The Turkmen Way of Life

There are fewer problems when considering the influences of the Turkmen lifestyle on their weaving patterns. This includes nomadic and semi-nomadism, settled dwelling, customs and beliefs, some of the latter obviously having an ancient myth and cult character. Identifying such traces among representational images. Such as the depictions of yurts, animal trains and wedding caravans, hunting scenes and so on, is easy. We can see them on tent bands, asmalyks and from ensis by the Salon, Arabachi and Chodor. Human figures are often clearly recognizable. Although they are also encountered as highly stylized anthropomorphic forms, as at the top and bottom dif the Saryk. Even simple rhomboidal motifs are sometimes considered to have an anthropomorphic origin.

The Turkmen Wedding

The Turkmen wedding ceremony had considerable influence on its cultural artifacts. A white ground seems to have been reserved specifically for objects woven for wedding ceremonies. Particular designs (in motifs are often considered to pertain specifically to weddings; the kejebe motif, is said by many authors to represent a bride’s litter on the wedding camel.


Further points to consider when discussing the origins of Turkmen’s pile-knotted carpet designs may lie in other areas of Central Asian arts and crafts which have left their mark on weaving patterns. Stylistic evidence may be found, for example, in one traditional nomadic craft, felting, from which it is often presumed that many carpet designs derived. Felt represents an important aspect of Central Asian culture and was often decorated in applique, so that both positive and negative patterns appeared. This reciprocal effect is (inc of the key elements (if Turkmen design (as it is of early Anatolian weavings, both piled and flat-woven) and might well have its origins in felt work.

Kilim Designs

The same applies to patterns which have obviously been transposed from the slit-tapestry (kilim) technique to pile-knotting. Kilim patterns are characterized by stepped outlines since rounded color divisions are extremely difficult to accomplish in this technique. Accordingly, some patterns associated primarily with kilims keep their characteristics even when transferred to a medium such as pile knotting where they are no longer necessary.

Ikat and Suzani Patterns

Different types of textiles such as suzanis (Farsi for needle) and ikats (tiedyed silks and velvets) seem to belong principally to urban cultures, although some rug patterns owe their origins to textiles in these techniques. Even if nomads led a virtually independent and isolated existence, there must still have been some cultural contact with towns and cities; indeed, pile weavings of a semi-nomadic origin arc known with designs derived from suzanis and ikats. Ikat patterns, because of the technique used for the original models, have solid areas of color flowing into each other. Silk embroidered Tekke asmalyk. Similar in technique to suzanis, are known and the style of drawing of the floral meanders on the Ersari Beshir prayer rug my also owe something to suzani design.

Turkmen Jewellery and Other Influences

Similar parallels can he drawn between the weavings of the Turkmen’s and the design and iconography of their silver jewellery, although the jewellery itself may have been made in urban workshops.
The decorative elements of mosque and other early Muslim architecture – especially the richly detailed panels of ceramic tiles – have also been a fruitful source of inspiration for rug designers.


Another area which has given rise to much debate in the last few years is the connection, if any, between certain Turkmen weaving motifs and designs and those ornaments and apparent iconographic motifs which are known from ancient history and prehistoric times. The word ‘archetype’ seems appropriate in this context, primarily because (if the similarities which exist between certain prevalent motifs in many different cultures. One of the best known of these is the hooked cross or swastika, usually identified as a sun symbol, which is found on many different types of artifact from many different periods of ancient and modern art in Central Asia and elsewhere (including China and the pre-Columbian Americas). The motif itself is sometimes connected with others, giving a zoomorphic effect not unlike a backbone; perhaps it is not unconnected to the ‘animal tree’ motif discussed above.
Other important archetypes are the ~hooked diamond~ (see A.K. Ambroz, A Cult Symbol of Early Peasants, in Turkmen Research, op.cit., vol.7) and what H. Wifling describes as the hooked cross-arm motif (see H. Wifling, Teppich-Motite der Turkvolker, Vienna, 1985). The hooked rhombus or diamond, which can be described as a cross within a diamond, has always been interpreted as a fertility symbol and appears in endless varieties, although it probably has a consistent – mother earth connotation. A highly emblematic variant can he seen on the Uzbek felt and appears in similar form on the Chinese scroll painting of the Lady Wen-Chi of around 440 AD. (fig.96). A series of linked hooked diamonds are sometimes used to create a highly stylized ‘tree of life’.
Wifling’s discussion of the ‘hooked cross-arm motif is an interesting attempt to demonstrate that it is an archetypal form from which much of the Turkmen design vocabulary was derived. His starting point is the argument that the almost infinite varieties, both complex and simple, negative and positive, to which the form lends itself make it the basic building block of many other motifs; he believes that even such complex motifs as the dyrnak gul have this origin.
Such attempts to explain the history (if motifs are significant pointers to the wealth and richness of Turkic design. It is a vocabulary of design which creates its own microcosm and obeys its own laws of logic. As the individual, and subjective, weaver handles these basic building blocks of design, she is subject to these laws and, with certain exceptions, must stay within their hounds; thus the microcosm of design can become an iconographic or allegorical representation of the real cosmos. In the context (if design history, there are certain patterns in which one can identify clusters of motifs by their outlines and other shared features; in such patterns, the individual characteristics of motifs are blended into a whole, the parts of which, whether positive or negative, simple or complex, can nevertheless still be recognized.
However, this very subjective and hypothetical approach to design analysis should not distract us from the well-documented research into prehistoric motifs. Many recent writers on Anatolian and Turkmen weaving (see. for example, Jack Cassin and Peter Hoffmeister, Tent Band -Tent Bag. 1988) have presented comparisons with ancient designs from the Bronze Age and earlier which could be useful to future researchers into the history (if weaving and carpet designs. Archaeological research into the ancient cultures (if southwest Turkestan has provided its own interesting comparative material; compare, for instance, the design on a Central Asian pottery vessel of about 3000 B.C. to that on the Yomut weaving.

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