Segment of a 2500
year old Turkish carpet
(The oldest known carpet in the world found in Pazyryk, Altai Mountains
of Central Asia)
Turks are well known
for their carpet weaving culture. Their present day
carpets and kilims are known throughout the world.
Carpet weaving is a very old Turkish culture that goes
back in history for thousands of years. The oldest known
carpet in the world is a Saka carpet discovered by
archaeologists in Central Asia. (Saka people were one
group of the forefathers of the present day Turkish
peoples). These Turkic speaking Central Asiatic people
lived in a vast geographic area covering all of Eurasia
-starting from Central asia to the Balkans. A group of
them known to the ancient Greeks as PELASGIANS lived on
some of the islands in the Aegean Sea (such as the
Lemnos Island and the mainland Greece), in the time
period from about 1500 to 200 B.C. This Saka carpet is
known as the PAZYRYK carpet and is named after the place
called Pazyryk in the Altay Mountains. It was found in
an ancient "kurgan" burial chamber and is dated to be
about 2500 years old.
It was an ancient custom with the Central Asiatic Turkic
peoples to bury their deads with some of their earthly
belongings. In this case, the Pazyryk rug and other
objects that included a saddle cover of felt and
leather, felt figures of swans stuffed with goat hair, a
horse harness with carved wooden ram's heads and other
objects were buried with the dead person [1, p.
558-559]. Generally such organic material disintegrate
in the ground over long periods of time. But this was a
lucky case. The burial chamber was somehow flooded with
water and then frozen solid. It remained in a frozen
state for 2500 years until it was discovered by Russian
archaeologists. The Pazyryk carpet is at present located
in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, Rusia.
The Pazyryk carpet is made with the Turkish knot system
used in carpet weaving and has horse patterns with
saddle clothes which are typically Turkish. It is an
ancient custom of Central Asiatic horse riding peoples
to trim the manes of their horses short and even leave a
few well separated clumps of mane long and standing up.
Another custom is to turn the lower end of the tail
hairs up and tie them in a bundle. These Turkish customs
are well portrayed in the Pazyryk carpet. The culture
The ancestors of Turks whose economy and life style were
based on animal husbandry such as raising sheep, cattle
and horse were very much dependent on wool products from
their sheep herds. They knew how to make felt to cover
the outsides of their yurts to protect themselves from
the bitter cold of Central Asia and Siberia. They made
carpets to furnish their living quarters, decorate their
rooms and their horses as we see from the patterns of
colorful saddle clothes shown in the Pazyryk Carpet.
Designing and weaving such a complex and colorful carpet
as the Pazyryk carpet is a credit to the ancestors of
Turks, who must have started their carpet making culture
many thousands of years earlier. This is an indication
of how ancient Turkish carpet culture is.
By Polat Kaya
1] Nina Hyde and photographer Cary
Wolinsky, "Wool - Fabric of History", National Geographic Magazine, vol.
173, No. 5, May 1988.
[ Home ] [ Up ]