In 1980, the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. played host a comprehensive exhibition of Turkmen rugs and in the exhibition catalog one of the authors endeavored to reclassify a number of Yomut weavings. He proposed they were made by the Imreli, a sub-group known to have been an important part of the Yomut confederation in the 16th century, and struggled to place a number of weavings into this new category. The effort was premature, some of the examples did not even have the structural and other technical characteristics the author himself had outlined, and was quickly dismissed as there was no supporting documentation to substantiate the Imreli had woven even one of these examples.
However, this exhibition was very instrumental in bringing the art of Turkmen weaving to the attention of a wider audience and the catalog, discounting the errors made in categorizing this new sub-group, helped focus increased attention and interest on the weavings of the Yomut. Recently several new classifications surrounding of a cluster of related Yomut weavings have been uncovered and published, but this time a different set of authors have paid very careful attention to both structural and technical characteristics and have avoided trying to ascribe these weavings to any sub-group of weavers.
Actually the only label that should be attached to any Turkmen weaving older than 100 or so years is the word Turkmen. And although a nametag has been attached to each Plate in this exhibition, the author well recognizes the absolute lack of corroborating data necessary to conclusively connect any pre-conquest weaving to any Turkmen group or sub-group. This insurmountable obstacle has been swept under the rug of Turkmen studies and all concerned pretend it isn’t there by using the accepted nametags as if they were fact. They surely are not and until new remedies are applied to this field of study there will be no chance to develop actual provenance.
Meticulous structural analysis has proven to be the most reliable analytic technique available and by linking various weavings together into clusters it has furthered study in ths area. This information is very significant but it does not establish the level of provenance necessary to connect weavings to weaving groups. The forensic testing program the Museum has advocated will establish the needed scientific facts to prove these links. By combining these results with new ethnographic information and the proposed collection of field samples in targeted areas of south-west Turkmenistan, the evidence necessary to provenance examples to weaving areas and in the end to the groups known to have inhabited these areas will finally become a reality.
This chuval, like the previous example, has the typical nine göl layout found on most chuval made by the various Turkmen groups. The large major göls are more similar to those known as torba göls on account of their appearance on the bags called torba by the Turkmen. These bags are the same width as the chuval and about half as wide, although much longer and wider ones do exist. A two by three, six göl layout is typical but others as well as non-göl and all-over patterned examples do exist. The reasons for the choice of these torba-like major göls instead of the usual banner type that appear on Plates Eight and Eleven or the rather eccentric ones on Plates Five and Six may be somehow related to geographic location.
The minor borders on this chuval contain an extremely special feature, the addition of an extension or beak at the end of each of the repeating motifs(fig.37). These designs were formerly call running dogs but recently they have been reinterpreted as bird heads. The following comparison to a Hellenistic stone monument(fig.38)circa 300B.C. supplies an interesting parallel in support of this. Located on the Nemrud Dagh in eastern Turkey on the Euphrates River south of Malatya this large bird was situated on the west terrace at the site of Kommagene, where numerous other large figural statuary were also found.
The Turkmen, up to the time of their conquest by the Russians, invariably fragmented the göls or any other field design placed closest to the borders. This was purposely done to represent and acknowledge the Turkmen belief that the field design was not static and finite but continued outside the confined space enclosed by the weaving’s border. This concept of an eternal and ever-continuing universe was one of the most important manifestations of the Turkmen nomadic lifestyle expressed in their weavings. After the Russian conquest many weavings no longer suggest this, signaling the finale of the infinite world the Turkmen nomad formally inhabited and concept of which they contributed to the weaving culture. It had remained, until the conquest, as their ultimate acknowledgement, permanently embedded in a strictly proscribed inheritance each subsequent generation of weavers received.
Fig.37 Detail minor border of Plate Ten
Fig.38 Bird monument from Nemrud Dagh
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