seize the day.

An oriental rug is a heavy textile, made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purposes, produced in “Oriental countries” for home use, local sale, or export.

Carpets have a long and interesting history. The origin of carpet weaving is often disputed. The most common belief is rug weaving was believed to be first created by Cyrus the Great during his reign of the Persian Empire in 529 B.C. Carpets were made in very small villages for residential use with designs and weavings making it identifiable to a specific community or tribe that created them.

What has remained for us from the early ages of carpet-weaving are nothing more than a few remnants of worn-out rugs. Among the oldest pieces discovered are those found in Eastern Turkestan, dating back to the third – fifth centuries AD, and also some of the hand-weavings of the Seljuks of Asia Minor which are on exhibit in the Ala’edin Mosque in Konya and the Ashrafoghlu Mosque in Beyshehir, Turkey.

In a unique archaeological excavation in 1949, the exceptional Pazyryk carpet was discovered in the frozen valleys of Pazyryk, in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Radiocarbon testing revealed that the Pazyryk carpet was woven in the 5th century BC. This carpet is 1.83×2 meters and has 36 symmetrical knots per cm2.The advanced weaving technique used in the Pazyryk carpet indicates a long history of evolution and experience in this art. Most experts believe that the Pazyryk carpet is the final achievement of at least one thousand years of experience and history.

The fundamentals of weaving oriental rugs have not changed for centuries. Many of the earliest known techniques and materials are still in use in the major rug producing regions of the world today such as Turkey, China, Persia, India, Morocco, and Europe. Every antique rug tells a story. This can give us a snap shot of a period of time in the lives of the weavers.

The international trade of rugs established thousands of years ago has resulted in a fascinating interchange of designs between East and West. Although antique carpets are one-of-a-kind works of art and luxury design pieces that make a house feel like a comfortable home, each rug also contains a story that completes the intricate history of all rugs woven before and since.

The most expensive rug sold to date is the Kerman rug belonging to the Clark Collection. In Sothebys New York, in June 2013 for USD 34,000,000.

One of the longest carpets in the world is the Qasr al-Alam carpet in Iran. It was completed in 2007 and measures an enormous 5,625 square feet. It was designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and was woven by 1,200 women over 16 months.

Antique rugs can stand on their own for historical importance and cultural significance. Each culture ensures the longevity of their design iconography through the making of the rugs. Most high-end antique carpets, especially those from Persia, have traditionally been made in sophisticated urban settings where a high value was placed on such fine artistry. The more tribal and casual carpets were woven by nomadic tribesmen and women as they had access to coarser material and didn’t always have the advantage of an established rug loom. These men and women were inspired by cultural trends and historical events.

Owning an antique rug is not only a pleasure, but a responsibility. Owners of antique carpets and rugs should actually think of themselves as “the current owner”, one in a series extending from the past and into the future. Antique rug care and maintenance is perhaps the most important aspect of owning a rug.

The improper care of an antique oriental carpet can result in disaster, wiping out sometimes centuries of history, not to mention monetary value.

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