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Plate Sixteen
8 feet 2 inche x 6 feet
249 cm. x 182 cm.

This kelim and the two which follow successfully demonstrate the high level of artistry present in the Caucasian slit-tapestry weaving tradition. The use of large bold designs and strong primary coloration are indicative of weavings made in the Kazak area and for those reasons it is most likely that this example should be provenanced to that general area.

The five rows of large hooked designs enclosed in hexagonal medallions or compartments also appear in the following two kelims as well as in the soumak bag illustrated as plate ten where the medallions are octagonal in shape. In 1990, this author speculated that this specific and common design was derived from the palmette-style medallions which appear on a group of pile woven carpets, known as dragon rugs.(1) However, I would like to now propose a new theory to explain this designs possible source.

Beginning at the end of the second millennium BC, important centers of Bronze Age culture appeared in the Caucasus and the neighboring areas of north-western Iran, located directly south. The metal objects produced in these areas became, along with cattle, the important items of trade and barter. Archaeological research has identified a number of individual cultures which flourished in this area during this time period, circa 2000BC-700BC. The mountainous areas they controlled and used for pasture also provided them with rich deposits of metal ore-bearing soil.

Some of these people became traders while others began to develop metal-working skills and production. The design iconographies they developed were primarily representations of animals, like cattle and goats (fig.1) . These groups were in contact with other metal working groups, like the Sythians to the north and the peoples of Luristan to the south. The far more complex iconography found on these later bronze objects may well provide the source for some of the icons and symbols which became imbedded within the weaving cultures responsible for soumak bags and kelims weavings.

One such possibility may link the hook design medallions mentioned above with a theme that is very prevalent in the bronzes of Luristan - The goddess as the mistress of animals. However, this symbol did not originate here. The idea of a omnipotent female deity was already well developed by the seventh millennium BC, according to the archaeological remains found in central Turkey, also known as ancient Anatolia. Two extremely important archaeological sites, Catal Huyuk and Hacilar, have yielded numerous representations of female statues and one in particular provides the earliest known reference to this fig.2. Here the icon of a seated female flanked by two subservant felines provides the model for the female figures with attendant animals which frequently appear in the bronzes of Luristan.

A specific group of these bronzes, depicting now standing female figures (fig.3) and animals (fig.4), enclosed in semi or full circular frames, were made as finials or large pinheads. When these are compared to the the weaving's hook-design medallions their relationship should become apparent. Granted the lack of detailed articulation has rendered these woven representations mute of iconographic content - the millennia separating the bronzes from the kelim and soumaks surely were responsible for this lack of detail. The technical restrictions of the casting process demanded the connecting of each design element and the hooks in the weaving medallions are the vestigial remains of those connections.

The one last point that may shed additional light on this comparison is the presence of the staff-like symbol which has been placed within the center of each of the hexagonal medallions in plate 10. This symbol seems very similar to another specific group of bronze finials (fig.5) that have far less complex designs. In any case, the association of the goddess with a staff or sceptre is a well known metaphor and it is likely that the weaver of the soumak bag was privy to this fact.

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