Guide to Borchelu Rugs and Carpets
Early on I became fascinated by Borchelu Rugs. Partially because of their ethnographic significance but also because I found them attractive.
I suspect that there are far more on the market but that most of them are misidentified.I have seen them called everything from a Hamadan Rug to Bijar Carpets Carpets. I remember Uncle Jimmy Keshishian saying that there are not more than a dozen guys in the country who can write the tags and all the rest just read the tags. Every time I look at a tag I feel a twinge of guilt.
In P. R. J. Ford's book Oriental Carpet Design Ford mentioned that the Borchelu were Mongol. That peaked my curiosity. If they are Mongol than I should be able to identify them since Mongols are well documented. Here is what I found:
In about 1179 a young man who would grow up to be Cinggis Qahan (Genghis Khan) was aided by the son of the Chieftain of the Arulat clan. The young man was Bo'orcu. He became one of Cinggis Qahan's Dorben Kulu'ud (Great Warriors). In the Yuan ch'ao pi-shih, quatrain 205, it is recorded that later in life Genghis Khan said "Let Bo'orcu govern the ten thousand of the right hand which take the Altai as pillow." In other words the Qahan gave a proto-tribal unit to a key general. I am certainly no linguist but I translate Borchelu as Bo'orcu Lu or the people of Bo'orcu. The Lu of Bo'orculu as coming from the same root as the Mongol term Ulus which means the land, animals, and people, that a that an IL or tribal group controls. These people became known as the Bo'orculu or people of Bo'orcu. Over the years Bo'orculu becomes Borchelu. So if Ford is correct and I believe he is then the Borchelu were Mongol than they must be descended from the Horde of Bo'orcu.
The Borchelu lived for many centuries in the area where Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia come together. The Borchelu later migrated south when that area was taken by the Russian Czar. When the Borchelu moved south the Armenians moved north. The red wefted Bordjalou rugs that we know from that area are actually Armenian rugs. This was a result of the Armenians moving in to abandoned Borchelu villages.
Borchelu Rug structure
Structure: Asymmetrical knot open left. 56 to 99 per square inch.
Yarn Spin: Z.
Warp: Cotton, white.
Weft: Cotton 1 shot, white.
Pile: 2 Wool singles.
Ends: Warp fringe.
Selvages: overcast with wool, blue is common red is slightly less common.
The distinctive identifying feature to these rugs is that they are single wefted. Hamadan rugs and Malayer Rugs also use a single weft but they all use symmetrical knots. So if it looks like a Persian rug and uses a single weft then think Hamadan or Borchelu. Then use the knot type to tell you which it is.