1"Prayer Rugs of the Timuri and Their Neighbors"
FOREWORDThis is an article reproduced from OCTS 7, a publication documenting the presentations and poster sessions at the 7th ICOC in Hamburg, Germany in 1993.
Robert Pittenger is a relentless researcher who has documented much in terms of hard facts and figures that few other writers and researchers on the subject are willing to do or have done, myself included. This paper offers some interesting information regarding a group of rugs that are still available in the marketplace of today, of which there is little real understanding or a grounded appreciation.
Figure 1. Mrs. Benn describes buying a carpet from a Baluch weaver beside the Helmund in terms which can refer only to a pile rug and not a flat-weave in addition, she includes three photos of Seistan residents with rugs on the ground (but unfortunately without specific attributions
The blue-ground rugs made by Timuri, Baluch, or Aimaq tribes in the Iran-Afghan border area between and around Heart and Meshed have been collected for a century (1). But have only recently been studied. Dr. Alfred Janata, in his talk about the 4th ICOC (2), gave a good kick to previously held Baluch attributions by suggesting that many of these rugs were not made by Baluch sub-tribes, but mainly by Timuris. He illustrated a small number of mid-20th century rugs he had obtained in villages, often from the weaver's family. His ICOC talk and subsequent article in ORIENTAL CARPET AND TEXTILE STUDIES have been so influential that there is now a counter-trend which denies that Baluch any pile weaving at all. To correct this temporary misjudgement, one should consult material published by Mrs. Edith Benn, in her 1909 book AN OVERLAND TREK FROM INDIA. Mrs. Benn lived in Seisten with her husband, Major R.E. Benn, who was consul at Nusratabad (now called Zabol), on the banks of the Helmand river, from 1901-03. Mrs. Benn describes buying a carpet from a Baluch weaver beside the Helmund in terms which can refer only to a pile rug and not a flat-weave.(3) in addition, she includes three photos of Seistan residents with rugs on the ground (but unfortunately without specific attributions) (Fig.1). Mrs. Benn's account seems to give distinct proof that Baluches DID weave pile rugs, at least in Seistan. But the focus of this paper will be on rugs produced farther north.
Figure 31 from Bogolyubov/s Carpets of Central Asia. " a blue-ground main rug which he bought at Takhta-Bazar on the Russian-Afghan border near Murghab. Bongolubov says it is called "...tapis afghan de Guerat ((Herat)) de Teimour";
For the past 150 years the Timuri tribes have lived at well-documented locations, primarily in eastern Iran, centered around Khaf, including the valleys of Khaf, Baharz, and Jam (4). Additional groups lived south of Nishapur (5), in the Turshiz valley(6), and also in Afghanistan south of Herat (7). There was a mass exodus of Timuris out of the Herat area in 1856, when they found themselves on the losing side of the battle(8), they then moved to the Khaf valleys, but since 1900, some have returned to the mountains north of Herat (9) and to Ghor, east of Herat. (10) In 1884-85, the Afghan Border Commission was sent to the area north of Herat to delineate the Afghan-Russian border. The staff included a number of British officers, especially surveyors and intelligence officers, who compiled and pblished a list of the Timuri sub-tribes (11), re-published in Adamec's Iranian Gazeteer (12), and later by Azadi. (Note that material in Adamec should be used with caution, since entries from 50 years apart are found side-by-side, without author or date!). To confuse the matter, another similar list of tribes was compiled and published by Alexander Finn (13).
Figure 30 from Bogolyubov's, Carpets of Central Asia. "...tapis de Bloudje )de Beloudjistan)"
Although members of the Border Commission later published copius geographical information and mentioned purchasing rugs in the Herat area (14), they published no specific information on the Timuri or Baluch rugs of 1883. Other 19th century travelers through ther area also published very little of use to us, with the exception of General A.A. Bongolubov. Plate 31 of his book TAPESTRIES DE L'ASIE CENTRALE shows a blue-ground main rug which he bought at Takhta-Bazar on the Russian-Afghan border near Murghab. Bongolubov says it is called "...tapis afghan de Guerat ((Herat)) de Teimour"; and "Quant au nom de Teimour, c'est le nom de tribu, qui les fabrique." - Probably the dealer's attribution, but Bogolubov does distinguish between teimour in Plate 31 and "...tapis de Bloudje )de Beloudjistan)" in Plate 30. Thus the so-called Blue-Baluch rugs have in recent decades been assigned to Timuri tribes by dealers and collectors. The most reliable information on this group is still contained in the articles of Alfred Janata (15), who was in NW Afghanistan in the 1960s, and of Dr. Dietrich Wegner, who was in NE Iran in the 1950s. Wegner's long article from TRIBUS (16), translated and published in Oriental Rug Review, is a gold mine of information on early 20th century production, but one must use caution in applying his information to 19th century rugs. Work has now begun (17) to isolate groups of so-called Baluch rugs, based on rug structure, and to a lesser extent, on designs. This paper will divide the group of blue-ground prayer rugs into four smaller groups, which remain unnamed, in the hope that tribal names can be assigned later, once there is more proof.
Figure 2. A "stepped inscription band over the entrance to the main Iwan of the Buq-a of Shaikh al-Din at Taybad, just at the Afghan bourder on the road between Herat and Mashad, in the center of the area peopled by the Timuris"
From the approximately 170 blue-ground prayer rugs of the 19th and 20th centuries known to me, about 90 stand out as the oldest and best. Of these, about half have been published. All of them have similar basic structure, using ivory warps, wefts of various browns, and usually two-cord selvages. Their handle is loose to floppy, generally without significant warp depression. They all use the asymmetrical knot open to the left can be no separation by type of knot in this group.
Their spandrel hand panels are at the very outside corners of the rugs, with the borders bending in around them. In some of them, the hand panels are connected at the top by a patterned bar. In later rugs, the hand panels move closer to the center, with fewer of the borders bending around them.
The square mihrab shape, typical of these and camel-ground prayer rugs (and also kazak prayer rugs), is also seen in a similarly-shaped stepped inscription band over the entrance to the main Iwan of the Buq-a of Shaikh al-Din at Taybad, just at the Afghan bourder on the road between Herat and Mashad, in the center of the area peopled by the Timuris (Fig. 2)(18).
The oldest of these prayer rugs probably date to the 3rd quarter of the 19th century, or slightly earlier; middle period examples date to the last quarter of the 19th century, and later ones to the 20th century.
by Robert Pittenger
by Robert Pittenger